TOUR DE FEAST — Instagram is a dangerous app. After scrolling through my usual feed full of sunsets, selfies, cats, and concerts I stopped after coming across a particular picture of a bacon cheeseburger with a fried egg and a glazed donut as the bun.
By definition a burger with a donut bun is called a Luther Burger. Legend has it that it was a favorite and possibly invented by the late Luther Vandross. Another theory is when Mulligan’s (a bar in Georgia) ran out of buns for their burgers the owner improvised with glazed donuts. The origins are unclear, but the burger has garnered somewhat of a cult following across the country.
While the picture on my phone’s feed seemed like it came straight from the Orange County Fair, by surprise this outrageous sandwich was from Chomp Juice Bar right here in Santa Monica.
“We sell lots of juices in the morning, but many of our customers during lunch just want a burger and fries.” Says Rolan Pongpuntara of Chomp.
It appears the mechanics and sales people from the many car dealerships in the area are interested in something more substantial than a juice cleanse or a salad for lunch. In many ways Chomp has adapted and delivered to their clientele full tilt with a variety of burgers from a vegan Portobello to the ridiculous Luther.
“Originally my idea was to open just a burger place, so lots of the specials and secret menu items you see on Instagram are things that I originally wanted to do.” Says Sean Tao, owner of Chomp and co-owner of the neighboring D.K.s Donuts that supplies the glazed donuts for the Luther Burger.
The picture of the Instagrammed Luther Burger was captioned #cheatday which is generous considering it’s probably closer to total body betrayal. As I went to Chomp to try one for myself, I noticed another diner ‘cheating’ with the Luther Burger as well. Another customer who came in for a pressed juice stared at a picture of the advertised burger in befuddlement as if he walked into the wrong business.
The burgers ‘bun’ is split and flipped outward glazed side in. Simply flip the donut around to get a more ascetic effect. As you wrap your hands around the warm shimmering mass you can feel the glazed donut begin to break apart hinting the the structural integrity of the burger is directly melting through your hands. Gripping down any further will create another kind of pressed juice made up of broken yolks, melted cheese, and a squeezed hamburger patty.
Bite into the Luther Burger and the melted and mangled glaze donut will give zero resistance. It dissolves in the mouth along with oozing american cheese. The intensity elevates with the crunch of salty bacon and smashed fried eggs while the seared burger patty brings down the hammer. The burger shows no mercy. There are no vegetables to break up the fatty, cheesy, greasy, salty, sugary, fried mayhem. And for some that’s just as well. The glazed donut adds lots of sweetness to the meaty mess. It’s a big time burger which is literally not for the faint of heart.
Sadly Luther Vandross’ life was cut short from a series of health problems including hypertension and diabetes. Unfortunately, a diet of glazed donut-burgers can only contribute to such complications.
In a way the Luther Burger scared me straight into a steady diet of salads and juices shortly afterwards. Whether or not that was the Chomp’s devious plan all along cannot be confirmed. What’s definitely true is the inmates are running the asylum over Santa Monica’s one and only juice bar / donut-burger purveyor.
Mike_Hummingbird_Ryan is on Instagram.