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There is never a convenient time to eat a bad burger; one better, to have a bad meal, but it happens. I hate to complain about wimpy or over-complicated gourmet sandwiches but my latest experience, just three days before the New Year would really cut me deep and had that distinct honor of being a bad one.

I had envisioned a place–nothing exotic–rather a bare bones establishment that cranked out consistently delicious griddled/char-broiled fare. Oh yeah, it had to be close and have a BYOB policy too.  We found a candidate quickly, one that did not hurt the wallet because spending greater than $15 did not appeal to me that night. My friend and I were sipping on a bottle of 2008 Petra Lava Rosso (#3) from the D.O.C. of Etna while conducting our Yelp-aided search. We found a place that satisfied both needs but did come with mixed reviews. We were in agreement that Yelp reviews were not to be trusted because there was no accountability for many of the negative write-ups.

We went for it, finishing our glasses of mineral heavy Sicilian red wine, showing off its terroir beautifully. The volcanic soil provided the minerals and there was a layer of smoke coming through before the cranberry would make an appearance. The rosso was sleek like a polished obsidian stone. We corked the bottle and took off for our nearby burger joint in hopes of slaking our hunger.

After a quick jaunt down Olympic Boulevard we arrived at the dingy establishment. The restaurant shared a strip mall with a bevy of other random eateries and was affixed to a strip club. It wasn’t certain how bad the burger was going to be because we were open minded but dubious.

In our midst we had a bottle of 2008 Schild Estate Shiraz from Barossa Valley (#2) that was highly rated. We were confident that the Shiraz would partner exquisitely well with the fare. We ordered two different styles of burgers, going beyond the standard California style and immediately unscrewed the top of the Shiraz to allow for maximum breathing time.

Ten minutes passed before we had our reasonably priced grub. I picked up my order and immediately spotted a red flag, a Kraft-like single hardly melted on the exposed patty. I was nervous and beginning to regret my decision. I cradled the burger and felt the stiff wheat bun resisting my fingers as I applied my grip. The patty was desiccated and even the thousand-island sauce couldn’t save this burger—though curiously it was watered down. There was little taste to the sandwich and I reached for my plastic ware for comfort.

The Shiraz was already showing some deep notes of tar, freshly ground coffee, earthy bramble and buckets of fruit. It was complicated and only getting better as the food paled in comparison. There was talk of us going to In-n-Out to absolve us of our mistake but that passed.

A short drive home filled my car with a John Cage like composition of bitching and bebop Jazz mixing organically. The only thing that helped power us past the worst burger of the year was the promise of great wine, cheese and bread that lay ahead. In the New Year it is inevitable that I will come across some meager and downright awful burgers but let’s hope they come in the beginning of 2012, if at all.

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