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Stout, Stout, Get it Worked Out!

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I'm not sure what was harder: Getting to Stout for lunch, or getting lunch at Stout.

The burgers-and-beer late-night restaurant has been open just a couple of weeks, having taken over the onetime Karma Coffeehouse space in the increasingly more food-centric Cahuenga corridor in Hollywood. Remodeled by the Spacecraft folks, and owned by Charles Lew and Alex Kagianaris, Stout's claim to fame is a respectable selection of beers and gourmet burgers with service until 4 a.m.

But it wasn't a night owl meal I wanted--I was looking to lunch last Friday, and wanted to hit up Stout. Unfortunately, just figuring out if they were even open (save for actually going to there to find out in person) was a monumental task. This is because not only do they not have a website, but they don't run a Twitter feed, their Yelp listing does not include hours or contact info, and they have either no working phone line or refuse to answer the two published numbers affiliated with them (FoodGPS, LA Times Guide). Luckily, the nice folks at Spacecraft replied to our inquiry, and confirmed that Stout was serving lunch.

So with the "getting-to" part resolved (though, fair warning, bring $4 for valet or plenty of quarters for 1 or 2 hour metered street parking) it was time for lunch. Stout was not quite at capacity when I arrived to meet my fellow lunchers at 1 p.m. Our server seemed adept at helping us select beers from the menu, and was apologetic when mine (a Belgian red with a sour cherry tang) was delayed due to a tap switch-out. Since we were waiting for a third guest we decided to order one each of the fried-starchy sides: Onion Rings, Sweet Potato Chips, and Greek Fries ($4 each).

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When asked about what exactly made fries "Greek" our server obliged by telling us they were "really good" and had "spices" on them. When tasted, unfortunately, in addition to confirming the "spices" as oregano, it seems "Greek" stands for undercooked. The fries were overly firm and clammy on the inside with a wan, meek, and floppy consistency. The onion rings were nicely cooked, however, and were probably the best of the trio, as the Sweet Potato Chips were good lookin' but just a bit flaccid and mealy--no snap whatsoever in these chips.

Oddly enough, though, we ate pretty much all of our sides as appetizers. Why? Because at some point our server decided to never come back for our meal order. Long after our third guest had been seated (before apps arrived), ordered and served a beer, and all sides consumed, we finally flagged down our server. We'd had a long time to peruse the menu's offerings, which has a decent variety of burger options, although they've been given vaguely racist names--the "Goombah" is the Italian-inspired burger, and "Charlie" the Asian-inspired veggie burger. For one of us, the toppings on the Greek-inspired chicken burger had the most appeal, but the request to have the same preparation made to a beef burger was totally shot down. Shades of Father's Office? The server explained that Stout's philosophy was that there would be no substitutions or additions to their offerings; you can take off an item, but nothing else. This is to ensure you eat the burgers the way the Chef wants, and so that you're encouraged to do the beer pairing the menu suggests.

So we went with three items as-is ($10 each, a la carte): The Six Weeker (Brie, fig jam, arugula and caramelized onions), the Bollywood (Veggie burger with chutney mayo, roasted tomato, cheddar, and arugula), and the Imperialist (cheddar, ketchup, relish, mustard, and roasted tomato). Our server actually asked us if we'd like sides with our burgers, obviously forgetting we'd just consumed three of them. Off she went. And then we waited. And waited. And waited*. Finally we spotted what appeared to be our order in the hands of someone who'd emerged from the kitchen.

Just a stone's throw away from our table he consulted our server, who was gesturing in the direction of another table. "Those are ours!" we cried out, waving him over. After all that time, it seemed they couldn't even match up the order to the table! They also need some work in learning how to carry two of their melamine plates at the same time; I had the man delivering my Six Weeker (named for how long it takes to get a burger?) stop to wipe off a giant unappetizing gloop of the Bollywood that was hanging off the bottom of my plate. He complied, and then asked "Ma'am, did you want me to bring you a new one?" I'm not going to lie, I said the first thing that came to mind: "No thanks, I don't have another two hours."

So how did the burgers taste? Decent, but not crave or rave worthy. The burger was a decent size--not 25 Degrees giant or Umami small--made to look a little smaller because of its isolation on the beige, nursing home-styled plate. We'd been given zero choice as to how we wanted the meat cooked, so the Imperialist's intended medium was accurate in one half, but more well-done in the other half. The buns were buttery, but seemed to stick to the roof of my mouth and, in fact, fill my mouth with an overwhelming presence in each bite. The toppings on the Six Weeker were well-matched and pleasing, although I did pull some onion pieces out that were the more papery skin kind. The Bollywood, a quinoa and black bean vegetarian patty, was reported as being good, with a shrug by its owner. The Imperialist was like a gourmet version of a basic kid's cheeseburger, oozing with supermarket condiments.

By the time all was said and done, we'd clocked in over 2 hours at Stout. Had we been beer-soaked bar-hopping wee hours diners, it might not have been such an issue. Instead, we were weekday, lunch hour, meter-feeding diners for whom timing is more of a sticking point. Considering Stout is brand-spanking new, maybe this little spanking will help them tighten up and get to where they need to be in order to compete with the many other nearby (and farther-flung) restaurants for whom great beer selection and burger offerings is their calling card. In the meantime, Stout, for crying out loud--at least get a working phone and a website!

1544 N Cahuenga Blvd, Hollywood

*We were in good company; the meat delivery man arrived with his dolly loaded with boxes (yup, right through the center of the restaurant during lunch hour) and waited, and waited, and waited outside. We passed him when we went out to re-feed the parking meter.