New Downtown Spot Serves An American Classic With A Mexican Twist
In the age of Umami, it seems like every new burger concept is more gourmet and inventive than the next. And though we really love truffle cheese and heirloom-pork-laced beef, sometimes we crave something simpler from a bygone era. For that, we turn to old school L.A. burger spots like Apple Pan, In-N-Out, A1 Burger or a neighborhood charbroil restaurant—sadly, a dying breed. Now, we're pleased to report that there's a new place to add to that dwindling list: Hamburguesas Punta Cabras. Located in downtown's Historic Core, the new burger joint is the latest from Josh Gil and Daniel Snukal, former fine dining chefs who opened the popular Tacos Punta Cabras in Santa Monica a couple of years back. Hamburguesas Punta Cabras, which took over the Mai Mexican Kitchen space on S. Spring Street, is essentially a kitchen and register, plus a metal counter with stools and a big communal table shaded by an awning out front. While they're still working out how to keep the small place from getting too smokey, their burgers are solid.
Inspired by the mishmash of Mexican and American flavors you find in a lot of Chicano kitchens, the signature Hamburguesa ($6, $6.50 with cheese) is dressed with shredded lettuce, charred green onions, tomatoes, slices of sweet house pickles, and mil islas— thousand island spiced up with finely chopped jalapeño. If you want cheese, it's American, which I think we can all admit is damn good melted between flat-top grilled beef and bun. The final result is a tasty, no frills burger with a thin, salty, lightly charred patty (you can make it a double for $2 extra) that'll probably take you back.
While there's a lot of nostalgia going on here, there are some new-fangled touches, too. For instance, black bean and turkey burgers are on the menu, the latter of which is topped with green curry guacamole. They also offer a bacon-tomatillo jam, cactus-molcajete salsa, and chorizo-cheese sauce. The chorizo-cheese sauce is a main component of the Dirty Fries, an apparent homage to In-N-Out's Animal Fries (and a basic requirement for all new burger concepts these days) that also includes mil islas, charred onions and cilantro. The ingredients aren't layered with a heavy hand, so while certainly decadent, they aren't the belly bomb that you might expect.
The french fries, themselves, are of the crispy, golden variety, but not made in-house. Citing a lack of space, Gil says that hand-cut potatoes are out of the question, but he's pleased with the product he's sourced and happily admits that they taste a lot like McDonald's fries—which they do.
"You know, we've done the duck fat fries—we've worked in high end restaurants—but that's not what you remember eating as a kid," says Snukal. "You remember crispy, crunchy fries."
Soda-wise, there's a small fridge stocked with cans of the usual suspects, plus bottles of root beer and Mexican Coke. Chipotle ketchup, more of that mil islas, Cholula and other bottled hot sauces line the metal counter. Currently the crowd is small, but if Hamburguesas Punta Cabras is anything like their Tacos Punta Cabras, that'll probably change soon.
Hamburguesas Punta Cabras is located at 633 S. Spring Street; (213) 628-3393. They're still in soft open mode, so call before you go.