Yesterday, I did something that even the most loyal burger aficionados might consider a little crazy:
I ate two hamburgers in one day.
So consider this post the ultimate hamburger showdown… North-County Neighborhood Grill vs. Downtown Nightspot… Girl-Next-Door vs. Glamazon…
Hollywood’s vs. Metro.
In my defense, I hadn’t actually expected to eat two burgers in one day. I’d planned to meet a girlfriend at Metro in the evening, but when my work found me in North County and still sans-lunch by 3 p.m. (!!!), I thought about Hollywood’s — a simple eatery with a burger several people had raved to me about — and decided to give it a go.
I’m glad I did.
If you’ve never been, Hollywood’s is a cheerful little bar and grill is located just a hop, skip and a jump from Hollins University … but don’t mistake this for just a college hangout. Stop by at night and you’ll find a mix of families, young adults, and older folks who’ve probably frequented the establishment for its entire 14 years. The place sports wood-paneled walls, low gold light, a cozy bar not far from the kitchen, a glass case full of dessert goodies … and above all, friendly service. The marquee out front announces in bold letters, “WE WANT TO BE YOUR FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOOD RESTAURANT,” and in my experience, that feels about right.
There are just two burgers on the menu — a classic half-pounder with LTM, red onion and a pickle ($9.95), and my own choice, Charlie’s Pimiento Cheese Burger ($11.95), which adds pimiento cheese and bacon to the mix:
This is your classic backyard burger with a distinctive chargrilled taste. It’s substantial without being fussy, and fits in well with the overall casual atmosphere at Hollywood’s. For a midday lunch, it was a perfect choice. By the end of my half-hour there, my server almost felt like a friend, and one of the restaurant’s two local owner/managers, Mark Henderson, dropped by my table to say hello.
I felt like a neighborhood regular, even though you can pin me for a Downtown/Grandin/SoCo gal from a mile away.
Which brings me to my second stop on the daily burger tour: Metro, a Campbell Avenue nightspot with a fancy-pants $18 burger.
For the uninitiated, Metro has a definite downtown vibe. It’s modern without being hipster: sultry low lighting, a slick horseshoe-shaped bar, and a balcony where you can crowd the upstairs bar and listen to a deejay take a crack at the turntables. The menu, meanwhile, is an eclectic mashup of American classics like filet mignon, globally-inspired dishes like the Peruvian-style chicken, and generously portioned samplings of sushi.
I’d been eyeing the Metro burger for awhile, mostly because it’s advertised as Wagyu, which I happen to like a lot, especially if it’s prepared simply and cooked to (true) medium temperature.
It’s good stuff, and hard to find here in the Valley.
Yesterday was the right day to try it. I came with a trusted burger consultant — Annie, my frequent Local-Roots burger date — and we arrived at the bar feeling famished. When our burgers showed up, we were ready to absolutely demolish them:
(Actually I might have been a touch comatose by then … Ha!)
A single bite in, and I knew two things: yes, this was actual Wagyu — it’s buttery-tender in a way that Angus isn’t — and also, this was going to be a seriously messy burger.
Two bites later, and my ultra-juicy sandwich was on my face, my fingers and all over my plate… Which I generally think is a good thing.
This burger has two things going for it: first, it’s topped with a sweet bacon-onion jam that’s balanced nicely by a slather of garlic mayo. Second, the soft, buttery bun doesn’t overwhelm the beef — which is a good thing if your patty is made out of Wagyu.
There’s super-melty American cheese in the mix too, plus lettuce and a few slices of tomato, which honestly might be more of a distraction than an asset in this context. Annie ordered hers without them, and, as they’re the only truly cold items on this sandwich, I might do the same if I ordered again.
So I know what you’re *really* wondering: how do these two burgers stack up side-by-side?
That depends on what you’re in the mood for. On a blustery night in February, when I want to go out in a giant wool sweater, a monstrously fluffy Eskimo hood and jeans, enjoy some seriously welcoming service and affordable good food without having to slip on my stilettos, then I’d probably choose Hollywood’s — it’s the kind of casual-dining option that everybody needs in their back pocket, and the burger is frankly pretty good.
If I want to hit the downtown scene and I’m in the mood for a tender-and-juicy burger that keeps the focus on the meat … well then, Metro *might* just be my place … if I’m also in the mood to spend $18… Which can feel difficult in downtown, where there are so many great options at so many different restaurants and price points.
Will this sandwich top my downtown lineup? Or will it be unseated tomorrow, when I try another downtown luxe-burger that might give this one a run for its money?
Can’t wait to find out!