Los Angeles: The Fat Dog Makes a Solid Burger
The Fat Dog
801 N. Fairfax Ave., Hollywood CA 90046 (map); 310-587-2747; thefatdogla.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A new Hollywood neighborhood spot makes a solid, if not inspired burger
Want Fries with That? Yes; Skinny cut and dusted with parsley they have great flavor (but an inconsistent crispness)
Prices: The Burger (with fries), $12
It won't come as a surprise to the Hollywood neighborhood known as the Fairfax District that a new gastropub has hit the scene. It seems every other new restaurant to open in the area could fall under this cheffed-up, casual fare category, but when the chef knows what he's doing, you could do a lot worse. Such is the case with John Gladish's The Fat Dog. The restaurant aims to be a breakfast/lunch/dinner neighborhood spot, and when you poke around the menu you feel like his aim is true.
The original location found a foothold a bit outside the big city in the bedroom community of Montrose, and now Gladish has recreated it inside the city limits. It's a stylish, but not overly hip space that keeps the food and beer fresh (the taps rotate regularly). Of course, for me the measure of a gastropub will always be its burger.
The Fat Dog serves its burger on an attractive rectangular plate with the fries getting a cutesy paper bag presentation. It's clearly a chef's reworking of the classic, but it isn't overwrought. Chef Gladish calls his burger, quite simply, "The Burger," and it lives up to that unassuming moniker (mostly) in the best of ways. The construction of the burger is simply an upgrading of the traditional components. Rather than a chuck grind, Gladish opts for ground sirloin. The bun is a La Brea Bakery brioche rather than the standard commercial (Gladish is a La Brea Bakery devotee). Iceberg lettuce is swapped out with arugula and the cheese is the Spanish star Manchego. Finally, the onions get an expert caramelizing.
There are many good things to say about this burger, but I'm going to break form and get the negatives out of the way first. You can probably guess from the above photos, but if there's any lingering doubt, the brioche bun was too much for my taste; it threw off the bun-to-burger ratio that is essential to a great burger. I was also disappointed to find the patty's grill marks to be a a light searing rather than those great char lines that can add so much flavor to the meat. It's a shame because I could see this patty really shining with the right char.
Now for the good, or should I say, the very good. They nailed the medium rare temperature on the hefty eight-ounce patty. I know this might be a bit too pink for a lot of you out there, so I'd suggest ordering yours medium as Gladish's kitchen seems to ride the rare fence with his medium rare. The juicy patty featured a fantastic, loosely packed, coarse grind and was properly—and by that I mean heavily—seasoned.
Added to this was the sparkling combination of toppings. The peppery arugula stood up to the hefty beef, and the caramelized onion and Manchego cheese added big, delightful flavor. More and more I'm finding myself thinking of Manchego as a top five cheese to top burgers with.
All in all, this was a solid burger that could be improved with a little extra heat from the grill and a bun dialed back in size.
I also really enjoyed Gladish's shoestring-style French fries. They were nicely salted and sprinkled with fresh parsley, my preferred herb on a fry. These rate alongside some of the more flavorful fries in town (like Hungry Cat's) and deserve attention. Their only weakness was an inconsistent crispness.
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.