Perspective at the Hungry Cat
It was last Saturday afternoon that I found myself in Hollywood buying tickets for the May 22nd midnight showing of Indiana Jones, afterwards wandering off with my companions in search of something filling for lunch. I was in the mood for a burger creation, so off we went to "The Bowery" so I could finally try their burger. Arriving at a locked door and drawn shades I was sad to see they were closed until dinner service. Then I remembered “Molly's Charbroiler” on Vine, a burger stand I've passed many times but never took part in. I thought my mind was made up until we spotted the sidewalk signage ushering us towards "The Hungry Cat". With a sharp turn we were walking towards their outdoor patio and large glass doors.
While the outside was growing crowded, the inside was practically empty except for another couple and the many employees busying themselves with their stations. Behind the bar the bartender was vigorously juicing in one of the many large metal hand juicers, while across the way at the raw bar a cook was shuffling seafood about. We were given the option of indoor or outdoor seating, so we opted for indoor near the juicers to escape the increasing heat outside.
In our seats we were handed brunch menus and a bowl of oyster crackers was placed on the table. I suppose this is their version of a bread basket, I’d rather have hot piping sourdough bread if they were going for a seaside feel. Seeing the crackers I thought clam chowder would be good, but there was none on the menu. I guess if you’re pregnant or have an upset stomach, score! Crunch away.
The waitress arrived at our table smiling to get our drink order, offering us either sparkling or flat water. Jenn said water, Kyle chose the $4 Mexican Coke knowing well and good they sell it at the 99cent store for $1. Maybe here it came fresh over the border this morning? I said diet coke, to which I was given a “sorry, we don’t sell diet.” Ok…water then. She wandered off and moments later a busboy brought the drinks. I was surprised to see a fancy bottle of water brought to the table, already opened, and already poured into our glasses. As it turned out the words “flat water” meant a $4 bottle of what probably came from the same place as tap water. Apparently to get “the other water” you need to say “plain ice water.” My bad I suppose for not dining at finer establishments more often.
As for the food I had known what I was ordering before I walked in the door, “The Pug Burger,” so I only vaguely glanced at the menu when the waitress came back. Jenn had a hard time making a decision, but ultimately ordered the special fish and chips, with Kyle upping the ante on the $30 half dungeness crab. Fifteen or so minutes later our decisions were put in front of us.
My “pug” burger was unexpectedly small and large at the same time. For $16 the amount of meat looked sparse atop and English muffin like bun, but with all the extra ingredients it still looked overwhelming. It came open faced with the blue cheese and avocado already falling off the small piece of meat. I had to get to this burger fast for fear it would crumble. I quickly put the top on and the thing was huge. With a very hard push down I managed a bite as juice leaked like a popped balloon out of this skyscraper. Would the burger live up to all the hype that surrounds it? Yes and no.
It did taste good, very good, perhaps even $16 good. The meat was incredibly juicy and certainly high quality. The fries that came with the burger were also plentiful and above average. But the problem with the burger lies in its execution. Earlier I had been debating the added $2 for the additional fried egg. If I had done that there would have been no way to handle this burger other then by cutting things bit by bit with a fork. That is not how a burger is meant to be eaten. Size may not have been such an issue if it was on a more traditional larger bun, and if the meat was pressed not quite so thick. There was also a problem with the blue cheese, which completely overpowered the subtle avocado. I think it would be best to skip the avocado and keep the bacon and cheese to loose a layer that is lost taste wise anyways. I like a messy burger now and again, but I needed a bib just to handle this one.
Around the table Jenn and Kyle had a similar experience dealing with things being small and large at the same time. Jenn enjoyed her fish and chips, remarking it tasted fresh, light, and not at all greasy. But for $16 she wished for more fish to go along with the grandiose amount of chips.
Kyle dish had the prettiest presentation, appearing like a large crab bursting out of large bowl of ice. Unfortunately he picked up the largest shell and there was nothing but ice beneath it. I guess when he ordered a half portion he got the bottom half which was mostly legs. Even so he really enjoyed his meal and was very satisfied with how incredibly flavorful it was.
Walking out we were all content with our decision to detour into “The Hungry Cat” even if it did feel a few dollars overpriced. The burger quelled my craving for meat and I left feeling full, but I don’t think it deserved all the accolades it’s been receiving. It truly is a burger to try once, but I don’t think I need to give it another go anytime soon.
We ate lunch there for the first time last week and our waiter specifically asked" sparkling water, flat water or tap water" so we were able to ask for "free" water. We also had the most amazing limeade with jalapeno syrup for $4 apiece. I wouldn't make it a regular on my lunch rounds but the three of us - my husband, 23 year old son and I all enjoyed what we had: the burger, the lobster roll, the smoked salmon with the poached egg and the fried fish sandwich.
This is exactly how I feel about The Hungry Cat -- delicious, fresh food, but always on the fence about whether it was actually worth the price paid. Those cocktails, though - my wallet never regrets getting a drink there.