The combination of doughnuts and burgers in one restaurant may sound odd, but it has its own logic. You serve doughnuts in the morning, and then when the doughnut rush passes, you switch to burgers. Grandline isn't the only place to exemplify this synergy. It is, however, probably the only place in its field to serve hamburgers that are made from Angus beef and formed by hand.
The hand-formed, homemade part is easy to spot. The seasoning is special, too: Grandline adds a salt-and-pepper mix that gives the meat loads of flavor and cooks it on a flat-top grill so that it stays juicy while it gets a moderately crusty edge. It's also a good thickness: not so thick than it's impossible to eat, and with a good proportion of browned edge to every bite, but not so thin that it gets lost in the proposition.
The patties weigh a half-pound, which makes them rather large. Light eaters may not finish a burger in a single sitting, especially given the array of toppings. There are 16 burger options on the menu, from the plain burger ($4.25) with the standard "PLOT" -- pickles, lettuce, onion and tomato -- to the ridiculously huge Double Giant Burger ($7.95), with two half-pound patties topped with onions, mushrooms, jalapeños, bell peppers, and American and provolone cheeses. In between, there are burgers topped with bacon ($5.50) guacamole ($5.50), chili ($5.50) and even a Hawaiian ($6.25) topped with pineapple and a slice of ham.
The signature Grandline ($5.75) reached a balance between generous without crossing over to gluttonous. The half-pound burger came with sauteed onions, mushrooms, American and provolone cheeses, and thick slices of jalapeño, pickled to dim the heat but not dull it completely. It was a well-composed burger with enough stuff to create complexity, but not so much stuff that you couldn't eat the thing. Lettuce was iceberg, thick and crunchy. Mushrooms were fresh, and sauteed. Onions were cut into bite-size slices, sauteed until soft but not limp. The combination of fresh lettuce and tomato versus the sauteed mushrooms and onions was bright and refreshing, and the jalapeños added just the right kick.
Among the sides, we got sucked in by the onion rings ($1.99 small, $3.50 large), which were medium-size and crunchy; and the unusual tater tots ($2.99), unusual because they came in a sweet potato version that was very good, with little shreds of sweet potato and a nice crust. But really, the thing to get is the french fries ($1.50 small, $2.79 large) -- golden brown with skins still on.
Doughnuts with crazy toppings have become a national trend. But Grandline's doughnuts were old school, with standard toppings such as chopped peanuts or coconut flakes. It makes the solid "cake" and the airy "raised" ones. Both were fine with a cup of coffee -- Grandline uses beans from Gavina, a roaster in Los Angeles.
Lest you think Grandline has only burgers and doughnuts, it also offers sausage rolls and Philly sandwiches, though neither category shines. The sausage rolls are 89 cents for a small and $1.99 for a large. The Philly ($5.75) is tasty but its ingredients stray from the authentic rendition. It starts with thinly shaved beef -- "like Steak-umms," quipped my friend -- and then diced onion and green bell pepper, held together by the melted cheese and a touch of mayonnaise. Egads!
The Philly's saving grace was its hoagie roll, which Grandline owner Jin Jeon gets specially made by a division of Bimbo. No ordinary supermarket roll, it had a crispy shell and some body to the crumb. The hamburger buns were also very good, with high domes and some -- but not too much -- air to keep the bun aloft.
The restaurant is pleasant and spotlessly clean, with glossy tables, a tile floor and berry-scented candles in the ladies' room. You order at the counter and the accommodating staff delivers your food; it's small and personal enough that they don't require numbers or beepers to find you.