A few minutes after I started eating, I realized there was cheese in nearly everything I got at Mighty Kitchen in Los Alamitos, the jovial and sleek slider concept by the owners of Hof’s Hut and Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que. Some of the dishes I ordered because I knew it had cheese in it, such as the fried cheese appetizer and the mac and cheese. But maybe I should’ve thought about the cheese content on the pizza, the cheeseburgers and the smothered fries—which were covered in a pepper jack sauce—before I went and asked for them all at once.
I’m not saying the restaurant’s proclivity to Cheddar and mozzarella is bad. In fact, everything I had that was cheesy turned out to be among the best dishes I tried that night. It’s just that I maybe should have spread it out over multiple visits. Since I don’t hail from Wisconsin—where comfort food is cheese and cheese is comfort food—the cumulative effects of a meal this resplendent in dairy and richness made me uncomfortably full incredibly fast.
Maybe part of it is that the bacon cheeseburger slider I ate first was already quite substantial. It had as much beef and cheese as a normal-sized In-N-Out cheeseburger and probably just as much bread if you measured the bun by volume instead of width. And because Mighty Kitchen packages the sliders in quantities of no less than two and with fries, it may have been overly ambitious of me to order even a bite of anything else. The two-slider combo was already plenty of food, and the cheeseburger—juicy and dripping with a crusty-edged patty veneered in Cheddar and stuffed with shredded lettuce, onion, tomato and a brine-spurting hunk of pickle—was everything I expect and want in such a sandwich.
It was certainly more satisfying than the bánh mì-style turkey slider I paired it with. The latter paled in comparison, not just because the patty was thinner and less decadent than the cheeseburger, but also because it was missing the pickled carrots, jalapeño and cilantro—the three components the menu promised it would have to justify its title. Instead, I found an excess of sprouts, something I’ve honestly never seen inside a bánh mì anywhere in Little Saigon.
And that’s too bad because I could’ve used any of those things to help offset the side of fries my combo platter came with, which I further enriched by upgrading it with crumbled chorizo, pepper jack cheese sauce, bits of tomato and squirts of garlic mayo. Though the standard fast-food-variety shoestrings went quite well with the toppings—becoming a salty, spicy, messy tangle of potato, cheese and meat—I couldn’t make much of a dent. But I was surprised to discover that when I reheated the leftovers in a toaster oven the next day, the thing tasted even better.
Mighty Kitchen offers the option of other smothered fries, including those with pastrami, pulled pork, and one with pepperoni and mozzarella for what it called “Pizza Fries,” which I haven’t tried. But I might have to next time because the pepperoni I tasted in the actual pizza were as big as saucers and managed to elevate the oblong-shaped flatbread to the level of an authentic New York-style slice.
I also liked the five-cheese mac and cheese, which was served in what resembled an antique casserole dish. Unlike the other mac and cheeses on the menu, this one was for the purist. It had a traditional breadcrumb crust instead of the crumbled Cheese-Its used in the other renditions. And when I dug into the fuming mass, I uncovered an almost-cheese-soup-like consistency toward the center.
For those interested in mac and cheese experimentation, the other three options include one with Sriracha fried chicken and one with pulled pork. But the most daring of them all must be the one loaded with bacon and hash browns and topped with a sunny-side-up egg called “Breakfast Mac.” I was nearly halfway into the serving of fried cheese nuggets—which was, by the way, one of the better squeaky fried cheeses I’ve had outside of an A&W—when I saw an order of “Breakfast Mac” pass our table. The thought of it made me a little queasy. But that was because, at that point, I had so much cheese in me that fondue coursed through my veins.
Right about now, you might be wondering why I didn’t order a salad. To that, I say: It wouldn’t have helped. Three of the five had cheese, and I wasn’t about to order the two that didn’t—the soba salad and the side salad—which I figure is the equivalent of going to Wisconsin and insisting on sushi.
Mighty Kitchen, 11122 Los Alamitos Blvd., Los Alamitos, (562) 493-6489; www.mightykitchen.com. Open Sun.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Dinner for two, $25-$50, food only. Full bar.
Before becoming an award-winning restaurant critic for OC Weekly in 2007, Edwin Goei went by the alias “elmomonster” on his blog Monster Munching, in which he once wrote a whole review in haiku.