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?