Posts Tagged ‘Caramelized Onions’

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. The pharmaceutical industry has come under heavy scrutiny. Scientists have discovered flowing water on Mars. 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. The Apple Pan‘s Steakburger

With all this newfangled technology and modernism going on these days, sometimes it helps to go back to the basics. We turn to the originals to inspired us to prepare for the future. For the originals, we head over to The Apple Pan in Century City. The name should speak for itself, but for those who have not heard of the name, The Apple Pan represents one of the oldest Los Angeles restaurants still in operation to this day. The Apple Pan even inspired the Johnny Rockets chain we see everywhere. The Apple Pan’s old-time charm holds dear to our hearts, but their classic food represents comfort food at its finest. The Apple Pan serves two signature burgers with different cuts of beef: a hickory burger, and the Steakburger. Where the hickory burger carries more smoke flavor, the Steakburger remains closer to a medium beef patty. Each one costs $7.65 and comes with The Apple Pan’s signature sauce (resembles salsa), mayonnaise, pickles, and lettuce. For a small upcharge, you can add Tillamook cheddar to the burger, which I highly recommend since they let the cheese melt onto the grill, providing some crispness to the cheese. At The Apple Pan, the classics never go out of style!

4. Beer Belly‘s The Duck! Cheeseburger

We move from the classics to the modern era, where crafty chefs like to get fancy and creative with their foods. We deviate away from the norm with the type of ingredients used in classic dishes, but deviate too far and you may end up putting off willing customers. Thankfully, Koreatown’s Beer Belly walks the line between classic and inventive with their modernized take on classic foods. Beer Belly’s menu contains classic foods as you may recognize, but they use slightly different ingredients than you may recall. Take, for example, The Duck! Cheeseburger. Sure it may cost $15.50 for just a burger, but looking at what they put in this burger may justify the cost. Beer Belly uses a patty of duck and bacon for this burger, which can already kill the savory senses for those not accustomed to this barrage of meaty goodness. In addition, they even put foie gras on this burger! The hits do not stop there – you also get provolone cheese, mustard, peach ketchup, arugula, and pickled red onions on this burger in an onion brioche bun. Just for kicks, you can add a fried egg to this burger for $1.50 more. If you want to blitz your taste buds, Beer Belly has the ticket for that.

3. Urbana‘s Urbana Burger

Now we move from the modern era to the fusion path, where we start to cross cuisines of different cultures. As its name may suggest, the hamburger originated in Germany, yet today it somehow has a lot more popularity in the United States than Germany. One thing led to another, and we have foods mixing and matching all over the world. Most prominently, Latin cuisine mixes very well with other cuisines, something that Urbana in Anaheim does very well. Urbana takes Mexican flavors and applies them to many types of dishes besides Mexican food. While Urbana has the classics such as tacos, Urbana puts a Latin spin on other foods not typically thought of as Mexican, just like in their Urbana Burger. While it eats like a burger, the grass-fed beef patty comes filled with Queso Oaxaca for a stuffed burger experience. This stuffed patty sits on a layer of chorizo and gets topped with arugula, caramelized onions, and cilantro aioli. For $18, this monstrous burger comes with fries to feed you for the night.

2. Pig Pen Delicacy‘s Maple Bacon Jam Burger

Americans have a strange fascination with bacon. Something about this small strip of pork drives people to spend obscene amounts of money to add it on to something. Fast food restaurants routinely charge a dollar more to add a piece of bacon, while some restaurants charge up to $4 more to add some bacon. I will never understand why people do this, but I do know that if I crave the flavor of bacon, it had better taste good, so I go to Pig Pen Delicacy in Santa Ana. As the name of this food stand suggests, Pig Pen Delicacy sells pork and pork accessories products in whatever manner they can fashion. Look at their Maple Bacon Jam Burger to see how much they love pork here. An all-beef patty comes coated with maple bacon jam, havarti cheese, chive aioli, and friend onion strings. At just $8.50, you can have a mess on your hands and eat it too. Between all the bacon, pulled pork, and pork belly, if you want pork, you got it here at Pig Pen Delicacy.

1. Cafe Cola‘s Smoov Burger

We live in a time where every single human being desires absolute control over his or her life. As a universal human truth, people need to have complete control over their lives and do things only their way, even if it obstructs another person’s path to freedom. Sad as that might sound, history has shown exactly this. When you have control, you feel authoritative and confident. When you lack control, you may start to feel scared or angry. By allowing people to have control, they feel more comfortable with the current situation. They have ditched the old motto of “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” for a more direct approach that gives them control. Instead of getting mad, go somewhere that allows you to enjoy your control by allowing you the pleasure of customization, such as at Cafe Cola in Covina. Now officially reopened (albeit only on weekends), Cafe Cola has introduced a brand new model of allowing customers to build their own burger from the plate up for one flat price. Customers pay $9.95 for the Smoov Burger, and can choose as many toppings as they want to go on it. Personally, I think too many toppings kills the flavor, but with so much to choose from, you can afford to carefully select toppings. Despite this gimmick, the burger comes out amazing, as Cafe Cola does not muck around with the beef patty. Very few places can boast about unlimited toppings at one low price, and Cafe Cola has sealed the deal as the best customizable burger in the Greater Los Angeles area.

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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. The pharmaceutical industry has come under heavy scrutiny. Scientists have discovered flowing water on Mars. 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. Pie ‘n Burger‘s Cheeseburger

Two major archetypes of people exist: the adventurous and the safe. By human nature, people prefer the familiar – after all, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This explains why corporate products can survive for so long because they continue to serve the exact same product that people grew up with. Because something has never changed over time, that must mean that people love it, right? For something traditional that the people always go back to, look no further than Pie ‘n Burger. This little diner in Pasadena has withstood the test of time with their simplistic approach to traditional diner foods in burgers, milkshakes, and pies. Pie ‘n Burger not only makes food that all customers recognize, but they make them delicious as well that rivals corporate equivalents. Pie ‘n Burger’s basic Cheeseburger may remind some people of other famous fast food burgers because of its cheddar, thousand island sauce, pickles, and lettuce. However, something about Pie ‘n Burger’s old-fashioned cheeseburger just makes it so much better than fast food. Pair this cheeseburger with a milkshake or a fresh slice of pie, and you have a terrific meal that may remind you of your childhood.

4. The Blind Pig‘s Bison Burger

Fancy hip gastropubs have surfaced greatly over the past handful of years. The new wave of millennials crave something new and unique, unlike the previous generations that prefer to stick with the familiar. The days of family restaurants have passed, and smaller intimate restaurants have grown in popularity with the customers getting closer to their servers and mixologists. The dining experience should encompass more than just the food – it should involve atmosphere, community, and interactivity, and you can experience all of that at The Blind Pig Kitchen & Bar. Nestled away in a shopping center in Rancho Santa Margarita, The Blind Pig’s smaller dining area seats groups of two to four and allows customers to feel closer to their servers and mixologists. While they boast an extensive offering of cocktails, The Blind Pig also serves some mighty fine cuisine, including their Bison Burger. This burger with a 100% ground bison patty comes with arugula, caramelized onions, cheddar, and spicy aioli, served with fries. Bison typically has less fat than beef and has a gamier taste, giving a different approach to the typical burger. You can savor this burger at The Blind Pig for $15.

3. True Food Kitchen‘s Bison Burger

With the widespread use of the internet came all the exposures of bad food industry practices. From the inhumane treatment of animals to all the fillers in food, people started to demand better food quality, and most food companies had to oblige or risk losing business. While the corporate businesses struggled to change their ways, local businesses started fresh and adopted a wholesome and healthy approach to their menus, something that True Food Kitchen accomplished right off the bat. Best known for their anti-inflammatory ingredients, True Food Kitchen truly delivers good good-for-you food. Their menu covers all types of diets, from vegan to gluten-free and more. For those without dietary restrictions, True Food Kitchen still has an expansive menu that includes savory dishes such as their Bison Burger. Using a 100% ground bison patty, this delicious yet healthy burger gets topped with mushrooms, onions, mayonnaise, watercress, and parmesan cheese on a flax seed bun. For your side, you can choose Sweet Potato Hash, Kale Salad, or half of each. I typically do not enjoy mushrooms, but I made the exception just so I could savor this burger’s true essence, and I have no regrets. Every ingredient plays an important role towards the full picture of this burger. Experience health and flavor all in one bite with the Bison Burger at True Food Kitchen for $16.

2. Village Idiot‘s Griddle Burger

With all these newfangled restaurants popping up everywhere, sometimes it helps to exhibit a little modesty. Young adults want to visit the trendiest, hippest restaurants and/or bars because of interaction and mingling with others of similar age and personality. With so many of these new places around, some restaurants or bars just want to resemble the go-to place away from all the hustle of noisy places. Enter the Village Idiot in West Hollywood as your go-to place to relax. The Village Idiot looks like your typical neighborhood restaurant with no frills or anything fancy inside. They have an old-fashioned bar with plenty of seating in the dining area, perfect for parties of all sizes. With a wide array of food and drink options, Village Idiot will have something for everyone. For something familiar yet scrumptious, go with their Griddle Burger. This simple yet effective $15 burger carries two patties along with dijon spread and a heaping serving of caramelized onions, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and fries on the side. Accessorize your burger with cheese or a fried egg at an additional cost. Available throughout the day, this burger will help you get away from the bustle of daily life momentarily while you savor this local flavor.

1. Wagyu Chuck‘s BBQ Bacon Burger

A corporate fast food business recently released a commercial where they pushed the phrase “Go big or go home” constantly throughout the ad. The notion of “all or nothing” greatly applies to all aspects of life. Why half-ass something when you can go full-ass into something? If you do not go all-in, that shows lack of commitment. When you go out to eat, you can either eat healthy or you can eat something full of flavor that can ruin your health. State fairs have things like deep-fried twinkie bars because YOLO. But if you intend to think YOLO with your food, you might as well seek the best foods that fit that archetype, so trek on over to Wagyu Chuck for your fill. One of many food stands in Downtown Santa Ana’s 4th Street Market, Wagyu Chuck makes burgers and only burgers. They specialize in burgers, and will not offer you anything else… except maybe a side of fried potatoes. The standard menu contains a single, double, or triple burger, but occasionally they will have burger specials, such as the BBQ Bacon Burger. While the name itself sounds amazing, I hope that you do not have a diet plan if you intend to conquer this. Greasy, oily, and salty, the combination of bacon, fried onions, cheese, and barbecue sauce all on top of a wagyu beef patty leaves a profound effect on your tastebuds and your stomach. Savor this burger with small bites, as you will not ever want this burger to end. As a burger special, Wagyu Chuck may not carry this on their menu forever, so travel to Wagyu Chuck as soon as possible and see what a true burger should taste like.

The hot summer days lends perfectly to grilling weather. As an American tradition, citizens officially start the grilling season on Memorial Day weekend, as that signifies many things. First off, on that weekend, Americans celebrate an important federal holiday to celebrate and honor the lives of those lost while serving for the United States Armed Forces. The weather starts to significantly heat up by this weekend, following the inconsistent weather of April and much of May. As a result of the warmer weather, Americans take advantage of a holiday weekend off of work until the next federal holiday, Independence Day, to gather some friends & family for a party involving grilling. When thinking about grilling for a group of people, what food exactly comes to mind? I guarantee that hot dogs and hamburgers top the list. The notion to purchase these items in bulk contributes to the misconception that these foods do not taste good. The phrase “You get what you pay for” has never applied as much as it does now, as most who purchase in bulk tend to pay low per individual unit. If you seek quality, you will have to drop extra money for it. Hot dogs tend to bear questionable ingredients, but true hamburgers still exist in this world. If you happen to find yourself in Southern California this summer, check out these five places to grab some of the best burgers you will ever have. One bite into these will change the way you look at hamburgers forever.

5. Seoulmate‘s Fresh Off The Burger

In this day and age, people love to eat all sorts of diverse foods. California has almost every type of cuisine from around the world, which may overwhelm people who crave multiple types of cuisines at once. Thankfully, restaurants offer fusion dishes that mix up cuisines and combine two foreign concepts together, something that Seoulmate does very well. Nestled in a small shack that used to belong to Moshers, Seoulmate combines Korean BBQ with Latin dishes. The best of both worlds, this means that you can enjoy the savoriness of Korean BBQ in the form of finger food. For example, take their Fresh Off The Burger, which uses a Kalbi-marinated quarter-pound Angus beef patty. This burger also comes with fried onions, tomato, lettuce, American cheese, Seoulmate’s special spread, sesame, kimchi, and relish. Basically, they put a Korean BBQ bowl on a burger. You can snag this Korean-inspired burger for just $8.75.

4. Dog Haus‘ Holy Aioli

Americans traditionally have eaten at least one hot dog in their entire lives. Hot dogs represent one of the most common American foods when the rest of the world thinks about American cuisine. Depending on who prepares the hot dog, it can take on a variety of flavors based on either the meat or the toppings. This same concept applies to burgers – it can vary in flavor based on the meat and the toppings, and Dog Haus carries enough of a variety of toppings that they can come up with just about anything. Although known for their hot dogs, Dog Haus also deploys a lineup of burgers on their menu, such as their Holy Aioli. They use Hawaiian bread to hold together this burger with smoked bacon, white american cheese, garlic aioli, and caramelized onions. Put together, this burger tastes more like a dessert than a meal, and you can splurge on this because of its low price tag of $5.95. Grab a burger, a side, and maybe a nice cold beer while you dine here.

3. Fusion Burgers‘ Mexican BBQ Burger

One of the themes of my blog follows the premise of “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Colloquially known as hole-in-the-wall businesses, the external appearance of some buildings may mask the true nature of the business inside. If you drive through a neighborhood that looks worn down on the outside, that does not necessarily tell the story of what goes on inside. If you drive through Highland Park, you may accidentally miss Fusion Burgers if you have no intention of looking for it. Though they appear simple from the outside, this restaurant truly serves some outstanding cuisine inside that rivals many of the more expensive restaurants around Los Angeles County. One of their customer favorites, the Mexican BBQ Burger, uses a burger patty made of al pastor meat, and comes with aillade (a variation of aioli), a grilled pineapple, caramelized onions, and Boston lettuce. Though it does not carry that fancy ingredients, it has all it needs to highlight the amazing natural juices of the al pastor meat. At just $9 for this burger, you cannot go wrong with this burger gone Mexican.

2. The Bottle Room‘s B&B Deluxe

There exists a concept called synergy. This concept states that the interaction of elements, when combined, produce a total effect greater than the sum of the individual elements and contributions. Basically, certain mixes and combinations together make for a greater product than the items separately. For example, bleu cheese and bacon burgers have existed for a while because the contrasting flavors of the bleu cheese and bacon make their flavor come out even more. If you seek an example of such, look no further than The Bottle Room. Locals regard The Bottle Room best for their ever-changing selection of craft beers from across the nation, but The Bottle Room also serves up some world-class cuisine, such as their B&B Deluxe. This marvelous burger contains black fig jam, St. Agur bleu cheese, duck fat onions, bacon, and arugula. I know many people who avoid bleu cheese – I used to stay away from bleu cheese too. However, this burger has the power to change your mind, and show you the wonders of how bleu cheese and bacon synergize so well together. Visit The Bottle Room and devour this burger for $15.

1. Wild Goose Tavern‘s Peppadew Cheddar Burger

People can often get surprised when they discover that a particular place serves food. Most adults go to bars to enjoy a few drinks with friends, or to simply take in the social environment. These patrons would not normally have food on their mind when they go out drinking, but food and adult beverages go so well together for flavor contrasting. When a bar serves food, it can serve to simply fill you up, or it can taste great A.K.A. hit or miss. If you want a bar to hit the mark, seek out Wild Goose Tavern in Orange County. You will often find locals visiting this bar multiple times a week due to not only their generous drinks, but the amazing food cooked up here as well. Patrons looking for a full and tasty meal will want to gravitate towards the Peppadew Cheddar Burger. A perfect handheld meal that frees up a hand for you to sip your beverage, this fulfilling burger comes with golden peppadews, oven-dried tomatoes, arugula, alfalfa sprouts, garlic aioli, and cheddar cheese. This burger not only tastes amazing, but will not break your bank, costing just $8. Come with friends, or come alone, but make sure you leave full and satisfied.

Welcome to 2015, an odd year that some may consider a passing year rather than a destination year. Unlike 2014 and 2016 that have significant worldly events going on, no one truly expects anything extraordinary to occur in 2015 other than news as it occurs. With nothing public to look forward to, we must take control of our lives and make something happen for ourselves. Living a bland, boring lifestyle leads to an unproductive life, so get your adrenaline pumping by exploring new things out in the world. If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, check out these five burgers that will definitely add some zing to your life.

5. Slater’s 50/50‘s Faux Gras Burger

California had not seen foie gras sold in restaurants since June of 2012. Animal activists won a battle that made it illegal to sell foie gras in California. However, as of very recently, that law no longer upholds, so foie fans can rejoice! It will take a while until restaurants start to reintroduce foie gras into their menus. In the meantime, the folks over at Slater’s 50/50 have something to relieve our hunger for foie gras. Slater’s 50/50 truly has an international legacy, having graced the front page of Reddit recently, so an introduction has no place here. Moving on to the meat of the business, their January burger-of-the-month has come to us in the form of their aptly-named Faux Gras Burger. Although it does not contain actual foie gras, the flavor comes awfully close. This burger utilizes their Pepper Brandt beef patty instead of their signature 50/50 patty, and honestly, the 50/50 patty would probably muck up the rest of the flavors in the burger. To add to this, the burger comes with fattened chicken livers, Granny Smith apple & onion marmalade, white cheddar, fried onion strings, whole-grain mustard, and arugula on a brioche bun. Some people see liver and immediately turn the other way. I strongly urge you to give this a chance this month, especially since it only costs $12, a bargain compared to many of their past burgers of the month.

4. Restauration‘s The Other Burger

Long Beach may have its ghetto areas laden with crime and death, but outside of those areas, Long Beach has some highly hip and trendy areas. As long as you avoid the bad areas, you will discover some cool places such as the East Village Arts District, Belmont Shore, or Retro Row. Retro Row especially has some great hidden gems, and even beyond the official area of Retro Row, you may find some other great hidden gems, such as Restauration. Formerly 212 Patio Bistro, this quaint little gastropub makes visitors feel right at home with their humble front area and spacious patio seating in the back. The menu contains standard gastropub faire, which means food with a greater concentration of quality, as most apparent in The Other Burger. This grass-fed beef burger, cooked to order, comes with bacon, Fiscalini white cheddar, shredded lettuce, house pickles, caramelized onions, and garlic aioli on a butter-toasted bun. Each ingredient’s unique taste lends well to the support of this amazingly juicy burger, not to mention the crispiness of the toasted bun. You can nab this burger during business hours for just $12, and it comes with your choice of side.

3. 38 Degrees Ale House‘s The Thirty-Eight Burger

In the debate of opening a restaurant that serves craft beer, one must ask: what do I want the people to recognize us most for, the food or the beer? This balance would materialize itself like a seesaw, as focusing on one aspect often leads to neglect of the other. I mean, sometimes some places that swear by their food may have a different perception by the public. Finding the right balance takes practice, something that 38 Degrees Ale House has done. The folks at 38 Degrees know their craft beer, and they know their food. Their residence in Alhambra may not help them (a city known for its traditional Chinese population), but they use their industry knowledge to hit homers all year round. When I first tried The Thirty-Eight Burger, I knew immediately that they have the recipe for success in their hands. They use triple-grind angus chuck for their beef patty, and garnish it with garlic aioli, onion relish, Point Reyes blue cheese, and baby arugula on a Hawaiian sweet bun, served with shoestring fries (upgradable to sweet potato fries for $2). With the sweet potato fries upgrade, this meal basically eats like a dessert, since only the blue cheese has a non-sweet flavor. Although I rarely modify burgers, I may try this again with hot sauce or something spicy to add some more kick to this burger. Luckily, this burger only costs $13, so it will not break the bank or anything.

2. Mohawk Bend‘s Whitson Burger

Los Angeles has so many unique eateries that one often has a hard time keeping track of all of them. Add to the fact that Los Angeles had so many different named neighborhoods, and you’d have to spend days exploring every neighborhood in Los Angeles County. From Silverlake to Lincoln Heights to the Miracle Mile and more, named neighborhoods all have something that make them stand out. Echo Park, for example, has some great historic sights to see, as well as businesses to visit. If you find yourself in Echo Park, take a look around for a lovely place called Mohawk Bend. Not coincidentally located at the bend of Sunset Blvd at Mohawk St, this restaurant dares to transcend above that of the gastropub label, as they refer to themselves as simply “a restaurant and bar in Echo Park dedicated to bringing you California craft beer and fresh, locally-sourced fare.” I will not lie – the interior looks gorgeous, and stepping foot in here makes you feel like walking into a movie set. If you can get past the scenery, you will find their substantial menu, which contains yummy eats like the Whitson Burger. Only available during dinner hours, this mammoth burger has three types of meat: ground beef for the patty, bacon, and pulled short ribs. Along with this meaty threesome, it comes with cheddar cheese, sliced pickles, shredded lettuce, and sriracha aioli on a brioche bun. Just for the heck of it, Mohawk Bend had to label this burger as (NV) which I assume means “never vegan.” Blast those vegans though – this burger costs $15 and comes with a choice of side, while vegan food usually costs more since it requires more careful preparations.

1. Bachi Burger‘s Ronin Burger

Las Vegas draws thousands of visitors every weekend as they visit for vacationing. Most people come to Las Vegas for the partying, while others come for the gambling or shows. Do people go to Las Vegas for the food? Probably not – most visitors who travel to Las Vegas end up dining at their hotel’s buffet, a cesspool of leftovers with less quality than serviced restaurants. Las Vegas restaurants that thrive on the quality of their food should look to expanding elsewhere, such as the case with Bachi Burger. Originally based out of Las Vegas, this restaurant chain has landed in Southern California with two locations: West LA and Pasadena. So what makes Bachi Burger so good that they had to expand to California? One word: fusion. Bachi Burger brings Japanese and island flavors to the west by introducing them to a form that Americans easily recognize: burgers. Visitors can savor this fusion best in the Ronin Burger, the first burger listed on their menu. This angus beef burger patty gets topped with caramelized onions, Japanese cole slaw, miso goma (sesame) dressing, a fried egg, and katsu BBQ sauce, served with yuzu citrus aioli on the side. Anyone who loves Asian food will fall in love with this burger, as it basically represents Asian-style BBQ in a burger. The price of this burger depends on the location; for example, this costs $13 at the West LA location. Sadly, burgers do not come with any side, but once you sink your teeth into this burger, you will not require a side, as you will want to prolong this experience as long as you can.

As we enter April, we enter the start of Q2 2013. The start of Q2 indicates the turn of a new season, and with the turn of a new season comes renovation and innovation. When people quote the phrase “reinventing the wheel,” the wheel in this case can represent practically anything. What approach can one use to identify an existing item or concept, and reconfigure it with typically improved performance? Sometimes, in order to progress and move forward, one has to regress back to the ground level, and decipher a new path to climb the tree. At the very core, what constitutes the foundation? Any tree starts with a seed. On that same train of thought, any good burger starts with the right patty. If you arrive at a restaurant that serves a well done burger by default, you should question the quality of the meat. The best chefs intend to cook burgers medium rare, as that cooks the outside of the patty while sealing the juices and flavor inside to create a full pink color that should run all the way to the ends of the patty. Very rarely do restaurants cook medium rare burgers as they should, but a small handful understand the craft of cooking a hamburger. For the upcoming season, seek out the following five burgers to understand the depth and quality that a medium rare burgers brings to the table. Also keep in mind for the locations that allow customization – judge them on their actual burger, not the additions you selected.

5. Hole In The Wall Burger Joint‘s Pretzel Bun Burger

More often than not, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant serves better food than large corporate restaurants. Local mom & pop hole-in-the-wall places focus more on authenticity and preserving their culture first over capitalizing on the popularity of food. Once in a while, a chef will play the sly card and open a place with a tricky name that forces unforced double takes. If you ever find yourself at the DMV in Santa Monica, you may have noticed a small strip mall of food places across the street, of which one of the spaces bears the name Hole In The Wall Burger Joint. Fans already know that the place existed elsewhere prior to moving to this new location. The charm of a basic design allows this business to fit in virtually anywhere, and serve a small variety that could satisfy anyone’s hunger. At Hole In The Wall, customers can fully customize their meal using their menu notepad that you can strip off and fill out to hand to the cashier. Customers select the patty, bread, spread, cheese, veggies, and extra additions. Also take a look at their specials that rotate weekly, as that features the burger-of-the-week and salad-of-the-week. First-time visitors should immediately go for the beef burger (medium rare, of course) paired with the pretzel bun. Out of all the breads, the pretzel bun does the best job at retaining the burger’s juices; however, this says much, as Hole In The Wall unapologetically cooks the burgers in such a way that they ooze with juices. Avoid piling on too many extras, as you want to savor the burger for the first time. Once you understand the flavors and juices behind this burger, you can then start throwing on your precious extras.

4. Silver Trumpet‘s Burger

Although hole-in-the-wall places tend to carry more authentic food, this does not mean that fancier places do not cook their food well. Even for a place that touts themselves as a bar & lounge, Silver Trumpet dishes out some amazing bar-like food. Located within the Wyndham Costa Mesa complex, Silver Trumpet serves your typical American cuisine – steaks, seafood, chicken, pasta, etc. However, slide on over to the bar & lounge area for an entirely new hip vibe not present in the main dining area. Here at the bar, you can order goodies like Lobster Corn Dogs, Crab Cakes, or Surf & Turf (Scallops & Pulled Pork, Carnitas style), while still ordering from the full bar and gazing at the TV if they show any games at the time. For the ultimate bar snack, you can order The Burger and slightly customize it with extras. This burger comes with cheddar, fried onions, lettuce, tomato, and a caper aioli. The aioli alone tastes wonderful and pairs well with any meat, not just the burger. Customers may choose to add bacon, avocado, a fried egg, caramelized onions, and/or sautéed mushrooms to their burger. Take care when selecting extras, as this burger already has a lot going on, especially with their aioli. However, nothing shall stop you from going extras crazy and adding them all, so… more power to you.

3. Slater’s 50/50‘s Peanut Butter & Jellousy A La Mode

We move from the hole-in-the-wall to the fancy, and now we venture into the eccentric. If you ask a random person on the street what they like on a burger, any item they mention not a vegetable will relate to some sort of salty or savory taste. People love their cheeses, bacon, sauces, and anything else as long as they can fulfill their sodium cravings. What about those bearing a sweet tooth? Sweet burgers do exist, but so few and far in-between that anyone seeking such a rare treat likely requires a guide. Luckily, I can say right now that Slater’s 50/50, with their dashingly sharp minds, has concocted strange creations involving flavors not typically associated with burgers, and their creations have landed a permanent spot on their menus. By now, most people have heard of a burger with peanut butter, jelly, and bacon, thanks to a few strong burger places in Southern California. Slater’s 50/50 would like to take that concept a step beyond by throwing in a scoop of ice cream to generate the Peanut Butter & Jellousy A La Mode. A spin on an existing menu item, customers can choose between a beef patty or the 50/50 patty, and that receives bacon, peanut butter, strawberry jam, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Every time I mentioned this burger, people always ask “Why though?” Truthfully, like their Donut Burger in the past, the vanilla ice cream does a great job at synchronizing the salty and the sweet, and brings it all together quite nicely. Whereas the original burger pitted salt versus sweet, the vanilla ice cream calms the two sides down so that they can embrace in the middle of the burger. This burger hides no tricks – as soon as you receive it, consume it immediately before the ice cream melts. While you chew your way through this burger, you can ask yourself what will Slater’s think of next.

2. Hopscotch Tavern‘s The Duke

Throughout all the restaurants in the world, few dedicate themselves to the art of grilling burgers. In today’s society where restaurants strive to serve the tastiest and most unique entrées, often times food items deemed as kids’ food get left behind, especially the burger. Thanks to the gastropub movement, the popularity of burgers has revitalized, so patrons understand that gastropubs will carry amazing burgers. Even if a gastropub follows a specialty, such as how Hopscotch Tavern specializes in slow-cooked foods, they will incorporate a burger on the menu somehow. Hopscotch carries burgers in a small section of their menu, but one particular burger deserves a space of its own rather than sharing a small room on the menu. Dubbed The Duke, this behemoth burger consists of a custom grind stuffed with cheddar cheese. This patty gets topped with pulled pork, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, and American cheese. Consider this burger a modified double bacon cheeseburger, as it contains twice the amount of normal cheese, bacon strips, and a custom patty that contains more beef than their other burgers. Oh, and they threw in some pulled pork… just to call it something else besides a bacon cheeseburger. Bite through to the middle to get to the best part, where the cheese and juices of the burger slowly ooze out. Remember to get a little of everything on this burger in every bite, including the pulled pork. You must get messy while eating this burger to absorb the full experience of this burger.

1. Kings Row Gastropub‘s King’s Burger

Ever since an unmentioned chef developed his legendary burger, many others have crafted their own version of that hit burger. Some quote about imitation and flattery applies here, but sometimes the imitation bears the necessary means to surpass the original. Of all the burgers in this same category of burgers, Kings Row Gastropub has secured a bullseye in crafting a burger so scrumptious that customers return over and over just for it. If you ever find yourself in Pasadena, stroll into Kings Row and order their King’s Burger, cooked medium rare as always. This patty of 21-day dry-aged beef receives a generous helping of St. Agur Bleu Cheese, duck fat onions, and arugula, while aioli and white cheddar finish off the burger. The clashing flavors of the onions and cheese opens the palate, allowing customers to take in all the glory of the beef patty. Praise whoever discovered that combination – although the flavors clash, they still taste amazing together, likely due to their properties of opening the palate. I say they clash thanks to the massive up-front flavor rush from the duck fat and the overwhelming scent of the bleu cheese. Some customers cannot handle this burger due to both the duck fat and bleu cheese – to them I say hold your nose and just bite through it. If you want a great burger, you have to find them at a gastropub, and Kings Row has the burger you need in your life and in your belly.

Although 2012 showed much progress with many different types of food, 2013 appears promising as far as pushing the boundaries of delicious food. Chefs constantly work to devise new & creative foods that patrons can fall in love with and tell their friends about. The way I see it, in order to garner success, one needs to invent or reinvent. In other words, one needs to create something brand new, or take an existing idea and improve it, which applies to both the art and the canvas. Many people tend to look only at the art without acknowledging the quality of the canvas. Culinarily, the toppings, which represent the art, may enhance the appearance and flavor of a dish, but you need the base template, which represents the canvas, in order to build the dish. Burgers represent a basic yet open-ended canvas to craft works of art. The majority of the world only sees burgers for what you can top them with; however, the quality of the meat greatly determines the overall quality of the burger – after all, you cannot have a burger without the patty. Read on to discover five burgers in the Greater Los Angeles area that I urge you to try this season.

5. Tavern On 2‘s Black & Blue Burger

Leave it to small-town charm to come up with a burger this succulent. Tavern On 2 enters this list with their Black & Blue Burger. With their recent expansion, they also decided to step up the quality of their burgers. Tavern serves a good variety of burgers, but by far the Black & Blue remains their most popular among locals. This burger gets topped with maytag blue cheese, rosemary-candied woodfired bacon, horseradish mayo, lettuce, and tomatoes. They recently switched the bread to a pretzel bun to keep with the theme of a true gastropub. Tavern serves all burgers and sandwiches with a side salad and house-made chips. The combination of blue cheese and bacon dates back to the 90’s, yet very few restaurants get it right. Tavern On 2 does this concept justice with their Black & Blue. Pair it with one of their fine craft beers, and you have a meal worth feeling proud of.

4. Burger Parlor‘s The Royal w/ Cheese

Sometimes a restaurant serves something so amazing that they may not even list it on their regular menu, and only feature it as a secret item. Bruxie Waffles currently does that with their Prosciutto Hash & Egg, which they only sell on weekends and sell out within hours of opening due to the overwhelming reception of that creation. In Downtown Fullerton, Burger Parlor does that with their most expensive burger, The Royal w/ Cheese. Chef Joseph Mahon cooks this burger medium rare, then tops it with bacon, fried onions, tomato, lettuce, truffle oil, chipotle aioli, and a fried egg. Always keep in mind that flavor tends to scale positively with the mess it generates on your hands! The juices that flow from the burger patty coupled with the oozing egg will leave your hand tasting delicious – just take care not to start sucking on your fingers in public. Pair this burger with one of their craft beers on tap for a terrific meal.

3. Lazy Ox Canteen‘s Lazy Ox Burger

When someone random recommends a place to eat, you typically have to understand that person’s tastes. When a reputable source recommends a place to eat, you can bet that place will have amazing food. Accepting recommendations comes with risk, as you may not know what to expect, since a person may like something that you do not, even if that person speaks for an entity. Biting the bullet and moving on the recommendation, I land at Lazy Ox Canteen in Downtown Los Angeles. This dim little restaurant carries some interesting meals fit for large groups in addition to the standard individual plates. Per my mission, I dove straight for their Lazy Ox Burger, complete with whole grain mustard and white cheddar, served with kennebec fries. The mustard truly gives this burger its unique kick with its tangy texture, as it brings out the full flavor of the beef patty. Although the burger appears small, Lazy Ox packs a lot into each bite. Despite its location in Downtown LA, parking meters right outside only operate until 8pm, and do not operate at all on Sundays. Take advantage of this and go order a Lazy Ox Burger!

2. Chapter One: The Modern Local‘s American Burger

Meat, meat, and more meat. Apologies to the vegetarians and vegans out there, for I know that meatless burgers exist. Sadly, meatless burgers can never measure up to the real thing in taste and quality. If you want to scare off a vegetarian or vegan, find out how much meat you can pile onto a burger, which Chapter One: The Modern Local appears to have done to their burger. In addition to the beef patty, Chapter One also includes pork belly and bacon on their American Burger, as if one type of meat does not deserve to stand alone. Just for safety’s sake, Chapter One throws white cheddar fondue, roasted shallots, pork belly jus, aioli, lettuce, and tomato on the burger, then scoop up some duck fat fries for your snacking enjoyment. I feel sad for vegetarians, as they will never get a chance to savor this meaty burger. But if you eat meat, you have a chance to try what everybody talks about here! With each bite, savor every ingredient on the burger, from the beef to the pork belly to the bacon. Also consider finishing off your meal with one of their donuts, like their Bourbon Bacon Banana Donut, and walk away from Chapter One feeling like a true hero.

1. The Parish‘s Burger

Embrace simplicity. Sometimes you have to take things back to square one to analyze where you stand. In this world of add-ons and multitudes of color, we often lose sight of what lies behind all the bells and whistles. An artist can slap on dozens of layers of colors and paints onto the canvas and call it art. But what could one make of the actual canvas? A painter cannot claim that title without the canvas, as any artist requires a solid foundation before initiating the work of art. At The Parish in Downtown Los Angeles, they fully recognize the importance of the canvas, and build their food around it instead of covering it up. The Parish forgoes the fancy building of additions to their food, and focus on the base of the food, which you can find most apparent in their burger. This simple yet untitled Burger consists of one of the best beef patties you will ever sink your teeth into, Époisse cheese, and highly caramelized onions, all on grilled ciabatta bread. Their menu claims that the burger contains pickled carrots and arugula, but unless I mistook the onions for those, I could not detect any of those in the burger. Almost all burger patties cooked medium rare contain pink in the very middle. At The Parish, their burgers come pink all the way right to just before the edge, yet the patty still retains a crisp texture on the outside. The juices seep into the bottom bun, creating a wet yet meaty handle for the burger. Lastly, the cheese and onions work overtime to bring out the meatiness of the patty. Oh, and you get fries with your burger too. I randomly stumbled upon The Parish while adventuring in Downtown LA one day. I love their location – at the end of a building peninsula located in the center where Main St and Spring St split off like a Y. With a cafe downstairs and the main dining room and bar upstairs, The Parish truly has all grounds covered to operate a successful business. Do yourself a favor and get to The Parish and try their food – I promise you will not stop thinking about the food once you try it.

Father’s Office’s Office Burger

Vizzi Truck’s Bacon + Bacon Beef Burger

I have really high standards for burgers. For example, unless it has to (such as turkey), I will not eat a burger cooked beyond medium rare. If a server does not ask me how I want my burger cooked, I ought to question the quality of the meat, since, for all I know, I could be consuming pink slime instead of a burger made of real meat. When I do find an amazing burger, I make sure to inform everyone I know to seek out that particular burger. This time, I have stumbled upon two burgers that are so similar yet so different. Granted, neither of these burgers take the #1 spot in my top list of burgers (which will be posted soon), but they are definitely in the top 5. Without further adieu, here is the breakdown of the two contenders:

Father’s Office‘s Office Burger (FO)
Dry-aged beef patty, (double) caramelized onions, applewood-smoked bacon compote, Gruyère & Maytag Bleu cheeses, arugula

Vizzi Truck‘s Bacon + Bacon Beef Burger (BBB)
50/50 beef & bacon patty, spicy dijon-onion-bacon marmalade, blue cheese mornay, greens (probably arugula)

A side-by-side comparison shows that these two are very similar. After you break it down piece-by-piece, you will begin to see the differences. Let us now examine what these differences are.

Burger Patty

The FO Burger uses the finest dry-aged beef for their patty, which is cooked medium rare by default. This yields a beef patty so juicy and succulent for a classic all-beef experience. Being pure beef though, that is all you get out of the patty – just the flavor of beef.
The BBB Burger takes a page out of the Slater’s 50/50 book and creates a patty that is 50% beef & 50% bacon, then cooked medium rare. No need to worry about the bacon being undercooked – it is cooked prior to meeting the beef, such that the beef will remain medium rare while the bacon is cooked thoroughly. First off, if you have not tried Slater’s 50/50, then you are missing out. Back to this burger, you will get more than your standard beef flavor thanks to the addition of bacon in the patty. The patty is also slightly thicker than the FO patty, meaning that the BBB patty holds more juice and produces a thicker, meatier bite.

Game: Vizzi Truck

Bacon

The FO Burger features a applewood-smoked bacon compote, a sauce derived from the bacon and its drippings. The amount of actual bacon is dwarfed by the compote and all other ingredients in the burger.
For a burger with the word Bacon in it twice, this burger lives up to its name. The BBB Burger not only has bacon in the patty, as described above, but bacon in the marmalade, which is comprised of spicy dijon and caramelized onions. These flavors are all quite different: bacon, spicy dijon, and caramelized onions create a sweet, salty, and spicy sauce – the trifecta of sauces.

Game: Vizzi Truck

Cheeses

The FO Burger contains Gruyère & Maytag Bleu cheese. Gruyère is a wonderful and versatile cheese that goes great on many dishes. It can be eaten cold a la carte, or enjoyed hot such as in grilled cheese, mac & cheese, or a burger. Unlike typical bleu cheese, Maytag Bleu is not a stinky cheese, nor does it have as many blue markings. You get the sharp taste of the bleu without having the sharp smell clog up your nose. The lesser amount of blue markings may be hit or miss – I personally like that there is fewer of the blue coloring.
The BBB Burger has blue cheese mornay, a bleu cheese sauce that may contain butter, flour, milk, salt, and pepper. Although not a classic stand-alone cheese, the mornay synergizes well with the rest of the burger because it creates a base for the other ingredients to blend with. Imagine a pasta white sauce compared to alfredo sauce to get an idea of what mornay is compared to bleu cheese.

Game: Draw

Onions

The FO Burger has been nicknamed by locals The Crack Burger mainly because of the onions. The description reads simply as ‘caramelized onions,’ but one bite of these onions will reveal more to it. The Father’s Office staff do not reveal what goes on with the onions, but I describe them as ‘double caramelized onions.’ Essentially, you are eating solid sugar (or crack) since all of the onion flavor has been caramelized out.
The BBB Burger contains their caramelized onions within the marmalade. You can still taste the caramelized onions in the marmalade, but it is mingling with the spicy dijon and bacon. This is an acquired taste, since not everyone will like the dijon. Personally I love all the aspects of the marmalade, but the onions are not a major act in the burger compared to the FO Burger.

Game: Father’s Office

Veggies

Both burgers contain arugula. This one is a no-brainer.

Game: Draw

Bread

The FO Burger comes on a hoagie roll. Nothing special about this bun, just the shape.
The BBB Burger comes on a hamburger bun from a specialty baker of indeterminate origin. The bun is buttered and grilled, adding more flavor to compliment the mornay and burger.

Game: Vizzi Truck

Price

The FO Burger is $12.50 plus tax and tip.
The BBB Burger is $12 straight up. Tip optional.

Game: Vizzi Truck

Availability

The FO Burger is always available at their two locations in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. However, you must be 21 or over to enter and order.
The BBB Burger is available from the truck that roams the Greater Los Angeles Area. This burger is only available for Summer 2012.

Game: Father’s Office

Match: Vizzi Truck

Comparing the two burgers by themselves, Vizzi Truck comes out on top of Father’s Office by two points. However, the most important factor to look at is availability. Father’s Office is here to stay, while the BBB Burger is only available from Vizzi Truck while the Summer 2012 menu is up. That being said, I highly advise you to seek out Vizzi Truck as soon as possible to secure a Bacon + Bacon Beef Burger for yourself before it is no longer available. While you are there, take a look at the rest of their menu – with quality as superb as that burger, you cannot go wrong ordering something else from their menu, especially since there are also vegetarian and vegan items, so you have nothing to complain about. If you are ever in the Santa Monica or Los Angeles area, make sure to check out Father’s Office too. Once you order the Office Burger, you will realize why the locals dub it The Crack Burger.