Highland Park’s stretch of York Boulevard is a haven for vegans, but Burgerlords, one of the neighborhood’s top meat- and dairy-free vendors, has decided to focus on another area. Last night, the burger chain shuttered its walk-up window attached to the Hi Hat, where it’d been slinging a very In-n-Out-inspired meat and non-meat menu since early 2017. While the decision means late-night show-goers can no longer find vegan Animal-Style–like fries, at least they’ll still exist at Burgerlords’ Chinatown outpost.
“After much debate, we’ve decided to move on and focus our energy on new opportunities,” the Burgerlords team posted to multiple platforms yesterday. “We’re very grateful to everyone who has come through during our time here and especially to the Hi Hat and Belle’s Bagels for sharing this space with us. Thank you and we’ll see you in Chinatown!”
According to co-owner Fred Guerrero, it all came down to space. The Highland Park kitchen, which Burgerlords shared with Belle's Bagels, was beginning to prove logistically difficult for both operations as each grew in popularity. "That, and we're known for our vegan burgers, because we make them from scratch, and we couldn't make them there," he adds. "So Chinatown was producing everything, and [we were] bringing it over and then selling out all the time. It's just not how we want to operate; we want to be able to provide the best experience for customers and we weren't able to do that in Highland Park."
In addition to the closure, there’ve been a number of changes afoot. Jesse Furman, formerly of fried-chicken truck Free Range LA, recently took over the kitchen as head chef and just helped the restaurant roll out a few new vegan items. As of last week, you can now find fried tofu nuggets on the Chinatown location’s permanent menu—these breaded and deep-fried morsels, served with “fancy ranch,” take two to three days of prep and were two and a half years in the making—as well as vegan shakes. The latter arrive in four varieties: vanilla, dark chocolate, Stumptown coffee and a rotating seasonal flavor (currently a blueberry Nutter Butter); fortunately, along with the rest of the menu, you can find them in Chinatown every day of the week.
Beyond that, the team's been busy with a Burgerlords retail line of shirts, fanny packs, aprons and even toothbrushes, which can be found in upscale chain Ron Herman in Japan. Looking ahead, they've got plans for a new location, but they're in no hurry.
"We've been looking for about six months, and we were hoping that we could say, 'we're moving to this place,' but we want to take our time," Guerrero says. "We want to be cautious and find the right spot. And we didn't find it [yet], but closing Highland Park allows us to focus on what we have now and find that right spot."
Burgerlords is still located in Chinatown at 943 N Broadway.
This story has been updated with response from Fred Guerrero.