LA-based Umami Burger was started with the express goal of making a hyper crave-able burger, with "umami" being the thing that makes it as such. "Umami" is the Japanese word for the fifth taste (after sweet, salty, sour, bitter)—think mushrooms, truffles, caramelized onions, roasted anything, etc. 

Scientifically speaking, that taste is what makes one crave a food. Backed by that solid science, Umami Burger has since expanded across the US, and even has an upcoming location in Japan.

As if offering inventive and just plain good burgers wasn't enough, Umami Burger is now exploring new territory. I mean, all this stuff is still in the realm of hip burger joint food, but Umami never settles for just normal burger joint food.

Brussels Sprouts

carrot, pepper
Valentine Bratoff

I never understood why so many people don't like Brussels sprouts. I would understand even less if any of those same people disliked these. Roasted with lardons, carrots, and shallots (and you thought roasted garlic was good) and coated with Umami Burger's truffle glaze, this was one heck of a dish. Big enough to share, too.

Butter Corn

sweet, corn, vegetable, rice, fish, seafood
Valentine Bratoff

Umami's homage to Mexican street corn, elote. Just some seriously good corn elevated by a touch of Umami's Umami Sauce, which imparted nice notes of... umami.

Gochujang and Guava Short Rib Sliders

bread, chocolate, sweet
Valentine Bratoff

Don't let their size fool you. These things pack a whole lot of braise-y short rib-y goodness. The "patty" is actually just short rib formed into the shape of a patty—none of that dollop of short rib on top of a regular burger nonsense here. Atop, cucumber, Thai chili, and a gravy made of the short rib's braising liquid. Easily the best balanced slider I've had. And probably the best overall, come to think of it.

Japanese-Style Wings

Valentine Bratoff

Marinated in soy sauce, sake, mirin, sesame oil, and ginger. Fried in a cornstarch coating (à la karaage), which made for a next-level crisp. Candied orange, Umami's shichimi pepper mix, and Thai chili to finish. Do NOT neglect to get a bit of those toppings in as many bites as possible. This was a really well thought out plate.

Crispy Diablo

salmon, cheese, coleslaw, slaw
Valentine Bratoff

I hate to use the word awesome again, but... this was awesome. The perfectly fried chicken coated in Umami's beloved Diablo sauce (long available for fry-dipping) was arguably the centerpiece, but the whole experience of this sandwich was excellent. 

Pickle, mayo, and spicy coleslaw (the spice layered and worked with the Diablo sauce) were all vital components in this sandwich, which comprises an almost economical amount of toppings compared to Umami's usual fare.

Carnitas Burger (Anaheim exclusive)

pork, bacon
Valentine Bratoff

I'm usually skeptical of burgers with non-cow meats on them (aside from bacon obvi). This one proved me wrong. And this burger brings us back to Umami's usual novel of toppings: roughly equal proportions of carnitas and patty, roasted garlic aioli, fresh salsa, Cali Cheese (house-made American-style beer cheese), crushed avocado, romaine, tomatillo sauce, tortilla chip strips, and cilantro. Whew. Yet the bun wasn't anywhere near overburdened. This tasted basically like a torta with cheese and a burger patty, which is indeed as good as it sounds.

Umami Burger's core food is still totally solid, of course. Tempura onion rings, excellent fries, well-chosen craft beers, and distinctive condiments are all surefire hits with any first timers, of which there still are some. Oddly enough, as much as I love the wonderful Manly Burger and flagship Umami Burger, I'm already quite tempted by that Crispy Diablo just thinking about it.