Sensational Sandwich Review
If you’re ever wandering around the historic core of DTLA and suddenly smell the unmistakably seductive smell of bacon, you’re probably within spitting distance of “Skid Row’s Finest”— Meatzilla. Turn the corner from Seventh onto Main and you’ll notice a huge mural of an anthropomorphized burger beating the shit out of the McDonald’s Hamburglar. The Hamburglar’s x-ed out eyeballs pop out of his head cartoonishly. The allegory is unambiguous: Meatzilla is kicking the cushy ass of its monolithic mainstream competitor, the done-to-death archetype of the shitty all-American fast food burger, embodied here by a caricatured villain wearing a red tie. The mural, which takes up the entire right side of the building, is kaleidoscopically bright and weirdly captivating, like a Bubblicious gum wrapper, or like watching Adventure Time high. Its technicolor charisma urges you to forget everything you know about fast food, fancy burgers, and pretentious high-low culinary fusion.
Like Hansel and Gretel following a trail of breadcrumbs, I followed the hedonistic scent of lard right up to an unassuming storefront. The first thing I saw was a plastic A-frame sign sitting just to the right of the entrance. The side facing me read “We Making The Block Smell Good!”. The other, as I mentioned above, said “Skid Row’s Finest”. Weeks later, I still can’t decide which I like better, between the unorthodox grammar choices on side one and the enchantingly oxymoronic pairing of the phrases “Skid Row” and “finest” on side two. I also can’t say for sure if either is meant as a clever joke or earnest advertisement.
I approached the register, which sits behind a bulletproof glass window in a modest indoor space no larger than 35 square feet, 50 if you count the outdoor seating. The menu is home to some delightful sandwich names that hint at Meatzilla’s pop culture savvy and its Asian fusion influence. Menu items include such on-brand gems as the Kevin Bacon, the Yakuza, the Kim Park Lee, the Killa Kam, and the Notorious P.I.G.
I ordered “The Eastern”. What I received was the wet dream of stoners everywhere: an angus chuck patty, Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, tomato, one giant onion ring, and honey barbecue sauce. For the low low price of three dollars (on top of $8.50 for the Eastern itself), I got it “Meatzza style”, meaning my burger was wrapped in a mini-pizza instead of a bun, a flourish usually reserved for dudes on bath salts at 7/11 at four a.m., or butter-sculpting competitors at the county fair.
But there was nothing here to suggest the cracked-out desperation of aging, lamp-heated gas station pizza or cheap carnival fare. Quite the opposite. The ingredients were super fresh and high quality, and each was cooked to perfection. No part of this burger was a throwaway. The bacon in particular was cooked just until it curled at the fatty edges, but not to the point of crunchiness, and was so good I almost teared up with joy. The steak was tender and juicy. The tomato had obviously been sliced seconds before the sandwich reached my hands in its little paper boat. The one giant onion ring served as a fatter alternative to lettuce that added a refreshing crunch. The only drawback to this sandwich, other than an impending coronary, is that its many savory components, while great in their own rite, compete with one another in flavor and end up as an undistinguishable (but delicious) salty mass. Finally, the piece de resistance, the pizza bun, was a pleasant surprise. I was expecting an underwhelming and half-assed mini microwavable pizza— one that showcased just enough effort to deliver on the food hybrid gimmick. But instead I got a fresh, cheesy, well-baked little pepperoni pizza with a cute and canny garnish of fresh cilantro, which added a nice note of freshness and a clever pop of color.
Like a college girl after a creepy Tinder date, I spent the better part of that evening recovering physically and mentally. From the burger. All in all, Meatzilla serves up some serious food-borne illness, in that its burgers are some of the illest in LA. The vibe is both macho and modest, and Meatzilla pulls off this unusual combination with its charm and youthful edge. Sitting on a tiny red stool eating my frankensandwich and zoning out at the mural again, I imagine the Wendy’s girl and the Jack in the Box guy sweating with fear as Meatzilla points and asks, “which one of you fuckers is next?”
Sandwich Babe Breakdown:
Bread texture : 4/5 (Because it’s a pizza)
Bread flavor: 4.5/5
Overall texture: 4.5/5
Overall flavor: 4/5
First Bite Factor: 4/5
Gotta Keep Coming Back factor: 3/5