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Food

Rowdy Red Burger Bar

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I grew up in Toronto, so while I'm used to the concept of seemingly endless networks of retail shops and restaurants hiding beneath the downtown skyscrapers, I'm not attuned to that way of life here in Los Angeles, where even the word "basement" is cause for a quizzical eyebrow raise. But underground is where you'll find Rowdy Red, a wine and burger bar beneath the high rises of the City National Plaza at the corner of 5th and Flower.

Rowdy Red, named for a variety of heirloom tomato, opened its doors in January 2009, but has just recently launched their wine and beer menu to pair with their all-American food offerings. Recently they extended their hospitality to some folks in the world of food blogging, and LAist was happy to have the chance to check out their offerings.

The menu operates on a simple premise: Serve good, simple food sourced as locally as possible at reasonable prices. But that doesn't mean they're limited--in fact, Rowdy Red's menu is the kind that presents the rare dining conundrum: What do I order?

Since they're all about the burgers, it seemed prudent to choose from the dozen options available under that section of the menu ($5.55-$7.25). The patties for the burgers are 1/3 lb. all natural Angus beef that has been certified humane from Blackfoot Valley Montana; 80% of their ingredients are sourced from California, however, with each vendor given a nod on the menu, including the Municipal Water District's triple-filtered H2o. If you're not feeling beefy, you can get a seared Ahi Tuna burger ($11.95), a veggie burger, or a turkey burger. They have several topping combos available, like the Black & Blue (Blue Cheese and Bacon), the BBQ Cheeseburger, or the Mushroom Burger. But we can't resist a slice of pineapple on a burger (don't judge!) so it was the Hawaiian Teriyaki on the order pad for us.

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We sampled some of their sides and appetizers, too--can you really do a burger without fries? C'mon! The biggest hits are the crispy, golden, not-too-greasy onion rings, the hand-cut fries, and the Sweet Potato fries. Less successful are the mini-corndogs, as the greasiness of the fried batter overpowers the hot dog center, and the spinach artichoke dip, which in and of itself is tasty, but served with too few chips and the perplexing addition of a bowl of salsa and a bowl of sour cream; here, simplicity took a holiday.

Oh, and the beverages! Whether adult (beer, wine) or for the kid in you (milkshakes), the options are plentiful, and make for lovely companions to the food. Rowdy Red has wines by the glass as well as by the half bottle, along with a modest selection of beers, including the charming kitsch of the PBR can with a pretzel-sporting straw in the glass on the side. What you don't want to skip is the milkshake, though. Rowdy Red has a partnership with Peet's Coffee, so take advantage and get the Peet's Coffee milkshake, which appears in a glass reminiscent of those skyscrapers towering above ground from where you sit.

The burgers are a solid good; not a "foodgasm"-inducing plate you might expect at some of Los Angeles' other burger emporiums, but provide something tasty and satisfying that has a bit more flair than some places' standard fare. If you're not feeling rowdy enough for a burger, you can order up a sandwich, entree, or salad instead; we managed to steal a bite of a fellow foodie's Truffle BLTA, which was enough to rate it quite good, although the truffled mayo didn't stand out as perhaps intended or expected. If you save room for dessert you can tuck into a soft serve sundae. And if you're an early riser, or have a breakfast meeting in DTLA, they've got a solid breakfast menu, and an AM Happy Hour.

Rowdy Red is a pleasant surprise tucked beneath the busy Downtown streets, and if you're in the area Monday-Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 7 p.m., it's a perfect candidate for a weekday-off jaunt, a "power" lunch, a breakfast treat, or an early dinner. If you're there, consider it a welcome option.

Rowdy Red
505 Flower Street, DTLA
(213) 627-5511