LA Dreams: Wishing Upon a Burger


I just got back from a trip to LA—a city I wish I could somehow fuse with San Francisco to make what might be a perfect city. To this city I'd like to add LA's warm weather, amazing ethnic eats, al fresco dining culture (see: warm weather) and real respect for salads and burgers.

I feel a burger wave coming to SF (the new Super Duper in the Castro—which I have yet to try—will definitely be followed up with other all-burger spots), but LA has long been known for their burger culture. I'd been highly advised to try out the newish Umami Burger in LA of which there are a few outposts. So on a sunny Saturday, I stopped by the Santa Monica location with my family to try out pretty much every burger on the short menu.

What happened then, was something that happens to me all the time when I travel: I want to teleport restaurants up to SF. I thought, Why can't SF have a version of this very restaurant? It would do so well! The burgers themselves are akin to a Nopa burger in size and scope, but more creative (without being too wacky). The "Umami" burger comes topped with a smattering of umami-heavy hitters—including a Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms and oven-roasted tomatoes. It was good, but to my mind, even better was the "Triple Pork" burger with chorizo in the patty (my poor Dad was forced to share this with me more than he wanted to). I also enjoyed the Hatch burger with four kinds of roasted green chilies and cheese.

Like Nopa or Spruce or some of our city's notable restaurants with a great burger, Umami serves these babies up on a simple white plate. They have a great beer selection. Prices are reasonable.

I also like the chart they have on their website describing not only what umami is, but how people experience their food. I particularly appreciate the "Food Acceptibility" part because I never understand a food critic who doesn't include some of these influences into their reviews. So, in doing my part, I'll let you know that the day I ate at Umami the atmosphere was perfect (sunny, a bit breezy), my social situation was very positive (sitting with family who I don't get to eat with all the time), and my mood was very good. Making for a very positive burger experience, extending far beyond a barage of what's known as the Fifth Taste.

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