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 d├ęcor 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…