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Find Smoked, Whole Lamb Birria Smash Burgers at This Michelin-Recommended Taquería in West Adams

10:52 AM PDT on August 3, 2022

    Our great city of Los Angeles makes it impossible to get jaded over eating out.

    The second you begin entertaining heretical thoughts that maybe you’ve heard enough about Smash burgers or start smacking your head against the wall with the mention of one more birria business, out comes something like this.

    An acclaimed smash burger from an Irish-American, East Coast émigré, topped with devotedly genuine birria crafted by a chef from Mexico City, using whole lamb smoked vertically on the spot by an Argentine asado expert, in the backyard of a Michelin-recognized Mid-City taqueria.

    All of which to say is… damn, L.A.

    The mammoth thrill, known to mortals as the “BEEria Burger,” will be offered this Friday afternoon at Bee Taquería. It is a culinary collaboration between Alex Carrasco’s Michelin Bib-awarded taquería and Proudly Serving, home of the stand-out smash burger of Matthew McIvor, a Jersey-raised, South Bay-allegiant hustler who gladly ditched the world of public relations during the pandemic to create his lauded Redondo Beach burger business. This is the second documented amalgamation of birria and a burger in L.A. And one more reason why it is the best city in the world. Word on the street is that the Metztli pop-up has also done a birria burger.

    We caught up on Tuesday with Carrasco, McIvor, and chef Juan Jose Orlandoni, who owns the local Argentine asado operation The Gauchos Catering and rocks a large crest from his hometown fútbol team, Colón de Santa Fe, inked across his calf.

    Alex Carrasco and Juan Jose Orlandoni before a bed of lump mesquite, photos: Hadley Tomicki
    Alex Carrasco and Juan Jose Orlandoni before a bed of lump mesquite

    While McIvor heats up his plancha for the burgers and handed out beer and natural wine, Carrasco and Orlandoni get busy roasting a fusion of chiles morita, ancho, guajillo, chipotle, and costeña in ceramic pots directly in a bed of lump mesquite, imbuing the motley mixture with smoke.

    Juan Jose Orlandoni
    Juan Jose Orlandoni

    Once finished, they’ll blend that with garlic, cumin, ginger, cloves, and a little beer to form the birria marinade for their star attraction: a spring lamb skinned, decapitated, and butterflied with its haunches stretched across a knife-scarred plastic table.

    Once blended, this birria elixir is spread and rubbed across the entire supine surface of the lamb, before Carrasco and Orlandoni intricately snake a series of metal wires to poke through its flesh, like a scene from some barnyard version of Hellraiser.

    A small fire fueled by ragged slats of red oak begins to form in the confines of an iron platter on the ground just behind us. In the traditional fashion of gravity-defying Argentine asado a la estaca, the lamb is stood up and mounted vertically on a three-barred iron cross.

    Chef Alex Carrasco of Bee Taqueria, and friend

    The whole thing is wonderfully Satanic, a skinless, headless lamb splattered in rich red, raised like an unholy battle flag to march before our black metal army.

    The lamb is arranged at a 45-degree angle over the flames, just beyond reach of the licking flames, to be smoked over the ensuing six to eight hours, rotated and maneuvered by the chefs, as needed to ensure even cooking.

    Once the vigil is complete, the chefs shred the smoked lamb, saving its drippings for the consomé in which guests will shortly be dunking their smash burgers.

    Matthew McIvor of Proudly Serving

    Meanwhile, McIvor skillfully plunks four balls of pink ground beef onto one corner of his flattop, catty-corner to a few large, infamous potato rolls (that shall not be named), each blanketing appetizing splotches of egg. After sprinkling the meat with sliced white onions, we turn our heads, only to look back and find the hand-hewn patties smashed down to remarkable thinness and smothered in squares of cheese.

    Before handing us the burgers, Carrasco runs over with a pot of the shredded, smoked, scarlet lamb birria and a jug of its consomé. McIvor ladles a significant mound of the lamb on top of his burgers, to form a juicy barrier between its cheese skirt and egg-topped patty. Et voila. A stunning smash burger topped with laboriously made birria de borrego.

    True to the name “birria,” it’s a beautiful fucking mess of a burger that quickly dyes everyone’s digits a deep red. The flavors and textures are out of this world, the succulent lamb’s deep flavor ringing out over the lush umami of craggy cheese, creamy egg, and double patties of fatty beef.

    Upping its indulgence, each bite is dipped without abandon into the consomé, adding a slippery mouthfeel screaming with the clean funk of lamb, delectable scorch of the chiles, and birria spices.

    The immense pleasures don’t last long enough despite the burger’s intimidating girth, height, and the stuffing poking out of its side. As always, the last bite is the best, offering a fleeting view of heaven with that last crunch of the crisp cheese and consomé-flooded beef/lamb composite.

    It's the kind of thing you wish you could eat all the time but know you probably shouldn’t, should you wish to see another meeting of these three artistic culinary minds.

    But you will have your chance this Friday at 4 PM when the Proudly Serving smash burger collides with Bee Taqueria and The Gauchos Catering again at Bee’s West Adams Boulevard address.

    Expect to not be alone.

    Bee Taquería x Proudly Serving’s “BEEria Burger” ~ August 5, 4 PM-sell-out ~ i W. Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016-2441

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