Dillon's Irish Pub
6263 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, California 90028(map); 323-465-1680; dillonsirishpub.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A Hollywood simulation of an Irish pub delivers authentic deliciousness with its burgers
Want Fries with That? Yes—the house fries are thick-cut and allowed to get brown and delicious with a little extra fryer time
Prices: Cheeseburger, $10; Dillon's Burger, $12; Mac 'N Cheese Burger, $11 (all come with a choice of a side)
When I walked into Dillon's Irish Pub & Grill I didn't realize it would be a bit of lunch-time-travel for me. When I first arrived here in Los Angeles over a dozen years ago there was a bar on the Sunset Strip that no one seemed to actually like, but everyone ended up going to at some point. It was called Dublin's and it was a monstrosity. The cavernous space was barely a facsimile of the Irish pubs it referenced, but they kept the beer cheap and the fantasies of adulthood-as-extended-adolescence very much alive.
Dublin's would eventually change owners and then burn down, but it seems to have risen from the ashes in the form of Dillon's. One of the manager's informed me that the original Dublin's owner had built this second coming of a massive, dimly-lit, barely-Irish-pub simulation. This time it spreads its wings on the infamous and gentrified corner of Hollywood and Vine. When I heard that this was the restaurant's lineage my already low expectations of a finding a decent pub burger were all but buried. My memories of Dublin's food range from, "No, thank you" to, "OK, I'm drunk enough." Happily, Dillon's burgers are very good no matter your state of mind.
I tried three of Dillon's six burgers on offer: The Cheeseburger, The Dillon's Burger, and the Mac 'N Cheese Burger. Each has its merits, but I'll start with the standard cheeseburger and work my way toward the less traditional options.
The basic cheeseburger is a full half-pound of what they call "Kobe" beef, but is actually the American Wagyu (more on that distinction here). It's topped with American cheese, dill pickles, red onion, Roma tomatoes, and mixed greens. They dress it with a chipotle aioli and some Thousand Island. All of this is basically a slightly fancier version of the traditional Southern California-style fast food burger, and that's a very good thing.
What struck me right away about this cheeseburger was the strong contrast between the pub-style charring of the patty and the flavors of a SoCal burger. The char was severe. The carbon-y crunch of the crust sent me back to the Irish pub burgers of my youth in New York City, but the fresh vegetables and sweetness of the Thousand Island were straight out of my Los Angeles adulthood. It was an noticeable, yet subtle contrast that really worked. The patty was cooked so as to get crunch from the char and still be full of juice. All of the ingredients seemed to be nicely balanced against the amount of bun, though I found Dillon's choice of a breadier version the weak point of the burger.
Next up was the Dillon's Burger. This one comes with the same half-pound patty, this time stuffed with cheddar and grilled onions. On top of that it gets a seared Ortega chili, a variety of the Anaheim chili first popularized by Emilio Ortega. It's a mild chili that doesn't do much for those desiring a heavy hit of heat, but it's got a pleasant flavor that works with a burger and has become a traditional topping here in Southern California.
I thought this one would be mostly gimmick due to my aversion to things being stuffed into patties, but it was a surprising treat. The molten cheese center actually worked and the flavors came together well.
The final burger on my lunch menu seemed like it was inspired by a pun as much by the notion it would actually taste good. The Mac 'N Cheeseburger is simply a half-pound patty smothered in what they call their "Angry Mac 'N Cheese." You basically get a good patty covered in some good mac 'n cheese, and the thought that they don't need to be combined. The burger shines on its own and the mac 'n cheese is tasty enough to warrant its status as a stand alone side dish.
It seems my prejudices toward my poor decisions of my youth were unwarranted. Dillon's, while still clearly related to the Dublin's of old, has managed to grow up when it comes to burger making. Of the three I tried, the basic cheeseburger was clearly the best, but even the gimmicky burgers had good points. The fact that they serve $3 pints of Guinness now seems like a pleasant bonus, rather than the reason for going there in the first place.