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How Tripp Burgers is Smashing L.A.’s Burger Wars with Its Juicy, Crispy Meat

[dropcap size=big]H[/dropcap]ere’s an unpopular opinion that needs to be said out loud: Burgers nowadays are prone to suffering from creative overkill. 

Arugula? Caramelized onions? Garlic aioli? Brioche buns? Ketchup leather? 

For the love of the cow that gave its life to feed you, just give me a juicy, meaty patty and bread so I can taste the meat on its own. As Mark Tripp of Tripp Burgers, the one-man burger pop-up that is quickly picking up steam in L.A.’s smash burger wars, says: “This is about the meat.”

Tripp, like his burger, is simple, warm, genuine, and welcoming. You’re not going to find an elaborate line of dozens of ingredients. Instead, you’ll find a flat top grill, mustard, ketchup, pickles, onions, and his shaggy smile. Oh, and there’s that large orange tub of chips that nearly everyone forgets about after their first bite because the burger is that good.  

Enjoying Tripp's burger begins the moment you walk up. Immediately your nose is swaddled by the soft rich enchanting smell of the meat that will levitate and carry you on a Scooby Doo-like high. The sizzle of burgers getting smashed whispers sweet nothings to your ear. You might join the folks around you in admiration of the zen-like butter roller doing its things with Martin’s potato buns, gently stroking the buns.

Photo courtesy of Tripp Burgers

Watch him take that round two-ounce ball of ground meat and smash it with pride and joy. He uses his George Motz-brand “SMASHULA 007,” one of the first 12 smashulas handmade with a pound of pure stainless steel and personally engraved with “Tripp’s Smash.”

“My favorite thing to do with all the Instagramers and foodies that come by is the Tripp challenge” he tells L.A. Taco. “I tell ‘em, take the first bite before you ruin it.” 

Shove it in your mouth. Just do as he says. Take a good solid bite of hopefully a three or four stack burger, but I recommend you at least get a double. You’ll want to get a good taste of that pure, buttery, unseasoned, unadulterated, Prime-grade, juicy meat with that nice sear at the edge that is only possible after a good, forceful smash. It’s a blend of chuck, top sirloin, and bacon that he’s been perfecting for over ten years. If you leave a good pattie, it’ll make your shoulders drop, throw your head back, roll your eyes, make you say uhhhhh, or nod your head at least.

Photo courtesy of Tripp Burgers

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about Tripp Burgers.

L.A. Taco: How did it all begin?

Tripp: I didn’t know about smash burgers until I learned about them from George Motz. I saw his documentary “Hamburger America” years ago and I noticed that all their meats were ground fresh. So I started off with a recipe based on Louis’ Lunch (proclaimed home of the first burger) which was half chuck, half top sirloin. I tried to do it on the grill and it was horrible. It would fall through the grill. It didn’t work. So I started tweaking it, adding a little bacon but not making it a bacon burger. 

When was the moment you realized you had it down?

I teamed up with Richard Schwartzberg from Bob’s Market in Santa Monica. He helped me perfect my blend with the right quality meats. I was also using white buns until I heard that Shake Shack used Martin's Potato Buns. I could only order them through Amazon at first. But once I got the bun and went from Tillamook cheese to plain American, I knew I had it. After that, L.A. Taco Carts hooked me up with a flat-top grill where I learned to perfect my technique. 

So that was when you started doing it full-time?

Well, No. It was still just a backyard hobby. Then I got laid off at the beginning of this year. I have to thank Alex Zakari, a great local artist, for helping me with my logo and branding to get this pop-up going. 

How did you first feel about getting laid off?  

It sucked, but now I could not be any happier. I’m meeting so many wonderful people, making burgers, and drinking beer at the brewery pop-ups. I’m still friends with the guys over at my old job at RPA. I did spend 35 years with those guys and they did push me into doing my first pop up at a backyard comedy showcase next to Flake on Rose in Venice. But now, I am living the fucking dream. 

What’s next for Tripps Burgers?

My goal is to have a small simple stand like Bill’s or Marty’s; a nice place to hang out with beers. I still want to do breweries. I love meeting people, but for now, I’m just grateful for all the folks who’ve helped me out. You know, after being a fan of George Motz, we became friends and he’s been a great supporter and counsel. I literally would not be doing this without him. When he came and tried my burger and gave me his approval, it was a huge moment. I’m actually tearing up just thinking about it.  

Follow Tripps Burgers on his Instagram @trippburgers for his pop-up schedule and announcements. If you’re lucky, you might also get to try some of his homemade cookies.

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