3361 West 8th St., Los Angeles CA 90005 (map); 213-382-8449; taylorssteakhouse.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A classic LA steakhouse makes an affordable, quality burger.
Want Fries with That? Pass; these frozen fries aren't a match for the high quality beef.
Prices: Prime Cheeseburger (w/fries), $12.95
Notes: If you do opt for steak, Taylor's makes some classic preparations like Steak Diane.
I know in general AHT is suspicious of the steakhouse's place in the burger kingdom. In Adam's excellent guide to burger styles he notes that "burgers there are mostly an afterthought rather than the main show. You go to a steakhouse for steak, not a burger."
But even if the burger is an afterthought, that doesn't mean it has to be bad. In my handful of positive steakhouse burger reviews I've found that the meat in the burger, unsurprisingly, often steps forward as the star, whether I was at a power Hollywood hangout, a restaurant that shares my name, or a fancy-pants downtown spot. The most recent addition to my litany of steakhouse success came at Taylor's Steak House, an old-school Los Angeles steak joint known for it's relative affordability that's been serving the city for nearly 60 years.
Taylor's has been around since 1953 and you can tell. The interior of red leather booths and healthy dose of wood paneling is purebred steakhouse classicism—or brings to mind a generic steak spot. At midday, even the muted sun in an overcast sky was a huge contrast to the blackout conditions of the windowless interior. Even once your eyes adjust, it's a noticeably dark lighting scheme that probably helps keeps you from noticing some of the age of the place.
The Taylor's Prime Cheeseburger is a straightforward affair that is made from the trimmings of their steaks. When I asked which cuts make the burger blend, I was met with a simple "all of them." This would be an example of Adam's description of the burger-as afterthought and it made me nervous. Luckily the result is a grind with some minor faults that is ultimately very satisfying.
There aren't any bells and whistles to Taylor's burger. It's served open-faced on a commercial bun. The bun itself could be a bit heftier to match the eight or so ounces of meat, but texturally it's spot on. It's spongy, fresh, and unobtrusive, which is just how I like it when the meat is the star. The patty was beautifully cooked with a juicy pink center and a solid, if not perfect char. There's a noticeable hit of salt, but it's not overwrought. This is just a full-flavored patty that has the distinct notes of its steak-trimming origins.
The grind is a bit too fine for my tastes. I suspect they do this because the trimmings come with their fair share of connective tissue that would undermine a coarser grind. This is weakness, but certainly not a fatal flaw. The flavor of the burger is excellent.
The lunch menu presupposes your preference for a slice of American cheese, which, on a high-quality cut, can be a distraction. In this case, Taylor's blend is on the lean side so the added fat of the cheese is a welcome addition. The fries and toppings (including a tub of Thousand Island) were beside the point for me. The veggies could work with this burger, but I enjoyed it as a simple meat, cheese, bun meal. The fries were bland and uninspired such that I'd opt for the mashed potatoes or even a small salad instead.
Taylor's will, in my view, never match up to Los Angeles finer steakhouses, but you get the sense that they aren't trying to. The prices are geared toward the working person's special occasion or mid-level executive lunch. It isn't meant to price the regular folks out of a chance to enjoy a nice meal. With a burger made from some good cuts of meat for less than fifteen bucks, Taylor's makes an argument for steakhouse's place in the world of burgers.
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