[Hole in the Wall] Burger (and Patty Melt) Heaven

Hamburger (and Patty Melt) Heaven

As hamburger stands age, switch owners and weather changing demographics over the decades, the menus usually expand like a baseball scoreboard to suit new tastes. It’s refreshing, then, to see Bun and Burger keep such a limited menu. There are no omelets, no breakfast burritos, no poorly done gyros or stale pancakes. The only ethnic dishes available—a teriyaki plate, wet burrito and fried taquitos—are as deliciously antiquated to the American palate as this dive’s slogan, “Here’s the Beef!”

The focus here is on four sandwiches, each with variations. The hamburger is a gloriously simple thing: a grilled sesame bun smushed down on a juicy patty, with shredded lettuce and tomatoes that don’t taste like the Ralphs produce aisle. It’s also surprisingly tart—enough pickle slices to boost the stock value of Vlasic and Thousand Island dressing that spills off the edges. Cheese costs a quarter more than the burger’s two-buck base, a double cheeseburger adds another dollar to your bill, and bacon is extra. Bun and Burger doesn’t match In-N-Out or even TK’s, but in a county where most hamburger stands tend to make better plates than their ostensible raison d’etre, this Huntington Beach spot is downright miraculous.

The pastrami sandwich—layers of crisped brisket, enlivened by a smear of mustard—works, but it’s a mystery why the owners don’t go with the trend and sell a pastrami burger (and no, they won’t accept that special request). All with the retro feel of the place, I guess, a good counterpoint to their outside ordering window and plastic, checkered tablecloths. More old school: the patty melt and grilled cheese. The latter uses luscious Cheddar and bread slices that sit on the griddle to the point of blackness, until the cheese has the same viscosity as mustard; the former adds caramelized onions and pieces of finely chopped chuck steak. Those two sandwiches are going the way of pickled eggs and cocktail onions, so stray from the burgers every couple of visits for old times’ sake. And whatever the order, the drink of choice is a malt, whipped up with Thrifty’s ice cream, so wonderfully chunky that the strawberry version will clog up your straw with actual bits of the fruit.

One final warning: if you’re interested in playing Metal Gear 3 on their blurry Neo Geo machine, don’t bother—it doesn’t work. Play that bubble game with the small dinosaurs instead.

Bun and Burger, 17091 Newland St., Huntington Beach, (714) 848-9406.

garellano@ocweekly.com

 
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