I might not be able to handle 30 hamburgers for 30 days straight or even cope with six courses of lamb in one sitting, but over the past few months I've had a dalliance, possibly an infatuation, with lamb burgers. Compared to its way more common beef patties, ground lamb burgers, with its tender-yet-lean texture and sweet-gamey flavor, are just so much more elegant and sophisticated . . . akin to turning that simple little black dress into a chic outfit with the right accessories.
Speaking of accessories, I find that lamb burgers are often adorned with more daring veggies, sauces and cheeses (I guess chefs figure since they're already using an eccentric meat, why not push the envelope on everything else as well?) Of course, this makes the bovine counterpart's almost-formulaic toppings look very plain Jane. Iceberg lettuce, tomato, onion, cheddar-ish cheese & the 1000 Island-esque dressing? *yawn*
And as such, I've gone on a journey exploring lamb burgers at different venues around town, and here are my thoughts on them:
Public School 612*; $13 a la carte
Extra tip: Their "Cutting Board" of assorted charcuterie and cheese is generously portioned and well worth the $14 (or however it's divided amongst your friends.) I also loved the brown bag fries here, and while beer is their forte, they did a decent job with the Sazerac too! And from eyeing their menu, I can't wait to return to try the fried cheese curds.
Comme Ca; $16 w fries & on Tuesdays only (when they do their burger nights)
Another good starter choice for the game-phobic, the patty here is actually a Merguez lamb sausage, so the bulk of the pungency is from its hefty herbs and spices. It is nicely complemented with the peppery arugula, as well as caramelized onions and roasted peppers. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until afterwards that it came out on the wrong bun, and a hearty ciabatta would've stood up better to the juicy burger and wet toppings than the softer & spongier brioche-like bun. But still, this was more well-liked than the two beef burgers our table ordered (and a close contender to #1 with the breakfast burger, really a glorified and gravy'd up Sausage McMuffin.)
Extra tip: If pairing burgers with wine is your thing, this is the place to go on Tuesdays; they have a nice list with quite a few delicious-yet-affordable selections by the glass or bottle (we wound up splitting a bottle of Rhone for around $45.) Of course, their cocktail list is not to be ignored either...
Short Order; $15 a la carte
I've deemed this the 'very green' burger for the sheer amount of arugula they threw in there, further bolstered with salsa verde garnish. And I love the whimsical use of feta as the cheese for this burger (and enough to overlook the messy cheese crumbles that fall off with each bite.) Whereas the two previous burgers seem to downplay the lamb's gaminess factor, this one tasted more like a celebration of it. It may look like a lot of greens, but they are definitely flavor backdrops in comparison to the earthy, sweetgrassy patty of lamb.
Extra tip: The burger is a la carte, but you should definitely splurge on the sides too! My +1 and I loved the Short Order Spuds that tastes amazingly half-baked & half-fried plus the springy and not-heavy-at-all macaroni salad (both $4). Oh, and splitted a Coffee Malt Custard Shake for dessert ($6.)
The Tripel*; $11 w salad
Upon first bite, I decided this was the funnest of the lamb burgers sampled. Simply put, it was party of flavors going on in my mouth. The cucumbers and pickled onions lent a refreshing familiar-but-distinct crunch (and I much welcomed the break from arugula on my lamb burgers) and the honey-harissa aioli is a wonderful "just right" sweet, spicy & pungent accompaniment to the burger without overpowering the flavor of the lamb. And I also love that this burger comes with a well-dressed salad on the side... so I can feel ever-so-slightly less guilty by dodging the fries and getting more leafy greens in my meal.
Extra tip: As the name suggest, Belgian-style beer is king here and their ever-changing taps are worth a check out (that night, I rekindled my love for Victory's Golden Monkey for $7.) Another must-order is their parmesan-poppy biscuits with a honey butter dip ($6), two-bite-sized pieces of heaven that hits you with the holy trinity of savory cheese, sweet butter and fluffy cloudlike carbs.
Haven Gastropub; $16 w fries
While I enjoyed all the lamb burgers I've tasted, this version is my favorite. I absolutely love their use of onion sprouts as the 'greens' for this burger; it does double duty of adding crunch & flavor. Likewise, the tzatziki sauce spread provides a cooling, herbal tang that adds creaminess without weighing the whole thing down like an aioli might've. And lastly, it is balanced out by the buttery sweetness of an onion jam, and as someone who always keep a supply of caramelized onions in the fridge, I approve!
However, I do have slight reservations about its accompanying dirty fries. They are flavorful but are hardly crispy at all. In fact, only the potato skins has an actual crunch, whereas the other sides have that oil-soaked flaccid-ness that's not very appealing (and despite my love for French fries, I couldn't bring my tastebuds - or blood vessels - to finish these.)
Extra tip: All of their craft cocktails lean towards the sweet side (e.g. their Manhattan variation features a Walnut liqueur & their Negroni spin switches out the standard Campari for its sweeter cousin, Aperol) so I'm more inclined to order beers here (after trying 2 of them and finding both way too sugary, I didn't even want to chance it with a standard cocktail.)
So there you have it--five delicious lamb burgers all over L.A. to suit a multitude of palates & preferences. And yes, I've since had my share of bovine burgers, and solidly delicious as they are, every time I try on that simple little black dress of a beef patty my eyes and tastebuds always seem to yearn for the more edgy & flamboyant ovine outfit instead. But I find solace knowing that a lamb burger is never far away (not to mention plenty more to discover around town!)
*Disclosure: the burgers @ Public School 612 & Tripel were comp'd.
Public School 612
612 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
8479 Melrose Avenue
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Short Order @ The Original Farmers Market
W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90036
333 Culver Boulevard
Playa Del Rey, CA 90293
Haven Gastropub (Pasadena)
42 South De Lacey Avenue