2044 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles CA 90027 (map); 323-913-0478; communitylosfeliz.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A new restaurant from a catering team falls flat with its ordinary burger
Want Fries with That? Nope; these seasoned spuds do argue for the side salad
Prices: Beef Burger (w/fries), $11
Less than two years ago, I discussed the hopes that I held out for Papa's Place, a new neighborhood sandwich spot on Hillhurst Avenue in Los Feliz. It was a decided disappointment, especially when it came to their burger.
Apparently, the rest of the neighborhood agreed; Papa's is gone, and in its place has opened Community, the freshman restaurant effort of the established catering firm Epicurean Umbrella. The partners, chef Al Gordon and marketing/promotion specialist Jennyfer Rodgers, have built a reliable business of catering and consultation. Now they've opened what they're calling their "flagship storefront for freelance food." Really, it's just a sandwich shop like Papa's.
While they've changed the signage and stripped down the aesthetic, the concept is basically the same; they've even kept some of Papa's menu items in place. Community is an attempt to add a (a sorely needed) go-to sandwich and comfort food destination to the Hillhurst strip. They deal in the usual suspects: turkey clubs, Reubens, and grilled cheeses. Of course, they wouldn't warrant attention here if their menu omitted my usual: a burger. I stopped by for lunch the other day and grabbed one with crossed fingers.
For such a professionally polished website, I was surprised to find things underdone with the brick and mortar. The Community space is sparse and not in a way that evokes cool. It just kind of feels half-done. Sadly, I'd say the same for their burger.
The Beef Burger at Community (they also make burgers with pastrami, turkey, salmon, and portobello) is pleasantly uncomplicated. The hand-formed patty is a roughly seven-ounce blend of sirloin and brisket. They drop a little romaine lettuce and tomato on top and slather the "high-end" supermarket bun with mustard and mayonnaise. It's an admirable impulse; just let the quality ingredients shine through. The problem is little shines.
The patty itself got a fantastic sear while still maintaining a juicy, pink center (kudos to the young man who prepared mine). I know that sounds like a set up for how great it was, but despite the proper handling the beef itself didn't do much for me. There was a noticeable lack of seasoning. Further, there wasn't much in the way of that rich, steak-like beefiness that one expects from a sirloin brisket blend. Perhaps the grind was a tad fine, but I've tried many patties that were as fine or finer this one and still managed to stand out.
The lettuce and tomato were both crunchy. That's a compliment to a piece of Romaine, less so with a tomato. The mustard and mayo mix isn't a bad idea, but my burger got such a slathering that it made a sloppy mess.
Finally, the bun—much like the one they chose at Papa's previously—is a big misstep. Those supermarket, fancy buns look nice, but you're better off going with the straight commercial variety. The Community version betrayed that bready quality that is indicative of the class.
The fries did little to distract from ordinary burger. The spuds got a sizable seasoning that only detracted from the little, tasty potato goodness they had.
I tried another sandwich (turkey club) and a side salad (pasta and bean) along with a couple of desserts and fear I'm not a fan of Community's generally. I wouldn't describe any of the offerings as bad, but rather just not to my tastes. I fear the folks behind Epicurean Umbrella don't cover my tastes.
The burger at Community is not a complicated affair. They've put together a straightforward beef and bun undertaking with little else between the two. I admire the purposeful belief in simplicity—I just wish they executed it better.