Los Angeles: The Disappointment of Dusty's Burger
3200 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90026 (map); 323-906-1018; dustysbistro.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: This neighborhood American bistro needs to rethink how they put together their most American of sandwiches.
Want Fries with That? Yes to these crispy and satisfying fries. In fact, they are the best thing about ordering the burger.
Prices: Hamburger w/fries, $15
What kind of restaurant does a French-Canadian born and raised in Italy open? An American bistro, of course. Maria Miller opened Dusty's alongside her son David DiSalvio with the intention of bringing their European aesthetic to bear on their American restaurant and, in large portion, they were successful. Dusty's defies easy classification, but it definitely feels like an American neighborhood spot with a little European flair. The menu is a cross-section of upscale casual staples alongside a mixture of European classics (croque madame compete with Wiener Schnitzel).
In some respects one could argue a pan-European menu is the most American of selections, but at the end of the day, the barometer for me will be a restaurant's execution of the most American of sandwiches: the burger.
At Dusty's the burger gets its own section of the menu. You can have yours with Kobe beef, veggie, turkey, lamb, or crab. I had mine with the beef. It's sizable eight-ounce round of Kobe that has an organic certification and came out attractively open-faced. Sadly, the attraction ended there.
While the meat was nicely medium rare at the center (as you can see below), as I got away from the center it became a well done patty. This is likely due to cooking it at too low a temperature, which leads to the less uniform cross-section and dries out the meat; no juice to speak of here. Further, the grind was too fine to impart the crumbly texture I prefer and the seasoning was almost nonexistent.
The bun, an oversized traditional that I suspect is sourced from La Brea Bakery, was nice to look at and had some good grill marks, but that's about it. It was too big for the burger and the mealy texture meant that the improper meat-to-bun ratio was doubly disappointing (sometime a little extra tasty bun isn't such a big deal). The toppings and cheese were nicely put together and I tried to save the burger by slathering it in mayo and ketchup, but it was a bit of a lost cause.
Mercifully, the fries were properly handled. These fast food-style spuds got just the right amount of time in some very hot oil to blister the skin without any sign of browning. As another sign that the oil was fresh and clean, there wasn't any of that vaguely dishwatery aftertaste that can turn up from a vat of dirty oil.
It's a wonder that Dusty's has managed to stay in business as long as it has considering the quality of the $15 burger, but to be fair, that's not the whole story at this place. A lot of the entrees get good notices and if you're in the market for a solid brunch spot you could do a lot worse. I just wish they'd do a lot better with their burger.
About the author: Damon is one of our roving burger reporters and food writers. When he's not eating more than is warranted or healthful (and then writing about it) he can be found writing and producing for television and film. You can contact him at email@example.com.