When the seasons change, many more things change than just the weather. Looking at the weather alone, Southern California currently experiences a massive heat wave that may make you believe that the seasons had not turned yet. A deadly virus threatens human civilization that broke out. A drought threatens the inhabitation of California. As a society, we cannot accurately predict what radical event will change the world next, but we can brace ourselves for anything, as we always have in the past as an enduring society. We can also fall back on what we typically associate with this time of the year. Fall, as we know it, indicates pumpkins, red wine, NFL, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the fall harvest, especially the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, giving us a reason to gorge on Mooncakes. Looking at all these opportunities to feast on favorable foods, we should not overlook outdoor grilling, nor the foods prepared that way. Though the winds will chill the air more so than in the summer, many folks will still utilize the grill up through Thanksgiving. In homage of the veritable fall feast, take a look at these five burgers in the Greater Los Angeles Area that I highly recommend seeking out this season.

5. Belcampo Meat Company‘s Belcampo Cheeseburger

Have you ever visited collective gatherings of food businesses? I do not refer to strip malls or a food court or food truck spots. I refer to a full public market dedicated to providing real estate to local entrepreneurs seeking to enter the food & beverage industry. For example, the historic Pike Place Market in Seattle hosts countless independently-owned businesses, many of which serve unique foods found nowhere else. The Anaheim Packinghouse, which just opened earlier this year, houses a plethora of local food & beverage businesses all serving something unique such that no business competes with each other. Another highly-populated public market exists in Downtown Los Angeles known as Grand Central Market. This dense and compact market holds so many businesses and attracts so many people daily that you literally have to elbow your way through the crowd to get anywhere. If you do that, you may discover great hidden gems, such as the Belcampo Meat Company. This counter, along with its other four California locations, fully functions as both a butcher shop and a restaurant. Their offerings change based on the seasons and the market, but some menu items remain a constant, such as their Belcampo Cheeseburger. They grill a 5.5oz dry-aged & grass-fed beef patty to medium rare, then top it with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, butter lettuce, and what appears to taste like thousand island dressing that they call house sauce. This burger makes it to number five on this list because, although the beef tastes amazingly juicy, the rest of the burger looks rather dull. The lettuce especially gives it a “cheap” look, reducing the overall experience. Honestly, with beef this juicy and full of savory goodness, they can do away with the lettuce, and the burger would look so much better. The price of this burger varies based on the location, but the burger in Downtown LA costs $12.50.

4. Slater’s 50/50‘s Cubano

The empire continues to grow! Now sporting seven locations, the Slater’s 50/50 collective has since expanded outward from its original location in Orange County, with spots now in Rancho Cucamonga and San Marcos. Any Southern Californian local will have heard of Slater’s 50/50, while out-of-towners will want to visit any Slater’s 50/50 location for their namesake, the 50/50 burger – a burger patty consisting of 50% beef and 50% ground bacon. While they sell their trademark 50/50 patty the most, they still sport a large menu of other great items. Their menu claims that they have the “World’s Greater Turkey Burger,” a bold proclamation since typically turkey burgers never quite match up to that of beef or even pork burger patties. I advise you to keep an open mind for their October burger-of-the-month, The Cubano. Slater’s 50/50 builds this massive burger-sandwich hybrid starting with their 2/3 lbs turkey patty, which they top with Swiss cheese, carnitas-style pork, pickled red onions, banana rum mustard, and mint leaves, all on toasted sourdough bread with a side of sliced pickles. Basically, you will receive a panini-style Cuban sandwich with some twists. The mint leaves especially stand out, providing a distinct tease with each bite. For a craft beer pairing, stick with the middle ground, nothing strong or light, such as a pale ale, amber ale, or brown ale. The Cubano makes it to number four on this list because of a few issues. Glaringly, I cannot say that I approve of the bread choice. Sourdough itself bears a flavor that one must savor on its own, so in this sandwich, it would sometimes lose its sourdough flavor with center bites, or overpower the sandwich with edge bites. The choice to toast the bread also brings out two problems: the crunchiness may harm those with sensitive gums, and the bread gets soggy if the cooks do not layer the ingredients correctly, which will happen more often than not. For a burger list, I rarely feature a non-beef patty, as I simply prefer a beef patty unless the patty truly glorifies the burger, such as a chorizo patty. If you seek a Cuban sandwich on an actual burger…

3. Grill ‘Em All‘s Midnight A.K.A. The Konnan

Music truly does hold the title of the most universal language. Lyrics aside, once you have the instrumentals, you can capture an audience from any corner of the globe. From Kawaii metal to fart metal, music resonates well with any individual, even if the music physically assaults anyone listening to it. Much like with music, certain foods gain positive reception around the world. While we can find common foods like burgers and pizza in nearly every country, certain styles also carry over quite well. For example, the typical Cuban sandwich consists of ham, carnitas-style pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles. Modifications heavily exist to this, as proved by Grill ‘Em All. Consistently shattering culinary perceptions, Grill ‘Em All knows that keeping with traditions will only keep them in the past. For that reason, they think progressively by reinventing stereotypical foods into amalgams of frenzied burgers that look like they took a spin in a mosh pit or two. For the month of October, Grill ‘Em All reimagines the classic Cuban sandwich into their burger-of-the-month, The Midnight A.K.A. The Konnan. Named after a Cuban professional wrestler, The Midnight takes its name from Medianoche, Spanish for midnight, which also refers to the type of sandwich. Unlike standard Cuban sandwiches, The Midnight follows in the footsteps of the Medianoche by utilizing a Hawaiian bun as the sweet bread. Following that, we have a half-pound burger with black forest ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, dijon mustard, pickles, and whole-grain aioli. The resulting burger tastes like a traditional Medianoche sandwich, but with the added surge of the beef patty. This burger pairs very well with the Iron Maiden Trooper ale that they have on tap here! Do keep in mind that you can only obtain this burger this month only, which explains why this burger only makes it to number three on this list.

2. Dolce Bistro & Bakery‘s Not So Classic Burger

Who can resist a cute little sweet treat? Nobody can deny that dessert tends to come across the minds of everybody at least once a day, especially around mealtime. In recent years, bakeries have soared in popularity, whether they make baked goods, cupcakes, pastries, or whatever. When locally famous Porto’s Bakery announced plans to open in Orange County, the entire county clamored in excitement as a testament to the people’s love of sweets. Plenty other bakeries have had to up their game to make them stand out in the crowd, aside from harsh marketing. Up in Montclair, Dolce Bistro & Bakery upped their game by expanding their bakery into a café and restaurant. Tucked away past the Montclair Plaza shopping center, Dolce Bistro & Bakery essentially combines two of my favorite things into one place: a gastropub and a bakery. On one side, you have the bakery where they dole out cronuts, macarons, cupcakes, cookies, and more. On the other side, you have a full-service restaurant representative of today’s typical gastropubs. Aside from their rotating list of craft beers, Dolce Bistro & Bakery deploys a menu that both sounds and tastes delicious. A handful of the menu items gives off an Asian-fusion vibe, but when you look at their burgers, none stand out quite as much as the Not So Classic Burger. While you may expect a meal, the combination of roasted tomatoes, red onion marmalade, Fontina cheese, aioli, and bacon jam will trick your mind into treating this like dessert, what with this sweet lineup of ingredients. A bakery that also serves a sweet burger? Who could have seen that coming? For those bold enough to attempt to pair a craft beer with this, very few beers can stand up to the intensity of this burger. If they have it, go with a stout, Belgian (tripel), or barleywine, as you need that extra strength to stand toe-to-toe with this burger.

1. Stout Burgers & Beer‘s Stout Burger

When determining the desirability of a business, consumers will often research the longevity of a business. If a business has remained open for at least a handful of years, then you can tell that they have endured the hardships of the first couple of years in business, the period where the entrepreneurs hope to break even with their investment. For many years, I have searched for the best of foods that I can find, asking numerous colleagues and strangers everywhere I travel. During those years, a sole burger restaurant has remained at the top of my to-do list that I have never thought to visit. One day, I told myself: I would finally muster up the courage to make the trek up to Stout Burgers & Beers. Located smack dab in the middle of Hollywood, this gastropub does not beat around the bush, and they follow exactly what their name indicates: burgers and beers. They picked one thing to do, and they do it right – I cannot ask for anything more. Here at Stout, they ground the beef in-house daily, so you can expect a fresh burger every single time you visit. Though their menu contains a handful of choices, I encourage everyone to immediately look at their namesake, the Stout Burger. This burger features such a diverse cast of ingredients that all contribute to the greater picture, a picture of a thousand colors. With blue cheese crumbles, Gruyère cheese, rosemary bacon, caramelized onions, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes, each ingredient delivers something different to the palate. From the ingredients alone, you get a sour, nutty, salty, sweet, bitter, and tart, respectively. Oh, and this burger patty? It rivals that of Umami Burger. Yes, I said it. People know how much I swear by Umami Burger, but wow do the folks at Stout know how to prepare a burger. At least I can drive to Umami Burger in less than ten minutes from my place, as opposed to Stout where I have to drive about 45 minutes to get there, then pay for parking. I struggle to find free parking anywhere near Stout, which prevents me from visiting them more often whenever I find myself near Hollywood. Perhaps this represents a sign that I must not overindulge in Stout, and that I should consider it an occasional treat. But please, do not put off visiting Stout like I did for many years – you ought to go very soon to devour one of the best burgers you will ever lay your hands on!

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