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May 31, 2011 09:26 AM

I really like A Frame, but I have 2 complaints…

I really like A Frame. Much of the food is super tasty. It’s a place you can just hang at for a few hours, have a few drinks, order some food to start and then order some more later. And the ice cream sandwich of a cinnamon cookie with cherry ice cream is awesome—I dream about it more than I dream about it’s its, which is a pretty big deal.

But I have two complaints about A Frame.

First, some of the dishes are overly salty: the ribs have a nice kick to them, but they are too salty. The chicken salad with corn bread is addictive but again too salty. The clam chowder with all those flavors and herbs is great but same thing. There are 1 or 2 other dishes that are also flavorful but…well you understand. I’m not some anti salt guy. I’ve never complained publicly about other restaurants being too salty but I guess I want these dishes to each be great, instead of too many too saltified…

Okay, complaint number 2: The burger on their new spring menu is really good. I really like it. But as someone who lives and works in South LA/South Central, I was bothered by the way the waiter described the burger. The waiter was a white guy and he kept describing the burger in the following way: “It’s like a Dr. Dre South Central Burger.” My guess is this guy has never been here to have a burger from any of the real spots—master burger, best burger, A1 burger, etc. He came across as some hipster trying to capture what he thinks the hood’s burgers probably taste like. The problem was it wasn’t just this one waiter. I heard another say the same thing. Two of them doing this convinced me that this is how the restaurant is trying to sell/promote their new burger. If the waiter was black or latino, or if Roy Choi himself (who clearly has studied food across the world and across different LA neighborhoods—did you read his quotes in the recent la times article? Pretty heavy) were to describe the burger that way, I’m cool with that, but I hope A Frame will instruct their white, hipster waiters to refrain from those kind of coded race based references. Tell people it’s not your father’s office or umami burger—it’s a greasy, spicy, tasty thing that soaks through the bun in a way that some people will be annoyed by and while others will slurp up. But don’t let your hipster waiters make it sound like they’ve kicked it in Dr. Dre’s favorite burger joint. It makes it more of a caricature than a genuine reference to a food’s roots.

Just to reiterate, I really dig the food—the burger, the chicken, the lamb chops, all the appetizer type things—including the snack mix with beef jerky which I hope makes it back on to the menu at some point. Tasty. Just these two complaints.

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  1. Haha. That's totally racist... and lame anyways. What does Dr. Dre have to do with burgers? Does he even eat burgers?

    Make sure to try their Edward James Almos East LA burrito.

    1 Reply
    1. re: assassin

      It may or may not be lame, but how is it racist? I really think you devalue the term by using it in such a cavalier manner. Sandwiches and food gets named after celb's all the time for no good reason. Dr. Dre is rap icon, popular across all sorts of groups. @ NLK If it really was inspired by 'hood burgers how would you like the 'white hipster' (sounds more bigoted to me than anything the restaurant did) to describe it in a meaningful way???

    2. Did you aske him what he meant by that?

      1. I'd bet that the waiters were told to describe the burger that way. Once could be the waiter, twice sounds like policy. And I'm not a fan of hipster waiters.

        A glance at the address had me thinking 103rd and Central, Watts, or close enough. Funny place to find white hipster waiters, But it was Montclair. Oops!

        Assassin, is that Edward James Almos(t)-East LA Burrito is it Olmos? The first way would be a good pun.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Akitist

          That Montclair addy was for a different restaurant and the link has now been removed.

          I believe A Frame is near Culver City.

        2. I agree on the salt issue. Roy can be heavy-handed on the salt at Chego as well. Many of the dishes are layered with different sauces which contain salt as well. I don't think he's doing it to get folks to by more drinks a-la movie theatre popcorn. I think either he just likes the salt, or might be swigging some beers while he's putting together recipes. I don't drink beer while cooking anymore because I get pretty liberal on the seasonings while cooking and swiggin' brew, e.g., IPA. Beer for me has as tendency to mute the salt and some other flavors. Just a half-baked hypothesis.

          I don't see street cred as being a requirement to describing food. I often head out to Compton to pick up a ton of 'que (am I allowed to write 'que?) at Bludso's, and I'm never the only non-African-American there. So I wouldn't discount the notion that your waiter just might have eaten at one of those "South-Central Dr. Dre" burger joints either. And I don't think that being to Texas only twice would disqualify me from saying that Bludso's has some of the best Texas-style 'que I've ever had either.

          As poster AAQjr states, "It may or may not be lame, but how is it racist? I really think you devalue the term by using it in such a cavalier manner." I don't know why "a white guy" talking about a burger using those descriptives should bother you, particularly at a Roy Choi-approved place. The culture Roy and his crew brings to his places is positive, a little street-wise and pan-cultural. I've never had a bad experience with any of the staff here or at Chego. In fact, I've mentioned on other threads how impressed I was at how genuinely nice these folks working at these locations seem to be. I'm Asian, and if the waiter started ching-chonging about furikake kettle corn or the bittersweet tempura, I'd be bothered by this, but they don't and I don't see what you described as being tantamount to this. Sometimes we just need to listen to Sargent Hulka and, "Lighten up, Francis..." To me, it's a non-issue.

          5 Replies
          1. re: bulavinaka

            I like most of the staff at Roy Choi's spots too. And as i said, i really dig the food (although some of A frame's food is over-salted).

            I was speaking more to the way they seemed to be promoting the burger in some kind of race based, characterized way. It would be different, of course, if Dr. Dre is well known to like greasy, spicy burgers. Or if he came to A frame and told folks there that this burger reminds him of his favorite spots. And frankly if Roy Choi had spots in South LA in mind when he designed this burger, that's great. I'm just saying it was off putting to see these waiters promote the burger they way they did. Why not say "try this spicy, greasy burger made with this high quality beef. It's certainly different than Father's office, but i'm damn sure you are gonna like it." And leave the racialized references out of it...

            1. re: nlk

              I personally think beyond Dr. Dre being a racial metaphor. It's more about an attitude, an aura of his energy that I think he pumps out like a bull elephant doused in testosterone. Personally, I think he cuts across race, because he's not heard just in South Central, Compton, or where ever one wants to identify him with. Cars pump his prophecy Westside, Eastside and everything in between. He's been around frickin' forever - N.W.A. 1984? Now he's producing wrap with Skylar Grey in "I need a doctor'? He covers the length and breadth of rap and beyond. Rap and Dr. Dre's roots are from the 'hood - the real 'hood, but he reverbs off all sides of LA. I can't tell you what to think, and what this whole deal emotes to you, but to me, when I hear Dr. Dre, it ain't Micky-D's. Hearing a "white guy" profess the virtues of a burger that exudes Dr. Dre is pointing at some serious burger$#!+ that your garden-variety punk-ass hipster has no business even thinking about.

              1. re: bulavinaka

                I respect that analysis, bulavinaka. Thanks for sharing it.
                However, I'd think it's a bit of a stretch to say that the "white guy" waiters professing the virtues of the burger are more than likely anything but your garden variety restaurant hipsters. More likely, as i said, I think the tagline or whatever it's called, they are using is a way to sell/promote the burger, and (at least some of) the folks conveying the message in fact probably haven't experienced these types of burgers in South LA. But, i could be wrong.
                i think of it a bit like much of the wait staff at Street, on Highland. They talk about how authentic their food is to the street food of Thailand or India. Most of them haven't been there, which is fine--no one expects them to have been there. it's understood that they are selling something that most of us will never have a chance to eat, and they are glorifying it up.
                But the difference, in this case, of course, is that South LA is a few miles to the west of Culver City. These waiters could easily go to the spots i mentioned in my original post, but most likely, most have not and will not. Yet they are using this as street cred to sell their burger, again, without, mostly likely ever being there.
                I guess there's only one way to find out. Next time one of the waiters references the burger in the way i reported, let's ask them where they have eaten at...
                By the way, have you tried the burger?

                1. re: nlk

                  Good discussion!! Just lurking, I can understand both of your points of view. Good point too, nlk, about the waiters maybe gaining some cred by getting out and trying the real deal hood burgers. Definitely easier than going to Thailand. But there is a larger problem with the waiters bringing in the Dre reference - Dre lives in Calabassas now. Different hood. They need a more up to date racist reference, sounds like. Hey, now that the NY Rep. Weiner news story is front and center, perhaps that burger will leave the menu for some new snarkily named weiner concoction...

                  Now, though, this thread raises 2 issues for me - I haven't been to A-Frame in a few months, which I can easily fix (issue 1) and what does the burger have on it/taste like??

                  12565 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90066

                  1. re: nlk

                    >>I respect that analysis, bulavinaka. Thanks for sharing it.<<

                    Back at ya' nlk...

                    >>I guess there's only one way to find out. Next time one of the waiters references the burger in the way i reported, let's ask them where they have eaten at...<<

                    This is at the crux of your perception on this issue. I haven't tried the burger yet. But regardless of this, does it measure up to your expectations? The onus is on A-Frame because they feel the burger has tapped into the Dre mojo. Is one feeling what the waiter describes regardless of whether or not he's experienced Mom's or that crazy ass burger at Hawkins? I think that's all that matters. If we follow your line of reasoning, why should we cut any slack for Street? Rationalizing the issue by way of distance and maybe unfamiliarity or lack of contact with the culture isn't fair if A-Frame is to be chastised. If you demand street cred, you should also demand global cred.

                    For argument's sake, if Street's waitstaff starts throwing me some line about how authentic their kaya toast is - just like at the hawker center at OUG in KL, Lavender in Singapore, or like Auntie or waipo used to make it back home? Should I take issue with that? Personally, no. My assumption is that regardless of whether that waiter or waitress has or hasn't been to either country, they've painted a sense of authenticity to this humble dish, and that's it - narrators of sorts. For those in the know, expectations are high now, and Street needs to pull through. No insult intended or taken. Just let me close my eyes, take a bite and hope the food is good enough to transcend my expectations, where my tastebuds lead my soul back to that humble flat in Ang Mo Kio...