Pasadena’s 2019 “Cheeseburger Week” wrapped up Saturday, and we are all a little bit bigger for it. Pasadena Now reported on a number of local eateries, from the luxurious to the sublime, all of them delicious.
Cheeseburger Week has ended, but these fine dishes continue on at this great local restaurant. Stay hungry, my friends. — E. Rivera
Standing at the darkened entrance of the White Horse Lounge, waiting to be seated, I heard a thunderous voice greeting diners off to my left. As I turned, I could only see a huge smile towering over me, and a huge hand reaching out to meet mine.
I’m six feet two, and I have large hands, but White Horse Executive Chef “Big Josh” Thomas towered over me, and he swallowed up my hand in his. The experience was unnerving, to say the least.
But it was as friendly as it was overwhelming, and as he led me to a nearby table, he was chatting and laughing the whole time.
He learned to cook from his grandmother, who sent him to cooking school, he told us, when he couldn’t hack regular high school.
“On the day I graduated from cooking school, I was on a plane to play football for Pasadena,” Thomas said.
The 6’7”, 415 lb. former defensive nose guard took over the White Horse two years ago, and the menu is as big and expansive as he is.
So, if you’re going to order anything at all from his menu, bring a friend. Or two.
We were there to try their cheeseburgers, but with his boyish exuberance, Thomas asked us to try the biscuits first. We couldn’t say no.
I’m at a loss to describe them, but imagine 7 or 8 CDs all stacked up, covering a small plate. That was just one. I expected hardtack, but what I got was a dreamy, buttery, flaky delight that melted and crumbled right on cue.
We were only getting started.
Thomas was eager to show his “seasonal” cheeseburger—the Apple Bacon Brie Burger. A half-pound brisket blend patty, some brie cheese, some bacon, some Fresno onion marmalade, smoked tomato aioli, all topped with apple pie chutney, and served on a Sweet Milk bun, but not too sweet.
The Louisiana-raised Thomas serves everything large. The towering burger’s taste matched its size, and the first whiff of apple as you raise it up to eat, mixed with the flavor of the Brie, is a little bit of magic. The hand-cut Belgian Fries, soaked overnight in vinegar before frying, were also huge, crispy and hot.
“I love to eat,” laughed Thomas, who spent our dinner telling tales of his Cajun childhood, learning barbeque cooking from a neighbor, pulling down dilapidated garages with a rope tied around his waist, and going down to the bayou with his uncle to catch an alligator for dinner.
“I’m gonna bring in a whole alligator for our Mardi Gras,” he said. “Serve it right out there on a table.”
And I know he will. We will likely be there.
And at our dinner that night, such was the impact of his food, dessert never occurred to us, and that’s rare. The cheeseburger was more than enough, and we left empty plates.
You’re gonna want to come here after reading this, and you’ll be sorry if you don’t. So, come for the cheeseburger. Stay for the stories.
The White Horse Lounge is at 41 South De Lacey Ave, Pasadena.(626) 583-9013. www.whitehorselounge.com