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Los Angeles: Burger Week at The Oinkster Was a Tasty Homage

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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

The Oinkster

2005 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock CA 90041 (map); 714-361-4264; theoinkster.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: One of LA's best burger spots blew it out last week with a series of burgers inspired by the city's iconic beef and bun creations.
Want Fries with That? Yes, yes and again YES; these Belgian-inspired frites are some of the best in town.
Prices: Father's Office Burger, $8.50; The Tommy Burger, $7

Last week marked the first ever "Burger Week" at one of my favorite burger spots here in Los Angeles, The Oinkster. The idea for how they organized their celebration can be described like my favorite burgers: simple and awesome. It's described as "A tribute to great Los Angeles burgers." Each day chef/owner Andre Guerrero paid homage to an iconic LA area burger with his reinterpretation of the classic. He even let the Grill 'Em All boys get behind the line and do their burger best to please the droves of customers.

I've long loved The Oinkster's food. Indeed, it was both one of my early reviews here at AHT and made my top 5 list. This fun and very tasty event has only made my affection for Guerrero and his "slow fast food" joint grow. Here's the low down on The Oinkster's Burger Week offerings and the delicious pair of burgers I sampled.

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First off, take a look at the line up of burgers that were being honored each day:

Monday: The Big Mac ($6.50)
You know the song: two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun.

Tuesday: The Tommy Burger ($7)
The grandaddy of all chili burgers was born from the burger imagination of LA's Tommy Koulax in 1946. Tommy's motto all but asks for an homage: "Many imitate, none compare."

Wednesday: Father's Office ($8.50)
Sang Yoon can be given credit for being a pioneer of the premium burger with his Father's Office burger. It comes with caramelized onion, applewood bacon, Gruyère cheese, Maytag blue cheese, and arugula.

Thursday: Grill 'Em All
The Great Food Truck Race winners' chef Ryan Harkins and Matthew Chernus work behind the counter for dinner paying homage, um, to themselves and their Grill 'Em All burgers.

Friday: Umami Burger ($9.50)
Once upon a time Adam Fleischman introduced himself to me when he was just a wine entrepreneur and regular A Hamburger Today reader. He told me he was opening a little burger spot on La Brea. What he meant to say was that he'd be building an Umami Burger empire in under three years. Oinkster takes on his signature Umami burger with dry aged Kobe beef, oven roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Parmesan frico, sautéed shitake mushrooms, and house-made ketchup.

Saturday & Sunday: The Oinkster's "$25.00 Burger!" ($9.50)
Thankfully the name is a joke. Doubtless you all are as tired of overpaying for high-end burgers as I. Guerrero has a burger for this dilemma. His comes with dry aged Kobe beef, Porcini mushrooms (sautéed with shallots, cream, and grated Parmesan), Cambozola cheese, arugula, and truffle aioli crispy onions on a French burger bun.

I didn't get in to try all of the creations, but managed to mark two off this impressive list.

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First up I had the Father's Office burger. My friend and colleague Nick Solares summed up the pros and cons of this burger beautifully a few years back with his review. The basic problem of the Father's Office burger is that it's barely classifiable as a burger. Of course, that doesn't mean it can't be a tasty sandwich (which it is).

But when Guerrero gets his mitts on the conceit you definitely get a burger. Mine was big and messy, but one of the major reworkings on The Oinkster interpretation is the bun—and man, it works. They call it a French burger bun and that describes it just about perfectly. It's got the crumbly, lightness of a French baguette, yet is still spongy enough to hold up as a burger bun. Father's Office should consider this bun for their burger. The rest of the ingredients, while very good, didn't blend together as nicely as the original. The blue cheese flavor was so pronounced that it overpowered the meat in most bites.

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I also dug into The Oinkster's takes on Tommy's chili burger. It wasn't nearly as messy as the real thing because the chili ratio was much more rational on The Oinkster version and their hefty commercial bun stands up to the slop better. This, along with some flavorful but not overpowering seasoning in the chili, made for a Tommy's imitation that was, dare I say it, compared favorably with the original. The higher quality beef of The Oinkster patty put this one over the top for me.

061511-156621-oinkster-woodennickel.jpgOne unexpectedly cool thing that The Oinkster did with their Burgerweek was reward those of us who chose to participate. With the purchase of the day's special burger you got a wooden nickel that was good for half-off a regular burger when you came in next. It was an attractive little token that was for me an unnecessary (though not unwelcome) bonus. Kudos to the promo team at The Oinkster.

I don't need any special reason to head out to Eagle Rock and enjoy one of the many tasty reasons to eat at The Oinkster, but this Burger Week promotion was good cover to blow my diet. I hope they've started a trend.

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 seriouslydamon@gmail.com.

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