For a while now I have been trying to make my way to Hole in the Wall Burger Joint. Hidden behind Winchell’s Donuts in West LA, it is certainly not an easy place to find, which I suppose is how it got its name, but also likely contributed to my taking so long to get there. Hole in the Wall is essentially the same style as The Counter, where you make your own burger. Upon entering the restaurants, there is a small table with slips of your options, along with a stand showing their specialty burger of the day. There are also a ton of signs telling you that the place doesn’t take credit card. They have an ATM if you need one, but it’s best to pick up money beforehand to avoid paying those extra charges.
While Hole in the Wall doesn’t have as many burger options as places like the counter, they do have some of their own special twists. The most important of these is their pretzel bun. But they also mix things up by offering home made toppings like their own ketchup and ranch dressing. After looking at my options for a brief while, I finally made up my mind. The price began at $7.95 and I started with the 8 oz. beef patty on top of the obligatory pretzel bun. Because it seemed pretty cool, I went with their homemade ranch with that, pepper jack cheese and then got a couple of their $1.00 extras, which were apple wood bacon and a fried egg. To finish it all off I ordered their kennebec fries.
While waiting, I checked out their two ketchup pumps. One contained their homemade stuff and the other had good old fashioned (presumably Heinz) ketchup. The pumps seem to brag about their ketchup by listing the ingredients. According to the lists, Hole in the Wall ketchup contains fresh tomatoes, fresh garlic, cider vinegar, a little sugar, salt and pepper, spices and love. They call it “The Way Ketchup was Meant to be Made.” The other pump lists tomato concentrate, distilled vinegar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt and spices, onion powder, natural flavoring? and no love at all. I pumped out both of the ketchups and gave them a quick fork taste test. I really wanted to like Hole in the Wall’s, but based on this taste test, Heinz tasted better. But since ketchup isn’t meant to be eaten alone, I reserved my final judgment for actual food.
Finally, the burgers were ready and came in big brown bags with the order slips attached. There was a lot of paper involved, so I hoped there was recycling involved here, but at this point I was more concerned with how the burger tasted. I unwrapped the big guy and found a juicy burger and a shiny pretzel bun. As soon as I bit in, the juices began flowing. Surprisingly, all of these juices were coming from the burger and none coming from the fried egg. Even though it was supposedly cooked medium, there was very little pink inside, so this juice was even more surprising. The pretzel bun was a perfect companion to this juicy burger because in any other situation it may have been too dry, but the juicy burger balanced it out.
But back to the egg, I have to say I was a little disappointed. Although I consider a fried egg the most underrated burger topping, the key to it is that it has to be runny. If the egg isn’t runny, it just adds additional dryness to the burger and throws things off. This was definitely an issue, but one that was fortunately made up for by the other toppings. The bacon was perfectly crisp and the ranch was a great addition. As much as I liked the ranch, I was also glad they didn’t put too much of it on the burger, because I could always add more (they also had ranch pumps), but it would have been tough to remove the surplus.
I also tested the Hole in the Wall ketchup on the burger and found it tasted quite good. I don’t know that it would have been good on all of their burgers, but it happened to work with my unique combination. As for the fries, though, the Hole in the Wall ketchup failed. So in the end, although it was a nice try, the home made ketchup just lacked the versatility that regular ketchup offers. The fries, aside from the ketchup, were pretty delicious and a worthy companion to the burger.
All in all, Hole in the Wall was kind of a series of ups and downs. The pretzel bun was amazing, while the fried egg was disappointing. The juicy burger gave the bun great balance, while the home made ketchup couldn’t handle the fries. Overall, though, the uniqueness of Hole in the Wall Burger Joint makes it a place worth visiting. It’s not the best burger I’ve ever had or even the best custom burger I’ve ever had, but it is still a burger worth eating.