From an exceptional California cheeseburger experience on the shores of Jalama Beach, I thought to keep my momentum going for my next Big City burger foray. A newer eatery piqued my interest after reading a technical and favorable review of their burgers in the LA Times. Setting a good time with a friend, both of us set off to check out the neighborhood gem, visions of Jalama still swirling. Friday night came and a quick drive-by revealed a gastropub with little wiggle room, diners queuing up around the corner for their turn at the vaunted comfort foods. We wanted no part of the wait and scrambled to find an alternative on the Westside—arriving at Steingarten LA. Karma from Jalama?

Not our first choice that evening, but it seemed like a reasonable pick for its proximity. On Pico Boulevard, across the street from Marty’s Hamburger Stand, we had located a beer-friendly establishment that served burgers. Seated immediately, we were ushered to the last table in the house. Steingarten LA was beaming with energy and big parties (six-tops and larger) spread out across the dining room… lulling us into a false sense of security. Given a minute to mull over the menus, it took little time for us to select drink and fare.

I had ordered “The Works,” which was their take on a classic California burger served with tomato, cheddar cheese, lettuce, raw onions, Thousand Island dressing over a half-pound patty of grass-fed beef that I wanted cooked medium-rare. While I was in favor of keeping it simple—or so I thought—my friend found “Golden Prize,” a burger that boasted herb roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Brie and roasted garlic sauce, to be more in line with his palate.

The Clippers were keeping the Lakers down on the big screen; we watched a fraction of the game before the beers found the table and discussion switched to the state of the NHL. In an uncharacteristic move that augured ill, our server spilled a portion of my draft ale over the table. She apologized immediately as I wiped up the white suds that were ejected from the challis. Small annoyance for what was to come… I assured her that everything was okay, no biggie, until the… food arrived.

With her tail between her legs, our server came back, apologetically, and presented us with two cheeseburgers a la the Atkins Diet; embarrassingly enough they had run out of buns!!! In my short time (almost four years) as a burger blogger, and longer as an eater, I have never been to a restaurant that has run out of burger buns. She told us that they would compensate us for the communication breakdown between kitchen and wait staff; in the meantime we were resigned to eating with fork and knife. Life would go on. End of mishaps.

I was even willing to overlook the bun-less sandwich, going European on the first bite before it yielded… an overcooked patty. Somewhere the Burger Gods were laughing hysterically. I tried hard to find the silver lining. It couldn’t get any worse! We were given pretzel buns halfway through the meal as a consolation—a peace offering. Those were as good as useless.

I really don’t like to pan restaurants but there were too many blatant service errors to be ignored, followed by food errors. My friend liked his burger sans bun (to be fair), but wasn’t happy with the late game appearance of a pretzel bun meant to assuage our grief. And we ended up paying full price—our server forgot her earlier words. Keeping our lips sealed as we walked out the door, the night ended filled with an air of “what could have been.” If only we had waited!