Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Burger Kitchen: All I Can Say Is "Oy"

UPDATE (3/20/2013):


If you're on this page, chances are pretty good that you've just watched the Burger Kitchen episode of Gordon Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares." The traffic for this post always spikes when the episode re-airs, so, welcome to Noms, Not Bombs!

The juicy stuff is below, but, if you're interested in an update, Burger Kitchen has since shuttered. Given the father-son action highlighted on the show, the place seemed doomed by its (complete and utter) dysfunction. In watching the show, I pretty quickly realized that all of the insanity posted here was single-handedly the work of Alan Saffron, and I felt terribly for his son Daniel. I can only hope that, without the pressures and stresses of the restaurant, their relationship is faring better now and that Alan is conducting himself in a manner deserving of his son's forgiveness these days.

For those curious, I was asked to participate in their "Kitchen Nightmares" episode but declined, ultimately deciding that 1) you'll never win when you're arguing with crazy (if only I knew just how crazy...) and 2) it wasn't worth taking time off work.

Now, if it's crazy that you came here looking for, scroll down and enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.


UPDATE (5/7/10):

The behavior of the owners of Burger Kitchen, Alan and Daniel Saffron, has gone from laughable--with posting phony 5-star reviews of themselves on Yelp--to now unethical--defaming my character (and the character of others who gave them a 1-star review) with outright lies.

Check out this 5-star Yelp review of Burger Kitchen from owner Daniel S. (they have a 2.5 star rating without it) which claims that I emailed him saying, "I am sorry, but I am not taking down my review because you guys are Jewish, and I really don't want another Jewish person to succeed in my neighborhood."

Not that I should have to address this but, for the record, any such "email" is a complete fabrication by Daniel and/or Alan Saffron. I have never exchanged emails with either of them and have only responded to one of their (many) Yelp messages--the first one in which Daniel claimed that the vitriolic comment posted here on my blog was not written by him. Right.

Furthermore, I am personally offended by their choice of outright lie about me because, as many of you know, J is Jewish. Also, I even have a "Jewish" tag for my posts!

The fact that two grown men would stoop so low as to spread a blatant, hurtful lie about me because of an honest review of their restaurant is absolutely baffling. This behavior is ridiculous and unacceptable and certainly does not warrant your hard-earned shekels (couldn't resist).

P.S. 3rd Street is not anywhere remotely near "my neighborhood." Good try, though, guys.

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Opened last Saturday, Burger Kitchen is the latest gourmet burger restaurant to hit the LA food scene.
Burger Kitchen

The restaurant is co-owned by Alan and Daniel Saffron, a father-son team, and offers a selection of 20 craft beers—10 on tap and 10 bottled—and 22 kinds of burgers.

The burgers are divided into two categories: “From the Ranch” with standards such as Burger Delicious ($9, roasted tomato, grilled onions, pickles, greenleaf lettuce and chipotle ketchup) and “Burgers Around the World” with dishes such as the Negimaki Burger ($12, beef patty with teriyaki glaze, chopped chives and sautéed shiitake mushrooms).
Although I was skeptical about the seemingly overambitious nature of a menu of 22 different kinds of burgers, I decided to pay Burger Kitchen a visit.
Burger Kitchen

Burger Kitchen

After being seated and greeted by Mr. (Alan) Saffron, J and I perused the menu, which was, indeed, somewhat overwhelming with so many choices. We also sampled a few beers (all of which were delicious), with J settling on a white ale while I opted for a hefe-weizen.

Menu @ Burger Kitchen

Menu @ Burger Kitchen

Aaaaand the menu continues on the back side...

Menu @ Burger Kitchen

Menu @ Burger Kitchen

Sides at Burger Kitchen are sold a la carte. We ordered onion rings ($3.50) and French fries ($3.50), which were, oddly (and to our displeasure), served as an appetizer rather than an accompaniment to the meal. Who wants to eat their fries without their burger?!

The onion rings were delicious—very light and crunchy with little excess oil. The fries, on the other hand, were average. Several hours later, J and I realized that these tasted a lot like the fries we ate from Chili's in our high school/pre-foodie days.

Onion Rings and Fries @ Burger Kitchen

I ordered the Moroccan Bazaar Burger ($12.50, lamb patty, mint and ginger sauce, roasted tomato). Burger Kitchen isn’t kidding when they say “tomato”; my lamb burger had one slice of tomato, one leaf of lettuce and was rather sad and naked looking. The kitchen was also out of ginger for the mint sauce, and the result was a bite that was much too tangy for my taste.

Moroccan Bazaar Burger @ Burger Kitchen

J ordered the Mountain Burger ($10.00, BBQ sauce, applewood smoked bacon and jalapeño peppers). The jalapeños played nicely off the BBQ sauce to create a smoky flavor…the second time around.

Mountain Burger @ Burger Kitchen

Our waiter told us that Burger Kitchen cooks its burgers medium rare unless asked to prepare them otherwise. J’s burger, however, was very rare and very red throughout, and he sent it back. Although J’s burger was actually prepared medium rare the second time around, the woman next to us had to send her nearly purple-colored burger back twice after her second burger was just as rare as the first. When we left, her third burger had yet to reach the table, and her husband had already finished his (also very pink) burger.

Extremely apologetic to both of our tables, Mr. Saffron came out to tell us that it was taking time for their chefs to “get it right.” Get what right? The Bobby Flay method for cooking burgers. Mr. Saffron detailed how Burger Kitchen was following Flay’s instructions for patty size, cook time, use of olive oil, etc. It seemed strange to me that Burger Kitchen was cooking using Flay’s methods rather than their own—especially since cook times vary depending on type of grill, heat, etc.
 
With the delicious, gourmet burgers available at places such as The Golden State Cafe, Umami Burger, Father’s Office and even trucks such as Patty Wagon, I don’t know that there’s room for Burger Kitchen with its unfocused menu, flighty service (for example, our waiter took my beer order and left without asking J what he wanted), raw burgers and instructions taken from a cookbook.
 
Thanks to an Eater LA promotion, our burgers were half off, but I still didn’t feel that the quality of the meal warranted the final tab of $34.00. Throughout this post, I have had to stop myself from inadvertently writing “Burger King” instead of “Burger Kitchen,” which I think pretty tidily sums up my feelings about the evening.
 
Burger Kitchen
8048 W. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 944-0503
Burger Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Burger Kitchen in Los Angeles

29 comments:

  1. nice post! competition is tough for this segment! see ya at ludos!

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  2. I am really disheartened by the poor review of our place but I assure you that things will get a lot better. We were understaffed tonight, with only one chef in the kitchen, so a lot of plates went out incorrectly. I had to fill in to help keep pace, and I normally only cook for my family or friends.

    What I don't understand is why people like you right such horrible reviews for places that just opened. We just started this place and offered the half-off price because we knew service/back of house would be a little rocky at the start. Not everyone in the world is as rich or powerful as wolfgang puck or chef ramses. Some things had to go on budget, and yes, I agree, we couldn't handle the enormous crowds that bombarded us this weekend, and yes we were out of ingredients by the time you came in.

    We have placed orders for all the new ingredients so we can prep everything in the morning and have it ready to go. We have hired three new chefs to help handle the rush and cook all of our meat just right. We are doing everything in our power to make sure this place will be delicious and comparable to all the heavy hitters in the neighborhood. All of our produce is fresh, our meat blend was carefully crafted by roca brothers, and we went through 12 bakeries before finally deciding on a bun.

    Once again, I'm sorry you had a bad experience, and like so many others I'm sure you won't return to our place until you see it as jam packed as toast. But until then keep passing us by.

    Just remember new businesses must be created in california for us to survive, and in order for that to happen, maybe people like you should be a little gentler when new places start. Unlike most kitchens we have been working around to clock to solve all our problems before they grow into enormous problems. Until then, just think, we employ 20 people, with more coming, so trashing us on your first visit is just bad karma on your part. Enjoy your life and maybe one day we will see you in the future. Until then, keep blasting new businesses and shredding the fragile fabric of our already poor economy.

    See you in the breadline,
    Daniel

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    Replies
    1. What you he means is:

      I have no idea how to run a business so I decided to make son Daniel's inheritance (around $250K) and promptly flush it down the toilet. I also know that Yelp is a part of a huge conspiracy against my shitty overpriced burgers. I have to get going and buy my crazy wife some more Prozac so please come back when you get a chance.

      Regards,

      The Slime of Humanity (Alan Saffron)

      Delete
  3. Hi Daniel,

    It's good that business has necessitated that you hire more help. I obviously don't wish for you to fail and hope that Burger Kitchen can get things right.

    I do, however, feel that any discussion of my dining experience would be incomplete without a discussion of the multiple meals sent back to the kitchen--some more than once.

    Note that I didn't criticize the quality of my beer, lamb patty, or the other (medium-cooked) burger--just the service and the cooking issues, which are valid points to raise. It is absolutely not my intention to "shred the fragile fabric of our already poor economy"--only to share my experiences and thoughts, which is fair information to share with other potential dinners.

    Again, this review is merely a summary of my evening. If others have better experiences, then wonderful--for them and you. This was simply just not the experience I had last night.

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  4. I'm going there tonight. Will let you know if it's gotten any better. Interesting response from the owner! I suggest he hire a PR person in addition to the new cooks!

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  5. I think it's somewhat appalling that the owners have gone so far to fight back at people who have eaten at their restaurant and come away with a less than favorable experience. On here, on Yelp, and they have no shame in identifying themselves very clearly as the owners and then attempting to guilt or thrash people who didn't have a good time at their restaurant.

    Any foodie knows that owning/running a restaurant is difficult. We see many restaurants come and go, some we love and some we could care less about. I'm sure it's very stressful, and reading harsh criticisms when you're trying to get on your feet is depressing. But you have to understand, that the people who visit your restaurant want you to succeed. No one wants a terrible burger joint in their neighborhood. Wouldn't we all like to have the city's best burger joint right down the street from us? So, while people may be harsh, realize that it stems from their disappointment in your product. They want you to succeed, because it benefits everyone.

    Now, I've eaten burgers at many different restaurants...classy restaurants, hole in the wall restaurants, and some restaurants that seem like they have no business selling burgers (a donut shop?!). I haven't eaten at Burger Kitchen, since I no longer live in Los Angeles and now reside in South OC.

    From my perspective, from reading your posts and the reviews of those who have eaten at your restaurant, it seems very much that you got the idea to open a burger restaurant from watching a little too much of food network (with the mention of Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsay, etc. I know many times I've watched Guy Fieri travel to little hole in the wall restaurants that are crazy popular and thinking, "my husband and I could do that!" It seems like you lack restaurant experience and it's showing and hurting you. Yelp tends to not be a very forgiving crowd, especially in Los Angeles, where something average can become a popular trend if done right.

    Now, if you have watched Gordon Ramsay (especially his BBC show Kitchen Nightmares, not the American version), you'd probably see that there are a few things he'd tackle with your restaurant immediately. First, you offer too many types of burgers. You have to carry so many ingredients that you will easily run out of items and look bad for not being properly stocked. Any burger joint (a place that sells only burgers and no other entrees) only needs 3 types of burger; a beef, a bird (turkey or chicken), and a veggie (usually mushroom). Offer basic burgers but do them well (lettuce, roma tomato, onion, pickles, special sauce, optional cheese and bacon), and possibly a few types of special burger combos (breakfast burger with fried egg, bacon and cheese, mushroom swiss burger). Make the basics really well and people will come.

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  6. Part 2!

    It sounds like the burgers are dry as well so it sounds like you're using a low fat content beef. While this seems healthy, it's not very tasty and let's face it, we're eating burgers. Increase the quality of the meat, but increase the fat content as well. Your costs will stay about the same because even though you're increasing meat quality, 15% fat beef is cheaper than 7%. I really hope you aren't using 7%.

    My other suggestion is be great at something. Have something you are known for. My examples for these are Oinkster in Eagle Rock (they make all of their own sauces in house, aioli, mustard, ketchup, chipotle ketchup) and Squeeze Inn in Sacramento (famous cheese skirt). These are gimicky things that, even if the burger was average, gets people to come in and eat their food. Gordon Ramsay's usual suggestion would be something like, don't just be a Burger restaurant. Be a burger restaurant that has the best homemade sauces or has a half bacon half beef burger as its signature burger (I've been to this one too). Get something to help you stand out.

    Without a little bit of fries included with the burger, the prices seem very steep for the quality of the meat. If making homemade fries is what is making service slow or costing you a bit more to where you have to cut quality elsewhere, just buy frozen fries. They still taste great from a deep fryer, which I don't have at home and is why I'd rather have fries at a restaurant.

    As for your PR and getting a positive light on your restaurant out there, it's in your best interest to stop posting defensive, negative responses to people. Take that energy and apply it to improving your food. Let your food do the talking!

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  7. You buy from Rocker Brothers Daniel, know your suppliers!

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  8. Hi there. I actually just stumbled on this review because I recently went to this place, had the WORST meal ever, and was curious to see if others felt the same. I'm not a Yelp person or anything but it was reassuring to know that I'm not the only person who was pretty culinarily screwed over by this place. It's a really solid and appropos review that you gave. The thing that really took me for a loop (and probably the real indication that I ought to have left in the first place was the fact that the menu actually STATES that they use USDA Select meat. That is TWO steps down from USDA Prime. I don't expect every place to use prime but on a 10+ dollar burger, they should at least use CHOICE!!!!

    I can't recall the last time I've been so disappointed with a meal.

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  9. Hi nomsnotbombs! Excuse the sarcasm of this message.

    How are you guys doing. Still eagerly blogging about everything hoping that your fleeting message will spread across LA and galvanize your popularity? Well it hasn't worked. We have never been busier. Our food is highly respected now and reviewed highly. NBC feast came in and love their dishes. LA times came in and loved the food too. Taye Diggs just ate at our restaurant and had a wonderful time. We even have some more "celebrities" coming, but I won't tell you who, as I don't want to make you jealous.

    This will be the last thing I ever write, as I seriously think you guys are the worst people on the planet, but continue your hatred towards us and giving us free publicity! It's working out fantastically! I know your boyfriend has no job, and your only justification for your existence is in this web space, but none of that matters. Keep piling on the hatred. Look forward to never seeing you again. We will continue to satisfy our happy patrons.

    P.S. Feel free to post this on yelp. As once again, that is your only outlet to the real world.

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  10. Daniel,

    I neither hate you nor hope for your restaurant to fail, as I have previously stated. Either of the two would suggest some emotional investment in you or Burger Kitchen--neither of which is true. I simply wrote an honest review and you, in your infinitely baffling immaturity and inability to accept criticism, attacked me again and again, even going so far as to conjure a damaging lie (for which you have still yet to apologize).

    Also, for the record, my boyfriend has a job and has had one for some time now. He has simply not updates his Yelp tagline because, unlike you, he does not live to read the website. In addition, he and I both work in film, and your name-dropping elicited laughter, not jealousy.

    In short, move on. Hating someone (and obsessively checking Yelp and someone's blog) requires a lot of effort and energy. Life's too short. Better to spend your time improving your product. I truly hope this is the last time I hear from you, as you say.

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  11. OMG, these people are insane! Part of me wants to go to the place just out of sheer masochism but I'll pass. There are so many high-end burger and beer joints right now (FO, Unami, Golden State, etc.) that I'll pass. A word of advice to the owners, you're never going to win a fight against the customers because they are the ones with the money to spend. Restaurants are tricky businesses. The customers is not always right but most of the time they are. Some customers can be pains-in-the-asses but it's a service business and you have to serve them. All this back and forth only makes you look idiot. The whole Jewish thing was way too much. I'm Jewish and I'm just appalled by it.

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  12. Wow! Daniel needs a good shrink, and some balls. Best part of this is that you know he's still checking in here to see if there are more posts. Thanks for sharing, Misty.

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  13. Wow no way this isn't staged, this Daniel seems like #1 douche ever, burger kitchen is a joke!

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  14. Watching the Saffrons shred themselves like a serving of ropa vieja on "Kitchen Nightmares" was riveting.It reminded me of the band rehearsal scene in "Slingblade",in which everyone is insane,but in different ways.
    And lastly, how hard is it to prepare hamburger of any grade?Chefs?
    Enjoy your blog very much.

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  15. I heard that the delusional Saffrons could not keep the joint and it is now under new management. Don't know if it's true, I'll have to wait to next Friday to find out.

    Some people should not go into the restaurant business, especially those who cannot take criticism like grown ups.
    And I'm Jewish too.
    Oh btw here's a nice article about the Saffrons:
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/lawsuit-over-1m-saffron-bequest/2007/07/07/1183351516617.html and once again the dad plugs his book

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  16. It's funny- my wife an I watched the episode tonight from home (Vancouver, BC) and actually thought Alan and Gen were the whacked out ones. I felt for Daniel. After reading his reply to your posts it's clear that both Daniel and Alan were involved with responding to blogs.

    I think if Alan and Gen were 500 yards away at all times this could have worked. Hope Daniel takes his own advice when trying to get his point to his father in the theatre- the reviews on blogs, yelp, urban spoon etc are there to help you improve.

    I have an iPhone and I post my reviews on urban spoon all the time when we go for dinner and leave a candid non personal attack.

    If anyone can shed light on this establishment if it's still run by Daniel... I love Chef Ramsay an I would hate for this family to make him look bad after the endorsement he gave Daniel.

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  17. I watched the Kitchen Nightmares episode and then I read these and after feeling bad for Daniel its just odd that he would get mad at his dad for not listening to the customers when he was also busy attacking food critics.

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  18. Wow. This is absolutely insane. I just watched both parts to the "Burger Kitchen" episode on Hulu. Is it really Daniel who actually posted in the comments here and on Yelp? Or did Alan do it in Daniel's name? If Daniel actually did it, then that's a shame that Kitchen Nightmares led everyone to believe that poor Daniel was the one who was suffering and such. For some reason, I just kind of get the impression or the feeling that maybe Alan was doing it in Daniel's name. Daniel just seemed to be a little brighter than Alan, and at least on the show he seemed to kinda be in reality. Also, I noticed that on Yelp, Alan was posting under Gen's name.

    Speaking of that – did anyone else get the impression that Alan and Gen were just... a few trees short of a forest? They just seemed like they were not really in there. Like they were completely clueless, oblivious, and not very intelligent people. Like every time they were asked a question, they just kinda had this deer in the headlights look as if they had no clue they were in reality.

    Can anyone confirm that Daniel actually wrote the comments here on this blog and also elsewhere? If so, I don't feel one bit of sorry for him after all. So tacky, so classless. I mean, tacky and classless even if Alan wrote them, but I'd be doubly disappointed if Daniel legitimately wrote them.

    Also, for the record, I think Alan is a total douchebag for taking Daniel's money without his permission to open this restaurant. What a self-centered, disgusting thing to do.

    Yeah, that's my two cents.

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    Replies
    1. I was thinking the same thing.

      But I'm now 100% sure it was Alan, under Daniels name. If you read a very old (pretty typical) response against a negative review, the username is "D S", which obviously stands for Daniel Saffron, but the review is tagged with "Alan". I'm not sure if a bot will block this because of a link, or if the author still looks at this stuff because it's so old, but check out the 6th and last page on the yelp review of Burger Kitchen, and right at the bottom.

      Absolutely disgusting. Not only does he steal his money, but especially now that the family is famous and these reviews are easily accessed, he tarnishes his sons name and reputation. Complete scum, part of me hopes people still read this just so they know it wasn't Daniel, I've seen it in a lot of places people putting as much blame on Daniel now because of the reviews his father put in his name.

      Delete
    2. Oh, it's totally Alan. You can "hear" his accent in the posts. I mean, the guy stole his kid's money - why wouldn't he steal his identity, too?

      Delete
  19. Oh, and one more thing. I don't know why the owners would even be concerned with reviews in the manner they have been. As the guy from the Foundry said – some people will like your food, and some will not. Yelp and other such sites are used for your feedback to improve your restaurant. Arguing with someone who says that they have had a bad experience or that they didn't like their food and using "We have had nothing but great reviews" or making other excuses for such reviews is so inane – it's like arguing with someone who says they don't like the flavor of apples and saying that "everyone else likes the flavor of apples." Doesn't make any sense at all.

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  20. Of course, I also watched the Burger Kitchen episode of "Kitchen Nightmares," and, even after all of my experiences with them, I was still shocked by what I saw (including a speechless Gordon Ramsay). Post-viewing, I'm sure that all of the Yelp attacks were Alan's doing. Psycho. I was asked to participate in the Yelp segment, but it didn't seem worth it to have to deal with this mess again.

    Thanks to all for reading and commenting!

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  21. Daniels Girlfriend is Hot. He cant be the crazy one

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  22. My name is Daniel and I steal money (around $250K without his permission) from my son b/c I am a douchebag. Oh and my wife is batshit crazy!

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  23. ^ I think you meant Alan but you are right... That guy is pretty much at the bottom of the gene pool. What a slimeball!

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  24. ppl need to stop the hate on this family their are worst things in life then this .Daniel loves hes father no matter what he did

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  25. can you take this down?
    it's all gone and i live with a friend now on his couch trying to repair my horribly unfortunate and unlucky life.

    how many of you lose an entire inheritance?
    whether or not i am still estranged from my family is up to you to believe or not, i personally don't care.

    i have no idea who wrote the above post btw, but judging from the grammar im assuming it was my sister.

    long story short, you guys won. there is no more you words you can sling, no more internet comments you can make and no more judgements you can hold that will further my depression and misery. just trust me on that.

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    Replies
    1. LOL@YOU

      Grow up weak bitch

      Delete