The menu at ShnitzBurGer is laden with grilled meat patties, each weighing in at half a pound.
Sometimes, a DJ can be like a chef, spinning hits from bands whose names sound like they should be on a grocery list, not the Billboard Top 40: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Eyed Peas, the Cranberries, Cream, Cake.
And sometimes, as in the case of Moti Eliyahu at ShnitzBurGer in Valley Village, a chef is like a DJ, ready and able to take requests. How else can you explain the restaurant’s namesake creation, the Shnitzburger?
“People,” Eliyahu said, pausing with a sort of shrug, “sometimes make suggestions.”
Ones like: We love your burgers, we love your shnitzel, so, can we have them together?
The result is a half-pound burger paired with a gigantic piece of crunchy chicken, stacked together inside a hefty bun. It is not for the small-mouthed or faint of heart (although for some of us, its contents might last several meals).
ShnitzBurGer — written with those extra capital letters because, well, it looks cooler that way — has an ever-changing menu, partly because of customer feedback and partly as a result of Eliyahu’s love of remixes. That’s also the story behind his shawarma burger.
“I just came up with it a few days ago,” he told me recently, wearing a purple shirt, jeans and a black kippah. “So we’ll put it on the next menu.”
Nevermind that the concept results in a messy treat or, given that it has no singular patty, it may not even technically qualify as a burger. What matters is it’s full of succulent, flavorful meat that seems to melt into a pile of hummus, tahini and Israeli salad.
The kosher restaurant on Burbank Boulevard near Whitsett Avenue reopened earlier this year after being closed for a month for extensive renovations.
“It was bad before,” said Eliyahu, 40. “Before, people liked the food, but not hanging out.”
Now, the décor includes three flat-screen TVs tuned to different sports networks stationed above a bar where patrons can eat. A handful of cushy booths, flanked by tall mirrors, fill the rest of the small, narrow room.
It’s been a long and winding road here for Eliyahu, who was no stranger to the kitchen when he arrived in the United States about a decade ago. His passion for cooking started at home.
“Since I was a kid … I always loved it,” he said.
A native of Migdal HaEmek in northern Israel, Eliyahu went to culinary school in his homeland and had his own business there for seven years, serving sandwiches, coffee, ice cream and more. When he came to the United States originally, it was only supposed to be for a visit.
“I just came for a trip to see what’s going on.”
Eliyahu liked what he saw, which included an ad for a chef at Aroma Bakery & Café in Encino. After spending almost four years working there, he became a serial restaurant hopper — helping to start eateries in Los Angeles and Agoura Hills, only to watch them close shortly after he left.
“Somehow, every place that I start and I leave, it takes [only] a year to close,” he said.
Two years ago, Eliyahu found his way to this stretch of Burbank Boulevard and started two adjacent kosher restaurants, one meat (ShnitzBurGer) and one dairy (Café Souffle). Quickly, though, the work of running both proved too much, and he sold the latter.
The menu at ShnitzBurGer is laden with grilled meat patties, each weighing in at half a pound. (A new menu is introducing one-third pound versions.) There’s one for every type of taste: salmon burger, turkey burger, teriyaki burger, pastrami burger, even a burger made from kebab meat.
The guacamole burger sits atop a mountain of chunky avocado, tomatoes and onions, and the incredibly juicy lamb burger — on which the grill stripes are clearly visible — is made with hand-chopped meat, never ground.
For the record (and for any customers who may not live and breathe burgers), the restaurant also offers other main courses: salad, pesto schnitzel, Syrian kebabs and a variety of sandwiches.
ShnitzBurGer is open — and taking requests — on weekdays, except Friday, until 10 p.m. Beginning after Passover, it will be open until 3 p.m. on Fridays. Closed on Shabbat.
Main Photo: Guacamole burger / Photos by Lynn Pelkey
ShnitzBurGer / 12514 Burbank Blvd. / Valley Village / (818) 462-5498 / shnitzburger.com