As we wait for the hostess to come and seat us, we look around. It's a hodgepodge of polished wood walls, illustrated chalkboards, bare-bulbs with shopping basket lampshades, antler chandeliers, and light fixtures made from industrial mixer parts. The seating is of equal mélange: Brushed metal sandwich shop-style stools are scattered around more-traditional benches and cosy leather-clad booths. Figuring out where we were going to be put was like a game of chair roulette.
After being plonked on a boringly conventional 'table', the menu revealed what the look of the place unsubtly hinted at. Phrases like 'craft beer', 'seasonal cocktails' and 'local farming' glared like Vegas neon and zeitgeist-laden poutines, devilled eggs and banh mi Pollocked the 'small plates' section...
This could easily be the start to a post about some new porkaterian cocktaileria in Dalston.
But it isn't.
It's in L.A. Which is kind of a big deal, a testament to the closing gap in eating and drinking culture between the L.A. and London, or even New York: What was once an abyss is now shifting ever closer to hipqulibirium.
With quick-fire development in recent years Downtown L.A. has undergone quite the revitalization. Where once the crazy bum was carefree king, he now has to share with the slightly less-crazy brogued, Herschel-backpacked freelance photographer. Blue Cow entered this landscape in February 2012, brainchild of the entrepreneurs behind nouveau-cult sandwich mini-chain Mendonchino Farms.
And sandwiches do feature heavily here, as do burgers. We opted for 'Mario Style', because when there's something named after a pixelated plumber that has bacon and cheese on it how can you say no?
This is a big burger, with a 9oz patty encased in an uncharacteristically dark buttermilk bun. But what a bun! The amazingly spongy thin crust of the outside holds an almost impossibly soft innards, which has a buttery taste and texture not too dissimilar to Yorkshire pudding, but with the consistency and hold of a solid brioche. A fucking revelation.
The candied jalapenos are overwhelming at first bite, but then settle down to intermingle with the sweetness of the sugared coating and the mildness of the melted aged cheddar they are squished into. The thick cripsy bacon is clipped into smaller manageable pieces, adding a multi-layered crunch amongst the softness of the other ingredients.
The remoulade dressing slightly lacks the spiciness it promises, but aided by the chunky tomato slice and lettuce manages to push a freshness through the burger, helping to disperse some of the chili heat in the mouth. Oh, and the beef is pretty decent too, and well-seasoned.
This won most surprisingly satisfying burger of this trip, partly because of the great combination of ingredients, and partly because we only ended up here because the highly-rated Lazy Ox Canteen was fully booked.
Whilst the decor and menu do aspire to a more artisan-plated niche, it still retains a quintessentially American charm: There is still a bar you can sit at and watch the game, however emasculated its size is within the place. The 'Eat Happy' sign is cheesy as hell, but we bloody well did. ✪