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L.A.’s First ‘Birria Smashburger’ Takes a Full Day To Make and Comes With a Vial of Bone Marrow Consomé

9:32 AM PDT on July 30, 2021

The L.A. Craze birria-inspired burger from A's BBQ.

The L.A. Craze birria-inspired burger from A’s BBQ.

 BBQ is turning the birria bandwagon in a new direction with their latest concoction: A birria-inspired smashburger topped with a small vial of 24-hour spiced bone marrow broth.

Rather than simply adding birria de res to a base such as ramen noodles or a pizza—like most birria-inspired spinoffs—A’s uses a dry birria-inspired chile-based seasoning. The burger consists of two well seasoned and smashed beef patties topped with two slices of lightly melted American Swiss cheese, a creamy chile de árbol aioli, and a vial of bone marrow broth that takes a full day of simmering to prepare. The result is a wildly original and spicy burger with the consistency of a juicy meatball and combines two of L.A.’s most popular food trends.

Inspired by the “birria craze,” A’s founder, Alan Cruz, premiered his latest masterpiece at a burger contest held in the Arts District in May. The unique burger caught the eye of our newsroom and social media users, thanks to a story by FoodBeast, largely because of the small plastic vial of bone broth that accompanied the burger.

“I originally served [the broth] in a cup, like maybe two ounces of the broth. And it was cool, but visually I felt like it could have been better,” Cruz told us while taking a break from smashing birria and al pastor seasoned burgers on a smokey plancha in front of Indie Brewing Company last weekend.

Smoke rises as Alan Cruz smashes burgers.
Smoke rises as Alan Cruz smashes burgers.
Smoke rises as Alan Cruz smashes burgers.

Out of nowhere, Cruz says he got the idea for the vial. The broth can be soaked into the bun or dabbed onto each bite. “It's up to the customer,” Cruz says.

For the past four years, the pop-up chef and pitmaster has relied on this spontaneous intuition to guide him to his next food concept. “The funny thing is, I never really make plans,” he admits. “Things just kind of come to me, and I'm just like, ‘You know what, let's try something out.’”

This has led to crispy, “not-hot” fried chicken sandwiches dressed with a cilantro coleslaw and Tapatío infused buffalo sauce. As well as smashburgers dripping in guajillo chile-infused mustard, avocado salsa, and queso Oaxaca. In addition to Cruz’s signature Chicano-style BBQ.

Their latest offering is less of a gimmick and more of a homage to the city’s flourishing birria and smashburger scenes. “It's done respectfully, you know like I want to honor the burgers. I want to honor the birria side and the al pastor side. I don't want to cross over too much.”

Cruz “babysits” the broth for at least 16 hours before filtering the rich consomé and then letting it simmer again.

The influences behind Cruz’s wide-ranging menu derive from his upbringing. “You know, growing up in this area, we don’t just hit up the taqueros, but we also will get fried chicken, you know, for dinner sometimes. Or, we get burgers.” Cruz was raised down the street in East Los Angeles, a few miles away from where he started doing pop-ups at Indie Brewing Company. “It's the food that we grew up eating. So I was like, why not infuse those flavors into these burgers.”

Balls of birria seasoned beef on the grill.
Balls of birria seasoned beef on the grill.
Balls of birria seasoned beef on the grill.

The day-long process for the broth that accompanies the birria burger starts with the procurement of beef bones from a supplier. Cruz explains that first, the bones are roasted to loosen up the marrow and bring out the flavor. Next, he tosses them into filtered water and boils them down while preparing a spice blend consisting of guajillo and ancho chiles. The kicker, Cruz says, is the morita chiles—a smoked and dried jalapeno. Cruz “babysits” the broth for at least 16 hours before filtering the rich consomé and then letting it simmer again.

To blend the beef perfectly, Cruz spends about 20 to 30 minutes mixing it by hand to ensure that all the spices are spread evenly, giving the burger patties a meatball-like consistency. “Birria is a liquid,” Cruz explains. “So whenever you try to make a liquid marinade into like a dry form. You got to add all these extra ingredients just to replicate the flavor as close as possible.” Cruz estimates that as many as 20 different spices go into the blend.

Due to a national spike in meat prices, A’s only serves BBQ once or twice a month these days. For now, in addition to the L.A. Craze, A’s BBQ is quietly serving one of the best classic smashburgers in LA, in addition to the al pastor-inspired burger that they pioneered. 

A’s BBQ is serving BBQ on Aug. 6 in East LA. Follow their Instagram to keep track of where they’ll be popping up next.

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