Los Angeles: Not A Good Burger At Not A Burger Stand
Not A Burger Stand
1221 Riverside Dr., Burbank CA 91506 (map); 818-567-9990; Facebook
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A casual American restaurant lives up (or is it down?) to its name
Want Fries with That? These just satisfactory spuds aren't a miss, but are uninspired
Price: Burger, $5; pulled pork sandwich, $6.75; fries, $2.25
Notes: The burger patty showed promise, but until they make a bun change you're better off with a pulled pork sandwich
As you can gather from the none-too-subtle name, Not A Burger Stand is trying very hard (if a bit cheekily) to be more than burger stand structure that it took over might suggest. The spot along Riverside Drive in Burbank was, until just recently, home to the Riverside Cafe. That place was also more than a burger stand, but certainly not better than a standard burger stand.
Of course, here at AHT I'm quick to point out that burger stands can be gastronomic revelations in their own right. I can think of one on Pico Boulevard that deserves a closer look and another on Santa Monica Boulevard that is rightly a historic landmark. In Not a Burger Stand's case, it's clear from the cutesy decor and earnest service that the name is less disavowal than part of a larger theme of playfulness. Heck, they'll give you a discount on your meal if you add a kitschy salt and pepper shaker to their growing collection. Further, the menu runs the gamut of American comfort food from pulled pork to mac and cheese and beyond. I, of course, am quite content with a burger even if it's not from a burger stand.
I ordered the standard seven-ounce patty that comes with "the works" ($5). In this case the works are lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and mayo. It was served open-faced, which is a good choice as the wan iceberg lettuce was served up in salad portion along with a heap of raw onion. I took the opportunity to make some slight edits to the burger toppings. A little less lettuce and onion seemed to be the proper call.
I was pleased to hear that the patties are fresh and the server didn't need any prompting about asking for my preferred temperature. But despite a wide grin of assent from the appealing woman taking my order for medium rare, my burger showed up a tad overcooked. That said, the grilling was prodigious and the meat full of proper seasoning. The patty, even overcooked, was worthy of any restaurant; burger stand or otherwise.
Sadly this is where the good news ends. The toppings, even in lesser portion, weren't appealing as they were cafeteria quality. The final insult was the bun. Certainly it's an attractive looking round, but it seems they chose style over substance. In an effort to make their burger a little more distinct they opted for a non-commercial bakery bun that was too bready and crumbly to match the patty.
That said, this air of effort from the folks behind Not Another Burger Stand is apparent throughout their menu. I sampled the pulled pork sandwich ($6.75) and found it not only quite tasty, but quite distinct. The bark was terrific and I got the whiff of what I think was star anise. With all the barbecue sauce slathered on it the bready burger bun found a better balance with this sandwich.
Also solid, though not standouts, were the fries ($2.25). The fast food-style spuds had good flavor and a nice salting, though they did lack the proper crispiness to give them anything more than my mild approval.
In the end I have to admit I found myself rather charmed by the fulsome attention to service that every employee demonstrated, and there is more on the menu I'd like to try. That said, I might like it even more if Not A Burger Stand tried a little harder to make their burger as good as some of the places with which they are so intent on not being aligned.
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.