Monday, November 21, 2011

First Thoughts: Short Order

The past few weeks the local excitement regarding Short Order, Nancy Silverton and the late Amy Pressman's burger restaurant collaboration, hovered around mass hysteria. It really seemed there was a general thought (myself included), "Look what Nancy Silverton did with pizza (Mozza)! Imagine what she can do with the burger!" And it was with these muted superlatives swimming around in my noggin that I made my way down to the Original Farmer's Market at the Grove and tried Short Order on DAY 2 OF SERVICE.

Here are my first impressions (by the way, I apologize for the pictures -- I was quite hungry)...

THE SPACE: Pretty cool. Very deftly matches modern, sleek lined burger kitchen with old school Farmer's Market charm.  The restaurant is bi-leveled; the ground level invites with a glass open kitchen overlooking a decent-sized to-go seating area, while the second table service level is actually rather compact with a handful of tables both inside and out. There is also a bar on the second level. So... although the menu does not feature a burger selling for less than $11, it is more of a carry-out restaurant than a sit-down. In fact, Short Order seems to be trying really hard to be just another Farmer's Market restaurant. Also one major complaint: after waiting 50 minutes for a table upstairs, we quickly found out the outside portion of the sit-down restaurant features only one overhead heater (plus a fireplace at a large corner table). If it was freezing (in LA-speak) to sit out there in mid-November, imagine what January will be like...

THE DRINKS: Decent beer selection, but isn't that expected at this point in new LA restaurants? The chocolate shake though? Something special. The richest chocolate "Custard Shake" I've ever had. Packed with flavor, albeit a little runny for something that aspires (and is marketed with the moniker "custard") to be thicker. I like my shakes like I don't like my women: THICK. However, outside of consistency, on taste alone, Short Order definitely -- along with Fosselman's and the late 8 Oz. Burger Bar -- serves one of the Southland's finest milkshakes. 

THE FRIES: Well, just let me get this out of the way: they were out of their so-called "Old School Fries." At 7 p.m. on Day 2 of Service! Seems borderline unacceptable. Is there a West Hollywood potato famine I don't know about? My friends and I were noticeably bummed about this, but still very much enjoyed the Short Order Spuds (note: read all about these type of fries in the LA Times). Best described as oven-baked, then deep fried little potato nuggets, the Spuds were perfectly seasoned and I pretty much ate two side orders worth. Did I like them? YES. Also good: the "loaded baked potato" fry dipping sauce -- a healthy combo of bacon, sour cream, chive, scallion and parsley.

THE BURGER: No one in their right mind would deal with The Grove parking lot on a busy November night for simply an average burger. If you do, you're a fool. So... is it worth it? The honest answer (based on Day 2 of Service): I don't know. I sampled two burgers, Nancy's Backyard Burger and Ida's Old School Burger. Nancy's Burger consists of Nancy Silverton's famous 7 oz. burger blend, artisan bacon, comte cheese, avocado, tomato, onion, iceburg and spicy mayo. Pretty much everything I like on a burger. The spice of both the meat blend and the mayo was also a very nice unexpected surprise. The bun, from Silverton's La Brea Bakery, was also expectantly delicious. However, there simply was not a gut Mozza-like reaction upon the first few bites. The burger is definitely tasty (as was Ida's Old School Burger), but, at least not at this point i.m.h.o., in the same class of a Lucky Devil's, Father's Office, Umami or Hole in the Wall. Could it be in the near future? Absolutely. There is also the fact that my expectations were astronomically high and it may have been impossible for Short Order to match them. 

FIRST CONCLUSION: Good, not great. Worth the hassle of The Grove? Maybe only during off-hours at this point. You also must wonder if LA really needs another gourmet burger spot. And please put more heaters on the second level!

2nd CONCLUSION: In many a burger fight, almost everyone unanimously agrees Rustic Canyon  serves one of LA's best. I have made it my mission to make it down to Rustic Canyon's Monday Burger Night to sample before Xmas. Will report back.


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