Alvin Cailan, the chef behind Eggslut, has a new burger and butcher shop in Chinatown
Alvin Cailan has returned to L.A. — this time, it seems, for good.
The former Eggslut chef opened a new burger counter and butcher shop in Chinatown called Amboy Quality Meats & Delicious Burgers in late May.
The 12-seat dinerette, located inside the old Chego space at Far East Plaza, is something of a homecoming for the Pico Rivera native, who originally opened Amboy (Tagalog slang for an American-born Filipino) as a takeout window serving Filipino lunch plates in 2016.
The following year, Cailan closed Amboy and relocated to New York City. He would later open the Usual, a comfort food restaurant in the Nolitan Hotel that lasted two years before closing in March.
“Running a restaurant in New York is one of those bucket list situations, it’s a special opportunity,” he said. “But Manhattan rent is nuts. It’s tasting menus or health food chains. There’s no middle.”
After moving back to L.A. in January, Cailan and his girlfriend Angela Gomez planned to resurrect Amboy as a burger restaurant in March before the COVID-19 pandemic complicated matters. Like everyone else, though, they found a way to pivot: Cailan adapted the space in what he calls “a micro steak boutique,” stocking the shop’s glass cooler with prime Angus and American Wagyu beef and other butcher shop staples.
“I have access to all this premium beef from small purveyors, so the idea was to use those relationships and help people cook at home,” he said. “There’s no reason people should be paying $12 a pound at the supermarket right now for beef from giant packers.”
Though he’s been selling a fair amount of rib-eyes, Cailan said he’s most keen introducing customers to “underrated” cuts not usually found in grocery store: Denver steaks, Brazilian-style cuts such as picanha and bife de tira, and a $9 round-ish cut from the strip loin he’s dubbed the Amboy Filet (essentially a baseball steak with the fat cap left intact).
Those steaks, or at least their trimmings, are also key to Amboy’s marquee item: burgers. “The more steak we sell, the more it cuts down on the cost of the burger,” he said. “We’re really trying to create a burger for the people, which means it needs to be affordable.”
Cailan spent the last three years traveling for “The Burger Show,” his First We Feast web series, sampling and cooking nearly every regional style America has to offer. “I’ve made so many burgers I figured I should lean into it,” he said. “Why not put those 10,000 hours to good use?”
The Classic Double — $10 with fries — is Cailan’s homage to the prototypical California drive-in burger, made with two thin-but-not-too-thin smashed patties, American cheese, caramelized onions, pickles and tangy burger sauce on a sesame seed bun. He makes the patties from a combination of ground rib-eye trim, short rib and brisket.
The DH Burger, a name that Cailan credits to pal Seth Rogen, is of a more refined pedigree. (“It’s baller burger,” according to Cailan). At its center is a “super thick” 10-ounce butter-basted dry-aged prime rib patty, layered with melted provolone, pickles and garlic confit mayo on a milk bread bun.
“The thicker versus thinner burger debate, it’s a town divided right now,” he said. “I don’t think there’s one answer, it’s about how you feel at the moment.”
Cailan plans to add more burgers and Filipino-inspired menu items soon, including a $15 steak frites with tangy cucumber-onion salsa and a grilled chicken glazed with a spin on white barbecue sauce made from coconut milk. Dinner service is in the works as well.
A few booths at the front of Amboy will offer indoor seating, but Cailan said he’s still figuring out how to configure the tiny space to comply with safety guidelines.
Cailan’s first cookbook, “Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream,” drops in August and he said he’s thinking about hosting a burger festival at Far East Plaza whenever that kind of thing is considered safe again.
“Even with all that’s been going on, this has been one of the easiest projects I’ve put together.” he said. “When we started Eggslut [in 2011], we spent like one week finding the food truck, then we were ready to roll. This feels sort of like that.”
Amboy Quality Meats, 727 N. Broadway No. 117, (213) 935-8188, amboyqualitymeatsanddeliciousburgers.com
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