Posts Tagged ‘Pork Belly’

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 Federal‘s Smokehouse Burger

When it comes to barbecue, nothing can beat the meats. Southern barbecue boasts all types of meats, from the smoked chicken to the pulled pork to the spicy sausages to the various beef types and much more. Barbecue restaurants typically limit you to a two-meat or three-meat platter. However, The Federal would like to break that barrier by delivering four different types of meat to your face. As a gastropub, The Federal focuses on quality and taste above all else. Between the craft food, craft beer, and craft cocktails, The Federal carefully creates everything from scratch, such as their Smokehouse Burger. A grilled Angus beef patty gets topped with smoked turkey, pepper bacon, BBQ pulled pork, and smoked cheddar all on a milk bun. For $16, you can experience this mountain of meat that can hardly fit in your mouth.

4. Burger Boss‘ Double Grassfed Beef Burger

As a basic human truth, humans want to have control. When one has control, they feel more comfortable. You may ask,”Control over what?” This can apply to just about anything: control over life, control over work, control over a business, control over simple choices, and more. This paves the way for customization, as it gives customers complete control over what they can order. We have plenty of build-it type restaurants, especially when it comes to sandwiches or pizza. We have not seen many customizable burger places up until now, where we have Burger Boss. Burger Boss may feel like a corporate business what with their multiple locations. However, they only have locations in Orange County and Riverside for now, so you can enjoy this local flavor with their Grassfed Beef Burger. At $8.99 for a double, you get to choose the bun, cheese, sauce, and regular toppings. Go premium for $1.19 per topping by adding things like turkey bacon or avocado.

3. Mighty Kitchen‘s Sliders

Would you consider sliders as burgers? Sliders tend to have a greater bun-to-meat ratio than burgers, which explains why I tend to avoid sliders, not to mention that sliders cost as much or more than fast-food burgers. Few places get sliders right, but luckily I discovered that Mighty Kitchen in Los Alamitos actually does a decent job at delivering fun and tasty sliders. You cannot order sliders a la carte at Might Kitchen – you have to order two or three, and they come with fries. I go with three sliders for $15.50 for the better value, and Mighty Kitchen carries many varieties of sliders, such as (pictured from left to right):

  • HHG (Hella Hot Guac): Chorizo patty, pico de gallo, pepper jack cheese, cholula, spicy mayo, housemade jalapeño pepper jelly, guacamole
  • Western Slider: Cheddar cheeseburger, applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried onion ring, pickle, BBQ sauce, special sauce
  • PBM Bacon Cheeseburger: Maple peanut butter, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, onion, special sauce

2. Humble Potato‘s Karê-bága

Many foods have a region that they typically derive from. For example, schnitzel derives from German cuisine, gyros derive from Greek cuisine, and sushi derives from Japanese cuisine. Some foods have regional differences, such as curry. You can have British curry, Indian curry, Thai curry, Japanese curry, and more, and each type tastes different than others. Speaking of curry, sure you can find curry bowls at just about any Japanese restaurant, but what if you want to enjoy curry as something else? Enter Humble Potato, a humble eatery bringing cuisine from the land of the rising sun to the wild west. Despite the name of the business, Humble Potato carries more than just potatoes – they sling out awesome Japanese-inspired burgers as well, such as the Karê-bága (curry burger, get it?). At $12, this messy burger contains an Angus beef patty, slow-cooked Japanese curry, tomato, yuzu-jalapeño slaw, and a fried egg. For the true burger experience, dig both your hands in and smother your face with this burger.

1. Abricott‘s Abricott Burger w/ Korean Pork Belly

Traditional hamburgers contain a ground beef patty accompanied by an assortment of toppings, usually vegetables as a means of including something somewhat healthy in the burger. The changing times have led to many others ingredients getting thrown into burgers, including other meats, something that Abricott does very well. Locals recognize the small yet humble Abricott in Pasadena for the fusion menu that combines French, Vietnamese, and Thai cuisines. With so many options on the menu, one may overlook the simply titled Abricott Burger. At first, this burger sounds simple with seasoned ground beef, tomato, onions, lettuce, and mayonnaise on a brioche bun, all for just $11.95. However, Abricott turns things up a notch by allowing you to add Korean Pork Belly to the burger for just $1. Suddenly you have a phenomenal taste of the east in your hands. Surprisingly, each mouthful allows you to savor both the beef patty and the pork belly. Abricott does food well, and you ought to taste how well they do food by seeking out this burger the next time you find yourself in or near Pasadena.

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2017 has arrived, and we welcome this new year with the reinvention and reintroduction of traditional world events. While the world will welcome the Summer Olympics and the United States will welcome a new president, the notion of bringing back something familiar spreads to other subjects as well. When something goes away for a while and returns much later, we refer to those things as classic. Some people say that the classics never go out of style, but eventually, all good things must come to an end, and classics do too. For that purpose, millennials must continually search for ways to improve or adapt methods in all aspects of life. Today’s culture revolves around two types of people: the safe, and the risk-takers. Safe people will find something they recognize and stick with it, preferring not to deviate away from the norm. Risk-takers feel adventurous and love to try new things. In general, safe people live a bland, boring life, while risk-takers live an exciting spontaneous life. Excitement gets your adrenaline pumping, so add some spontaneity to your life by seeking out these five burgers in the greater Los Angeles area this season.

5. The Black Plate‘s Kobe Beef Bacon Jam Sliders

It appears that The Black Plate cannot make up its mind. It feels like every month, they operate as something else. Something here changes every month, such as the owner or the name of the restaurant. Perhaps its terrible location right off the freeway in Westminster lends to the inconsistency here. Thankfully, through it all, their food has remained consistently memorable. The Black Plate may carry a variety of foods, from sausages to hot dogs to sliders to phô to seafood to classic entrées and more. However, I always come back to the Kobe Beef Bacon Jam Sliders. The Black Plate does not serve full burgers. Instead, they have these premium Kobe beef sliders served with spicy maple jalapeño bacon jam and melted sharp cheddar on brioche slider buns. You get three to a plate for $11. You ought to hurry over to The Black Plate to try these, or they might go through some other transformation into another restaurant.

4. Ohana Burger‘s The Daniel-San

Asian food has remained under the spotlight for quite a long time, and still remains a favorite food choice for many people. Even better, people go crazy for the food when it contains an element of fusion in it. So when people discover an Asian fusion restaurant, naturally they all flock to it, such as Ohana Burger in West LA. Located in Little Osaka replacing the previous Bachi Burger, Ohana 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 Daniel-San. Ohana Burger takes a marinated Angus beef patty and tops it with chili mayonnaise, a fried egg, furikake, caramelized bacon, and crispy onion rings – basically, an Asian version of the western bacon cheeseburger. Anyone who loves Asian food will fall in love with this burger, as it basically represents Asian-style BBQ in a burger. Sadly, burgers do not come with any side, but once you sink your teeth into this $13 burger, you will not require a side, as you will want to prolong this experience as long as you can.

3. Little Bear‘s Liege Waffle Burger

Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. Traditionally, breakfast restricted our first daily meals to a select few types of foods, such as eggs, meat (bacon/ham/sausage), and some bread (muffin/toast/pancakes/waffles/etc). While we used to eat these with a knife and fork, why not combine it all in one plate? The folks over at Little Bear in Downtown LA have done that already. While one can easily spot Little Bear out in the open, not too many people drive down this street, so they often miss this fun little Belgian pub. As a Belgian pub, you can expect lots of Belgian beers and Belgian foods, including Belgian Waffles, which you can eat with the Liege Waffle Burger. Served only during brunch hours, Little Bear takes a fresh-ground Angus beef patty and tops it with sharp cheddar, bacon, and a fried egg. But to give it that Little Bear twist, instead of regular buns, Little Bear uses Liege Waffles as the buns, which they serve with a side of maple syrup. With the maple syrup, I suggest using a knife and fork. However, for the true burger experience, just pick it up and dive right in. You can start off your day the Little Bear way for $16.

2. VaKA Burger Express‘ El Porky

In a condensed city such as Los Angeles, hidden gems and hole-in-the-wall places exist in every nook & cranny. If you discover or someone tells you about VaKA Burger Express and you decide to go look for them, you may require more than one try to actually locate them. If you simply drive to the address, you may completely pass by them, as they have virtually no signage visible from the street. You have to actually enter Boyle Heights’ Ramirez Liquor and make your way to the back left corner to find the counter for VaKA Burger Express. Once there, you will discover a mini burger paradise with some of the best hidden burgers this side of Los Angeles, such as their El Porky. Blitz your taste buds with this burger that features provolone cheese, crispy pork belly, six-hour braised onions: French-onion soup-style, and housemade smoked barbecue sauce. Do note that they store their barbecue sauce cold, so the first few bites may feel like a blend of hot and cold. For $14 for this burger, you will never taste another burger like this again.

1. Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern‘s Jimmy Burger

If you seek classic American cuisine with an artisanal touch, look no further than Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (JFAT). Reinventing traditional restaurant faire, JFAT covers many grounds of cuisine familiar to many with their high-quality approach to cooking. Currently boasting four locations between Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Diego County, and with a fifth location opening soon, JFAT takes what you know about traditional American restaurants and turns it up to eleven. Between brunch, lunch, dinner, and a full bar, any time of the day makes for a great time to stop on by JFAT and enjoy a bite or sip or more. Their beverage offering alone always stays current with the seasons, as they routinely rotate out their craft beer offerings as well as their fine wines. People also love the cocktails at JFAT, as the drinks here range from sweet to spicy, mild to bold, and more. On the food side, JFAT pays close attention to not only the quality, but the portions of their dishes. For a traditional pub entrée, go with a burger, such as their Jimmy Burger. This $18 burger comes with applewood-smoked bacon, spicy jalapeño jam, and southern pimento cheese. Although more sweet and hearty than spicy, a little bit of heat kicks in at the end, giving a full spectrum of flavor in each bite. While the menu and food at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern looks and sounds familiar, one cannot judge a book by its cover. You cannot appreciate the flavor until you try it for yourself. Head on over to Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern at Point Loma (San Diego), Dana Point, Brea, Woodland Hills, or Santa Monica to savor American cuisine at its finest.

Reminiscing back to our childhoods, we recall all the good times and bad times that significantly impacted us as children. Everyone remembers certain moments during their childhoods that has permanently affected our personalities today. Even without anything to capture those moments, we can still reminisce about the good old days through photos taken way back then. In fact, today’s society has accepted Throwback Thursdays as an homage to the good old days, when life did not bear so much worry, and we could live out our days without fear or oppression. These days, society has to deal with corruption on many levels, from governments to the internet to bullies in school and more. Like the human immune system, society reacts to these corruptions by implementing methods to combat those problems by either minimizing problems or eliminating them altogether. This may not restore the good old days, but as a society, we still like to look back to what paved the way for us to stand here today. Significantly, we remember the foods we once ate as children, even recalling the low prices. Those old signs advertising $0.10 French Fries did not lie – food stands actually sold items that now cost ten times more, or even more than that! Though we can still buy the same fast food items as back then, we have much better options today as far as finer dining without the inflated price tags. If you miss those $0.10 fries, wait until you see some of the appetizers that you can share with friends or enjoy as an entrée. I have discovered five different shareable appetizers that you can find in the Greater Los Angeles Area, and you can either enjoy these on its own or share them among the table.

5. Plan Check Kitchen‘s Sweet Potato Waffle Fries

Many of us grew up with French fries as a classic side. During the turn of the century, restaurants started to utilize sweet potato fries instead of regular fries. They do not cost that much more, have a completely different flavor, and have more health benefits than regular potatoes. Some of us may even remember waffle-cut fries, or as one fast food chain calls it, criss-cut fries. What does all this mean? Head over to Plan Check Kitchen to find out. With three locations around Los Angeles, Plan Check Kitchen serves up delicious faire out of their small kitchen. While each location has a slightly different menu, you will always want to check if they have the Sweet Potato Waffle Fries available. Simple yet fulfilling, this plate of waffle-cut sweet potato fries gets fried in beef tallow and served with a side of peach ketchup made in-house. While the above photo makes it appear small, it can easily satisfy two people at just $6 per order.

4. The Oinkster‘s Piggy Fries

A certain Californian fast food institution has an ever-popular off-menu item that nearly every Californian has tried at least once. Most people who have tried it swear by it and nothing else, albeit many local places make something just as good, if not better. If you have heard of The Oinkster, then you know about what I refer to. As its name suggests, The Oinkster specializes in meaty foods and delicious sides to go along with them. At both of The Oinkster’s locations, you can find Piggy Fries on the menu. Contrary to its name, these fries do not have any meat in them at all, though you can get crafty and add the meat in yourself. For just $4, this boat of fries comes with housemade thousand island dressing, caramelized onions, and shredded cheddar cheese. If you want to make this truly piggy fries, unload a sandwich onto these fries for the ultimate meal.

3. Dolce Bistro & Bakery‘s Spicy Maple Bacon Popcorn

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 Dolce Bistro & Bakery in Montclair. As their name suggests, in addition to a full-service restaurant, they also have a bakery full of delectable desserts, but I shall talk about that in another post. For now, we focus on the restaurant side where they have lots of great food such as the Spicy Maple Bacon Popcorn. Dolce Bistro tosses popcorn with chili powder and cumin, then mixes in maple bacon for an easy snack that everyone around the table can enjoy. Enjoy it with friends, enjoy it on its own, or enjoy it for the occasion for just $5.

2. The Hat‘s Pastrami Chili Cheese Fries

Never neglect the hole-in-the-wall businesses. Small mom & pop shops exist all over the place, and most people simply drive right by them never noticing them. Some mom & pop shops can hold the greatest hidden gems ever, but it takes word-of-mouth to get the news out there, especially if that mom & pop shop has no website, no social media, or no internet presence at all. With no marketing power, mom & pop shops have to deliver something so good that the constituents will do the marketing for them, such as with The Hat. This traditional diner now has eleven locations throughout Southern California all serving up their famous pastrami, but to truly savor their pastrami, go big with the Pastrami Chili Cheese Fries. Beware: the $13 price tag paints the picture that you simply must share this with others. No sole person can possible tackle all of this in one sitting, so if you have a hungry group, satisfy all their hungers with this mountain of meat.

1. Leadbelly’s Barbecue‘s Loaded Pork Garlic Fries

While I can understand food allergies preventing people from enjoying certain foods, I could never understand the people who cannot eat certain foods due to their religion. Red meat simply tastes too good to pass up, so I feel bad for the people who do not eat beef or pork or both. They miss out on the goodness of these meats, cancerous or not. For those who crave the meat, look for a barbecue restaurant, such as Leadbelly’s Barbecue. Tucked away in a corner between Fullerton and Placentia, this restaurant slings lots of meat in many different styles, even on top of fries like on their Loaded Pork Garlic Fries. Leadbelly’s tosses French fries with garlic and then tops it with pulled pork, bacon, pork belly, Parmesan cheese, jack cheese, and chives, which they serve with a side of gravy to pour over the top. At $12.95, this massive plate can easily feed a group of four or more. Go easy on the gravy – its richness can make one full fast.

Beachside cities, towns, and communities tend to have an abundance of small businesses to attract business from the thousands of beachgoers throughout the year. Depending on the location, this can consist of mostly corporate businesses in bigger cities, or a bunch of local mom & pop shops in smaller communities. This can sometimes cause obstructions of businesses, creating a “needle in a haystack” situation where some true gems often get overlooked. What looks like a small shack on the side of the road could mask something truly marvelous inside. Down in the coastal city of San Clemente in Orange County, many local mom & pop shops exist that locals and travelers love to visit. One can easily pass by a lot of great places, and some of the local favorites do actually operate out of a small building on the side of the road, such as MRK Public.

Conveniently located immediately off the freeway, MRK Public operates as a gastropub out of what looks like a former dive bar or diner on the side of the road. With a high bar counter, patio seating, and somewhat limited indoor seating, the building clearly looks like someone designed it as a small bar or diner. However, do not allow appearances to deceive you, as MRK Public has brought some modern flair to this spot. MRK Public has multiple taps of craft beer that changes daily as kegs tap out, and they have a handful of artisanal beverages too. However, most people recognize MRK Public for their outstanding cuisine that also changes frequently with the seasons and availability of ingredients. Through all the changes, the pork belly remains a staple on the menu in various forms, such as their Pork Belly Poutine. Enough to feed a family of four, this giant serving of fries gets topped with thick brown gravy made with chorizo, beef, and bacon. Afterwards, they throw on fried pork belly, pickled Fresno chilis, pickled red onions, queso fresco, scallions, and horseradish crema. Each plate has a generous amount of pork belly, so each fork poke should give you some meat. All the other ingredients act as support to bolster the gravy and pork belly, allow you to better savor the meaty goodness in this plate. I do not suggest one person eating this all in one sitting, so either share this plate, or take part of it to-go.

MRK Public routinely changes their food menu and craft beer selection based on availability and seasons. Like their page on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for news and updates from MRK Public.

Thanks to the millennials of today, food trends consistently change every few months. Back in 2008, a daring visionary decided to take his culinary skills to the streets by launching a food truck serving gourmet food. His massive risk started a revolution that steeply increased in popularity for the next few years, as many other hopeful chefs and entrepreneurs hoped to cash in on the gourmet food truck trend. When the trend started to die down, most of the original food truck owners cashed in their profits to settle down and open a brick & mortar restaurant, much to the delight of fans from all over. While the lesser successful food trucks simply faded out from existence, the more popular food trucks eventually converted to a physical restaurant, including the one that started the gourmet food truck revolution.

When a food truck converts to a restaurant, one can expect to find similarities between the food truck and the restaurant. When the founder of Kogi BBQ opened Eat Chego, food truck fans from all over flocked to this permanent Kogi fixture to experience Kogi in a more solid setting. As one of the originals, Kogi had one of the largest fan bases of any gourmet food truck, and continued to prosper in long lines for years to come. This popularity easily carried over to Eat Chego and also attracted countless more food fans to savor the flavor of what started a revolution. Although Eat Chego does not serve exactly what Kogi does, the flavors resemble each other, especially in the fan favorite Chubby Pork Belly Bowl. A massive meal in itself, this bowl of happiness features Kurobuta pork belly lacquered in Gochujang (savory hot sauce) served alongside pickled radishes, water spinach, Chinese broccoli, cotija cheese, and peanuts in a rice bowl. So many ingredients reside in this bowl, making it difficult to get a bit of every ingredient in each bite. I would recommend skipping the rice for now, and savoring a little of everything else: the pork belly, radishes, egg, greens, and anything else in each bite. Imagine a cartoon dust cloud fight occurring in your mouth, with all the ingredients attacking your taste buds all at once. The mixture of flavors going on may actually make you tear up.

Kogi made a huge legacy for themselves, and it transferred well to their restaurant, Eat Chego. Visit Eat Chego in Chinatown and snag this bowl of yumminess for $9. For bonus points, make this a combo with their Ooey Gooey Fries (will review in the future) and a drink for $15. You will not find anything like this anywhere nearby.

For the longest time ever, humans have this unexplainable fascination with bacon. Vegans and vegetarians love to get mad at people for consuming it, while those that do consume it praise it as the almighty food among foods. Even now, those who do not eat meat can have their bacon with Coconut Bacon. We all must remember that times change, so while bacon continues to reign in its popularity, other foods have risen to compete with bacon. Short rib has garnered some attention in the past few years, as have pork belly. Pork belly basically represents unsliced whole bacon, and everyone who loves bacon would definitely love pork belly. Pork belly has started to appear in many more restaurants, such as at PUBlic 74 in San Juan Capistrano.

Having just opened their doors to the public earlier this year, PUBlic 74 has come to Orange County to deliver their take on the modern gastropub. With roots in Temecula, the folks over at PUBlic 74 boast industry experience, and hope to translate that over to this new spot in San Juan Capistrano. PUBlic 74 has all the fixin’s of a typical gastropub: craft beer, spirits, and fancy food. Their menu changes quite often, so their current menu may not appear on their website. For example, their current menu features a sandwich called The Fallin BL No T “Spanglish” that represents a modified version of the BLT that appears on their website. This sandwich contains hand-cut wood-smoked pork belly, cheesy sautéed spinach, a fried egg, and whole-grain mustard vin. Anyone ordering this will certainly get their hands messy while devouring this melty sandwich. I rarely advise this, but cutting this sandwich may help to contain the ingredients in this sandwich. The pork belly by itself tastes amazing, but some bites may contain more spinach that will overpower the pork belly. I suggest trying to spread out the spinach to prevent clumps of it, in order to maintain a consistent flavor throughout the sandwich. Oh, and this sandwich comes with fries that they season with what I can best describe as a barbecue rub. The fries alone also make this a worthy dish to order.

Feeling hungry while driving through San Juan Capistrano? Stop by PUBlic 74 and savor this meat for $14.50. Enjoy one of their signature drinks, or pair this nicely with an IPA to balance the flavor.

Over time, human tastes change due to exposure to new things, new experiences, and new knowledge. Starting off as a child, we consumed basic foods mainly for nutrition, not for enjoyment. Once we left our toddler stage, we start to eat common foods like hot dogs, pizza, and hamburgers, as well as crave sweets. From that point on, we would slowly start to like new and different foods and different tastes. For example, most kids and teenagers love ketchup, but cannot stand mustard. Conversely, adults tend to prefer mustard over ketchup due to its flavor complementing meat products, as well as having no sugar. Once we get older, we tend to stick with what we have come to eat on a regular basis. Sometimes, we start to crave what we once had as children. This concept of eating what we did as children, known as comfort food, has recently gained popularity with today’s society, but with gourmet twists to satiate our adult needs. Sure we may want basic macaroni & cheese sometimes, but order it while dining out, and you may receive it with bread crumbs, truffle oil, and/or some kind of meat in it, like bacon. Sometimes, you just want the original thing, and you want it to taste good. Whether you want the original or a rebooted original, comfort food will always have a part in our lives. If you desire comfort food, check out these five comfort foods that you can find in the greater Los Angeles area.

5. La Palma Chicken Pie Shop‘s Chicken Pot Pie

Longevity of a business typically indicates that any business does their job well at staying in business. If a business can remain open for years in a highly competitive industry, that business deserve to remain there. La Palma Chicken Pie Shop has existed in Anaheim for so many decades that nobody can truly claim local status without having heard of this place. Since their inception in the 1950’s or whenever they opened, they have done their thing and have not changed a bit. Find all your typical comfort foods here, from the turkey sandwiches to the chicken noodle soup to all the delightful pastries and baked goods here. Of course, anyone visiting this quaint shop must try their namesake, the Chicken Pot Pie. For less than $5, you can order a smothered chicken pot pie a la carte. This pot pie contains nothing extraordinary – just your typical chicken meat, peas, carrots, and gravy. When you order it a la carte, they smother it with more gravy. Sure it may not contain anything unique, but it tastes exactly as how you would imagine it. No reason exists to fix something not broken.

4. The Crooked Duck‘s Duck Chili

Do you occasionally drive down a busy street and see businesses to the side that makes you wonder what they have? Some major roads have plenty of great local businesses along the path, but the majority of everyone driving on that road simply zooms past these businesses and never take time to discover what awaits if they stop to visit. Slowing down may lead you to discover interesting places, such as The Crooked Duck in Long Beach. I feel that its location hinders its popularity, as the speed limit in front of The Crooked Duck clocks in at over 50 MPH, so most people zoom past this place and never know what lies here. I can tell you now that if you stop to visit this place, you will discover amazing comfort food prepared with local ingredients. But since they have duck in their name, you can expect some of the greatest duck dishes here, such as their Duck Chili. This black bean chili has 5-spice duck in it, with wonton chips and a hoisin sauce drizzle on top. Despite the presence of a strong sauce, the duck boldly stands out. For just $5.25, you can get this duck on and satisfy your hunger with a right portion.

3. The Viking Truck‘s Nemesis Corn Dog

In recent years, Disneyland has stepped up the quality of their food in regards to ingredients. Unfortunately, the price increases of everything including the entrance ticket does not justify visiting this theme park for a mere bite. For years, I have sworn by the corn dog from the Little Red Wagon in Disneyland, but could not afford to visit the park whenever I craved it. Fortunately, the discovery of The Viking Truck in Orange County has nullified any reason I have to go into Disneyland for a corn dog. The Viking Truck, which roams Orange County in their food truck, specializes in gourmet sausages, and utilizes them not only in sandwiches, but in corn dogs. Using a homemade batter, The Viking Truck uses their gourmet sausages for unique corn dogs not easy to replicate. Their signature corn dog, the Nemesis Corn Dog, contains their smoked bratwurst. This combination works so well because of the batter’s sweetness matched with the bratwurst’s smokiness and meatiness. The flavors contrast so well, but the addition of spicy brown mustard adds an additional sour flavor, completing the full taste bud spectrum. This brilliant corn dog costs just $6.50 (when not at special locations such as a convention center), slightly more than a Disneyland corn dog. But when you consider the freshness of this corn dog, and the fact that you do not have to pay to visit this food truck, who cares about which one costs less?

2. Beer Belly‘s Beer Belly Grilled Cheese

If something does not fit in with the others, do you call it a black sheep or a wolf in sheep’s clothing? You probably answered black sheep… but what if the black sheep holds power over the herd? Enter Beer Belly, Koreatown’s wolf in sheep’s clothing. A random gastropub tucked away in the urban sprawl of Korean businesses… no one would believe a hidden gem like this exists in such a town. Once you discover it and venture inside, you will discover that you may fall in love with Beer Belly. For a place so small, Beer Belly offers a vast variety of not only food, but beer as well. Their reinvention of classic comfort food into a fine dining experience will leave you craving more, especially their Beer Belly Grilled Cheese. At $12, this one-of-a-kind grilled cheese basically takes two grilled cheese sandwiches and utilizes each of them as a bun, resulting in a sandwich containing four slices of bread. Playing along with the power of Four, four cheeses play into this sandwich: cheddar, asiago, gruyère, and goat cheese. As if four cheeses did not appear enough, the center layer contains applewood-smoked bacon, and the entire sandwich receives a drizzle of maple syrup. I sincerely hope that if you plan to tackle this beast of a sandwich that you do not follow any diets. As they say about comfort food: good for heart, but bad for your heart.

1. Tavern On 2‘s Rosa’s Chilaquiles

I love to watch the evolution of local establishments. New businesses mostly start out small, and with the growing fan base, the business must grow too. When Tavern On 2 finally unveiled the doubling of their dining area, business boomed for them, as expected. One of two gastropubs in Belmont Shore (the other one counts as a chain), Tavern On 2 understands their loyal customers, and constantly adapts to the changing times of not only the local community, but to the frequent visitors from out of town. Those who have not visited Tavern On 2 within the past few months ought to return to gaze upon the new menu curated by Tavern On 2’s new chef. Many of the old favorites remain on the menu, such as their Oxtail Poutine, but the brunch menu has received a complete overhaul, which now lists some interesting dishes, such as Rosa’s Chilaquiles. This modern reinvention of a classic starts with a traditional chilaquiles base of egg-washed tortilla pieces smothered with chile verde. This dish receives a generous helping of avocado, sliced radishes, cilantro, queso fresco, crema, and roasted pork belly. Wait, what? Looks like the chef decided to place a spin on this traditional dish. Although the pork belly represents a small portion out of the entire dish, it brings enough porky undertones to make its presence felt during the course of devouring. Score this rad dish during brunch on the weekends for just $12. Do not forget to pair this with some great craft beer that Tavern On 2 changes weekly!

More than ever, the 21st century marks the age of a true melting pot of worldwide cultures. During the previous century, cultures and regions across the world remained fairly to themselves with regards to maintaining tradition and their own culture as opposed to integration of other external societies. Due to regions and communities remaining somewhat isolated, people around the world rarely saw any sort of fusion or mixed things, such as food or music. Now in the 21st century, we start to see many aspects of society start to integrate other cultures. For example, the band Dengue Fever mixes western style psychedelic rock with a vocalist who sings almost entirely in Khmer (Cambodian). In the culinary world, we now see fusion foods like sushi burritos, bánh mì tacos, or other dishes that combine two unrelated ingredients or preparations. Nowadays, one can find restaurants everywhere serving up worldly cuisine, or otherwise serving up some sort of fusion food to lesser degrees. If you seek a restaurant doling out fusion food to excessive degrees, turn on your GPS and transit down to the nearest Slater’s 50/50.

Pushing the limits as if trying to break into another dimension, Slater’s 50/50 continuously impresses all of its fans with their monthly creations of epic proportions. As one of Southern California’s most recognizable brands, Slater’s 50/50 always looks forward to new and bigger things. They continue to expand into new areas, such as with the latest opening of their Rancho Cucamonga location, and they continue to pump out new dishes to add to their menu or feature as the special(s) of the month. Slater’s 50/50 recently started a new marketing campaign entitled Excesstasy, which they define as the overwhelming excitement felt when indulging in the Slater’s 50/50 experience. By actively engaging their fans, Slater’s 50/50 pleases not only taste buds, but the full extrasensory scope. This allows fans to look forward to their visit to Slater’s 50/50, where they may indulge in something like the March burger-of-the-month, the Asian BBQ Pork Belly Burger. More of a sandwich than a burger because it does not involve any ground meat, this mammoth meal consists of a half pound slab of pork belly topped with a fried egg and Asian BBQ sauce, sitting on a bed of fried wontons and vegetable chop suey, all within a brioche bun. I mean, sure it does not fit in with the theme of March typically, but it sure does tie in with the Excesstacy line. Strangers to Asian cuisine will love the meatiness of the pork belly, plus all the pork fat that traditional pork belly carries. The fried egg adds heartiness to the burger, while the Asian BBQ sauce resembles teriyaki sauce with its sweet flavor with a hint of spice. Aim to savor the pork belly, as pork belly alone carries so much savory flavor that adding much more would muddle the meat.

Does your appetite request you to pound one of these burgers? You can score your own Asian BBQ Pork Belly Burger for just $12.95 at all Slater’s 50/50 locations for the month of March. Feeling even more daring? Ask about their March dessert of the month. If you order and can successfully devour both in one sitting, I guarantee you will feel the full effects of Excesstacy.

Two months into 2014 have come and gone, meaning that by now, the majority of people who resolved on New Year’s to get fit have already dropped their resolution. Stories about losing weight fast typically derive from get-rich-quick scams, because no known trick exists for rapidly losing weight. For those who have stuck with their resolutions and have lost some weight, kudos to you. For those who have dropped that resolution, or never made a resolution in the first place, you have free will to indulge yourself in the wonders of the world. Of course, over-indulgence can lead to severe health problems or, in the worst-case scenario, death. The word moderation comes into play here, as any human should always do and consume everything in moderation. Unfortunately for that notion, we live in America. We live in a country that boasts about size. Regardless of what the silent majority says, size matters, and Leadbelly’s Barbecue also believes that size matters.

Leading the way for BBQ so close to the Cal State Fullerton campus, Leadbelly’s Barbecue satisfies that BBQ craving that locals tend to not tend to. Now in the space of the former Shortstop BBQ, Leadbelly’s claims to serve up traditional Southern-style BBQ. While many people will picture meat with BBQ sauce, Leadbelly’s differs by emphasizing meat portions rather than sauce. In most of their dishes, the absence of sauce feels unknown to most palates. The absence of sauce allows customers to better taste the meat’s true flavors. For example, their Loaded Pork Garlic Fries comes with the sauce on the side by default. This massive mountain of fries gets smothered with minced garlic, pulled pork, chopped bacon, sliced pork belly, Parmesan & pepper jack cheeses, and chives. White gravy comes on the side, although customers may request the gravy on the fries. However, you should always take some bites at the start without the sauce. This pork attack contains enough meaty goodness that adding the sauce may muddle the flavors of the meat. Bear in mind that Leadbelly’s serves craft beer, so for a beer pairing for this monstrosity, you cannot go wrong with an IPA to cut through all that pork.

This dish can easily serve four and costs just $10. Pull up to Leadbelly’s Barbecue in Fullerton just off the 57 and 91 freeways, and enjoy large portions in a small space.

When the seasons change, many more things change than just the weather. Looking at the weather alone, Southern California has experienced a massive heat wave late in Summer, then suddenly dropped to the type of weather where you wear a jacket or sweater in the morning and a tank top in the afternoon. Just recently, America’s federal government shut down all nonessential functions. Towards the end of summer, Miley Cyrus shocked the world with her attention-grabbing MTV performance. 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. Burger Lounge‘s Lounge Burger

Today’s food trends revolve around ingredient details and the source/origins of said ingredients. These days, everyone conscious about their food (and everyone should feel conscious about what they put in their bodies) desires to know where the ingredients used in their food come from. Growing up, whenever I heard the word organic, I immediately thought it cost more but tasted the same. I now realize that organic products mean more to our health than how the general public perceives it. Increasing my intake of organic foods has introduced me to sustainable food and its nutritional value to the human body. When I heard about Burger Lounge and their pledge to serve local, sustainable foods, I had to locate one to sink my teeth into one of their burgers. As humans, we deserve to eat better foods than, as Burger Lounge puts it, the “processed, artificial, chemical patties from cows feeding on who knows what” that fast food joints batch up. Can you honestly say that a mass-produced item will not contain any fillers, preservatives, or other artificial ingredients? You will not find any of that nonsense at Burger Lounge, where you can order their namesake Lounge Burger. Utilizing a 100% fresh, single-sourced American grass-fed beef patty, Burger Lounge serves this trademark burger with your choice of organic cheese (American or White Cheddar; I recommend the latter), fresh or grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and house-made 1000 island sauce. For just $7.95, you can savor and appreciate this sustainable burger at any of Burger Lounge’s locations in Los Angeles or San Diego County.

4. Burger Parlor‘s The Lasorda

Sometimes, you just need a little push to get some momentum building to start rolling down the road. Sometimes, you can get momentum without an external push if you push yourself enough to accomplish your goal. Once you have that momentum, you must continue to roll forward, as gravity and friction will eventually slow you down to a stop. Luckily, Burger Parlor‘s momentum never came to a stop, and after a a year in business, they have snowballed into a massive wrecking ball in Downtown Fullerton. Having just celebrated their first anniversary this past weekend, Burger Parlor thanked their customers with special craft beers on tap, free raffle prizes, and t-shirt giveaways. This weekend-long celebration did not distract their staff from operating like they normally do, and they continue to roll out freshly-prepared meals using ingredients from local farms and beers from local micro breweries. Customers can see their commitment to excellence in the aptly-named The Lasorda, and like Tommy Lasorda himself, one cannot accurately duplicate this unique concoction. This “burger” consists of a pork sausage patty topped with a fried mozzarella block, all sitting on top of oregano and roasted bell peppers. The combination of the pork patty and the fried mozzarella yields a texture unlike no other out there, as the cheese gives a crispy crunchy feel upon biting, while cheese oozes out after the first bite. To complete this meal, add an order of their beer-battered onion rings. They say that if a food business can stay alive for two years, they have a shot at lasting a long time in the industry. Having just reached their second year in business, I foresee Burger Parlor sticking around for a long time.

3. Slater’s 50/50‘s 50/50 Breakfast Sandwich

Every major metropolitan area has at least one local chain of restaurants or food business that the locals rave about. While in Seattle a few weeks ago, I discovered that Elysian Brewing and Bluebird Microcreamery & Brewery had more than one location. In Southern California, multiple Burger Lounge locations exist in Los Angeles and San Diego County, as mentioned above. Eureka Burger and Haven Gastropub exists as multiples as well. If you ask any Southern California local about great places to grab a bite & a drink, hang out with friends, and make new friends, the locals will unanimously agree on Slater’s 50/50. This monumental institution has set the bar extremely high for restaurants of its kind, from the eclectic food to the vast drink selection to the atmosphere that caters to adults yet can easily care for families. Their trademark 50/50 burger consists of a burger patty composed of 50% Sterling Silver beef and 50% ground bacon. This groundbreaking food creation has made food headline news worldwide, and sits at the same level as the Cronut, Ramen Burger, or Frozen S’mores as trending foods of the world. Every month, Slater’s 50/50 pushes the limits with their Burger-of-the-Month creations, from a Kangaroo burger to a Chimichanga burger to a burger composed entirely of bacon to a burger so spicy that it requires gloves and a signed liability waiver. Every year, Slater’s 50/50 releases their breakfast menu during NFL season, which they serve only on weekends during football season. Last year, they dabbled with Doughnut Burgers, which once again made national headlines. This year, they retained the Doughnut Burger, but have added the 50/50 Breakfast Sandwich, a messy build comprised of a patty of 50% chorizo and 50% ground bacon, cheddar cheese, two sunny-side up eggs, bacon, and two deep-fried waffles, all smothered with an overflow of maple syrup. For a true Slater’s experience, pick this up with your bare hands and dive right into it. You may have to improvise on napkins, as you will go through many napkins and glasses of water during the course of devouring this. Feeling bold? Pair this burger with a sour beer, or their famous Bacon Bloody Mary. Come see why locals love Slater’s 50/50, and what makes them a legendary Southern California staple (until they expand further!).

2. Hopscotch Tavern‘s Bradley Burger

As a sign of the changing seasons, the many different ingredients will change during this time as well. Due to the change in available ingredients, some restaurants employ seasonal menus based on what the local markets offer. By configuring seasonal menus, this exhibits a particular restaurant’s use of fresh and local ingredients, as certain ingredients cannot last at certain times of the year. If I see a restaurant using an ingredient out of season, I would immediately question its source. People tend to want to stick with familiar things. At the same time, we must all realize that all good things must come to an end. When a restaurant converts to a new season’s menu, we must learn to adapt to those changes as well, and explore what the season has to offer. Specifically, Fall has treated Hopscotch Tavern fairly well with this year’s ingredients. With a new Fall menu not yet reflected on their website, Hopscotch aims to turn up the heat in a season expected to cool down significantly than previous years. Their menu changes quite often thanks for Chef Cody Shorts’ whimsical nature, so if you see something on their menu one day, it could disappear as early as the next day. That said, head over to Hopscotch soon and scout out their Bradley Burger. Served medium by default (can request medium rare), the Pork Belly Bacon makes this burger truly stand out from the crowd, as it provides a thicker, juicier, fatter bite than regular bacon could ever provide. Hopscotch accompanies these two co-starring meats with house sweet pickles, dried tomatoes, crispy onion strings, fried cheddar, garlic aioli, and house ketchup. This burger comes with a side of house fries with house ketchup, a milder, fruitier version of the normal high fructose corn syrup ketchup. For the perfect pairing, drink an IPA with this burger, as the bitterness will balance the savoriness of this burger. As Burger Parlor recently celebrated their first anniversary, Hopscotch will celebrate their first anniversary very soon, so pay close attention to their activity, as they may have something special in the works.

1. Pono Burger‘s Sassy Wahine

Although the Southern Californian food industry speaks of local and sustainable often, we must not forget its prevalence around the world. Across the nation, countless chefs pledge to utilize organic and farm-fresh ingredients in their cooking for a tasty and guilt-free meal. The same goes on in other countries as well, as they use local ingredients that reflect their location/region in their cooking. These organic and sustainable ingredients will never contain hormones, pesticides, or antibiotics, so we do not have to worry about putting foreign substances in our bodies. Sure you could attempt to search for restaurants that use local, organic, sustainable ingredients, but even if they claim that, they still have to prove the sources. I can honestly tell you that the proof lies in the pudding at Pono Burger in Santa Monica. Founded on integrity, this small burger shack serves burgers using certified organic grass-fed never-frozen beef patties, free of hormones and antibiotics. The renovated military silo-turned dining room reminds us that, for a new business, the organic/sustainable movement has existed for a long time, but has recently gained notoriety thanks to all the exposures of the corrupt practices of the major fast food corporations around the world. Pono Burger stands by their creations, especially their Sassy Wahine, a cheese-less burger served medium rare by default, topped with house-made wasabi mayo, pickled ginger, organic avocado, house-made Okinawan sweet potato chips, organic pea shoots, and a house-made sesame ponzu dressing. A burger unlike any other, Japanese meets Pacific Islander in this fusion of a burger. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the beef patty holds so much juice and flavor that you would not need so many toppings to accompany it. Thankfully, all the ingredients that contribute to the Sassy Wahine all serve to accept the beef patty. Each ingredient adds a spicy, tart, creamy, crispy, or sweet taste, covering all of the four main taste buds, plus the savory taste bud – the fifth taste, also known as umami. How fitting that we can accurately use the word umami to describe this burger, because rarely does one find a burger that can hit every single taste bud on the human palate. If you find yourself in Santa Monica, you owe it to yourself to track down Pono Burger, and experience umami for yourself. Visitors traveling by car can park for free in the underground parking garage, so what have you got to lose?