Henry Cram and Justin Cram work for KCET and love burgers. This is their story.
Justin's wife is Filipina and their two boys, my delicious nephews, are half Filipino. Filipino food has come to mean family to me. At any gathering there is food: Lumpia is a must, sisig, pancit, tocino, baboy, calderon -- you name it, I love it. And there's a love for food in the Filipino community that I can really relate to. The whole fish stews, fried pork skins, barbecued meats, and glutinous rice desserts are foreign enough to me to make it exciting every time I eat with their extended family. It's a great bridge for us. I can ask questions and learn about their culture and they can laugh at me when iIaccidently dip my crispy pork skin in shrimp paste. I do make some pretty funny faces.
Last night's burger at Burger Week was Chef Andre Guerrero's homage to his own Filipino heritage. A marriage of where he's from and where he's at. Eagle Rock has an established Filipino community. Seafood City in the Eagle Rock mall, one of my favorite grocery stores, caters to that community and is where you'll find things like ube ice cream, flavored vinegars, and, well, seafood.
"I bet the whole Filipino community is going to be out for this one," I said to Justin as we drove into Eagle Rock. The line was wrapped around the back of the building when we got there. There was definitely good representation of Filipinos. We ordered and sat down.
The burger, dubbed the "Thrilla from Manila," consisted of a succulent shrimp, mushroom, and pork patty, wrapped in lumpia skin like a little present, and deep fried. A thick slice of pork belly on top was followed by sweet chili sauce (my Dad's favorite condiment) and a housemade, fresh, and crunchy papaya relish. All of this contained within a soft pan de sal bun. Certainly not your traditional burger.
The first bite hit me hard. "WOW" I exclaimed with a mouthful of lumpia patty. "It's sooo good!"
Justin watched my theatrical reaction for a moment then took a bite for himself. He held the burger up in front of his face, critically observing as he chewed. "Yeah. That's awesome."
"So good," I repeated as I swallowed and went in for the next bite.
I had ordered an ube shake, a seasonal milkshake from The Oinkster made with ube (purple yam) ice cream. It too is an homage to Guerrero's roots. Treat yourself to one next time you are at The Oinkster. It's awesome with pastrami.
Justin had the Rye IPA that was on tap, Amarilla Gorilla, from Tustin Brewing company. It's a shame that we will never hear this phrase again: "I'll have the Amarilla Gorilla with my Thrilla from Manila."
We sat on the patio and enjoyed every bite.
Andre's Guerrero's fusion burger was a huge hit with me. The creativity alone makes this burger my favorite of the week, but, my god, when I tasted that first bite I was stunned. Not only was it the best burger of the week but it might have been the best Filipino food, nay, the best food, period, that I have ever eaten.
Words by Henry, photos by Justin.
2005 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock, CA 90041