Thursday, May 30, 2013

Celebrating National Hamburger Month: 4 Burgers from the U.S.A.

The month of May is ending this week and I didn't even know that it's suppose to be National Hamburger Month! Maybe because something like National Hamburger Month is such an American thing to celebrate, that small Asian girls like me don't know what the big deal is. 

But I was browsing the website of Conde Nast Traveler, and I saw their article recommending their burger choices for this occasion. 

Then I remembered that my boyfriend, Jotham, had practically eaten his weight in burgers when he flew to California this May for a cousin's wedding. So I thought, why not put together a list of his burger meals, plus his expert's opinion on each?

So here they are, in all their thousand-calorie glory, four burgers to celebrate National Hamburger Month

1. In-N-Out Burger: The Classic 

In-N-Out double double cheeseburger and animal fries.

Did you know that In-N-Out was the first food chain to have what we now know as the "drive-thru"? This family-run business has been around since 1948, and it has since kept its leadership and management under the helm of family members. 

In-N-Out has retained its stringent quality standards through the years -- in fact, it is one of the very few food chains to get a positive nod from the scathing documentary Fast Food Nation. This burger joint is so good, that it counts such notables like Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay, among its fans. 

His verdict: "The burger tastes fresh, the meat is packed and beefy.  The milkshakes here are such a welcome treat -- they're especially great to beat the noon time heat (except if you're counting calories, because they clock-in at an astounding 590 calories per cup). The fries are alright, I honestly like Jollibee's better." 

In-N-Out also prints Scripture verses under its cups and on its burger wrappers?

2. Five Guys:  Guilt and Trans-Fat Free 
112 Plaza Drive 
West Covina, California

Up close and personal with a double cheeseburger from Five Guys

The Five Guys franchise is named after the five brothers of the Murell family, who established this burger restaurant in the Washington D.C. area in 1986. 

Its has since developed a band of loyal followers who swear by their burgers -- which are made with fresh ground beef, grilled to perfection. Customers can also count on their french fries to be cooked only in peanut oil. Five Guys is also proud that no food product of theirs is frozen, and their menu is trans-fat free. 

Customers here can munch on complimentary roasted peanuts --- the shells of which, they can conveniently leave on the floor. When Jotham and his family ate here, this was all too much for his aunt, who proceeded to sweep their table clean of peanut shells. 

His verdict: "I'm sorry to say, but I didn't feel there was anything special about the burger. But I like their fries. They're bigger, they're  more packed and you get a more authentic potato taste than In-N-Out's. My aunt felt disappointed with her mushroom burger, which had far fewer mushrooms, and was significantly smaller from what she remembered from five years ago." 

3. The Counter: Make Your Own Burger
725 W 7th Street 
Los Angeles California 

Decisions, decisions: the checklist at The Counter 
In today's me-me-me generation, it should not come as a surprise that a customizable burger would be a hit. This is precisely the principle behind the burger restaurant, The Counter. Here you are presented with a clipboard and encouraged to choose your own burger patty, kind of cheese, toppings, sauce and bun. 

With so much power at his fingertips, this is what Jotham came up with: 

Build your own burger at The Counter 
Look at the size of that thing! It's like a three-layer wedding cake made of beef. 

His verdict: "This was a great respite from my daily diet of chicken, fish and brown rice. I chose two patties, the sweet BBQ sauce, and some toppings (which I'm not entirely sure was the best combination). While I'm sure many people will appreciate the range of choices they're presented with, for someone like me who is not that familiar with all the kinds of vegetables out there -- it was a bit overwhelming.

In any case, it was a tasty, juicy, double-patty burger. Unfortunately the whole time,  I was consciously observing all the burgers being ordered around me, wondering if I had created the best possible combination.

But the fries, were really, really good. This was where I was first introduced to sweet potato fries, which is becoming really popular now in the States. Even if I got to sample a lot of other sweet potato fries for the rest of my trip, this was one of the best. "

4. Umami Burger: The Gourmet Burger 
4655 Hollywood Blvd 
Los Angeles, California 

Jotham and the Manly Burger 
Umami burger boasts of house-ground, hand-formed patties, dripping with cheese and slathered in the "Umami Master sauce." The Manly Burger, which Jotham chose, has beer-cheddar cheese, smoked salt-onion rings, and bacon lardon. I can feel my blood vessels constricting a little, just typing these ingredients. 

His verdict: "I was able to sample the three most popular burgers here: the Umami burger, the Truffle burger and the Manly burger. I liked the Manly burger best, because you can't beat anything that has bacon. I also liked that there was a distinct sweetness to the burger, and not just a smoky, grilled taste. The burger is not that big, but taste trumps size in this case. This restaurant is definitely on a league of its own, compared to the other burgers joints we tried."

*All photos from Jotham Manlapaz, except In-N-Out cup, courtesy of

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