Tuesday, July 21, 2009
The Oinkster in Eagle Rock
What is the point of life? Is it to live forever with Vulcan restraint, limiting caloric intake, surviving on water, celery sticks, and tempeh? Or is it to revel in carnal indulgence? To have animal juices and fats dripping down your chin?
These are the questions posed by The Oinkster. The Oinkster has, in the popular consciousness of L.A., become a type of synecdoche for Eagle Rock. It sort of sums up the Zeitgeist of the place neatly: an old building revamped, selling sort of old-time food that's now a little pricier and souped-up, with a "hip" ironic name, and t-shirts that say OINKSTER in the format of the old Run-DMC logo. The Oinkster proclaims on its site that it is an "[i]nnovative and affordable, stylish and fun" place, that "aims to be Los Angeles’ antidote to both, expensive gourmet meals and their cheap fast food counterparts," from its location "on Eagle Rock’s newly hip Colorado Boulevard . . . ."
The Oinkster is probably the only restaurant in the neighborhood that one could call sexy. But it's not sexy because of the decor, the location, or any of that. Rather, it's the attitude of the place.
In an age of eco-conscious veganism, food allergies, gluten intolerance, "heart-healthy" diets, Lipitor, etc., The Oinkster is an orgiastic celebration of our irresponsible, bestial side, with its menu of pastrami, pulled pork, burgers, rotisserie chicken, Belgian fries (called the best fries in the city by Jonathan Gold), aioli mayo, and cupcakes.
It's notable that The Oinkster, despite its name, is invariably populated by many young, svelte people who don't appear to be headed for coronary thrombosis anytime soon. In fact, those eating at The Oinkster seem to often be involved in the type of counterintuitive Zahavian handicap signalling of genetic fitness involved in smoking cigarettes, where one displays one's superior fitness by purposefully engaging in dangerous or unhealthy activities: "From lion-hunting Masai warriors to cigarette-smoking, drag-racing American teenagers, people (often young) perform risky acts to prove that they are so fit or skilled that they can afford to be daring." (MIT Media Lab.) That's probably what creates the sexiness.
As my friend Colonel Mortimer noted elsewhere, my general abstinence from eating mammals hamstrings me a bit in offering a full review of The Oinkster. However, I can attest to the magnificence of the Belgian fries, which have a crisp outer shell inside of which the puffy lightness of the fry is preserved, the moist and juicy rotisserie chicken, the wonderful microbrews on tap and available by the bottle (with great specials and happy hours), the fabulous red cabbage slaw and beet salad, and the delicious cupcakes. And I have had a guilty bite or two of Oinkster pastrami and burgers from Mrs. Octopus' plate: they are pretty awesome, and probably worth the artery-narrowing. The Oinkster features an array of delicious "homemade" condiments: they've got Homemade Ketchup, Chipotle Ketchup, Roasted Garlic Aioli, Ancho-Lime Mayonnaise, Dijon Mustard, and Dijon-Horseradish Mayonnaise.
There are two flat screen TVs at either end of the inside seating area, usually showing sports. There's a nice outdoor patio. The building, which has a red, high-peaked, HoJo-style roof, used to be inhabited by something called Jim's Burgers. The Oinkster's "summer hours" are Mon.-Thurs. 11 to 11, Fri.-Sat. 11 to midnight, and Sunday 11 to 10.