Los Angeles: The Overhyped Burger at Storefront
4624 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90027 (map); 323-665-5670; Twitter
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: This hipster take on the neighborhood deli swings and misses with its burger
Want Fries with That? Not available. Potato salad is a solid replacement, but you have to bring your taste for mustard seeds
Prices: Single burger, $7; double burger, $12; w/bacon, + $2, cheese is free
It's easy for me to roll my eyes at the parade of amateur restaurateurs that have marched into the food scene over the past few years, but I didn't expect the guys behind the cured meat paean at Salt's Cure and the very good watering hole Bar Covell to fall into that category.
Chefs Chris Phelps and Zak Walters of Salt's Cure have teamed up with Bar Covell's Dustin Lancaster to open Storefront, a hipster take on the neighborhood deli. Since it's in my lovely little Los Feliz neighborhood, I was rooting for it. I was rooting for a spot that could summon the spirit of an old school sandwich shop with the added dimension of ingredient-driven obsessiveness that the new generation of food professionals here in Los Angeles (and across the country) are so good at. I read things like "Los Feliz's best new burger" here and "Storefront has a tasty burger" there. Could it be that Storefront would be that holy grail of the medium priced, new school burger that could be my lunchtime standby? Sadly, it couldn't.
Storefront has set up shop in an attractive, if not so user-friendly, little space on the rapidly cool-ifying strip of Hollywood Boulevard just east of Vermont Avenue. Since Bar Covell is right next door, a lack of owner oversight doesn't seem to be the issue with this less-than-stellar burger. So what's the problem? Well, it's more than one problem.
There's nothing too wacky about the Storefront burger. You can order yours as a single ($7) or double ($12). I went with two versions of the single because it's rare that an extra patty is my preference. The reason for the second burger was to try one with bacon. To be honest, the woman taking my order all but insisted we try the bacon. No surprise, as they use the somewhat legendary bespoke version from Salt's Cure.
They grill up their small (four- to five-ounce) patties to a sad, dry gray—a shame considering the quality of the beef. Even when overcooked, the dry aged, grass fed chuck betrays a beefy funk. When I tried a nibble of just the beef I got a little sense of its potential as a solid patty—along with an overhelping of char. The cheddar I added helped add back a little of the fat that had been cooked out of the patty, but it didn't overcome all of the dryness. (As a side note, they also offer Cowgirl Creamery's designed-for-melting Wagon Wheel as a cheese option, which is very good.) I also added a little homemade mayo, which helped a bit, but in the end the missteps of construction were just too big.
The iceberg lettuce seemed like an afterthought, but the red onion was a nice addition due to the extra thin slicing. Along with those I was pleased by the combination of the (very new) pickle slices and mustard seed. That said, the baked in-house bun was a bit too substantial for the patty although it was otherwise spongy and very good. Perhaps the extra patty would have helped with the ratio, but I didn't find myself longing for any more of the overcooked beef.
I had hopes that adding bacon might be a welcomed hit of saltiness and fat, but there was little added value to it. Add to that its uneven cooking (notice the undercooked fat in the photo) and I was once again underwhelmed.
Fries aren't on the menu, but you can have some potato salad instead. If you enjoy a mustard seed, you should. I quite liked the simple construction and added texture and bite of the mustard seed.
It's fair to say that I went into my first burger experience at Storefront with some raised expectations, but it's also fair to say they have some work to do on their burger. I've tried a couple of their sandwiches as well and found them better than their burger. The sandwiches are fussy, highly thought out affairs with great bread. Perhaps Storefront could use them as a model for their burger. I feel like they should up the ounces on their patty to both match the heft of the bun and give it a chance to be cooked to a nice medium rare. They have many very good pieces of the burger puzzle; they just need to put them together a little differently.
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.