Haché (pronounced ah-shay)
3319 Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Depending on your affinity for the classics, you may have heard about Desert Trip, a music festival at the Empire Polo Club in Indio (home also to the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival). Unlike conventional festivals, Desert Trip offered a lean lineup of classic rock luminaries: The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, and The Who. No industry neophytes here to soundtrack day-drinking; this was a headliners-only affair.
Almost immediately, this festival drew the derision of sneering millennials, likely still coming down from a tour in the Sahara Tent at Coachella (you know, artistically discerning social critics like these). They called Desert Trip “Oldchella,” an incisive, hyper-literate critique of the low-energy sort who enjoys music festivals that feature musical instruments instead of computers vomiting out spleen-rupturing bass.
It’s tempting to conclude that there is a youthful condescension among our generation toward anything we regard as a relic of the past, a sort of reflexive regard for modernity, a respect based on nothing but the fact that a thing emerged from the sea of narcissistic home recorders and YouTube amateurs to seize some measure of notoriety. That view maximizes convenience, but we often fail to see its fundamental flaws, fail to recognize that not all good things go viral, and not all things that go viral are good.
I have neither the time nor mind to attempt to unpack what animates this elevation of new over old, but I’m no less convinced that it exists. I also wonder if that’s the reason people feel the need to present Haché as something that it isn’t. See, if you are inclined to poke around Google prior to going to Haché, you might be misled. Internet commentators have woven a web of half-truths about this place, for whatever reason. It’s not a dive; it’s rustic, they say. It’s a French-inspired and bistroesque, they say. They serve steak sandwiches, they say. Don’t call them burgers, they say.
You’ll note, once you arrive and have ordered, that the above statements range from “pretty” to “categorically” wrong. It is a dive. There is nearly nothing in the cramped patio and sticky high-tops that is redolent of the breezy bistro you might have imagined. The mesh window at which you order,and the t-shirt clad hipster that brings you your burger don’t evoke a Parisian bistro where sighing poets scribble elegies as much as a Bostonian Irish pub where townies punch out graduate students.
By the looks of it, this is a place you’ve been a hundred times before. This is your dad’s dive bar. There is no real attempt at novelty here. This is Desert Trip, not the Sahara Tent. It is more Steve Miller than Steve Aoki. You get the point. Regardless, Haché has been on my radar for a while. Finally after much cajoling – guilting? – from my dear friend Greg, I met him, Bret and Alex there to try a burger. Or a haché. Or a steak sandwich. Or whatever you might want to call it.
The Order: Karma Burger
The Price: $5.95
Whatever Haché isn’t, it is, in many ways, essentially Silver Lake. There is a winsome haggardness to the place. You walk in feeling as though you have stumbled into the middle of a carefully structured, meticulously curated collapse. A middle-aged man in a quarter-zip fleece sits near the corner, his beer barely dented, half-heartedly watching the Seahawks lose. A young man with an undercut checks his phone compulsively, casting the occasional furtive glance doorward to see if whoever is meeting him has arrived yet.
The thought might occur to you that this is the least affected crowd that has ever gathered on Sunset Boulevard. And sure, that may have something to do with the fact that it’s a rainy Sunday in Los Angeles, but it felt appropriate for this place. There’s an agelessly genuine quality to Haché. It’s not a place out of time, it’s a place without a time. That may not make sense, but it’s as clearly as I can state it.
Of course, you don’t come to Haché for the atmosphere (at least, I don’t know why you would, with both Café Stella and Winsome a stone’s throw away). You come for the hachés. They are billed as French-style steak sandwiches. Haché, of course, doesn’t call them steak sandwiches. Depending on what part of the menu your eye darts to first, you’ll see them called hachés or burgers. In point of fact, they’re burgers with patties made of ground sirloin steak.
That ground Angus sirloin patty is swathed in a weblike loose-weave blanket of American cheese and topped a leaf or two of bracing lettuce, a couple discs of vermillion tomato, translucent halos of red onion, and a thin glaze of Karma sauce, which tastes like a mashup of Thousand Islands and harissa-spiked mayonnaise on a hearty, earthy cracked wheat bun.
While the sirloin patty is often framed as something new and different, it really is more an attempt to elevate a classical form. It renders the patty less greasy, more inherently flavorful, cleaner than its brisket or chuck cousins. It is noticeably fresh, albeit a shade overcooked. The seasoning – on the outside of the patty only – cannot fully compensate for the fact that the patty is too well-done. Since the meat on the inside of the patty remains unseasoned, once you’ve broken through the outer crust, there isn’t much beneath it in the way of flavor.
The other garnishes are fresh, well-proportioned, subtle. The onions, though raw, are not too sharp, offering a gentle pinpricking sting. The lettuce is parchment-delicate, not crisp, not wilted and chewy. The tomato is bright and succulent, a burst of freshness to wash over the finish of each bite. And the sauce has a whisper of heat amid the creamy cool of the stuff, leaving a lingering suggestion of slow spice.
This burger is a nod to the classics. It is different, but it’s not revolutionary. Not forced. It’s organic, tried and true. Some might think that is something for which to apologize. They might try and frame this to highlight some gimmick that might capture your attention. They might try and make this sound like something it’s not just to make it sound fresh. They might be tempted to swap out the resplendent Telecaster for a Korg. They should resist that temptation. Drum machines have no soul.
Flavor: 8.70 / 10.00
Freshness / Quality: 9.20 / 10.00
Value: 10.00 / 10.00
Efficiency: 9.00 / 10.00
Creativity / Style: 7.00 / 10.00
Bun: 8.10 / 10.00
Patty: 8.50 / 10.00
Toppings: 8.00 / 10.00
Sauce: 8.20 / 10.00
Balance: 8.60 / 10.00
Total: 85.30 / 100.00