Gettin’ Flatter with O.C.’s Hammer Burger
A decade ago, I used to keep a foldable table and chair in my trunk, all because of food trucks. They’d post a menu and location on their 40K+ Instagram, and just like that, some random parking lot would blow up. There would be four or five trucks lined up tight, each with a generator humming in the back, and a line of about thirty people deep in the front. When those same trucks would hit a favorite brewery, you know it was on!
These days, the formula has changed. If I happen to go to a brewery and if there’s a food truck, I might eat their food.
That is, until Hammer Burger.
I’ll never forget my first Hammer Burger… knee-deep in the pre-vax pandemic, I ordered via their website (which was booked by time slot and would quickly sell out), drove to some random cul-de-sac in Orange, and picked up a bag with my name on it next to a jug of hand sanitizer. The smell was so incredible that I had to pull over after a few blocks to investigate. With my car AC blasting, I unpackaged the tasty meat morsel and shoved it into my mouth. One bite? Nah, I’m finishing this whole damn thing right here next to the freeway onramp.
Now, I’ve had a lot of smashies, but this burger is different. First off, a Hammer Burger has a definite front, back, and sides as it’s served with a sort of an underbite, where the thin cracker-like patties hang substantially out the front, begging to be eaten first. Then, there’s this unctuous yet crispy maillard reaction that happens to the beef when it gets that thin that amplifies the beefy flavor. Next is the burger as a whole with the crunch of the pickle and zesty finish of the sauce. Wow. It’s just so burgery.
“What makes the great burger? “Balance. The patty goes with the cheese, the cheese goes with the pickles, the pickles go with the sauce, and the bun holds it all together,” notes co-owner Curt Scheetz.
By definition, a smash burger is simply a ball of beef that’s pressed into a flat surface. Owner Kevin Hammonds notes, “we’re actually moving away from the term “smash” and going to the term flat…which is funny because it’s based on a bad review we got where someone said the burger was way too flat.”
Curt, who does most of the burger pressing, notes, “it’s more than just pressure, it’s a movement,” while gesturing his hands like he’s mortaring a brick wall. “Each beef ball is like a snowflake and wants to smash its own way…as you smash, you have to read it and go the way it wants to go,” Curt continues. “To get the perfect thickness, we have to gauge the temperature of the grill, the temp of the smasher, and the temp of the fridge nearby. You have to have a hot clean skillet, and a cold hammer, otherwise the beef sticks,” adds Kevin.
When it comes to the rest of the ingredients, “everything is made on the truck…well, except the buns, mayo, and mustard,” says Kevin. The house pickles, burger sauce, and array of fry dipping sauces are very well thought out and make the burger and fry combo a no-brainer. The garlic sauce, which Kevin calls “Hammer frosting” is excellent for dipping the burger in.
Both Kevin and Curt are no strangers to beer; Kevin comes from being a brewer at the Bruery as well as Gunwhale Ales, and Curt is a Cicerone who has worked at places like Ballast Point, Gunwhale, and others around Orange County.
The locations Hammer Burger chooses to be at aren’t random by any means. “We choose our brewery friends from North OC in Huntington all the way down to San Juan Capistrano,” says Curt. Both are from the Anaheim/Orange area in north OC, so they like to stick to that area because of gas and time. “It’s really important to create a Bermuda Triangle of locations so people can always find us,” he continued. What’s also unique about the truck is that they’re consistent on some days of the week. Thursdays are always at Bottle Logic, Fridays at Flashpoint Brewing, Saturdays at Radiant Beer Co, and so on.
A new menu is about to drop soon, which will include a plant-based version of the Hammer Burger (Impossible patty, vegan sauce and bun), as well as a new spicy version that includes onions grilled in local Infinity hot sauce.
Find Hammer Burger via their website: hammerburger.com