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How Do You Stand Out In L.A.’s Competitive Smash Burger Scene? Make Crispy, Velvety Duck Fat Fries

[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]mash racism, sexism, fascism, and burgers. This is Proudly Serving LA’s ethos, a South Bay-based, punk rock, smash burgers business. 

Matthew McIvor. owner of Proudly Serving LA, and business partner Chef Kevin Malone, turned their pandemic downfalls into victories by tapping into their expertise and driveways to begin a new venture in smashing a grilling some of the South Bay’s juiciest burgers. 

McIvor, an east coast-raised punk, began his life’s career in the music industry, “I never really had direction growing up. I was fascinated with the music industry, I love punk rock, but I parted ways after time and discovered hospitality.” After shifting his focus, he became interested in craft beer and natural wine, and this opened his eyes to a world of artisanry. He realized he wanted to take part in creating something out of nothing. 

The pandemic wiped most of the accounts he and his wife managed in their independently owned Public Relations firm. Since 2013, he has worked with over 100 restaurants. With the hospitality industry completely shutting down, Matthew went back to the drawing board and began spending more time in the kitchen. At first, he began practicing baking. Though it wasn’t his favorite, he decided to take a stab at baking cakes and cookies to pay some bills and kill his quarantine boredom. Then, on a usual trip to Target, he picked up what he calls a cheap grill and began practicing the art of burgers. 

McIvor, who lives in Redondo Beach, was inspired by the smash burger boom in Los Angeles. He saw so many folks grilling up great burgers and felt that this was missing in his community. He went from spending hours in the kitchen baking to smashing burgers for hours on his rooftop. Going on a three-week burger -cooking and beer binge, he drank every night for 21 days straight, attempting to perfect his burger’s flavor profile. After testing 12 burger variations with his family, he finally felt comfortable selling and popped up in his driveway for his very first time in September of 2020. 

This technique produces the perfect and intensely flavorful crisp for the bite, followed by a soft, rich, and velvety fry interior. 

He eventually teamed up with Malone, a chef he had worked with before and the creator of the successful pop-up in Santa Monica Gargantua and the restaurant Crossings in South Pasadena. He was accustomed to curating large and complex 8 to 10-course menus with complicated ingredients. When McIvor reached out to offer a partnership in smashing burgers, he knew he was in for a huge shift, but he was excited. “I’m not used to keeping it simple. Previous to working with Proudly Serving, I was doing way more intense shit in the kitchen.”

Though small and simple to the untrained eye, the menu offers appealing options in a city where smash burger options are endless. For one, many burger pop-ups lack in the fries category, mainly because they’re not offered to begin with. Proudly Serving LA presents a simple, lightly breaded, russet potato, frozen fry that’s fried in canola oil and then lightly tossed in duck fat and plain kosher salt. This technique produces the perfect and intensely flavorful crisp for the bite, followed by a soft, rich, and velvety fry interior. 

Proudly Serving's smash burger. Photo by Laura Tejeda for L.A. TACO.

For burgers, they offer the P.S. BURGER, a double patty, American cheese, perfectly griddled onions, pickles, and a tasty secret sauce on a butter-toasted potato bun. Along with THE FOUNDER, a smashed yellow mustard burger, double patty, American cheese, chopped white onions, pickles, and ketchup on a butter toasted potato bun. The chuck steak patties are smashed into a 600-degree grill and turned to goodness, giving them a nice caramelization, crisp and juicy balance. The American cheese adds a mouthwatering ooey-gooey texture that warms the heart. If you catch them for a special brunch pop-up, you may be lucky enough to try their breakfast burger, which is a double patty with cheese, griddle onions, and the ingredient that sets it off, bacon and egg yolk jam. 

Aside from burgers and fries, they also offer a series of delicious desserts. Their most famous being their Elephant ears, which is a piece of perfectly fried dough topped with powdered sugar and lemon curd. 

“We don’t want Michelin Stars; we want people to eat our burgers and think back to memories with great flavors. We’re always going to keep it simple, and now and then, chef it up a bit because we always want to keep evolving.”

So, what does Proudly Serving LA mean when they say they’re Punk rock? McIvor shares with L.A. TACO, “I stray away from the mainstream. I want to be a punk rock with compassion. I’ve always wanted to do things my way, and now more than ever, it's more important to have your voice.” He shares that beginning his business in Redondo Beach made him wary of his neighbors' response. 

Redondo beach is perceived as a community filled with the notorious “Karen” types, but he shared that he was surprised that his community welcomed him and his punk rock aesthetic with an open mind. The business's inaugural swag in 2020 displayed their motto, “Smash racism, sexism, fascism, and burgers.” 

All in all, McIvor shared he never knew his venture to sell burgers in his driveway would turn into something with substance. He is grateful to the communities that have welcomed him with open arms during his time of struggle. Eventually, McIvor and Malone aim to open up a brick-and-mortar with an old-school burger joint aesthetic in the South Bay, with intentions to keep it simple and tasty. “We don’t want Michelin Stars; we want people to eat our burgers and think back to memories with great flavors. We’re always going to keep it simple, and now and then, chef it up a bit because we always want to keep evolving.”

Follow Proudly Serving LA on Instagram for updates on their pop-up schedule and more. 

Matthew and Kevin are looking to expand their team and want to offer opportunities to BIPOC identified folks and folks affected by the pandemic. For inquiries, reach out to them at burgers@proudlyservingla.com.

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