Nick Rallo eats burgers. Like, a lot of them.
I would say that my love of burgers began at the moment of conception, but grew to its modern form in Los Angeles. I was there for a few years after college, working late into those cocktail-cold California nights, and there were many cheeseburgers. There was one in particular, however, that blew the clothes clean off my body.
Over in Culver City, a little gastropub called Father's Office serves a brain-stunner: dry-aged, stupidly luscious beef under a helping of caramelized onions, a blanket of Gruyère, stars of Maytag blue cheese, smoky applewood-bacon compote, and a bun so airy it might be a relative of Casper. Esquire called it one of the best burgers in the world. I ordered it two, sometimes three times a week and ate it on the patio on chilly nights. The place, and the burger, helped shake off a tough week.
Then there's Public School 214, a Los Angeles-exported gastropub now in Dallas' West Village, which offers a burger that's the heavy sigh version of that Office burger. Storm clouds were gauzing up the Dallas skyline on a recent trip to PS 214, and the place was swarming with patrons. It's done in a look that could be called Elementary school-chic, with flash cards above the bar and a framed version of the periodic table of elements. The menu covers look like a Mead Journal, which triggered me to reach for my TI-83. (Gotta clear "B00B5" from the screen!)
The Huntsman is 14 bucks, and it comes with balsamic-caramelized onions, applewood bacon, Bibb lettuce, tomato and a "Huntsman cheese" mix that includes big chunks of blue cheese. Those toppings are piled on a big "pure ground chuck" patty.
With those ingredients and the LA source, it feels like a loose imitation of the Office burger. The blue cheese was a faceslap on the first bite. The chuck burger, which I ordered medium rare, was cooked well past medium and it leaned toward greasy. The Bibb lettuce added a crisp and fresh bite, but that feeling was instantly expelled due to the wincingly sweet balsamic onions. A few pickles and a peppery aioli would have helped.
For the record: PS 214's burger is about 1,000 parsecs better than the other California import in the West Village, Eureka. The service was friendly as hell, and the beer list has some exciting picks. For 14 bucks -- hey, is it just me, or does the average burger price keep sneaking up about a dollar a month -- it's a real meat-bummer to get a burger that's overcooked. I'm always down for a luxurious burger, especially when the cost is for perfectly curated ingredients, but for the price of PS 214's, you're better off going with a Dallas native (like semi-nearby Knife).
Or booking a direct flight to Culver City.
Public School 214, which is nearly impossible to Google without getting a bunch of mostly depressing news about education in Dallas, is at 3700 McKinney Ave.
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