The Elk Burger at Downtown Santa Monica's Burger Lounge, which boasts 100 percent grass-fed beef. (Michael Ryan michael@smdp.com)

The Elk Burger at Downtown Santa Monica’s Burger Lounge, which boasts 100 percent grass-fed beef. (Michael Ryan michael@smdp.com)

The people have spoken. A long lunch line that snakes out the door of the brand new Burger Lounge seems to signal success. The location may play a role as it is situated in the heart of Downtown Santa Monica between the Third Street Promenade and Second Street on Arizona Avenue. Furthermore, there really is not a premier burger joint on the promenade. Being a popular franchise, the Burger Lounge should fit right in along the likes of Tender Greens, Urban Outfitters, and all the other brand names in the area.

What sets the Burger Lounge apart from the rest of the high volume burger purveyors, according to them, is grass-fed beef sourced from one family farm in the Midwest. Apparently, most other places go with corn fed cows; not something that I have pondered too deeply, but a point that the Burger Lounge proudly advertises.

The grass-fed cow, which eats from a pasture and is not “finished” on a diet of grains and supplements for rapid weight gain, is said by its promoters to be better for the planet (less energy goes into growing grass than grain); better for the beef eater (less overall fat, and more omega-3s and other “good” fats); and better for the cow (critics decry feedlot practices as inhumane). It’s also more expensive per pound. So I guess it’s true — you do get what you pay for.

My editor joined me for lunch this week at the lounge and he did not distinguish anything particularly different from the Burger Lounge’s brand of burgers, however, the texture was another story. A burger that seemed to be smashed down on the griddle and quickly fried to high heaven did render a crispy exterior yet maintained a moist inside. Moist is a word that many people loath, but I can’t say that it was downright juicy. Going with the Elk Burger myself did seem exotic, but there was nothing discerningly different from it and the beef variety. Topped with jicama, fried pork bellies and chipotle aioli did add some flair though.

The menu is limited, which is a good thing. I tend to worry when I see a menu that looks like the Sunday paper with page after page of offerings. No way a restaurant can offer that many dishes and still keep the food fresh. You have no idea how many people are going to order that Philly cheese steak or the lasagna so you risk ingredients going bad. To save money, some will try and cut corners. The better decision would be to offer a limited menu that is based on what’s in season.

The Burger Lounge keeps things to the point with your standard selection of burgers, salads, sides and fountain drinks. To provide some variety, they offer a special burger of the month. That’s why I went with the Elk. There are gluten free options, which has become more important over the last few years as more people seem to be coming down with the gluten allergy. The lounge also serves beer and wine.

The interior is some sort of contemporary, new age, modern, something or other thought up by some designer who knew what he was doing. For an interesting dining experience find a seat toward the back of the house. There is an open yoga studio adjacent to the dining area. I’m not sure what is more awkward, devouring a burger and fries and watching yoga, or some girl in her vinyasa flow class in a warrior pose watching me chow down.

For a great burger in Santa Monica take your pick. Montana Avenue has Father’s Office. If you’re on Main Street try M Street or Brick + Mortar. I recommend Shaka Shack Burgers and of course The Counter on Ocean Park Boulevard. For Mid-City, Hole In The Wall is where it’s at. For Downtown, Curious Palate used to take my top honors, but for something more in the mix try the Burger Lounge. It certainly beats Johnny Rockets, Barney’s Beanery, or Yankee Doodles.

 

Michael can be seen riding around town on his bike burning calories so he can eat more food, or on CityTV hosting his own show, “Tour de Feast.” To reach him visit his website at tourdefeast.net or follow him on Twitter @TourDeFeastSM.

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