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OINK Pasadena is not close to me, nor is Eagle Rock, but occasionally I will have business that takes me east. When I am out there, navigating unfamiliar freeways like the 210 and 134, it’s good to have a few markers that I can lay down. After leaving an account I stopped off at one of my favorite places on Colorado Boulevard to grab a sandwich.
A giant A-framed marquee that could be seen from down the street was a welcoming sight as I approached slowly in rush hour. Eric Burdon and the Animals were audible, after parking the car and queuing up for a cheeseburger at The Oinkster.
It had been four years since my last official visit and about two since on unofficial business. Both times were consistently delicious; The Oinkster hybridized the Californian burger stand offering with better ingredients and a methodical approach. I had selected the classic 1/3 lb burger with cheddar cheese—as my own tastes, in cheese, had matured in my absence—and a Boylan’s root beer to wash it down.
In a little more time than it took for me to load up on banana peppers and pickled extras, the cheeseburger arrived, smocked in yellow wax paper inside a red plastic basket. Fresh and warm; the sandwich was the perfect contrast between cold, crisp vegetables set against the warm patty and layer of finely melted cheese. The bit of acidity from the pickles, and the smartly dressed thousand-island sauce added extra layers of flavor in an aptly dubbed ‘classic’ representation. It was excellent and exactly how I remembered it.
My long drive home smacked of nostalgia, bringing to mind the last couple trips I had made to Eagle Rock and recalling a few of my favorite burger stands that I grew up with in Southern California. The Oinkster delivers a familiar cast of flavors exquisitely, not claiming to be new, or quick, but done well.

On Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, there are a lot of hamburger joints vying for attention, yet only one has garnered heaps of acclaim. This establishment is a gargantuan on Yelp—over 1,000 reviews from users like you (and me). Professional critics like Jonathan Gold and Guy Fieri among others, have vaunted the ‘slow’ cooked fast food, making it an institution and another reason to drive to Eagle Rock.

The Oinkster is a cleaned up and re-invented ode to the hamburger joint, perfecting the ingredients and recipes of the classic dishes found in these roadside eateries, from reconsidered ketchup to the pastrami sandwich. They have also retooled the innards of the establishment with modern touches like suspending LCD TVs a la a sports bar and giving attention to the flooring, while maintaining the classic nuances like the long metal counter to the grand sign that each wonderful burger joint boasts.

The Oinkster serves up a lot of beers and fun beverages to pair with their fare. They are also capitalizing on the cupcake craze, placing a few in a case adjacent to a patron when ordering. The Oinkster packs a lot of people, nearly every time I have gone, I have queued up for a couple of minutes before ordering.

On my latest trip, a Dodgers day game had just finished, making the wait particularly long. The Oinkster was teaming with fans in blue causing a colubrine line to form, backing us to the door.

When it came time, I ordered the classic burger, harnessing a 1/3lb patty with the standard accompaniment of vegetables, seeded burger bun and a side of red cabbage slaw. A thing that is apparent when ordering is that the fixed prices that come tailored to ‘classic’ burger joints do not apply; two meals with two drinks were just over twenty two dollars.

As we waited for the food to arrive, I told my father about their sauces: Chipotle ketchup, house made ketchup, aioli and other condiments that set Oinkster apart from it forbears. Intrigued, my father paid a visit to the other side of the shiny counter where their cache of sauces and pickled peppers were placed. We stockpiled jalapeños and the said condiments to be prepared for the food when it made the table.

Shortly after, we studied the presentation, it owed a lot to the burgers that came before, dressed invitingly in paper pockets, in a red plastic basket lined with paper. It was time to eat. The draw for the ‘classic’ burger is the thick patty of sourced beef, sharing the interior with full wedges of tomato, house cured pickles, crisp iceberg lettuce and raw white onion. The side came in a little paper fry basket with some wet, slightly limp, sorta sweet red cabbage. The burgers were great, nicely cooked (not perfect but not dry), soft bun and tender meat with some crispness from the onion and lettuce, the condiments spruced up the fries and added to the burger. As for my side of red cabbage slaw, it was not inventive and definitely not worth ordering again (I immediately pined for the cabbage slaw of Golden State).

The Oinkster does a lot of things right, the owner/chef spent a lot of time perfecting dishes and carefully crafting the ultimate spot for burger lovers, blending facets of traditional joints, tweaking them tenderly to incorporate them nicely into his envisioned space. For all that it has going for it though, it is simple fare executed (most of the time; the sides could use some help) correctly and at relatively mid level prices. The food warrants a strong score of 8 out of 10, for its quality and its homage to the American staple and making the spot homey and inviting, yet they fall short of my favorite burger joint (and cost twice as much), the one that defined classic.

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