Battle of the Bristol Street Burgers: Umami Burger vs. TK Burger

Categories: Buns In the Sun
Photos by Gustavo Arellano and Rachel Rose Ulgado.
Ding ding ding

South on Bristol, in the middle of Orange County's Hipster Triangle, is a burger place everyone should try. The meat is fresh, the bread is baked specifically for the burger and everything is made to order. It's even in walking distance of the Camp and the LAB, just to give diners a little something to do afterwards.

Who am I talking about? Umami? TK? Yes. They're both on Bristol and they awkwardly face each other, like the boys and girls on the opposite sides of the gym at a middle school dance.

Who wins out? I put them through a grueling four-round fight to find out.

Round 1: The Meat

Flickr User m.mate
Good quality and well formed

Both TK and Umami Burger get their meat fresh, never frozen. Umami takes this a step further, grinding their beef in-house. Both places serve their patties medium rare. Who wins out? No one.

As nice as Umami's meat is, the patty is too thick and almost too juicy. The burger starts off droll-inducing, much more so than TK's, but by the end everything is a mess with beef juice and cow bits everywhere. Like I've said before, "if I want food juice and bits of bread, I could've just fed my baby cousin."


Round 2: The Bread
Flickr User jeffreyww
Perfect bread is always underestimated

TK and Umami both have their buns specifically made for their restaurants. TK's is more of a traditional breadstuff, with no seeds and no bits of flair. The TK Bun is meant to let the rest of the burger show itself off. It's strong, it's solid and it doesn't get in the way.

Umami, on the other hand, went the complete opposite direction. Their bun is specially designed Portuguese bread, baked with eggs, butter, a tiny bit of sugar and split unevenly, two thirds in the top and one third in the bottom. It toasts well, it's pretty and it demands attention.

Though Umami's bun isn't enough to keep everything together, judged on their own merits, Umami's breadstuff wins over TK's handily. It's not the bread's fault the meat sucks.

Winner: Umami Burger

Round 3: The Cheese
Flickr User anneh632
The perfect cheese has to both pair and melt nicely

Some people will give TK shit for using American cheese. I, for one, love it. Nothing melts better and tastes just right, classic burgers are made for American cheese.

Umami's cheese is as different as you can get. Where they derive their name, the cheese on the Umami burger is a Parmesan that's been fried, giving it a much more savory flavor and perfect amount of crunch.

Which of the two take it? They're supremely different and are both perfect at what they're meant to do. No contest.


Round 4: The Toppings
Flickr User YoAmes

TK takes the easy route, serving their burgers up with lettuce, tomato and onion. The only way Umami isn't going to win out is if their toppings actually subtract from the meal.

Umami's toppings subtract from the meal. The roasted tomato, umami ketchup and caramelized onions introduce a slight sweetness that is many times magnified by the sweetness of the bread. I don't know about you, but for me sweet and savory is a flavor profile dedicated to desserts, not for my burgers.

Winner: TK Burger.

So, with a score of 1-1-2, who wins? Honestly, relative to their prices, TK Burger takes the cake. TK might actually beat out any other burger chain for price efficiency.

But what if someone else was paying? Well, Umami has the better fries, the better drinks and a more interesting burger. As bad as a flavor as dirty hands put in my mouth, Mexican Coke can always wash it out.

Winner with Price: TK
Winner without Price: Umami

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Location Info

Umami Burger

2981 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

TK Burgers

2966 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, CA

Category: Restaurant

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Hands down the best burger & fries was at the old Apollo Burger on harbor before it closed and moved.  Those Greeks could cook!


crow burger destroys all! 





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This is a very interesting perspective.  Good job.  The one thing missing: photos of each of the burgers. 

Many times, the photos that accompany these reviews trigger other questions, or at least help illustrate the points made. 

True, I've eaten enough TK burgers that I should know what they look like, but usually I blink and they are forever lost to my digestive system. 

Chuck, if there's a way you can substitute these useless pics with ones of a TK and an Umami burger, go for it.  It will make for a much nicer clip when you apply for jobs.  But as Bruno would say on Dancing with the Stars: 8!  (*left palm raised upward)


I will insert some new photos soon!

Thanks for the encouragement and advice JB, it means a lot.


I completely agree. As I was reading about what are supposed to be two of the best burgers in Orange County, all I see are random photos that are only there because they are free via Flickr. How hard is it to take a point-n-shoot camera to TK and Umami and take photos yourself?

Until I see otherwise, I'm going to declare the Karma Burger at Mick's Karma Bar to be the best burger in Orange County. And I have photos to show you...


I haven't decided what my favorite burger in the OC is yet, I just haven't tried enough of them. Photos will be here soon, though. 

Thanks for the comments!

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