A Hamburger Today
Los Angeles: Weiland Brewery Exemplifies the Value of a Mediocre Burger
400 E 1st Street, Los Angeles 90012 (map); 213-680-2881; weilandbrewery.net/WBR
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: This standard American bistro makes a standard cheeseburger that is just ok
Want Fries with That? Yes; I tried both with and without garlic and there's no bad choice
Price: Classic Beef Burger (two toppings and fries), $8.95
From a reviewer's perspective, the most challenging burgers to discuss are the mediocre ones. The wan, dessicated, hockey puck patties ignite the flames of criticism and the perfectly cooked, juice-filled dream-makers are, by their very nature, inspirations to rhapsody. It's the middle of the pack burgers that make for literary challenge. They are just good, but saying they are just good hardly feels good enough.
Such is my dilemma when talking about the Weiland Brewery. There is nothing particularly offensive about the place (other than the condition of men's rom). In fact, the building was home to a brewhouse for about a century. In LA years that might as well be prehistoric. The sense of history isn't seeping out of the walls, but it has the feel of having been around longer than I, which, for an aging burger reviewer, is somewhat comforting.
The burger offerings are similarly comforting. This is a build-your-own burger menu that, despite a "Kobe" patty, is both straightforward and reasonably priced. I opted for cheddar and grilled onions on mine as that approaches my Platonic ideal of a cheeseburger. I'm not exactly sure why a place that describes itself as an "American bistro" doesn't list American cheese as one of the options, but I'd suspect for most customers that's a minor offense.
The patty you get with the classic beef burger ($8.95) is just a standard chuck and weighs in around six to seven ounces. Along with the two toppings of your choice that come with the burger, Weiland adds a little lettuce, tomato, and pickle on the side. The examples that came out with my burger looked rather great, but I was on a mission for a simple cheese, onion, beef, and bun affair on this particular afternoon. Speaking of the bun, it's a Kaiser-shaped soft bun much like you'd find among the fancier offerings at the supermarket. It's not the perfect choice of a commercial bun, but there are far worse options.
The beef itself was solid and nicely cooked. If anything I'd say they undercooked it a tad, even for my medium rare palate. That said, there was a strong beefy flavor that would have been even better if there was a slightly heavier hand on the salt shaker before it hit the griddle. There was some browning, but I suspect the griddle could be a good bit hotter in the Weiland kitchen. I didn't get any significant crust on the patty. The onions and cheese were fine. I like cheddar, I really do, but I think a patty like this one would have be better served with some tangy American cheese.
Weiland offers you two types of fries with your burger. The standard fries are skinny-cut, skin on spuds and the garlic fries are the same with a little garlic mash mixed in. I tried both and would recommend both. The fries themselves were really nicely cooked. They could have stood a little better draining from the oil, but still, there was nice potato flavor. It may have been my stuffed up head that dulled my palate, but I also enjoyed the very strongly flavored garlic fries as well.
If it isn't clear, I want to make sure you understand that my burger lunch at Weiland Brewery was certainly not a disappointment. The burger and fries were completely acceptable and, further, the $8.95 price tag seems more than fair. That said, it wasn't anything more than acceptable. There's nothing there to excite the burger senses, but it doesn't offend either. It's a place to go when just good is good enough.
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.