59. The Burger at ARC
Noah Blom's ARC in Costa Mesa is special, especially in Orange County where the number of restaurants with such a ballsy approach can be counted on one hand. He butchers his own meat. Nothing but fire touches the food. No fancy appliances--but none needed. True caveman cuisine.
The off-menu burger here matches the restaurant's noble aspirations, providing a hefty, charred masterpiece meant to satisfy the most primal and carnivorous of appetites.
Even as the Orange County restaurant scene explodes with a slate of meticulously-crafted "chef-driven" burgers, there's still nothing like this monstrosity. The bulky cornmeal-dusted bun is sturdy to a point, but it'll start to gum up toward the end of your meal as it succumbs to a fair share of bloody, dripping animal juices. It does provide a proper base for a smear of garlic aioli and a pile of fresh veggies including neon yellow heirloom tomatoes, Fresno chilies and red oak lettuce, the latter of which has been tossed in a roasted garlic vinaigrette.
(On a later visit, the yellow tomatoes were replaced with reds and there was a choice between bleu cheese or aged cheddar, which was the only option back when ARC first opened.)
You'll need all that freshness and acid to cut through the patty which is more like a flat meatloaf than a traditional hamburguesa Americana. It's short rib. And rib-eye strap. Ground down and bulked up with chunky, chewy bacon lardons. You'd think a generous handful of herbs and mellow caramelized onions would help lighten things up, but Blom binds the damn thing with duck fat. Because everything is better with some motherfucking duck fat in it.
It's so rich, it's like eating a money sandwich. And at $20 a pop, you kinda are. But it's a worthy splurge, best reserved for one of those "Treat Yo'Self" days when you point your middle fingers to the sky and scream "Diet be damned! Today I'm eating three animals at once!"
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