2005 Colorado Boulevard, Eagle Rock CA 90041 (map); 323-255-6465; theoinkster.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A great burger spot delivers an equally great turkey burger
Want Fries with That? Yes, please. The twice-fried, Belgian-style fries are superlative
Price: Thanksgiving Burger, $7
Notes: Thanksgiving Turkey Burger is only available through the end of the month
It's good to remember how unpredictable life can be. I walked into The Oinkster (one of my favorite burger spots in town) and expected to be underwhelmed by their burger of the month: the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger. Now, I love burgers and I love Thanksgiving, but usually I'd be the first to tell you that turkey patties are for the birds. I'm more likely to the enjoy a dessicated veggie burger than the reliably mealy turkey versions. Then again, most restaurants aren't as reliably excellent as The Oinkster and most turkey burgers aren't Thanksgiving-themed.
In a less talkative mood I might say that the Thanksgiving burger at The Oinkster is simply delicious, but that's not an entirely accurate turn of phrase. Yes, the Thanksgiving Burger is fantastically tasty, but it's also a burger of rich, layered flavor and thoughtful complexity. And, like the regular burger offerings at The Oinkster, it's something to be thankful for.
Usually I have instructions for my burger cook, but in the case of the Thanksgiving Burger there were instructions for me: "No Modifications." It seems the description of this burger of the month is less informational than a mildly aggressive caveat.
The six-ounce turkey patty is topped with a celery, sage, and onion relish and homemade cranberry sauce. Along with that it gets the somewhat surprising choice of cheddar as the cheese element along with lettuce and mayo. The standard, high-end commercial-style bun holds it all together. This should read as a familiar sandwich styling for the proper Thanksgiving eater: It's a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich fashioned into a burger. Perhaps not a wonder of ideation, but my amazement was due to the expert execution.
First, there was the patty itself. As I mentioned I usually find turkey woefully misapplied to a burger (perhaps second only to my distaste for a chicken burger). The reason for this is that turkey patties are almost always too dry and mealy to excite my burger senses. Not so in this case. Somehow The Oinkster has managed to tease juiciness and beautiful crust from their version. The griddling on mine made for an exceptional textural contrast between the crust and the interior of the patty. It also displayed a powerful but not distracting level of seasoning.
The relish and cranberry sauce were something to behold. The cranberry stained the paper with a neon splash, but rather than tasting artificial and cloying, it added a measured Thanksgiving-style sweetness. That said, the flavors that really make this holiday identifiable are in the relish. The sage and celery are redolent of stuffing and balanced beautifully with the turkey patty.
I'd thought the cheddar cheese seemed out of place, but it added a subtle tang that I really enjoyed. The mayo added a welcome hit of fat that pushed this burger to a level of decadence I thought was only the realm of beef burgers.
The Thanksgiving Turkey Burger is only available at The Oinkster through the end of the month, so I encourage you to go soon. It could whet your holiday appetite or be a decadent denouement to your turkey eating season. Either way, I'd wager that it ranks among the best turkey burgers you've tasted. It's a lesson in letting happiness happen where you find it. I could never have predicted feeling this way, but I'm grateful for it.