Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Recon: DADDY-O'S

San Diego, CA


The Friday after Thanksgiving, instead of eating turkey leftovers, my dad and I visited San Diego's newest burger joint, Daddy-O's, over on Point Loma Blvd.  He had recently gone with a friend, so I knew when I came down for the holiday I'd be sampling the new fare.  


The decor is red, black and white with diamond plate on the walls and rat fink pieces all around. It reminded me of that song in Grease when they build the grease lightening car. I stole this phrase from the Daddy-O's website, because its accurate and I always enjoy an excessive use of adjectives, its a "hot rod, honky tonk, rockabilly, retro diner."  Thank you for summing it up so well. They have booths, regular tables, and a few bar tables.  Various TV's had football, and Fuel TV on, while the kids section had cartoons.  Don't let the thought of a kids section scare you off. I can assure you the nosier and more crowded this place is, the better an  atmosphere it will have.


We started with a chocolate malt, because why the hell not? You could taste the malt flavor nicely, but I wish they had made it with chocolate ice cream, not vanilla with chocolate syrup. (Is that common in restaurants?)  We ordered the Frings to get started. I loved the onion rings, they were crisp with good flavor. Fries were crinkle cut, and both had a lemon pepper seasoning sprinkled on. The onion rings were definitely better than the fries due to the salt/crisp factor. They bring out dip cups, but the condiments are on the table so you get to make your own sauce, which I love. They also have a ROLL of paper towels on the table.  These people KNOW the mess a big juicy burger can cause and they are prepared.  



I ordered the Honky Tonk burger, which is angus beef, caramelized onions, fried onions, american cheese, lettuce, tomato and bacon.  The two onion textures were perfection.  The fried onions and bacon gave just enough crunch and salt to balance out the tomato and caramelized onions. It's a big patty with great flavor, and it got messy mostly because of the size of the thing, not because it fell apart. They stacked their ingredients well to minimize sog from the caramelized onions. My dad ordered The Hemi, which is two 1/4lb angus beef patties, red onion, bacon, swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, lettuce and tomato.  Appropriately named. He enjoyed it immensely. Previously he had the Gonzo, which has caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese, but when I went to order that one he told me the cheese was a little on the strong side, so if you're not into a manly cheese on your burg, I'd go another route. I couldn't finish my burger, but I ate the rest of it when I came home from bars at 2am and it held up well.  So have part of it for lunch, the rest of it for second dinner.  




I want to try The Greaser. And then I want to build my own. Customer service was fantastic; very attentive. And I was pleased to discover they offer a 'uniform discount' which applies to military servicemen and women, among others.  So, if you have a busy morning, you're hard at work and you wear yourself out and are in desperate need of a solid meal (or you're not hungry, but you're an emotional eater and just feel like gorging) head over to Daddy-O's and fill up!



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recon: UPPER WEST

West LA, CA


I want to take a moment to talk about a place called Upper West. We (my posse and I) first went here on my birthday (post brunch, urgent care and el cholo) and then again for Andrea’s birthday (when happy hour goes from 5-10!) and it really is a fantastic joint that very few people seem to know about. First off, their happy hour menu has great prices and delicious drinks and food. And the staff is very generous with their birthday shots. They like to celebrate and care that you’re having a good time, which Brooke, our resident bartender befriender, whole-heartedly approved of. There are a few items in particular I want to touch on…


BACON BLEU CHEESE FRENCH FRIES. I really shouldn’t need to type anything after that because that noun-phrase up there is completely stand-alone, but for those of you who like information, details and reassurances, let me just tell you, these were amazing. I’m pretty sure they take the fries, hot out of the fryer, and toss them in a large bowl with blue cheese and bacon and let it melt all up in there and then they add some diced tomatoes for flavor balance. The bleu cheese is not overwhelming and the flavor is spot on for only $6. To quote Starsky and Hutch, “Do it. DO IT!”


Their bar burger, only $7, is a nice, doable size, made with a dry aged beef blend, balsamic caramelized onions, arugula and pasilla goat cheese spread on a toasted bun. It has a distinct gourmet flavor that I will credit the goat cheese and arugula with. Arugula is undervalued in my opinion. If you want to try a bunch of their other bar hors d’oeuvres, share the burg and have the lamb nacho bites, or the mac n cheese off the regular menu.


Let’s talk booze. Upper West has a great cocktail list, each cocktail only $6 during happy hour. I am particularly partial to the Cucumber Martini with vodka. It’s refreshing, makes you feel fancy, (even though, let’s be honest, when am I not fancy?) and it counters well with the heavier flavored menu items I mentioned above. They also do a beer sampler that can be fun with a group of people, I personally love the Tangerine Wheat beer, but there was a chocolatey beer we had that was quite interesting as well.


And finally, the bread pudding. I am not a person that looks at a dessert menu and says, “YES! Bread pudding!” However, they brought it out with a fabulous candle on my birthday and it was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my entire life. It was like cinnamon, vanilla, gooey, heavenly yum. Go for it. Step outside your comfort zone and say in your best English accent, “I’m feeling British and I think I’ll order the bread pudding.” But be careful, once you’ve had it some things in your life will pale in comparison.


It’s a restaurant/bar, so dudes, this is a great place to wow a lady you want to take on a proper date, and it’s great at accommodating group gatherings. Anyway, go enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Recon: 26 BEACH

Venice, California

26 Beach is big but has sort of a split layout with a bar in the middle. You can eat in the dining room or in the garden, but they’re both kind of indoor/outdoor spaces. Décor is eclectic- faux copper ceiling, sparkly chandeliers- 26 Beach definitely has delusions of grandeur. I gathered with a team of three other attractive ladies to do some burger sampling.  We started with salads- which were delicious.  Meredith and I shared a Caesar that I very much enjoyed. Andrea and Megan opted for a house garden salad. We chose two burgers: the 26er and the Napa burger.


The 26er is best described as a grown-up version of an In N Out burger. It’s classic ingredients and flavors (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mayo and special dressing) left us feeling reminiscent of our fast food days in the most mature way possible. The Napa burger has avocado, heirloom tomato, goat cheese, mixed greens, mayo and Dijon on a wheat bun. I bet you’re shocked I didn’t order anything with bacon. The Napa burger was refreshing. The avocado and goat cheese definitely stood out, in a good way, and complimented the meat.  Both burgers were made with angus beef but the restaurant does offer a veggie burger as well as a turkey burger. Presentation was tidy and a little tall. We explained to the waitress we were sharing, but nothing came out cut, so we asked for a knife and stabbed away. Cutting the burgers turned them real messy, real quick, but they never got soggy and stayed together ok.


This place is all about flavor combination. Some of the burgers might seem a little odd at first glance; there’s a sushi burger and PB&J burger that I might initially throw a side-eye at, but my gut says Chef Mori knows what’s up.  We saw several other plates of awesome looking food coming out of the kitchen and it definitely piqued my interest in the rest of the menu. Thursday nights are half off wine night- I swear I didn’t know in advance, it was a happy coincidence- so we ordered the Uppercut Cabernet Sauvignon and I liked it, may be a little woody/dry for some of you but I enjoyed. Tuesdays, it’s buy a burger and get another half off, so you can bet when we go back it’ll be on a Tuesday and we’ll get four burgers. They were generously sized; if I skipped the salad appetizer I could probably eat a whole one.


Now for a wee bit of the negative, the fries were boring. Thick cut, lacking flavor, in all seriousness, get the salad. Burgers come with either or, and I say eat your veggies on this one. We asked for mayo, ketchup and Dijon so I was able to make a dip at the table that livened up the fries but really, skip ‘em. Service was so-so.  Everything we asked for they brought us, but I felt like we had to ask for things that should have been automatic.  It was a nice place to sit and chat with friends and would be a good spot for a date as well. Our bill was $76 and felt reasonable for what we ordered. If you’re feeling brave or open-minded dash over to 26 Beach and sample a more imaginative burger- they have more burgers in the restaurant than listed on the online menu!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Intel

A very dear friend of mine and her boyfriend/fellow collaborator will be doing some recon around Washington DC.  I am pleased to introduce Megan and Whit, and welcome them into the Burger Recon posse.  Having attended UCLA with Megan and enjoyed many college mornings spent waiting in the drive thru line for In N Out to open, or stuffing our faces with onion rings and fries at Jerry's (Land of 1000 Sauces) I can say that I fully trust their opinions in matters of the burg.

Recon: XIV

Los Angeles, CA


I recently visited this delicious place called XIV on Sunset with two lovely ladies of the night. I’m just kidding.  They’re just regular lovely ladies. The décor here is fabulous, part hunting lodge, part French baroque with an industrial tinge to it.  We had a very friendly waiter who made some wise recommendations to us, and bless his soul, he’s an actor.

We ordered several items off their fabulous menu- one of them being the KOBE BURGER.  Now, as you darling readers are well aware, I have had the sliders at XIV before, but let me tell you, they don’t do the burg justice.  This burg came out looking tall, juicy and covered in toppings: farmhouse cheddar cheese, balsamic onions, shredded lettuce and roasted tomatoes with secret sauce.  The chef was nice enough to cut in half too.  I took off the pickle and jalapeno pepper (that’s what that is, right?) and a second later Dre goes, “Are you going to eat that pickle?”  No, Dre, no I’m not.  That pickle is all yours.


 Back to the KOBE… This burger was good. It hit the spot, and then it kicked the spot, and then it grabbed the spot and gave it a nookie. I shared some of it with my lady friends, but then -rest assured- I gobbled up the whole thing. You are probably wondering if I ordered fries with this burger- I did not.  I have had their ‘trio of fries’ before and they were tasty but we wanted to branch out with something new, specifically some TRUFFLE OIL MAC AND CHEESE.  Yep, you read that correctly.  After I stuffed my face with the Kobe burg, I turned to the truffle oil mac and cheese and had my fill of that.  And by had my fill, I mean our actor friend cleared the table and I kept the mac and cheese so I could eat more of it, even though I was totally full about 5 bites into the burg. Needless to say I was so stuffed with rich foods I could hardly drink anything later at Drais. 

There are several menus at XIV, and while some things are expensive, you could definitely control your cost with what you order.  They also have outside seating called the Terrace with a smaller menu that more resembles aperitivo in Italy.  Whatever your preference, go, have a burger and sample their fares.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recon: THE LONGHORN

San Diego, CA


Last Saturday I traveled across the space-time continuum to a burger joint called The Longhorn. 

With Texas cattle horns, cowboy relics, and old beer posters lining the walls, it felt like a lonely trucker’s outpost along some county line with one sweet but over-worked waitress, the usual old man watching football and bundled up men hunkered down over the bar hiding from the weather.  One dirty window let in dim light, but the wood paneling crowded it out and the steam from the grill took care of the rest.


Menu’s simple enough, my brother and I split the bacon burger and added American cheese, and opted for the chili cheese fries- a dish I enjoy immensely but haven’t yet encountered on this blog.  Marie chose a bison burger with mushrooms and provolone and my Dad opted for the bacon burger with cheddar cheese.  They shared regular fries. 

Fries came out first, huge portions.  Chili was good- exactly what you’d expect .  Fries were crispy, which we loved, but Marie not so much.  All the fix-ins, so to speak, rest at the end of the table so it was a mad dash for ketchup, mustard and mayo- my favorite ingredients in a sauce for fries and burgers.  Chopped onions came in their own side cup, gotta keep your options open I guess.


 Burgers came out right after.  Open faced, toppings on the side of the plate.  Bacon was thick and crisp, our waitress was kind enough to cut the burg in half for us (You are probably wondering why I needed to share a burger, which usually is not my style: the night before we went to the Red Fox Room to celebrate my birthday and I ate a giant steak, baked potato, salad, garlic bread and carrot cake.  Needless to say, my appetite had been satiated 5 times over and retreated to recuperate!)  I instantly set about putting the delicious aforementioned sauce on my burg, a few white onion rings and the tomato slices.  I skipped the lettuce.  This was a classic American burger. The best word to describe it is dependable- hasn’t changed since the first one they made when the joint opened.  Marie wasn’t too pleased with her mushrooms- turns out they were canned, so I’d avoid them if you are a mushroom person.  But the meat was good, bacon flavorful and tableside sauce is always a plus.


They have the usual array of fountain sodas and domestic beers. I would recommend The Longhorn to anyone looking to avoid the po-lice, to make a backroom deal of some sort, or if you want to reenact a bar fight from an 80's movie… but especially for those looking to time travel.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pull Rank

Let's do some ranking.  For shits and giggles.


TOP GOURMET BURGS
Stout
Umami
Burger Kitchen
25 Degrees @ Roosevelt


TOP CLASSIC BURGS
Hodad's
Good Stuff
The Counter
Apple Pan

Recon: STOUT

Hollywood, CA


My friend Dallas and I made a visit to Stout the other night and I was rather impressed.  Nestled into a converted mini mall, Stout took the corner space and knocked out the walls to expand the space and provide outdoor seating.  It was buzzing with energy and the palm trees were waving overhead.  The bar curves out in a crescent shape, and bar-height runner tables curve around it, providing more ‘bar’ for the space.  The seating fans out from there into a maze of tables.  Stout’s claim to fame is that they pair beers with each burger.

We were already a little buzzed from a hilarious comedy show with Natasha Leggero & Nick Thune, but opted for some beers while we waited to be seated.  I chose a wheat beer, the Blanche de Bruxelles and it was delicious!  My love for wheat beers – and subsequent exclusion of all other beers- is growing daily.  Dallas had a Sierra Nevada Tumbler Brown Ale.  Once we were seated I took a quick look at the menu and knew I had to have the Stout burger: blue cheese, emi gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion and horseradish cream.  No adjustments necessary.  Dallas chose the Shu burger: pepper jack cheese, light bell spread, grilled avocado and chipotle sauce.  Being my defiant self, I looked at the beer paired with my burg (an IPA or barley wine) and opted out.  Dallas’ burg came with the same suggestion, but he stuck with his Sierra as well. 


The burgers came out looking gorgeous.  Stacked tall, not too big.  Mine looked a little bloody, but wasn’t soggy at all.  I want to give them props for their buns.  They were dense which worked to our advantage in two ways.  1. They absorbed juices well and didn’t sog up.  2. With horseradish cream and pepper jack cheese/chipotle sauce, these burgs had serious kicks and the bun helped absorb the hot intensity.  That being said, the kick was fantastic.  I normally do not touch horseradish, but it complemented the flavors so well.  Even the blue cheese wasn’t over the top and it all really came together flavor-wise.  Meat was cooked medium and well seasoned.  Dallas’ Shu burger was no exception.  Definitely had a kick, but it worked.  The bacon was great, the cheese, the onion- I really loved it.  One of the best marriages of classic and gourmet styles I’ve seen yet.


We went with the seasoned fries, and there were several dip options so we asked our waitress which to choose.  She recommended the chipotle.  After sampling it, for me, it wasn’t the right choice.  Because the burgers have a nice spice to them, I needed the fries and their dip to be a calming presence- a flavor different from the burgers and the beers.  Thus, I asked for the lemon basil aioli and it was definitely the right choice.  Father’s Office has the best aioli, but this was perfect for the occasion.  The fries were crisp and delicious.  I saw sweet potato chips at another table, so I put those on my list for next time.  One serving of fries could easily feed three people. 


It's got a finished industrial feel to it.  Copper around the bar, wood paneling and concrete elsewhere.  There's a fantastic beer bottle chandelier too.  Their beer menu is extensive and service was ok, not great.  If you’re in Hollywood, hit this place up.  I can’t wait to go back and try another burger!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Recon: FIVE GUYS

San Diego, CA


The east coast staple has finally hit the west coast.

I went down to San Diego last weekend, where my family was eager to take me to Five Guys, a burger joint they already held in high esteem. Tucked into the revamped Liberty Station in Point Loma, Five Guys has a spacious layout covered in white and red tiles with sacks of potatoes stacked around.  At first I thought there might be some construction still going on, and then I realized the potatoes are part of the décor.  The menu is simple enough, with less than 12 burger, hot dog or sandwich options, and all toppings are included in the price of the burger. All patties are cooked well done. There’s a little hanging chalkboard that tells you where the potatoes are from- that day’s hailed from Rich Lance Farms in Blackfoot, Idaho.  At the counter where you order there’s a bin of peanuts and you get to scoop some out to snack on while you wait for your burger.


We all opted for the bacon cheeseburger (what a family!) but our toppings differed: I asked for mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, grilled onions, ketchup & mustard.  You can also have pickles, grilled mushrooms, relish, onions, jalapeno peppers, green peppers, A-1 sauce, barbeque sauce and/or hot sauce.  My sister was raving about the Cajun fries so we got orders of both.  Food comes out in slightly greasy brown paper bags, fries spilling out everywhere on everything. 



Great flavor in that first bite.  We all know I’m a huge fan of American cheese on a burger, and it was fantastic.  Bacon was thin-sliced and crisp.  This is by far the messiest burger I’ve had yet, but it had an excellent classic flavor. It will fall apart and you will lick your fingers. The bun is sweet and doughy and there’s a light crunch to the edges of the patty.  They put more than one slice of tomato on each burger, which made me happy. I felt like this wouldn’t have been so messy or fallen apart so quickly if the components had been stacked differently. Putting ketchup, mustard and mayo next to the grilled onions and tomatoes made for a slippery burg.  Even with the mess and constant reassembly, the taste was spot on.


The Cajun fries definitely brought the heat to the equation. My sister was all about them but the rest of us preferred the regular fries. They’re naturally cut and cooked in peanut oil, and while this might make them healthier, their uneven sizes meant they didn’t cook evenly. Smaller fries were perfectly crisp while longer fries were soft. All of them needed more salt. They offer ketchup and a few other Heinz products to dip your fries in, but I would have preferred a thousand island dip with a dash of mustard.  (I probably could have asked for the components and mixed a little thousand island at my table, but I think it should automatically be offered.)


Service was friendly and fast. Their walls are covered in reviews, praise and awards. It’s definitely an all ages joint. Price is around $10 per person if you get a drink, which consisted of the usual fountain beverages –including my BFF Coke Zero- and bottled water. When the food came we got quiet- which means we were gobbling it up.  Anytime I am craving a quick, classic burger I will definitely think of Five Guys. Like right now… 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recon: BURGER KITCHEN

Los Angeles, CA


My new friend Marc and I headed over to the much-hyped Burger Kitchen to see how it measured up.  With Marc’s foodie expertise and my knowledge of the burg we came prepared to judge.

First off, you should definitely valet- parking is atrocious. When you walk in, the space itself is disorganized and eclectic with no real theme to the décor.  It was quiet, and only a few tables were occupied.  We were greeted by a friendly waiter who immediately offered me beer samples, so you know I was hooked instantly.  After tasting I preferred his suggestion: the Allagash White.  Marc opted for the Ommegang (also seen spelled Omagong) and we were both quite satisfied.  Then came time to make burger decisions and we had lots of questions.  Our waiter patiently answered them and made recommendations, and after the success with the beer we decided we’d better keep listening to him.


I opted for the Sirloin Steak burger with cheddar and bacon (cheeses, bacon & sauces are add-ons for an additional fee, FYI.)  Marc went all out and ordered “The Natural” which consists of Pat La Frieda’s 40 Day, Dry-Aged, Prime Mix of meat with white cheddar.  We topped this off by ordering both sweet potato and regular fries- mostly because we wanted to try the garlic aioli.  Fries came out just a few seconds before the burgers and I would have preferred a few minutes to munch on those and wake my pallet up with some tasty salt before the real feast began.  The burgs came out served on large brioche buns, with a giant “toothpick” holding it all in place.  Served with butter lettuce, red onion and a slice of tomato, they were large burgs, but not beyond being picked up.  We cut them in half and shared, because we’re nice like that.


The sirloin steak patty, cheddar and bacon were delicious together.  The meat was flavorful and properly cooked, it definitely made the burger.  The bun absorbed some of the juice, but overall it was not a messy burger.  Marc’s Natural really took the cake though.  The prime blend was smoky, extremely flavorful and so soft and finely ground it was similar to the consistency of a proper meatloaf.  It was just layers of rich, buttery taste.  The white cheddar and red onions, which I normally find too strong, actually complimented the burger.  You could really have just had the cheese and the patty.  I felt the same way about the steak burg- just the meat and cheese would be enough. Lettuce, tomato, bun- those things just got in the way.  As Marc said, it’s like an entire “meal in my mouth.” This is where it gets tricky- I didn’t feel like I was necessarily eating a burger.  The meat was such high-quality that it really overshadowed everything else.


Surprisingly, I preferred the sweet potato fries to the regular flies- they had more flavor and a better texture.  We liked the skinny cut, and the garlic aioli was great (although Father’s Office still wins for best fries & garlic aioli.)  Our kind waiter initially offered us mayo, ketchup and mustard, but obviously after tasting the burgs we didn’t want any of that, and mostly dipped our fries in it.  I will say that with the burgers being what they are, it’s a lot of food.  We didn’t finish either cone of French fries but made sure every last bite of meat was gone.


They have a breakfast menu that, of course, I am very interested in.  This was definitely one of the more expensive burger joints- but mostly because of what we ordered.  The Natural is a cool $29, with good reason, but still.  Couple that with the double order of fries, a steak burger and beers- we ended up paying about $40 each.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely.  They have lunch specials and you can get most of the burgers for around $12, but if you’re going to do something, you should do it right and at Burger Kitchen that means splurging.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cris Bennett, Owner of Good Stuff

Just had a brief chat with Cris Bennett, the owner of Good Stuff Restaurants and he had some lovely things to say about the West LA location and the wonderful staff that makes the joint what it is:


"I am really proud of that store and it is the people that make the difference.  My employees have been working there for years and years.  My head cook has worked for me since we opened in 1979 and we worked together at a restaurant in Beverly Hills before that."


Sounds like a tight-knit group, and a nice contrast to the high turnover in other restaurants around LA.  Read more about Cris and all the good stuff he serves up on their website.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Recon: 25 DEGREES @ THE ROOSEVELT

Hollywood, CA


One of my best friends from high school, Laura, came up to LA last weekend for a quick last hurrah before she ducks off to grad school in DC.  A dedicated burger fan, she’s kept up with Burger Recon and wanted to hit up a joint with me.  We settled on 25 Degrees at the Roosevelt Hotel- which I never tire of visiting- and made the trek from the Westside to this LA hot spot.

The décor is all red/maroon from the painted tin ceiling to the bouncy booths and brocade wallpaper. They have a full bar, and then booths and tables surrounding it, looking out on to Hollywood Boulevard. I opted for the ‘Number One,’ which consists of caramelized onion, prelibato gorgonzola, crescenza, bacon, arugula, and thousand island.  Laura opted for the ‘Number Two,’ with burrata, roasted tomato, crisp prosciutto, and pesto.  The burgs come with your choice of a side so she went with fries, while I got rings, and we chose a garlic aioli and a parmesan aioli to dip them in. 

Fries and rings came out first, on long platters, with more food than could ever be necessary.  The rings were sliced thin, with a non-greasy breading that had a powerful kick.  There is honest to god SPICE in that breading- you’ll want a creamy aioli to dip them in.  Laura is not a huge fan of onion rings, but she was digging these.  The fries were extra crispy- almost burnt, the way I like them- lightly salted and tossed in a tiny bit of chopped dill.  We loved them.  As we marveled at the size of the sides, our burgers came out, and there was barely enough room on the table.



These burgers are 5-6 inches in diameter, with huge, fluffy, sweet brioche buns. I was afraid to pick it up.  They come loosely tucked in paper, with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on the side.  We didn’t even try to stuff these toppings into our already jam-packed burgers.  We picked them up to take our first bites and it took a few bites before I finally tasted everything at once.  It was fantastic- the arugula balanced out the cheeses and the caramelized onions, while delicious, were not overpowering.  Laura’s burger had a great combo in the pesto and cheese but it was very rich.  Decadent even.  The gorgonzola on mine was strong, but if you like gorgonzola, then you’re all set.  I pretty much deconstructed mine and ended up eating it with a fork- which is something I normally would not approve of- but it was so enormous and rich that it felt like a refined meal, and honestly I just couldn’t keep it together.

Having already consumed a bottle of wine before heading out, we opted for diet coke with our burgs. Our generous waiter- who clearly recognized the signs of caffeine addiction- brought out a milk jug full of diet coke for us.  We were debating ordering a ‘spiked’ milkshake.  Yes, they have alcoholic milkshakes for the booze hound in all of us, but we already had to box up half our meal in doggy bags so there was just no way.

Service was great the whole time: attentive, honest and helpful.  I’m embarrassed to say I think we went a little too early in the evening for my taste.  We were hungry for sure, but the crowd felt touristy and the place wasn’t packed.  It’s open 24 hours a day and I got the impression that if we had come at 10pm or after 2am we would have met a distinctly more raucous and local crowd.  The quality of food to price ratio is phenomenal.  We paid less than $25 each for perfectly prepared, enormous portions of food.  If anything I would say the most ‘expensive’ thing we ordered was the diet coke- at $4 each. 

Come starving or share everything, because as Laura summed it up, “This is like an event, it takes time and you’ll be stuffed after.”  And by stuffed she means we were in food comas for hours.  I want to go back and try other things on the menu- and by try other things I mean move into the Roosevelt indefinitely until I’ve sampled the whole menu. They have a grilled cheese and an extensive breakfast menu that can’t be anything but delicious…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mini Recon: XIV

A decor redux and a brand new menu make this celebrity favorite pop.

I had dinner with some lovely sorority sisters last night at XIV and we started our meal with the Kobe Beef Sliders, and let me tell you, they were fantastic!  Perfectly cooked beef with shredded lettuce, a toasted, buttered bun and I think... a pickle?  I just gobbled mine up and didn't even de-construct it.  We also ordered a Trio of Fries which were good, but nothing shockingly new or amazing.  If you have a chance, definitely check it out.  The Braised Short Ribs just melt in your mouth... 

Recon: HAMBURGER HAMLET

Los Angeles, CA


The original Hamburger Hamlet opened in 1950 and quickly became a casual hot spot for the Hollywood elite.  The exemplary service and burgers that made it famous are still relevant sixty years later.

My dad, an ardent supporter of this little burger blog, came up to LA last weekend and after much discussion, failed missions, and enduring an obscene amount of potholes on Sunset Boulevard, we ended up at Hamburger Hamlet, arguably the birth place of "The Restaurant Burger" that fast food joints love to compare their burgs to. The menu’s more diverse than most of the other burger joints, but I scanned my burger options and chose the Gourmet Sliders which would enable me to try almost all of the burgers on their menu in one little (big) meal.  Let me list them for you now: the Caliente, the Classic, the Steakhouse Bleu and the Hickory burger.  Also, let’s not forget the Mesquite fries, extra crispy, and a nice side of ranch to dip ‘em in.

They came out, all in a row, book ended by two dishes of ketchup.  Presentation was charming, shredded lettuce tumbling out onto the plate in every direction.  I moved left to right sampling each one:

Caliente: Pepperjack cheese and caramelized onions balance each other out well.  The Serrano chili spread (looked like pesto) oozed out a little on the sides.  It tasted like a taco- but it was a burger.  But it tasted like a taco!  It was all very confusing.
Hickory: Excellent smoked flavor with crisp bacon. Not quite as strongly flavored as Apple Pan, but still an excellent choice.
Classic: Played right into my love of American cheese on a burger.  It was the definition of its name with great flavor and texture.
Steakhouse Bleu: I like bleu cheese, but not quite this much.  If you are a bleu cheese fan, this is YOUR burger, you’ll be in heaven.  I just brushed a little off and ate some more!


Each burger had a dense, doughy bun, grilled to add texture.  Loved the shredded lettuce, and a few of the burgs had red onions, which were just too strong to keep on the burgers.  My dad pointed out that the tomatoes were the perfect size and cut in such a way that they seemed to cap whatever sauce or cheese they rested on. Fries were absolutely delicious. You can have regular or mesquite, and I love a nicely seasoned fry, so mesquite it was. They come with ketchup but you can ask for whatever you prefer, and the ranch was excellent.  They have a few specialty sodas and shakes on the menu, but I was headed to the spa and didn’t want to consume too much. 


Service was superb. The maitre d’ was kind and gracious; waiters and busboys were polite and efficient.  We ate on the patio, but the inside is all leather booths and has a separate dining room where a pianist plays at night.  It was about $15 for each of us, but if we’d been looking to get shakes and appetizers, it would have been a little higher.  The restaurant was pretty empty to be honest, but I’m sure it’s packed during the week days since it’s surrounded by office buildings, right across from BOA.  I’d recommend making it a lunch spot or coming at night for the piano. Given the choice, I always want the option with the full effect, and sometimes the crowd can make or break a place.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Recon: THE GOLDEN STATE

Los Angeles, CA

Anything that celebrates the great state of California is likely to grab my attention.

I popped over to The Golden State a couple weeks ago with my friend Cojo.  Nestled into the Canter’s Deli strip of Fairfax, you might never see it if you weren’t looking. The interior is casual and neat, kind of a modern, industrial look.  A World Cup game was raging on the TV and more than a few patrons had their eyes glued to it.  I asked about the Beer Float (obviously) but decided against it when I learned it was made with Old Rasputin beer, which is an extremely dark beer.  Guinness is too strong for me so I knew I had no chance, but if you like dark beer, do it


I went with the Minted Lemonade, which was tasty- not too sweet- and the mint was a nice touch.  I ordered The Burger, which consists of Harris Ranch beef, Fiscalini Farms cheddar, glazed applewood smoked bacon, arugula, housemade aioli and ketchup.  This is something I think we’ve all been noticing a lot more lately, restaurants marketing their ingredients.  I do like the idea that you know where you food comes from,  but I’m not enough of a foodie to know whether or not Harris Ranch or Fiscalini Farms are fancy, high quality establishments.  I guess the answer’s in the taste? 


There’s a choice of sides, but I decided to go as American as possible and chose the potato salad- it was excellent.  It was perfectly American with distinct flavors of dill, egg and parsley.  The Burger was high quality meat and very soft, juicy but not messy.  It was well seasoned and the bacon added a good hint of salt.  The cheddar tasted like cheddar to me. The bun was toasted lightly and the arugula was a nice touch.  The sweetness in the bun contrasted well with the meat and I definitely ate the entire burger, but could not finish the potato salad to save my life.  It wasn’t scoop of ice cream size, it was softball size.

Cojo did The Burger without the bun and opted for sweet potato wedges.  They were thick cut, with a crispy char on the outside and a super soft, almost pureed, inside.  Very different from any other sweet potato fries I’ve had.  They have hot dogs and salads as well and I think I might get a hot dog next time.  They also do coke and root beer floats, which could make a tasty treat on a hot summer day (even though we don’t seem to be having any hot days this evil summer.)


The service was great; everyone was extremely friendly and informative.  They have a framed California flag over their small bar and I kind of wanted to steal it and take it home with me.  Patrons were mostly young.  The area is kind of hipster, what with the vintage shopping and gorgeous RVCA store up the street. I'm neutral. The Golden State was good, but being a Westsider, would I drive all the way over there just for their burger?  Probably not.  If I was in the area, maybe at the Fairfax Flea Market, and wanted to grab a bite with a friend, I’d definitely suggest it.  If I were having a party and needed potato salad, would I order a massive amount?  Absolutely.   I think you get the idea…

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Recon: UMAMI @ FRED SEGAL

Santa Monica, CA


It was a slow work day and when lunch finally rolled around Florence said she felt like a turkey burger.  Immediately my ears perked up.  “You know I write a burger blog, right?” Within minutes we were in the car on our way to Umami Santa Monica- the one connected to Fred Segal.  Florence called her sister Storm (named after the youngest Misfit in Jem and the Holograms) to meet us there.  We sat outside on the family style benches enjoying the palm trees and California sunshine. 

Florence opted for the special: a turkey burger BLT with avocado.  I went for the Manly Burger: red meat with cheddar cheese, salt onion strings and bacon lardons.  Storm, who’s off meat at the moment, had the shrimp salad.  Her salad came out first, piled high with taro strips and four large grilled shrimp, one in each corner of the plate. It was a lovely presentation, however the shrimp weren’t peeled, which was more of an annoyance than anything and when the couple sitting next to us asked about her dressing she said, it’s like there’s “wet cream on my salad.”  She wasn’t in love with it, but the taro strips were a nice touch.  


Florence felt like the burger itself didn’t have much flavor, but everything around it did, which kind of balanced it out.  The bacon on both our burgers was ‘bacon lardon’ which means its cut into small, thick pieces.  My burger came out oozing juice.  The flavor was excellent, and the salty onion strings stood out and added to the texture.  The mustard was a little strong for my taste, but the sweetness of the bun helped tone it down.  Umami doesn’t stack its burgers with sog-prevention in mind, so towards the end, the bun had absorbed a lot of the juice.  We were nicely satisfied after, but not overly stuffed- and thank god because these are tight jeans!





The hand cut fries on the menu were apparently no longer an option, but they offered up cheesy tater tots as a replacement, which we definitely went for.  I don’t think the waitress finished describing them before we said, ‘Yes, please!’ It was a Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there,” moment. They were crisp, salty and cheesy with an element of creaminess.  The perfect little size, served with a small pot of umami ketchup- which, I swear to god, is just ketchup with the word umami in front of it.  Florence described the tater tots as “fried mashed potato goodness” and I am inclined to agree!  The couple with us offered to let us try their sweet potato fries and we eagerly reached over to steal a nibble.  They were nicely salted with a crisp exterior and our lunch mates absolutely loved them.

I ordered a ‘Mexican coke’ as bottled cokes have come to be called in America.  The real difference, as my father insisted I point out, is that Mexican coke is made from real sugar cane, while American coke has high fructose corn syrup, but I'd be surprised if restaurants were actually using this information as a guideline. I haven’t had regular coke in ages, so it was extra sweet and delicious.  Florence had a sparkling English water called Hildon and Storm ordered plain water that came out in this flexible glass, with an indention specifically for your thumb, and while they were charming to look at, not so charming to drink out of.  Our sociable friends across the table loved their iced teas and definitely needed refills.  Umami also has a few Japanese beers and rootbeer floats, which you probably saw in the review of Umami Urban. 

   
Clientele was a mixed bag: friends, family, and young professionals off on their lunch breaks.  The Santa Monica location had greater menu variety with more burger options, and while the staff was helpful, they weren’t the best.  Our waitress was covering the entire outside area, so I suspect she was a little ‘in the weeds’ as they say.  They were accommodating of requests though, and always pleasant.  Cost is what you’d expect: around $10-12 for burgers and sides range from $3-5, so just under $20 per person with tax and tip.  Latching on to Fred Segal was a great idea for the boutique burger joint and I would highly recommend a day of shopping punctuated by a delicious meal with the fifth taste, Umami.