Starting this Monday on our Stick a Fork In It blog, Edwin, Dave, Shuji and I will conduct our Game of Burgers, a 32-burger free-for-all in which we match up the greatest steamed hams this county has to offer against each other to determine the mightiest one in the land. It's broken up into four categories, Final Four style: fast food, gastropubs, diners and so-called “burger barons.” Included are all the local greats: In-N-Out, Slater's 50/50, Rider's Club, Memphis At the Santora, and so many more. It'll be the greatest food tournament since our Final Pho last year, so tune in!
Of course, 32 entries ain't enough to account for all the burgers OC has to offer. One restaurant that nearly made the cut is the recently opened Savori, an awesome burger joint run by second-generation Vietnamese kids and their hard-working elders. It's Vietnamese only in location (Fountain Valley's southern section of Little Saigon) and in a burger cleverly called the Ngon Ngon, your classic burger enlivened with pickled daikon and carrots, and Viet-style mayo—the bánh mì fully assimilated. Otherwise, this is your classic burger stop, save for these rookies' audacious experimentation. Their Creeper hooks you in with the hearty marriage of a juicy patty, fluffy bun and luscious Monterey Jack—but lurking within is a red salsa cream, avocado crema and cumin slaw, each awaiting your bite to introduce itself to your palate with spice, buttery-ness and crunch, respectively. The dried tomatoes in the Italian Job ratchet up its umami factor to 11; the Mrs. Piggy drips with the fat that a pork belly patty should have. My favorite is the Desk—between the nuggets of blue cheese, astringent arugula and caramelized onions, this is a fully realized gourmet burger at half the price you'll find at high-end spots. And craziest thing about Savori? Been open only since April, and the owners seem to have no restaurant experience.
Savori sells Asian-style tapas as well, but I've never tried them—burgers are too good. The location really sucks, though (it's in the sole strip mall on a section of Heil where everything else is walls and walls), but people are slowly finding out. On my last visit, a middle-aged couple that frequents the excellent Bun & Burger in Huntington Beach but didn't want to go that day because they don't offer air conditioning was trying Savori for the first time. After telling the whippersnappers to turn down the music, the two gorged on hamburgers like newlyweds who'd just been served by a roller-skating car-hop. Savori didn't make it into our burger tournament this year, but if it keeps it up, it will not only make it in 2013, it just might also get a top seed.
This column appeared in print as “The Next Burger Generation.”