1212 Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401Santa Monica on a summer weekend truly is an incredible thing. The beautiful, sun-bronzed masses take to the streets in outfits carefully chosen to reveal the fruits of a winter spent in pilates classes, or of the paleo diet, or of thousands of dollars in Equinox membership fees or CrossFit classes, or of the latest juice cleanse.
When Andy Warhol – speaking about Los Angeles – said, “Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic,” he might have been talking about Santa Monica. “Plastic” doesn’t have to mean surgically enhanced. It just means beautiful in a very banal sort of way. There is an inhuman kind of beauty, a sort of perfection of the human craft, that you see a lot in Santa Monica (as opposed to, say, the intentional, contrived anti-beauty of Silver Lake). The people there are, for lack of a better term, impossible looking. Santa Monica is a simple enough cocktail: one part Free People shabby-chic; three parts Stepford; two parts Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue; a dash of pornish, self-aware sexiness; topped with a magnetic superciliousness.
The men want you to think their biceps and abs just happen to look like that. They don’t want you to know it was Bumble & Bumble that gave them that hair, not catching waves as the sun rose. The women want to convince you that they don’t think their Chloe is that big a deal – and in some cases, unbenknownst to them, it’s not – when in point of fact, it’s the centerpiece of their whole outfit. It’s all about appearances. Style trumps substance. Sizzle trumps steak.
Another invective against poor Santa Monica. But in my defense, my path to getting the burger at 1212 (a new-ish, trendy-ish, rustic but also modern, accessible but also fancy – aspirationally on both counts, by the way – small plates kinda, presentation-first installation on the Third Street Promenade) was blocked by hordes of these saunteringly basic sort. They cross the street with such languid entitlement that, when the light changes and they become jaywalkers, their pace seems actually so slow.
So, if you decide to go to 1212, be warned: it may take you forty minutes to round one block to make a right turn into a parking lot (the left turn lane was blocked off without explanation by the Santa Monica Police Department, which spends most of its time making operating a motor vehicle in the city slightly less palatable than listening to him read this aloud, while you are made to watch the last forty-five minutes of this with no sound). And if that was not enough, you then must navigate crowds of people so basic their pH is 15.
After all that – finally – you’ll get to 1212, and hope that the burger – for which you endured such tribulations – will be worth it. You hope so hard. I met Kelsey and Kate there. After the ladies were done declining to dance with a gentleman who looked like a housing-insecure Colonel Mustard, we shared a meal.
The Order: The Burger
The Price: $15.00
They certainly don’t want for effort at 1212. This burger comes topped with black truffle gouda (really), bacon jam (really), a sunny side up egg on a sad ciabatta. The patty is…well, who knows what kind of beef. It doesn’t matter, right? See how much other fancy stuff is on there? Seriously, the beef is the weakest point of the burger. The server recommended it cooked medium, which as a general matter, puts me on notice that the flavor of the beef is nothing to write home about. This held true here. The patty was bland and gritty, with only the stinging bitterness of char on the front end to confer any personality at all.
The “black truffle” gouda was similarly disappointing. I put black truffle in quotations earlier because you’ll have to take their word for there being any black truffle at all in that cheese. If you’re into this kind of thing, you know black truffles are in season, and you might be getting excited at the prospect of some sort of infusion or suspension or what have you. Get over that. This is gouda cheese. There is no truffle to speak of. There is not even the suggestion of truffle. The cheese itself tastes fine, but it’s just gouda; the representation of it as something more is mendacious culinary clickbait, and it’s mildly infuriating. What you’ll get is pedestrian, relatively blunt, pleasantly nutty and reasonably buttery gouda. Nothing less, but definitely nothing more.
Beneath the bubbling blanket of gouda lies the bacon jam. It’s more of a chutney than a jam – it’s too tangy to be a jam. It’s got a strange ragu-like consistency. It’s oddly sharp and almost sour, and is a reasonably unpleasant add-on. It clashes with every other ingredient, especially the cheese, and ultimately feels like a try-hard feature that should have been excluded.
Then, there’s the sunny egg. The egg itself is good enough, runny, smooth and soothing both in taste and texture. It somehow manages to be the best thing about this burger and feel like surplusage at the same time. Amid all the flavor noise, the textural complexity the egg adds another layer of confusion to each bite, which the burger lacks the theoretical or actual vitality to support.
The Burger at 1212 is a product of its environment. It cares more about sounding good and looking good than it does about actually being good. It’s ingredients are all fine, but none are particularly thoughtful. It seems like a burger the chef imagines other chefs dream of serving (you know, a Cultured but Familiar Spin on a Classic), but it’s delicious in the same way the Beautiful People in Santa Monica are beautiful. Each feature is well-appointed (I guess), but there’s an artificiality to the whole, a lack of genuineness that is facially annoying, but ultimately unsatisfying (at best) or downright repulsive (at worst). Much like driving in Santa Monica on a Saturday, this burger is best avoided.
Oh, but the kale chips were pretty good.
Flavor: 5.90 / 10.00
Freshness / Quality: 7.00 / 10.00
Efficiency: 6.70 / 10.00
Value: 4.00 / 10.00
Creativity / Style: 5.10 / 10.00
Bun: 5.30 / 10.00
Patty: 5.20 / 10.00
Toppings: 5.10 / 10.00
Sauce: 5.00 / 10.00
Balance: 3.80 / 10.00
Total: 53.10 / 100.00