121 North San Fernando Boulevard, Burbank CA 91502 (map); 818-848-4726; granvillecafe.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A higher end burger that delivers on the beef, but is undermined by the bun
Want Fries with That? Yes! These skin-on spuds are beautifully balanced
Price: The Village Burger (w/housemade potato chips), $10; add fries, +1
My friends have become wary of recommending new burgers to me. I understand the hesitation; after reviewing burgers here at AHT for (gulp) five years, I have more than a fair (or healthy) share of burgers under my expanding belt. Still, I always encourage a line on a new burger that I might have missed. That's why when a friend sent me a message about the burger at the Granville Cafe I stopped and took notice. "Great," he declared. Could it be? A great burger lying under my nose at this casual upscale eatery in downtown Burbank?
Of course, duty and desire demanded I check it out. I stopped by Granville on a recent Monday night to belly up to the bar, watch the game, and eat a great burger. What I found was something less than great, but still worth a mention.
Granville serves a few burgers on their menu, but it was The Village Burger ($10) that caught my eye. The others were decked out with bacon and blue cheese, which seemed like less the baseline test I was looking for. The Village Burger is as close to a traditional as it gets at Granville. The patty is a healthy eight ounces of "100% All-Natural Angus Beef." It's an odd description from a spot that is so determined to declare its upscale side with gourmet flourishes. It seemed more in line with a fast food joint desperate to claim that their food is actually edible. That said, if there is any greatness to be found in the Granville burger, this is where it's at. The beef is rich and juicy and full of buttery beefiness. The crust is solid, but more importantly, the coarse grind and crumbly texture make for an exceptionally good (dare I say, great) patty.
The toppings come as Roma tomatoes, organic arugula, red onion, and garlic aioli. All are excellent quality and add a pleasantly familiar flavor profile. The garlic aioli is particularly nicely done and adds a hit of tang that I like.
So how can it be that a burger with this many very good component parts falls short of greatness? As is so often the case with the "upscaled" burger, the answer is as simple and tragic as the word sounds: brioche. Granvile makes the same error we see again and again with higher-end burgers: they opt for style-over-substance with the choice of the brioche bun. Yes, it's shiny and beautifully bulbous, but authentic brioche like the one at Granville is so misapplied with respect to texture (crumbly and dry) that it undermines the excellent other parts of this burger. Add to this their little signature rosemary sprig popping out of the top and I'm done like dinner.
The fries are very good and deserve some attention. Granvillle chooses to keep the skin on these nearly perfectly cooked spuds and it's a good choice. The potato flavor gets a nice kick of earthiness from it.
I want to be fair about Granville's burger. It's unquestionably good—the patty is excellent and the toppings are solid. But I just can't tip the scales to greatness if they're using a genuine brioche bun. Greatness demands a degree of flawlessness. The brioche bun is not a fatal flaw when the rest of the burger is as good as this one, but it's flaw nonetheless.
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.