Wednesday, August 25, 2010


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


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.