Twice this week my mother reached out from beyond the grave to tell me to go to Umami Burger in Hollywood. She’d told me to go several times in life as well, so I figured it was time I caved. For a while now, I’ve said there are only three places to go in L.A. when you want a burger: Tommy’s, Carl’s Jr., and In N Out.
Maybe I just have simple tastes. Maybe I’m cheap. Whatever it is, when I stray from that list to fulfill a burger craving I usually regret it, probably because I’ve spent too much on something I didn’t enjoy.
As far as Umami Burger is concerned, I wasn’t disappointed in the taste department. Burgers are served medium rare, the way meat was meant to be eaten. Bold, creative topping options, like The Hatch Burger and The Port & Stilton Burger, sidle right up along side old favorites, nicknamed The Manly Burger and T
he SoCal Burger. There’s also a great assortment of turkey burgers, including the Turkey Miso and the Spicy Bird.
When you go, however, make sure you learn a thing or two about Umami’s secret menu first. That’s where you’ll find the fantastic (and fantastically rich) Manly Burger, a chunky bacon and onion wonder sandwich. Though the tempura onion rings got rave reviews online, except for an initial sprinkling of coarse salt on the outside, they were bland and mostly breading. The sweet potato fries, however, were amazing beneath a pile of Umami Chili. It was a special request on our part, something Internet buzz had said Umami frowns upon, but we got enthusiastic support from the staff. I have had roast beef dinners with smaller chu
nks of roast beef than those in the Umami Chili. No ground beef in there. It was an experience in itself, to say nothing of the secret recipe ketchup, sweet and sharp with a vinegar kiss.
The food was rich and greasy, sometimes too much so, but very satisfying and for the most part uniquely flavorful.
So, does Umami oust one of the holy trinity of burger joints to take a place in the top three? At about $8-$12 per burger and $3-$4 per individual side, not quite. But with a cocktail menu that’s California fresh and fruity, alive with innovative twists, a person could do much worse for sit down burgers.
For a fresh, trendy place to take friends after a day stomping Hollywood, Umami Burger is where I’d want to end up.