It seems as though there is a new burger option on the block every other week, here in Southern California. Someday, all of these burger-restaurateurs will realize that Californians will inevitably compare everything with the In-N-Out Double Double. Needless to say, there’s always room for another good burger, as far as I’m concerned, and Holstein’s Shakes and Buns is here to test the waters.
One of the latest additions to the OC dining scene is Holstein’s Shakes and Buns.
About Holstein’s Shakes and Buns
This establishment has firm roots in the Las Vegas market and decided it was time to penetrate that fickle SoCal restaurant scene with their version of the “better burger”. The “better burger” has evolved from previous trends of “bigger is better”, “outrageous ingredients” and “simple and cheap”. We have now entered “fresh, natural and organic” as the theme of the month. These are key words in the restaurant scene and Holstein’s is taking full advantage of consumers’ need to eat in a healthy manner, even when they are stuffing their faces with a greasy burger.
Upon entry into Holstein’s South Coast Plaza – their Southern California flagship operation, you may be struck by how closely it resembles the former occupant, Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales. It looks like a fresh coat of paint, some pop art and a couple-hundred tap beers were added, but the feeling of vast-openness and stark white leather minimalist design remains. In contrast, their Las Vegas original location (in the Cosmopolitan Hotel), utilizes the pop art at a focal point of dining rooms, adorned with old-school red leather banquette seating and wood tables.
On to the food. We began our experience with the complimentary spiced popcorn, which is a nice touch, or an evil ploy for me to order a signature drink or cold brew. It worked. I ordered a Guinness, my companion “Beers Knees” gin and beer cocktail that was really quite refreshing. Next up, the “’Philly’ Egg Rolls”. I’m always a little leery of anything other than cabbage, carrots and pork stuffed into a won ton skin, and rightly so. This was a greasy mess of onions, steak pieces and sauce. But what is a burger place really about? If you were going to say salads and NY strip steaks, you were wrong, although you can get that here, but the real attraction at Holstein’s Shakes and Buns is organic meats broiled simply with some upgraded toppings.
“The Gold Standard” is a combination of ground sirloin, smoked bacon, tomato confit, aged goat cheddar and arugula that may slightly miss the mark of being the true gold standard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good burger, but I was expecting something spectacular for all the hype…and price ($15.50). Well-toasted brioche bun, perfectly medium patty, nice char on the meat is not all bad. Their selections of burgers, all with witty names like “The Captain Hook” and the “Nom Nom Burger”, are almost-simple with just enough unique toppings (pork chicharrones, tempura avocado, and truffle mayo to name a few) to create some fun combinations. Their “Farmhouse Cobb Salad” is exactly what you might expect from a Cobb – bacon, bleu cheese, avocado and egg.
Maybe my standards are far too high, as I nosh on their perfectly crispy French fries, but sometimes I just want a good burger without all the niche hoopla. Sadly, the service matches the cold interiors, and they have their work cut out for them when trying to fill a very large restaurant in a very busy mall. In the end, Holstein’s is exactly what I expected – another “better burger” concept in a sea of burger concepts. You may get good burger, fries and shake for $40 per person, but inevitably, right or wrong, Holstein’s Shake and Buns will be judged against the classic Double Double and end up losing the value game.