Burger Reviews and other stuff

Monday, August 08, 2005

Mel's Drive-In Sunset.

I was at the House of Blues last night catching a Spanish Rock-Pop band, I know the sound engineer, and the band was actually pretty good. As I left I looked to the girl I was with and said, what do you want. She looks back and replies: “anything but, burgers.” I stood aghast, how could she deny me the one foodstuff that I love so much, especially being on the Sunset strip with so many wonderful options. Then I remembered, hey! I drove, it’s my car and I’ll cry if I want too. After a good bit of pouting and begging and pleading and whatever other adjectives you can come up with that make me sound like some pathetic loser, I won a victory. She said: “Okay we can go eat burgers as long as they have something else to eat.

Perfect, I knew just the place.

Mel’s Drive in on Sunset, you know the place, it was in American Graffiti and it’s all about 50’s diner feel kinds stuff.

So Mel’s is one of those 50’s diner looking places with the typical pop art architecture and the music selection machines at the tables complete with full selection of Doo Wop oldies classics that came out of one of those Time-Life record collections. It looks 50s-ish enough…I guess. But, it is a bit too Hollywood, a bit too clean, a bit too watered down, a bit too nice.

The food menu is 50’s enough with a touch of nouveau LA veggie, with a touch of that gourmet panache. So, it can all seem a little fake a little non-diner-ish. If I sound bitter it’s because every time I walk into a 50’s diner type place I end up thinking I’m going to see a bunch of Fonzie guys and preppie kids in school sweaters, and hot rod’s and classic cars, and all I end up getting are a bunch of wannabe trendy hipsters. I don’t like hipsters... They always seem so dis-genuine, so unoriginal. Hipsters are Hollywood yes-men. Liberal lip servers with a no real sense of community service. With that, I guess I’ve vented enough about them. However, I reserve the right to further vent.

Onward to the burger.

I will tell you this, any burger joint worth its buck should always be judged by its regular hamburger. So, that being said, I had the cheeseburger, and I have to say I’ve never been a fan of places that serve their burger unassembled to the customer. I know that some people like the idea of having control of putting certain condiments and or certain things like lettuce and tomato and onion on them. Not me.

I go to a place to have people make my food for me…not half make my food.

Aside from that, the Mel’s burger is good, not great, but good, about a few steps above fast food, but not super great, but good. Not disappointing at all. The fries here are pretty standard and therefore good. They have wonderful shakes. I will say that the meat on the burger was very moist and tender. Mel’s claims to use 100% Angus beef on their burgers, and you know when beef is all ground up into some crazy mash; you can still taste the difference. Call me crazy, but you can, and it really does make a difference in this burger. It’s what sets it apart from your standard restaurant and fast food fare. As for the rest of the materials used to assemble this burger, they are pretty standard, nothing exciting about the bread, or other stuff. The burger is filling but not outrageously overfilling.

Mel’s is the kind of place you either want to start the night, or end the night at. It really isn’t a lunch spot if you get my drift, and not really a take out kind of place. It’s also not the place if you’re on a budget. The valet, oh yes that’s right they have a valet, hit me up for like 5 bucks. If you’re in the neighborhood and you feel like a burger and you really want to spend some cash. Go to Mel’s

8585 Sunset BoulevardWest Hollywood, California90069, USA

With other locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Friday, August 05, 2005

What a load of overrated crap.

So, a buddy of mine and I decide to take the word of the Downtown News on a recommendation for a taco place. I don’t know if that was our initial mistake, or if that was just an honest mistake. Whatever.

The night started off good enough rock-paper-scissors, to see how would drive…I lost, so I drive. We head over to El Taurino restaurant on Hoover and 11th street. We’re real excited once we get there like some kids in a candy store. The place is littered with bull’s heads and horns and all kinds of bull fighting memorabilia. The wall to wall Talavera bathroom tile is great and the decor is very Mexican, not like these New Mex or Fresh Mex cuisine place all dull and white, or pale, with their over done artsy Mexian décor.

No, this is pure Mexican décor at it’s finest lots of Spanish influence in this place not that the architecture and the interior design is what brought us to the place I mean it's a fricken taco joint for chrissakes.

We walk over to order our food, the numbers on the cashier’s lines and the pick up windows look hauntingly familiar, but we ignore it. I can’t decide between a torta and tacos, so I have both. 1 torta de Carne Asada, and 2 tacos al pastor, my buddy had 2 and 2; tacos that is.

They serve us up some salsa on a side little cup, it’s starting too look more familiar. The give us napkins with their logo in red ink…again something is tugging at me telling me I might have been here before.

I bite into the taco like and I feel the flavors permeate the inside of my mouth.

KING TACO this fricken thing tastes just like a King Taco, taco.

Okay – I rationalize, maybe it’s just the taco, it might not be the torta, let’s give it a shot.

The bread comes within inches of my mouth and I look to it for flavor connect…you know that whiff of - or smell of flavor that comes into your mouth right before you bite into something? You know that? Yeah you do. Well it didn’t happen. No flavor whiff, no good yummy stuff coming into my person. None of that stuff.

I ate, because I hate wasting food, I tried drenching it in salsa…nothing. I tried putting some lime on it, nothing. I tried to drown out the taste with beer…nothing.

We both sat there like some grumpy old men complaining about tacos that tasted like something out of some Baja Fresh reject kitchen. This wasn’t Mex to the Max, this wasn’t greasy yummy good tacos. No! This was some crap that someone put together in some back alley kitchen trying to pass it off as good tacos.

What puzzles me is how the place is still open, I guess some people like bad food, how else can you explain Arby’s still being open (that’s a conversation for a different time)?

I was angry, I mean I wanted to take the Downtown News review, burn it, toss it in the trash, destroy it. I wanted to scream in the face of the guy that wrote that review. My friend with a clam head started to reminisce of a place and time when tacos were good and everyone was happy and the world was a better place.

I started to lose my faith in humanity and all things that are good.

My friend with the calm head said to me: “no, do not go gentle into that good night.” Which, I know he ripped off from a poem, but I didn’t argue. I wanted to hear what he had to say, he continued with this: “there is still a place were tacos are good and where never is heard a discouraging word and the deer and the antelope play.”

I was going to call bullshit on him for that, but if he felt so strongly about something as to start sounding like some 19th century gold prospector, then I thought he certainly must be on to something.

I drove, he pointed where to turn and stop and do all of those things. I listened and did those things, and we arrived at:

La Taquiza.

On 30th and Figueroa, we were in enemy territory being that this is USC neighborhood and I went to UCLA, but I thought: “eh it’s not rivalry week.” We walked in and immediately I saw a sight that brought a tear to my eye…a vertical rotisserie with Carne al Pastor…I almost broke down. My adrenaline and taste buds were all writhing with excitement! I could feel the scent of greasy yummy tacos just permeating into my skin and flowing into my pleasure senses.

It happened like magic and love, and lovely magic of magical love. Oh to touch the fingers of the gods that created this wonderful delicacy of delight.

To my amazement their variety of tacos was huge of all kinds of meats with all kinds of stuff. Two wonderful signs that told me this was a great place. Sign the first: 3 cops cars showed up, to eat there. Sign the second: some paramedics showed up to eat there. (Here’s a little secret for those of you that don’t know. If you want good cheap, eats just follow public service workers such as police officers, fire fighters, and public works employees, they’re always out on the street and always looking for good cheap eats).

I had one Taco de Carne al Pastor, and instantly it erased the horrible experience that was the crappy tacos that I had ingested before. It took me by storm. The sight of serve yourself salsa bar with almost any and every color of salsa known to man helped to soothe my anger.

How could one taco erase what so many bad tacos had done to me? That I don’t know. What I do know is that El Taurino was not good, and La Taquiza was great. The mysteries of the world may go un answered, but as for where to get a good taco…well there you have it my friends La Taquiza.