Damn! We missed National Burger Day by less than a week!
Poor planning notwithstanding, Stout Burgers & Beers is one neighborhood joint that we have to include on our list for a visit any day of the week (even on a Taco Tuesday), but since we were oh-so-close to this holiest of holidays, I switched my list up a bit.
disclosure: I am on Stout’s mailing list, and they are the ones who notified me
about National Burger Day on May 28 — right as I was readying last week’s
Memorial Day blog. I have an ordered list of dog-friendly places I want to
write about, and Stout has always been on that list, but this notification from
them just moved Stout to the top of my list. Well played, Stout. Well played …
Stout actually has six locations — one as far away as Louisville, Ky. Most of them are in L.A., though, and if you’re a burgers-and-beers guy like Mike is, you just can’t pass it up. I also want to point out that the Hollywood Stout (our flagship) is the only one open until 4am. The other ones close between 10pm and 2am, depending on the day.
I haven’t seen the setup at the other locations, whether there’s an outdoor patio and whether or not they’re dog-friendly, so I’ll just stick to the Hollywood locale.
This particular Stout is located in one of my favorite parts of Hollywood. There are a couple of other restaurants right next to it, but you can’t take dogs there, so it’s a no-can-do for people of my ilk.
Parking can be a little dicey if you don’t want to do valet, but we’ve always managed to find a spot at one of the meters nearby.
I don’t know what your spiritual proclivities are, but there’s an urban goddess named Squat who we like to make an appeal to in such situations. Squat has a propensity for dirty limericks, so I memorized the one about Nantucket just for her — but the first thing you have to do is say, “Squat, Squat, find me a spot!” And say it like you mean it!
So, once again, we find a spot, and I let Azzy pull me to our destination — about a block away and around the corner. Dogs have an uncanny sense of recall. Every time we get close to a place we’ve taken him before, Azzy goes nuts and tries to get in the front seat between me and Mike. This canine sense of recognition represents a level of non-visual refinement that we just don’t have. We are reduced to using aids as rudimentary as vision to help us figure out where we are going. It never ceases to amaze me that all these pooches need is their superior sense of smell — although I do know a bunch of dogs who don’t like it when people wear hats, which has also been mind-boggling to me.
Anyway, back to Stout Hollywood.
They always play my favorite tunes. I’m a ’90s girl (is that classic rock now?), and it’s comforting to know that the whippersnappers aren’t above listening to the music I like. I can feel the final moments of my youth slipping away, but here at Stout I still feel cool.
Stout’s rotating beer list is really impressive. I’ve mentioned previously that I don’t drink and blog, but what’s one tiny little beer? The beers I like tend to be on the stronger side (I favor Russian Imperial Stouts), so it really is a tiny little beer.
But I like describing the nuances of a good beer, tiny or otherwise, so maybe I’ll have two. It’s educational, right? That has to mean something. And it’s really just two thimblesful. I think they legally have to execute skimpy pours of stronger beers, but I honestly do love the flavor of the Russian Imperials so much that I can overlook this necessary transgression. Maybe it’s the Russian blood coursing through my veins … .
OK, I’m sold. I’ve convinced myself that sampling two beers is OK for a noble pursuit such as mine, so let us begin.
First, we must secure the hound. This Stout has some outdoor-ish, patio-y areas where Azzy can lie in wait for the occasional piece of hamburger that is sure to escape from betwixt our brioche. Before he settles down, though, Azzy must receive the customary petting session from the patrons who are sitting next to us.
We give him a few minutes, and then Azz is ready to retire under our table. We didn’t see any other dogs this time, but there is usually one other dog looking up expectantly and waiting patiently for a stray morsel to drop.
Azzy has a knack for minimizing his presence in restaurants and making himself as unobtrusive as possible, so once he was comfortably ensconced in Mike’s feet, I was free to focus on sweet, sweet beer.
My eye immediately goes to the Dark/Strong Ales section of the menu. There’s a number called Bakery: Banana Bread that beckons seductively. I’m gonna go for it. They bring me my thimbleful. I take a sip, and it’s like a bakery in my mouth. It’s got those chocolatey undertones that I live for, even though the description didn’t mention chocolate at all. Rather, this brew is described as being aged in bourbon barrels (a huge boon for my list of requirements), with “Walnut, Banana, & Natural Flavor” — not my Oxford comma, I don’t like that comma next to an ampersand, nor do I know what “natural flavor” even means. I’ve seen this “ingredient” before, but I wasn’t really motivated to dig deeper (or at all), but now I have a sense of responsibility, since I’m writing about something that includes this mysterious element (I warned you about my blog being rife with intrigue).
To that end, I googled “natural flavor.” According to the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations, “natural flavors are created from substances extracted from these plant or animal sources … .” Then it lists a bunch of things like spices, fruit, yeast, herbs, dairy products, meat or eggs, and then it says, “These flavors can be obtained by heating or roasting the animal or plant material.”
I’m assuming the “natural ingredients” in this particular brew are of the plant variety, but what do I know? At least it doesn’t say “toxic chemicals,” right?
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the burger part.
Today, I got the Shu. It comes with pepper jack cheese, bell spread and chipotle mayo. I’m not a big carbs person, so I get my burger “Stout Protein Style.” The way they execute their protein-style burger is to present the patty atop a mound of arugula (my favorite). I don’t like heavy dressings that overpower the taste of my greens, and these greens are laced with the perfect splash of lemon juice and olive oil. It really complements the arugula, and, in turn, this zesty combo is the perfect accompaniment to the patty on top. Just yum. They recommend pairing the Shu with a golden ale or a lager, and I’m sure they are absolutely right, but let me assure you that it tastes fabulous with a dark, heavy imperial stout as well.
My offspring is majorly addicted to carbs, as most kids are, so he mainly just wants the fries. They have “loaded” fries, too, but my vanilla-boy doesn’t like any of that extra stuff getting between him and his carbs. Except ketchup. He used to be such a dipper when he was a toddler, but now he’s just not having it. We used to call him Lil’ Dippa.
Mike is a buns guy, and he’s also a creature of habit (I can live with it now). He always gets the Stout Burger (blue cheese, Emmi Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes and horseradish cream). One of the biggest breakthroughs in our marriage is that I’ve engendered a love of blue-cheese-burgers in Mike, who previously wouldn’t venture beyond cheddar: the vanilla of cheese.
He’s also a chronic IPA guy, so he got the Loud IPA. It has been well-documented that IPAs and blue cheese are a match made in heaven, so I will probably end up keeping him. Stout also rightfully recommends pairing an IPA with this particular burger.
My next one was not a Russian Imperial Stout, but I also like Porters, so I went for the Salted Caramel Porter. You could definitely taste the salted caramel in the afternote, and it was delicious, but I preferred the Banana Bread, which was a lot more robust than the porter.
Stout offers a happy hour from 4-6pm Monday through Friday. The beers still cost the same, but all the food is half off — which means I can have two patties on delicious arugula if I wanted to. As always, the staff is great here every time. Our server even packed up extra bell pepper spread and chipotle mayo with my to-go box. And she didn’t even know I was there to review the joint.
Stout. Well played.