6340 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90028 (map); 323-GO-JUICY; juicyburgeronline.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: Another burger concept restaurant takes its cues from a number of successful established burger spots, but the result seems to be a case of too many cooks in the kitchen
Want Fries with That? Yes—fresh cut, these skin-on, Belgian-style spuds are better than most
Prices: Juicy Burger combo, $8 (cheese, +$0.75)
Another day, another burger concept restaurant in Los Angeles. Our ascendant sandwich seems to have yet to find its wax wings in the sunny, Los Angeles restaurant scene. We've always been a city of burgers, but I'd thought the new wave of premium burger restaurants had found its saturation point. Apparently not.
Juicy Burger on Hollywood Boulevard is the newest addition to this burger wave that we've been riding and it might have just pointed us toward the shark. The restaurant itself isn't all bad, and we are far from any serious burger-backlash, but the self-conscious, concept restaurateuring here left me wondering if there is room for yet another burger spot.
Juicy Burger has been opened a couple of months now. It seems to have found a bit of following, and that's not a big surprise. There are a lot of things that work about this spot. Their build-your-own burger sheet that you mark with a small pencil is cadged from The Counter, but isn't overwhelming in its options: beef, turkey, or veggie for your patty, a few cheeses, some veggie toppings and a few high-end sauces alongside the holy trinity of ketchup, mustard, and mayo. The contemporary minimalist look and bright color palette (Smashburger anyone?) are pleasing enough, but more importantly they keep the place spotless. The beef is all fresh and the griddle (my preference) cooks up the burgers with some good crust. Of course, good burger concepts are like good burgers, in that they need some editing.
Juicy Burger makes a good choice with making their standard patty only a a third of a pound. It's enough meat that a customer can expect a proper medium rare and a decent crust, but it's also a way of keeping the costs down. Of course, this means that you have to take some extra care to ensure the bun is in proper ratio. Juicy Burger misses on this point. The bulbous, brioche bun seems to be straight from another recent burger-concept spot's first iteration of their bun (which has since been changed): Burger Kitchen. This massive bun is too much even for their half-pounder, so it basically swallows the third-pound patty, which is a shame.
The beef patty is fresh, nicely seasoned and, yes, even juicy, but it's overwhelmed by a bun that is both too big and has that crumbly brioche texture. The toppings I chose on my first foray were lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, and American cheese, and were all fine. Shredded lettuce wasn't my preference, but all seemed fresh and tasty.
I did a follow up that was just a straightforward half-pound burger-on-bun outing and was still frustrated by the lack of balance between the patty and bun. I should also mention that on both occasions my burger came out medium rather than medium rare; should you stop in it might be worth emphasizing your temperature selection if you like your patties a little cooler in the middle.
The high point of my burger combo was the very tasty fries. They are fresh cut, but before you start thinking of the limp and lackluster spuds at In-N-Out, give these guys a second look. Juicy calls them Belgian-style, which is a bit of a stretch, but they do get a second frying, which makes for a lovely crisp exterior and buttery-smooth interior. They leave the skins on which I thought would be a mistake, but I actually enjoyed the earthy quality that added. Certainly the fries were far above average.
The man behind the place, George Ghaby, is a restaurant consultant, so it's not a surprise that he's created a burger spot that feels a bit like an MBA thesis. Of course, in the final analysis, it's not fair to dismiss Juicy Burger just because it is a bit derivative, or part of a trend. It should be measured on its merits, of which there are a few: The prices are great for the quality of the ingredients and the restaurant is run well. Juicy Burger doesn't equal a shark-jump for the burger business, but I do wish a portion of all that thought that went into it was replaced with some feeling.
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