Los Angeles: Sunset Junction Coffee Shop Isn't Great, But It's Good for the Neighborhood
Sunset Junction Coffee Shop
3916 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90029 (map); 323-661-1600; Facebook page
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: This nouveau-diner is a solid entry as a neighborhood burger spot though it falls short of being a destination burger
Want Fries with That? Yes; they are very crispy and tasty
Prices: Junction Burger, $10 (w/fries)
Now that the once Bohemian wonderland of Silverlake has become a fully entrenched community of aging creatives who have a few dollars to spend (yes, that would include me) the crossroads of the community, Sunset Junction, has gone upscale. We line up for coffee at Intelligentsia that makes Starbucks look economical and grab a quick $15 plate of vegetables at Forage for lunch. Is it cooler than the usual bourgeois cross-section of options? Sure. Is it better? Usually.
The newest addition to the scene, Sunset Junction Coffee Shop, makes this case pretty well. The space that was once home to Eat Well and then K2 seems to be where the upscale coffee shops go to die, but I suspect Jenna Turner of Susina Bakery and Chango Coffee) not only has different plans, she's got the chops to execute them. The New Jersey native Turner knows from "coffee shops." Of course, by that she means diner. To that end (and the cost savings) she chose to keep the diner feel that was in place. It's a pleasant and comfortable space that has, over the course of its short life, taken on a distinct feel of its own. It's also taken on the diner style burger—and so I ate it.
Before we get into the burger let's talk about Turner a little more. Whether or not you're a fan of her establishments everyone should agree that she's committed to what she does. She's one of those proprietors who's always around. On both visits she stopped by to say a few words or "hello." Neighborhood coffee shops feel better when the ower feels like part of the neighborhood. Her being there gives the place that vibe.
For $10, the six-ounce Junction Burger (with a side of fries) also feels about right for this level of restaurant. It looked beautiful on the plate. The brioche bun (not my favorite but certainly pretty) hid a nice medium rare, semi-loose grind of a patty.
The first bite gave off some good juice, but as I dug into it the meat tasted surprisingly dry. I'm not certain why this was the case. The meat is the standard 80/20 ratio so I imagine some well-intentioned cook doesn't know that pressing the patty is killer. Add to that a brioche bun that is a tad mealy and dry (as you'd expect) and any beef blend would be in trouble.
I kept getting a nice salty hit with every bite of the burger, but tasting the patty on its own revealed not much flavor. I'm still befuddled by the salt and pepper phobia when preparing a patty. I suspect the salt came from an additional shake at the end or perhaps the added Thousand Island or cheese. No matter though, as the final result was one that got my tastebuds going. The sharp cheddar was one notch too much for me—I think medium cheddar (especially Tillamook) would've been the right call—but still, the cheese was thoroughly melted and a nice addition. Add to that the grilled onions and you've got a perfectly acceptable burger.
I enjoyed the fries, too. These shoestring spuds came out plenty crispy and nicely salted with coarse salt (a nice touch). Again, this was a good, but not great version.
Overall I'd say the same about the burger. It's just a good. Like all of you, I've eaten some great burgers in my day; this one doesn't belong in that category. That said, I didn't walk away feeling let down or disappointed. Part of this is because there's no fanfare about their burger, or the rest of their food for that matter (it's rather average). But in some respects that's all I'm looking for from my neighborhood coffee shop. Good reliable food with an owner that shows up—Sunset Junction Coffee shop has both.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.