One definition of “stout” (n): a strong, very dark beer or ale. Another definition (adj.): thickset or corpulent (as in food bloggers). Both definitions find their uses at the aptly named Stout Burgers & Beers, which focuses on pairing great beers with hearty, well-executed pub food. Friends have bandied it about as a contender for the crown of the city’s best burger, and we’ve been a few times.
Beer-wise, Stout finds itself in very good company tucked away in a Hollywood plaza with Big Wang’s and District 13, both of which we visited on a beer crawl earlier this year. Stout is a bit more refined, décor-wise, than its neighbors, though – with its clean lines and dark wood, it nails the upscale pub vibe. A highlight? The massive bar, where you can sit comfortably and sip one of the 30+ craft beefs on tap.
The first thing you should do when you sit down (after getting a beer or two, of course)? Order a plate of the sweet potato fries. The fries are really top-notch, one of the best items at Stout. In fact, Stout’s sides are across the board really solid, and very dangerous – even when stuffed, it’s hard to stop shoveling sweet potato fries into your mouth (see definition #2 above).
The pretzels (not on the menu, but you can ask for them) here are very good, if you can get to them right when they hit the table: hot, doughy, and nicely seasoned, they serve as a great medium for conveying your choice of Stout’s special sauces (lemon basil aioli, Thousand Island, chipotle, tzatziki, horseradish, and chipotle ketchup). The pretzels lose their appeal with each cooling second, so the best bet is to wolf them down immediately.
The onion rings are probably my favorite things here. Huge, with an awesomely crunchy and flavorful batter, I could eat a basket or two myself (again, see definition #2).
But it’s not called Stout Sides – no, Stout’s main selling point is its burgers (and beers), which hold up pretty decently in L.A.’s cutthroat arena of gourmet burgers and craft beers. Showing its commitment to beer pairing, each burger on the menu is listed with a suggested beer type, as well as an explanation for why that particular quaff goes well with that burger.
On a recent trip, we sampled three of Stout’s 6 beef offerings (Stout also has two chicken burgers and two veggie burgers available). First up, of course, is the Stout burger (below), a messy explosion of flavor which loads up its medium rare house-ground beef patty with blue cheese, Emmi gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes. With this burger, it’s a little hard to comment on the quality of the meat itself, since the rest of the elements (each very good on its own) sort of overwhelm the beef. With this many things packed in, Stout’s sturdy, yet tasty brioche is a great bun choice, and in good proportion to the rest of the ingredients.
In contrast, the Six-Weeker combines brie, fig jam, argula and caramelized onions for a more restrained, and in my opinion, more tasty option. Here, you could actually taste and appreciate the nice juicy beef blend. While the meat was a little underseasoned on its own, it worked well with the sweetness of the fig jam and onions, and the richness of the brie.
The Imperialist, with its aged cheddar, ketchup, mustard relish and roasted tomatoes is even more strictly edited. The ingredients serve to highlight and enhance the beef, rather than to ride rough-shod over it – and at an establishment that puts as much focus on its meat as Stout does, that’s a smart way to go.
While maybe not at the very top of our list as far as gourmet burgers go, Stout serves up some damned solid fare, and affordable at that (each beef burger is $10, which is pretty reasonable in this town). And we applaud any place that expresses a passion for pairing craft beer with food. The times we’ve visited Stout, we’ve left with our bellies stretched to the busting point, well on our way to being listed in the dictionary under “stout” definition #2.