"What the hell is L&L Hawaiian Barbecue?" is probably a thought going through your head right now, as it passed through mine when I saw a full-page ad for it amid the usual junk-mail circulars. Well, it is a chain that exists, though where I don't exactly know, save for the empty one in a strip-mall on the seedier side of town that I found myself at, anxious to use the one-dollar-off coupon for a ramen burger.
New enough to be a trailblazing trend in fast food while just old enough not to be the toast of the food-hipster town, the ramen burger is a thing I've been hearing about for a while. Could it be the next big thing?
I'm thinking, "no."
Now, I know ramen quite well. I know the cheap kind, because I try to eat on a budget, and I know the good kind that comes in huge bowls with a soft-boiled egg and chili paste and black garlic oil and chunks of fatty pork that melt on your tongue. I like all kinds.
Except now I know I don't really like it pretending to be a burger bun.
In every picture you see of a ramen burger, it looks like the noodles have been compressed into a crispy patty that you could theoretically pick up and eat. Not so here. There's a slight veneer of crispiness, but touch it, like, at all, and the whole thing starts to fall apart.
Inside is a burger patty, a slice of processed cheese, leaf of lettuce, slice of tomato, raw onion (white, interestingly enough, and not red as the fad tends to be nowadays), and fruity Hawaiian barbecue sauce that's basically just soy sauce watered down with a lot of sugar. The ramen dwarfs all of it, and is dripping in grease from being fried, so the overall effect is like if you made a huge thing of ramen yourself at a home, with a flavor packet labeled "charred bits left in the pan after you cook a burger."
Seriously, look how greasy that piece of lettuce is by the end. Now go back to the top picture and look how it started out.
I expected the fries to be the weak link, but they were actually the best part. Perhaps this is because both ketchup and sriracha were available for dipping, but I'll take small pleasures where I can get 'em. All the ramen bits that fall off among them as you eat kinda keeps them from properly being finger food, however.
By the end, I actually pulled out what was the left of the burger to see if it had much of a taste by itself. It did, and it wasn't good. It reminded me of the sour, oniony fast food ones I used to have in Ireland that so put me off it took years for my dad ton get me to eat a good burger again.
Normally, I love things that are fatty, carb-heavy and fill the plate. There's a first time for everything.