Henry Cram and Justin Cram work for KCET and love burgers. This is their story.
Burger Week is an annual seven day burger challenge at The Oinkster in Eagle Rock. Each day of Burger Week brings a one-time-only burger that pays tribute to the craft of burger making. The challenge -- that we have tasked ourselves with -- is to eat your way through all seven burgers over the course of the week, and by doing so win a "Burger Week" t-shirt and the admiration of peers and strangers. During Burger Week you can bite into a burger and look up and see strangers around you having the exact same experience, and you feel all of the sudden that you know them. It's a magical thing, and the perfect way to celebrate burgers.
To kick off their third Burger Week, The Oinkster prepared a tribute to The Baconator, the very marketed-to-men mountain of bacon and meat that is the poster child of the new, wild, "stay-up-late" Wendy's. Six pieces of applewood-smoked bacon, two square-shaped quarter-pound patties, cheese, mayo, and ketchup adorn a warm bun. It's simple and manly. And 970 calories. The Baconator fanpage on Facebook has 105,000 fans and the cover image portrays a sexy car with lightning bolts shooting out of it. It's the official burger of the Canadian football league. My spellcheck recognizes "baconator" as a word. It's legit.
The Oinkster's Oink-o-nator
The line was surprisingly short at The Oinkster, although the patio and dining area were buzzing with the sounds of burger-loving patrons. And no surprise there: the toasty Kaiser roll was freckled with corn meal, slighty spongy, and fresh. Yellow American cheese covered rotund patties of flat-grilled ground beef. Biting into it, the tangy mayo-ketchup combo rose with a pungency that permeated the sinuses and instantly recalled the trademark flavor of its predecessor.
The meat was juicy and pink. The succulent bacon melted with the meat and cheese and bread, and everything in the world made sense. We swigged our beers and headed over to the Empire Center in Burbank, home to one of very few Wendy's restaurants in the area.
We were greeted by Baconator posters: "Beef Bacon & More Bacon."
We split a combo and made quick work of the paper wrapper. The bun was hot to the touch. It contained all of the ingredients that we expected: bacon, cheese beef, mayo, ketchup, bun. The signature square patties inspire a primitive urge to fix things. Like they don't belong. You want to break the corners off and hide them in the french fry box. Hide the shame.
The bacon was nearly overdone but okay. It had a noticeable crunch and left a lingering burnt-popcorn flavor. The "juicy" beef patty, and ketchup and mayo, momentarily recalled the recent experience at The Oinkster, then fell flat. The patty was monotone and expressed a lot of grease when squeezed. The Baconator did not stand up to the aesthetic presented in the posters.
The verdict: The guys at The Oinkster are hardcore about burgers. When they pay tribute to a burger they do their research, and they do the burger justice. They do it too well, in fact, because you will never enjoy a Baconator as much as you did at The Oinkster that one day in the summer of 2013. It's more like they have written a really beautiful eulogy for the Baconator and then climbed into the grave with it. Mind-Blowing.
Tomorrow: Join us for our review of The Oinkster's tribute to Bob's Big Boy: The Niño Grande.
Words by Henry, photos by Justin.
See Day Two here.
2005 Colorado Blvd., 323-255-6465