Los Angeles: The Very Good Burgers at Short Order
6333 West 3rd St. #110, Los Angeles CA 90036 (map); 213-488-4994; shortorderla.com
Cooking Method: Wood-fired
Short Order: A high-brow take on low-brow burgers makes for some very good burgers
Want Fries with That? Yes and yes. All are good, but the Short Order Spuds and dipping sauce are the must haves
Prices: Short Order Burger, $12, Nancy's Backyard Burger, $14; Old School Fries, $3; Short Order Spuds, $4
Short Order was, about a year ago, one of Los Angeles' most anticipated restaurant openings. It was seen as a culmination of the 30-plus-year friendship of Amy Pressman and Nancy Silverton. Silverton, the bread maestra behind La Brea Bakery and, more recently, Mozza, had long ago made public her passion for burgers. The Los Angeles Times had written about her dinner parties that featured her burger recipe fortified with a signature blend put together by her buddies at Huntington Meats. Pressman, a celebrated chef in her own write, had also originated a bakery of her own.
They were a burger and bun dream team, but Short Order faced lots of hurdles before it would open at the Fairfax Farmer's Market location, the last of which was Pressman passing. She died of cancer just six weeks before they opened. It was a tragedy to be sure, but they rest of the team has kept the restaurant going. Since then they've managed to shake off some early wobbles and are now delivering some consistently very good burgers.
I tried a slew of items when I stopped in. First up wasn't the eponymous Short Order burger, but rather Nancy's Backyard Burger ($14). You see, I'd long ago dreamed of being one of Nancy's dinner guests and, while I've met her a number of times (she's lovely), this would likely be as close as I'd get to having her make me a burger.
Her burger starts with about seven ounces of Nancy's beef blend. Now, it turns out that Huntington Meats used to be my butcher and I would regularly purchase "Nancy's burger blend," but they never divulged exactly what was in there. It's a dry-aged blend to be sure, and I'd estimate it at a standard 80/20 ratio. She tops it with North Country Smokehouse Applewood bacon, Comté, avocado, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, iceberg lettuce, and spicy mayo. The bun is a special formulation from Silverton and Pressman's baking expertise (which gets the moniker Short Cake).
The rich, full flavored patty was beautifully charred and came out a perfect medium rare. The grind was nicely coarse and the beef fully seasoned. The smack of salt that I love came from the bacon. This isn't my usual preference, but it didn't overpower the beef on this burger. The avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onion were all fresh and farmers market quality. The spicy mayo was a welcome bit of added fat. Finally, the bun was very good, though I must admit I'd had hopes that it would be superlative. They opted to make it a bit more substantial than I prefer, but it has a nice flavor.
I also tried the Short Order burger ($12), which starts out with a different beef blend and cheese. For this burger, the beef is grass fed chuck and the cheese is Morbier. Grilled mushrooms are added to the mix along with a leaf of Bibb lettuce and a mustard/mayo mixture.
I didn't thrill to this burger. It seems an odd choice for a signature burger for a number of reasons. You might think it's a bit fussy with the high-end ingredients, but it turns out that blandness is the issue. The beef was properly cooked, but it didn't have the depth of flavor I'd expected. The Morbier was creamy but slightly bitter, and Bibb lettuce doesn't have the crunch that I look for in burger lettuce. The mushrooms were earthy, but there weren't enough of them to save this burger.
The Old School Fries ($3) were expertly prepared. The crispy exteriors were matched by a smooth and creamy interior.
The real potato stars were the Short Order Spuds ($4). These little nuggets of crispy baked potato are served with a choice dipping sauce. I tried the sour cream bacon version (+$1.50) and it was fantastic. An order of these and the dipping sauce is a worthwhile meal unto itself.
Short Order certainly shows many of the influences of the quick serve meals that inspired the menu, but this is no cheap eats destination; the burgers start at $11 à la carte. You pay for the quality that Silverton and Pressman demanded when conceiving the restaurant, but pick the right dishes and it's worth it; you'll be rewarded with a memorable meal from a pair talented chefs.
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.