Caveman Kitchen caught my eye while driving south on Vermont Avenue from the Mid-Wilshire district. The name immediately conjured up images of hunks of meat cooking over open flame accompanied by the grunting sounds of Tim Allen’s “Men are Pigs” stand-up routine from the late 1980s. The subtitle on the marquee read “fine burgers” – seemingly a contradiction in terms with the restaurant’s name. How can something be uncivilized yet refined? Primitive yet of high quality? I went inside and asked.
Keeping in tradition with the typical troglodyte, Caveman Kitchen does not have a walk-in freezer, opting to instead maintain a small refrigeration unit and use only fresh ingredients. The beef patties are hand-formed each morning and are of a coarser grind and looser pack. The fries are hand-cut each day. The burger menu is on the smaller side to ensure fresh ingredients and lists six burgers on offer. There are also two specials, the Chorizo Burger and the Jalapeño Classic Burger. What makes the jalapeño burger “classic” is that the patty is griddled rather than charbroiled like all of the other burgers on the menu.
The burger specials are not listed on the main menu but rather are displayed in photocopies posted around the restaurant. I unfortunately did not see them prior to placing my order, otherwise I would have gone with the Jalapeño Classic Burger rather than my customary choice: the bacon cheeseburger ($4.95, $6.55 with fries).
I turned from the counter to the large dining area, which had more tables than there are parking spots outside. The interior was decorated using an imperfect definition of caveman. One part of the restaurant was Polynesian themed with bamboo curtains and tiki masks, while another part featured a large mural of cartoon cavemen holding steaks while barbecuing a bird on a spit.
However confused the interior decoration may have been, there was no uncertainty about my burger. The char-crusted half-pound seasoned patty sat atop a mound of vibrant veggies with a sticky slice of American cheese oozing over the side. The patty was cooked through but still juicy. The burger was simply adorned with mayonnaise, crisp green lettuce leaves, a firm red tomato slab, and bold red onion slices. The red onion was so powerful that I had to remove it and eat it separately as it overpowered the rest of the burger – even the savory bacon. The lightly griddled sesame seed bun was straightforward grocery store fare but didn’t detract from the beef. It was nice to have a burger in Los Angeles that didn’t feature Thousand Island dressing as the default condiment.
The friendly staff served up a fresh and flavorful burger at a great price. Simple but not primitive.
RATING: 4 out of 5
2215 South Vermont Avenue
Los Angeles, California 90007
Hours: Monday – Friday 11:00AM – 10:00PM
Saturday – Sunday 11:00AM – 9:00PM