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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ The Park Restaurant of Echo Park

10:45 AM PDT on September 25, 2013


When you think about it, "restaurant" is kind of a fancy word.

And when you think about burgers back in the day, a "fancy" burger always meant a restaurant burger.

And then along came Father's Office. And later a recession. Now gastropubs and chef driven burgers are as commonplace as Starbucks and Chipotle. So when I visited The Park for their bargain buster build-a-burger night (starting at $5 with a side), I never thought I would be in for a bit of a burger throwback. The sandwich was presented open faced with every topping on the side; like what you would expect from a lunch meeting with a junior agent at Kate Mantilini circa 1999 or room service later that day at Chateau Marmont. In this day and age of tricked out burgers, plain old gourmet seems almost pedestrian, but with a baseline of $5 a pop, this is definite bang for your burger buck and the burger concept, which may not scream "chef-driven", is a subtle reminder that bucking current culinary trends, however delicious and effective they might be, can also mean keeping it real - and that's what Bang is truly all about.


When I was done assembling the lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and garlic aioli, I watched with a touch of trepidation as this burger pulled off one fine impression of the leaning tower of Pisa. After a two hand grip and one gentle squeeze; my canines were able to tear away that first bite. The ensuing mess was worth it. A generous, thick beef patty, ordained by my choosing of savory greens, pungent onion, briny pickle and ripe tomato, dolloped with the lemony garlic lustre of homemade aioli is really all you need to enjoy good beef in a quality hamburger.


Despite a number of drool worthy combinations presented on Burger night such as the Cajun(Blackened patty seared with a Cajun spice blend, topped with remoulade and pickled red peppers), the burgers at The Park are plain simple. Simple because they are simply not trying to be some perfected notion of a burger. There isn't the the universal sturdiness in these burgers like what one finds at Umami; where the ratio of beef to bun to toppings ensures every bite is perfect. There isn't a signature flavor profile like that essence of french onion soup that Yang Soon was honing in on when he created the burger at Father's Office. The patty is not stuffed with short rib, occupied by bacon, bathed in pork fat, graced with seasonal truffle, made square and holed up like swiss cheese. Just a generous beef patty, produce that could moonlight in a picky vegan's salad bowl, and a bun that didn't come in a bag of eight. This is that Navy blue suit your Dad would always wear to an interview; practical but polished, straightforward, honest, real.


It is not a rampant trend to see the works of Harold McGhee, Christopher Kimball and Judy Rodgers on display while waiting for your table at a restaurant in Los Angeles, let alone at a Bang for your Burger Buck joint. This is the sign of not just of a trained chef but someone who pays homage to culinary fundamentals. Yes, there are better burgers in Los Angeles but they often take off in some delicious tangent, whereas the Park stands firm on solid burger virtues: quality and abundance, they keep it real and real works. Oh and the fries rock:


Reminiscent of the late and great burger at Campanile; one of the best parts of the "classic restaurant burger experience" is getting a great plate of fries and that torch is carried high at The Park. It has been 10 years but I distinctly remember dropping around $15 for a burger and fries at Campanile; The Park will get you out for $6 and that is with an addition of a topping; in this case that tart garlic aioli, well worth a hundred pennies. Burger night is only on Wednesdays and as expected the cozy neighborhood joint fills with aging hipster's families as early as 6pm craving not only cheap gourmet burgers but cans of Ice Cold Rolling Rock for $3 a pop, now that's some serious Bang. Beyond the bucks, the nostalgia of a plain old gourmet burger will be the draw that keeps me coming back, a medium rare reminder of how burgers used to be, a meal that keeps it real.

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