Earlier this year, we headed to The Usual to enjoy regional hamburgers created by Filipino, Chef Alvin Cailan who is known for LA's Eggslut. The Usual opened last year and is his canvas to showcase his Filipino inspired approach to American comfort food. Recently, he launched Burger Happy Hour where guests can enjoy 6 different types of burgers after 10pm as well as a daily rotating "Burger of the Day" where he comes up with new creations every day (yes 365 new burgers this year). He also just launched a $5 lunch burger.
On our initial visit, we watched the 3rd season of Complex Magazine's The Burger Show where he showcases regionality through one of America's favorite foods - hamburgers alongside a number of celebrities. In this month's The Art of the Snack, we look at comfort food as it applies to what we like to eat in the fall as the weather begins to shift to cool temperatures and sweater weather.
We enjoyed eating there during his premier and took some time to find out about his signature dishes, the importance of pairing wines with them - which are done by Sommelier and his brother, Anthony and the importance of seasonality.
ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us about your culinary background and restaurants you came through prior to opening The Usual.
CHEF AC: I grew up in LA, and attended the Oregon Culinary Institute. I then worked at spots like Olympic Provisions, Bouchon, French Laundry, and more, before opening Eggslut and Amboy, a Filipino fast-casual restaurant in Chinatown. I then moved to NYC to open The Usual!
AM: When did The Usual launch and what one can expect when you’re coming into dine there. grants. It’s a family run business - my brother is the sommelier, my girlfriend is the manager and I’m in the kitchen with my team that has been cooking with me for years. It’s the neighborhood spot with great food and even better drinks.
CHEF AC: The Usual opened in June 2018 and is my dream restaurant, American comfort food cooked by children of immigrants. It’s a family run business - my brother is the sommelier, my girlfriend is the manager and I’m in the kitchen with my team that has been cooking with me for years. It’s the neighborhood spot with great food and even better drinks.
AM: We went to The Usual for the launch of your latest season of The Burger Show and had a pretty epic burger – why are burgers such an integral part within the culinary world to you?
CHEF AC: Burgers are important to me, it was the first dish I was a connoisseur of. I think many people can relate and as my career evolves I’ve come to find joy making burgers.
AM: How would you describe the vibe and menu of The Usual?
CHEF AC: The Usual has a neighborhood vibe – it’s somewhere you can come every night for a burger and glass of wine, or come once in a while for a fancy occasion. It’s fun, lively, warm and welcoming.
AM: What are 3 signature dishes that we should eat when coming to The Usual?
CHEF AC: Of course, the Usual Burger and the Fried Chicken. But the sleepers are our seasonal dishes, we serve peak season fruits and vegetables.
AM: There is an extensive wine list offered at The Usual – what are 3 that are perfect to pair with our next meal there?
ANTHONY CAILAN: I would suggest:
2017 Methode Sauvage Chenin Blanc, San Benito County, CA - Textural and refreshing white made by Chad Hinds in Richmond, CA. Perfect middle ground white wine to work with a vast majority of the dishes on the menu.
2018 Alfredo Maestro Rosado "Amanda," Castilla y Leon, ES - Darker, more fleshy rosé from Spain made by one of the great natural wine producers in the country. Floral and dry that works with our richer dishes on the menu.
2018 Arianna Occhipinti "SP68," Sicily, IT - The darling of natural wine in Sicily, Arianna is making some of the most sought after wines in the world. This blend of Frappato and Nero d'Avola is perfect with our Ham and Cheese or Usual Burger.
AM: Do you change the menu based on seasonality?
CHEF AC: We always have seasonal menu items. We have one dish that specifically evolves with the seasons - our “Kung Pao Vegetables” is a constantly rotating veggie dish.
AM: Will there be another season of The Burger Show and is there anything that you can tell us about it?
CHEF AC: We are filming season 5 now and it’s bigger and better than ever!
PHOTOS COURTESY | THE USUAL