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Salt's CureAfter my last burger outing I was seeking redemption; a swing from distrustful of brioche, to hoping for any other form of wheat-based carbohydrates, perhaps even seriously considering a protein-style burger (lettuce-wrapped) for a reprieve. At Salt’s Cure, my brioche-induced fears might be abated, but now I just needed to see if their gourmet offering would warrant the price.

D&G FiveAcross from Astro Burger and Fat Burger (on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Vista Street), sits Salt’s Cure, perched coyly behind a saltshaker. The American eatery scrawls Calfornia-centric fare on the chalkboard daily, with a few staples that survive the eraser. Their wine list lives by the same idea, supporting the chalkboard rotation with a stellar Californian lineup.

In for dinner with a friend, punctuating the Memorial Day weekend with a pair of burgers and bottle of Donkey & Goat Five Thirteen—the red wine, born in El Dorado (Amador County), showed youthful notes of red plums, dark berries, and violets all misted under a faint crack of the pepper mill. We ordered in support of the burgers.

S C BOpeners a King Salmon atop a sweet onion puree, a simple presentation and clean flavor spectrum showing off the fish, it wasn’t until the entrees arrived that our eyes perked wide with excitement.

Two identical open-faced burgers, with one showing a strip of house-made bacon over a translucent layer of cheddar that coated the patty while the other side balanced a few fine rings of red onion and red leaf lettuce, all atop a toasted in-house Ciabatta! The bun alone was relief.

After assemblage the first bite showed off the superb texture of the sandwich. Crisp veggies, a melt-in-your-mouth patty and chewy bun came together well. The patty was comprised of a 70-30 grind (meat-to-fat), which explained the juiciness, and why I was thankful for the slipper bread bun—it held the burger’s integrity. The bacon, generally an overpowering addition, was content being rank-and-file with the rest of the burger’s components, adding a sweet-smoke finish. And finally salt, that basic ingredient, didn’t just figure into the name of the restaurant, its liberal dashes brought out a precise depth in the flavor department. A finely tuned burger that paired nicely with Southern Rhone inspired red.

Salt’s Cure had recaptured my gourmet burger spirit. Even the little things were taken to the next level—the accompanying fries that packed rosemary-freshness were excellent vehicles for one of the better house made ketchups I’ve encountered recently. My buddy and I were both blown away by the quality at almost every level from the attention to detail to the wine list. Seventeen dollars is a fair price to price to pay for excellence—if only that were the price for the entire dinner.

Petros was officially out—sorry Liz—; from the Wine Ghetto, we were committed to taking the winding drive down to the Jalama Beach Store for an authentic California burger experience. There was one slight hitch—my car wouldn’t start. A few turns of the ignition, nothing doing, and a fearful glance over at Kevin to test his patience, spying his eyes rolling back in a can-you-believe-this-sh@t kind of look. It was time to call on the generosity of Lee to help bail us out one more time. After the diagnosis he pulled up alongside and gave us a jump and directions to the nearest Auto Zone. Once the car was started we beelined it to H Street to swap out the battery and grab a snack to tide us over before our now late lunch.

It was a bucolic drive to the coast, even after adjusting for wildlife, when a doe would dart across the narrow lanes; it all seemed apt to our surroundings. Fourteen miles in we crossed the train tracks parallel to the ocean, which offered a pristine view of the coastline. A spot for Heull Howser, far enough away off the beaten track to be a mini-Shangri-la, Jalama reminded me of Laguna Beach where I grew up in Southern California, but even more untouched. We parked at the campsite, and communicated to the ranger we had come for burgers. He pointed us in the direction of the Store and we were on our way.

The breeze was intense near the shore, hurling a mixture of aromas like grilled meats and salty ocean spray that spiked our hunger. I was excited when I saw the signs boasting the “famous” burger.

We looked over the General Store before ordering, trying our best to imagine the burgers we could expect while picking up a few cans of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale to wash it down (after a day’s worth of tasting wine, a beer isn’t a bad thing though Samsara’s Melville or Ampelos Syrah would have been handy too!). I placed my order for the Jalama Burger and suddenly had a nervous feeling wash over me that they might be serving American cheese, and after my last experience at Rally’s, I didn’t want it ruined by an inferior processed cheese and upgraded to Cheddar. Kevin followed suit.

We took a seat upstairs, admiring the panoramic view of the coast as we waited for our number to be called. Though we’d heard the line gets heavy in the summertime, it was a short wait till we were on the verge of eating.

The praises sung of the Jalama Beach burger matched what I had before me. A fresh California burger that would make In-N-Out jealous, with beautifully fresh shredded Iceberg lettuce, tomato, a third pound patty with a finely melted layer of cheddar framed in a sesame seed bun. The first bite was amazing; the warmth from a nicely seasoned patty and appropriately melted layer of cheese against the cold, crisp vegetables was sensational. Each ensuing bite got better, showing zero flaws as I moved closer to the core. The Thousand Islands sauce wasn’t copious, and each bite was in proportion from start to finish. Balanced. The fries were also top notch, long, seasoned liberally, and were slow to lose their heat—a nice counterpart to the epitome of a California burger.

I’m not a surfer, but if I had been at the beach all day, that burger would take top honors in the state. Savoring every bite until there was nothing more. We debated another burger because the likelihood of us coming back soon was out of the question. It’s definitely worthy of a repeat visit (and it’s a fair price: eleven dollars for a beer, burger and fries was a steal) but the next time I’m bringing a bottle of Samsara Syrah, a girl (no offense, Kevin), and a blanket to enjoy one of the best burgers in California on Jalama Beach.

Dirty, dingy and a genuine greasy spoon, I was excited by the prospect of eating at Carney’s. I frequently drove by what I thought was their only location in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard, as I would return home from the Henry Fonda or Amoeba. I never set aside time to check out the yellow Pacific Railroad Express passenger train repurposed as an eatery, always writing rain checks for a later date. Recently I made an unexpected trip to their second eatery in an unfamiliar location at the suggestion of a friend.

In Studio City, on Ventura Boulevard, a yellow doppelganger beckoned us. We were grabbing dinner before heading out to a friend’s birthday party. We thought it would be a good idea to eat something before the upcoming suds so we were looking to load up on a hefty burger and fries.

The elongated diner was packed. Unbeknownst to both of us, Carney’s seemed to specialize in hot dogs and chili, as much as burgers, judging by the number of people we passed in the narrow corridor indulging in said foods. Only there for burgers, we decided not to miss out on the fast-moving chili fries and split a side.

Though few existed, we managed an open table, and waited patiently for our dinner, mulling over the surreal hot dog lust that none of us shared—I guess I would’ve had a blog… A short while later our numbers were called; I picked up some banana peppers and the two cardboard trays, two-handing them to the table. An initial scan of the foods in my grip, left me relieved that we had split our side. With copious amounts of chili drowning the thin-cut fries, and an unsettling amount of American cheese melting slowly; we had plenty on our plates to contend with without factoring in the ample side.

The burgers looked appetizing, folded neatly in their white smocks, the sandwiches were bursting with a fresh ring of tomato, pristine iceberg lettuce, diced white onions and some pickles. There was a healthy glisten to the patty and neat smear to the ketchup that lay under it. For a busy place they paid attention to detail and nailed the little things. The sandwich didn’t back down upon first taste, there was a lot of flavor from the added quartet of vegetables (pickles included). The patty was seasoned in the expected manner and Carney’s was coming out ahead of my initial read of this iconic eatery.

The chili fries proved too much for me. They were lathered in an excess of cheese that was not thoroughly melted, or incorporated, but, I don’t put much emphasis on sides—I am eating for the main attraction. The eatery was also not the cleanest, showing the wear of quickly revolving patrons over the ages… but again those criticisms were not the main focus of my visit. The burger was a cut above many of the other highly touted burger joints in LA and the addition of banana peppers helped put the finishing touches on a nice dinner—even though the scorch they bring drowns out the burger a little, I wouldn’t eat a banana pepper with a burger I didn’t like!

Save for the distance, and possibly the chili fries, everything seemed to be in order at Carney’s. If it were closer to my dwelling I could entertain a repeat visit but alas it is a trek, though I was happy to have made it at least once. We were in good shape for the night’s festivities and I had finally clued in to the charm of that mysterious yellow train.

Bar burgers cater to a different crowd. I am dubious of exuberant praise for bar burgers—save for Hinano Café and a couple others—because spirits might besot the people evaluating the food. Earlier in my burger-hunting career, I learned this lesson the hard way, seeking out one too many bars, only to be routinely disappointed by eating an over-priced and often overcooked sloppy burger in a sober state. Now, I take bar food for what it is—relief from the throes of inebriation or to stave off drunkenness. There are exceptions. I was surprised then, by my brother’s insistence on taking me to Heroes Bar and Grill in Fullerton, California since he knew my stance. I chose to accept his invitation because Heroes is a restaurant first that has a bar and because he was strictly vouching for the food, as he was not an avid drinker. I thought I might get off my temperance high-horse (as it related to burger reviews) and join him at the bar for lunch.

Sawdust covered the floors; with dim lighting and nostalgic relics adorning the walls, we took our seats in the main dining room at a mock picnic table. A pack of salty peanuts was doled out, along with the menus and two large pitchers of water to get us started. Next to the Nixon Lodge placard, the TV’s were piping baseball and monster truck racing, bringing to mind my time in Tennessee. Unpresuming, and yet, comforting, we kept our orders as simple as the décor, ordering two Hero burgers with cheddar cheese.

We didn’t wait long before the enormous sandwiches arrived. Stacked high on an onion roll with thick patty of beef, lettuce, raw red onion, tomato and bread and butter pickles. It was impressive, even the copious amounts of fries were dwarfed by the Hero burger. The combo was ample for its ten-dollar price tag.

I took my first bite finding it cumbersome to corral the burger. The patty was nicely seasoned which made up for the fact that they served it medium well. Sweet and sharp flavors immerged with each ensuing bite; the raw onion, pickles and cheddar cheese were a perfectly honed trifecta bringing the burger to life. The burger was poised to be a highlight until its soggy mountain breakdown. The roll completely gave way (it broke apart and wilted) and I was resigned to eat the rest with fork and knife. My lunch quickly shifted to a messy gear and was suddenly unappetizing. My brother was laughing at me until the roll on his burger broke apart in similar fashion.

Up until the roll fell apart both burgers were showing quite well. There was a lot to like for my palate—the ringlets of raw onion against the sweet pickles had a nice yin yang effect and the cheddar was melted perfectly. That is not to say there are not things that I would like to see changed like the roll and the cooking times of the patty. But, all in all it was surprising, even with the disintegration of the bun, that Heroes Bar and Grill was re-instilling my confidence in bar food once again.

Burgers were included when I initially drew up plans to do a winery tour in Sonoma last week. The plan was to have three different sandwiches in a four-day jaunt between Sonoma County and San Francisco. But it was apparent early on that what was possible would be as whimsical as the draw in a hand of five card poker—and a re-draw would be necessary. My stay was quick, like good trips often are, and it became exceedingly difficult to tailor plans around my beef-patty-dreams, though I did manage to sneak in a burger after a tasting appointment in West Sonoma. Thankful for the tasting room manager’s recommendation, my friend and I were able to discover a bistro burger in the otherwise easy-to-miss town of Graton before ultimately city-slicking down south in the city of the Golden Gate.

Not too far down the road from Red Car Winery’s tasting room, we were able to grab lunch at Underwood Bar & Bistro. The antique town was welcoming and parking was ample in the off-season. Seated immediately amongst locals, I trotted in with a camera bag and some bottles (so they would not cook in the car)—screaming inaudibly “out-of-towners.” Despite our wine-travelers appearance, service was nothing short of smiles and pleasantries (amiable) as we were seated facing the bar. It took us a few minutes of collaborating, but in the end we decided to indulge the cosmopolitan menu by ordering: mussels in Pernod, Chinese broccoli and the burger.

The items were staggered; the mussels hit the table first and the aromatics of the fennel liquor reached our noses before we began to separate the mollusks. We soaked up the saucy broth with pieces of baguette and savored our respective beverages as only shells were left in the wake. A brief respite and then the second wave of gai lan made the table. Glazed in hoisin and integrated with crunchy pieces of pork. The seasoning was perfect and the combinations of texture made a seven-dollar side a dark horse candidate for one of my favorite dishes of the weekend.

After a longer interval the final wave of the set—the plat principal—arrived. Its presentation was simple, showing a hefty burger with fries et fixings on the side. The sidepieces were onions a la Zuni Café (slightly pickled red onions), cornichons, ripe slices of tomato and tender romaine hearts to be compiled at our choosing.

We split it down the center, jus leaving freely from the evenly cooked burger as I knifed down its core. Slight crust on the patty’s edges encased a coarse grind of fresh beef. The execution flirted with perfection and those slightly sweet onions and crunch from the romaine heart balanced each bite with regards to texture and flavor. The only shortcoming was a slight lack of seasoning on the patty.

The whole time eating at Underwood I was really in awe of the community vibe, as parties flowed through the bistro/bar and were greeted on a first name basis. People here were really fortunate to have an outstanding and unassuming eatery within walking distance of their abode. The burger was just shy of awesome but definitely respectable and I wouldn’t skip it if I were in the mood for something other than a classic burger joint style.  In my experience everything was top shelf at Underwood and the burger offerings were only one-upped by that the unexpected choice of a Chinese broccoli appetizer that reigned supreme during the midday meal.

Exiting the 101 North at White Oak, entrenched in the valley, somewhere in Reseda there was a burger joint that had caught my eye on the way to a coworker’s home. I had made plans last Thursday to finally grab an early dinner at Zig’s Restaurant with my friend after our early day since my interest was piqued.

My friend told me about the place a few different times, trying desperately to rein in my enthusiasm for a place that never really captured his. With the grave briefing I would not be dissuaded, though I did not completely discount the criticisms either. They seemed plausible.

We opened the doors to Zig’s Restaurant, a quiet afternoon where the staff gave a surprised eye as we sat ourselves in a booth at the southwest corner of the petite eatery. It was a diner in feel, with booths and a semicircle bar in the core of the floor plans. There was nothing new or flashy inside and I was at ease about the prospects of eating a solid sandwich.

Scanning the menu for interesting styles I was surprised by how deep the list was. I ordered the Bullet with chili fries and across the table my buddy ordered the cheeseburger and half order of garlic fries. My initial read was promising, the prices were fair (almost cheap) and the choices were comfortably exotic.

The burgers were made fresh judging by the elapsed time for them to reach the table with accoutrement. The portions were enormous; the chili fries could have been easily split making his half order of garlic fries superfluous as they toppled out of the basket. My bullet arrived on a chipped pastel green plate—screaming southwest—in a hoagie-esque form with peppers, American cheese, elongated beef patty and thousand-island spread. I took a couple bites and enjoyed the flavors, the spice from the peppers meshed with the sweet sauce but the patty was not as tender as I expected. The quality of meat was lower and grating as I finished the meal. The cheeseburger on the flipside did not disappoint my friend though he pointed out similar flaws in the meat and his expectations were hovering just above his shoelaces.

I could not muster enough strength to finish the burger and chili fries, so half a plate of fries smothered in chili were left as bystanders. A rare happening for me—I am not a fan of waste. It was a long and early dinner that did not quite pan out the way I had hoped. I see a lot of things that the average consumer would love wedged between prices and portions but the overall quality would make this drive a bit tortured when I can find the same kind of food at Big Tomy’s on Pico and Sawtelle Blvd—much closer to my residence. We walked out almost in total agreement that our next lunch/dinner would take place elsewhere.

When burgers come up in conversation I will often mention that I am an enthusiast who pens a wine and burger blog with an endless amount of love and adoration for one of the simplest and tastiest meals I know. After I drop this advertisement, I am met by a few different reactions, the first being an anticipated question: What is my favorite burger? The second comes in a declaration… someone telling me his or her favorite burger that I have to try. And then there is indifference. Rarely does the last happen (well, when it does happen I tend to block it out), but the other two occur more frequently. The other day I was prompted to go check out a burgeoning gastro pub in Sherman Oaks and trust me… I was game. In hopes of changing my burger fortune, I was off with some co-workers to Sherman Oaks headed to the Local Peasant, after an early shift, with the very people who had urged me to go. They wanted to see where I fell on the spectrum since they were obviously more than smitten. We strolled in late, working up an appetite before assaying the bar.

One of the things that struck me most was that there was little advertising to the establishment as far as physical markers. No windows, or bright flashing signs to tell me I had arrived, instead, the place existed almost entirely on word of mouth—or at least it appeared that way—being ushered in by people in the know.

We elected to sit in the back, making ourselves cozy at the communal table on benches. I took in the surroundings; darker lighting, ample space and lots of people (beautiful ladies) made this choice look promising from the outset. We were handed menus and I studied mine beginning with the drinks since the burger was already decided.

I placed my order for the crispy pork belly and the house burger with my friends ordering some minor variations on their burgers, bacon, and other condiments. By the time the pork belly made the table I was ready to eat. I devoured the clever snack that played a salty-sweet theme. Savory and satisfying. After a few bites and about ten minutes elapsed I was ready for the main event and when it arrived it looked glorious. The side—onion rings—were a massive stack and the burger was no slouch. A sharp presentation that burdened the tray that carried it, a brioche bun framed the hefty patty that wore a fine coat of cheddar cheese, a perfect egg and a dab of sauce. I took my first bite and the yolk burst almost on cue, adding extra richness to the fat from the patty. The grind was tender and well seasoned but… I had my bones to pick. The brioche bun quickly wilted under the jus from both egg and patty. It became messy and I would have liked some arugula for depth or greens to provide a little more crunch in the texture.

I finished the meal, not leaving a scrap behind—it was definitely solid. I had to answer questions immediately after finishing and I gave a similar response. It was better than most and the over easy egg was by far by the best I have ever encountered on a burger. Still, the Peasant Burger left me wanting more and though my quest for the best burger is far from finished to this point, and I wasn’t quite a convert to the Local Peasant, I relished the opportunity to try another up-and-comer in the burger world and a friend’s favorite. And so I am content to be out there searching.

On the road from Long Beach to Orange County I will often elect to drive down PCH. In doing so, I occasionally spot places that might be perfect to grab a meal or interesting galleries to check out. Rarely do I make more than a mental note about the place that I had seen but after enough time and exposure it wears on me. When my curiosity is met with hunger in conjunction with good reviews from random sources (to avoid horrible disappointment), I will test the waters. In other words, there was a perfect storm brewing in Sunset Beach recently.

Woody’s Diner was completely stickered a la Wahoo’s when I drove in about a week ago. It was busy with a group of people grabbing the gamut of diner amenities in the afternoon but I had one thing on my mind—burgers. It had been too long since my last burger and I was itching to right the situation. I came in studying the images of Yelp before I knew what I must order. The Swiss and mushroom burger, in general, seemed like a natural blend of ingredients but nothing really drew me to it. I prefer simplicity but something was coming over me and it wasn’t just hunger. I had read a lot of positive feedback on the signature items, coupled with great pictures of their burgers and other food items that I felt I would be remiss in not ordering. I had nearly made up my mind, but there was a scintilla of doubt if the burger could survive the hype.

With friendly and prompt service I placed the order for the aforementioned Swiss and mushroom burger. The order taking was so swift, it left me wondering if I had made the correct decision, going through a horrible Woody-Allen-like-panic until the plate came out. Over-thinking it. The presentation was stunning and simple, arresting my fears immediately. An open-faced burger arrived with measured patty covered in mushroom and melted Swiss cheese that was flowing and precise. The other half of the bun made a bed for the iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles and rings of raw purple onion. I quickly assembled the burger and got to work.

The burger was juicy and the cheese provided the right amount of fat and nuttiness to give the sandwich depth. I was smitten; it was one of the most surprising burgers that met all my expectations (I love when that happens). The price was reasonable for the burger and onion ring combo but I was not ready to give it perfect score because one element fell short.

The only thing holding me back from scoring it a perfect meal was that the choice of meat. Standard and acceptable, it could have been so much better with a choice grind. It surpassed many of the gourmet burgers in presentation (no need for a knife piercing the core or other picturesque antics) and structure (hold the brioche), but it did lack the Angus /Waygu…beef.

I was not disappointed at all because I went in with reasonable expectations and had studied the place before heading over, but had that one crucial element of the burger shown better, Woody’s Diner might have slid higher up into my favorite burger list. Instead, Woody’s gets a good grade and has given me some hope to try a few more beach spots on PCH. Storm weathered.

Never in my wildest dreams did I intend to pair a burger with a Riesling; even with my excitement for the high-acid white wine, it seemed taboo. I wouldn’t underestimate Riesling, with its lithe acidity and sprightliness on the palate, but it just does not spring to mind when I am entertaining the notion of having a gourmet burger or any incarnation of red meat nestled in a bun. Nevertheless, it transpired and I am living to write about the experience. Buckle up—your pairing world won’t be the same again.

I was at The Standing Room again, recently, to tackle the crab sandwich with a buddy of mine—writer of Detroit OnLion—and enjoy a nice chilled Riesling with the highly touted lunch item. I brought the tumblers and a few packs of ice to keep the tall tapered flute chilly while driving down from the Westside of Los Angeles. We went in and perused the menu and when comfortable placed our order for the sandwiches… only to have our request denied—the Crab was not ready. We scrambled to find alternatives and when Jeremy audibled he went big ordering the Napoleon—a behemoth that consists of short rib, fried egg, half pound patty, two different cheeses, French fries, bacon, arugula and some other standard accompaniments—for nearly fourteen dollars. I tried two more times to get something that might match the Spätlese but the items were out or had been 86’d, and I was forced to settle with the Cash burger (crispy onions, Chinese barbeque sauce, avocado and bacon). It did not strike me as an ideal partner for the wine and I was losing faith, a little dispirited at the thought of an unintended pairing.

We waited for our order in the car and poured the wine, making the most of what I thought was a lost scenario and would ultimately mean another dash to Redondo Beach to eventually try that elusive crab sandwich. The 2008 Braunerberger Juffer (#199) from Mosel-Saar-Ruwer had a light straw color and a fragrant bouquet of green apple, lime and some notes of new tires (strong fresh rubber). On the palate the wine was nearly off dry with a healthy dose of RS on the tongue and bountiful green apple coating the buds. Light, zippy and refreshing, the Riesling was falling further from my mind as I had pondered a different pairing. It just didn’t seem realistic for the meal at hand.

When we got the burgers, we created a mock photo shoot and began tweeting our experience before eating. We took our first bites—it was cumbersome for Jeremy—and both of us were smitten with our selections. I urged him to drink his iced tea since I was confident his burger was off limits for the Spätlese and he heeded the recommendation. Midway through the burger, with its sweet flare, I reached reflexively for my tumbler full of wine and took a sip. My eyes went wide with astonishment, the sweet flavors of the bbq sauce and the crispy onions matched with the residual sugars in the wine, and the acidity was enough to ready my mouth for another bite of beef. I would say that there was a weight issue with the wine, the body not quite as big as the burger but, nevertheless, it made nearly an outstanding pairing because of the signature attributes of the Riesling. Another reason the Cash burger was almost a perfect partner was its delicate nature, not strictly focusing on a big patty as much as it was on the Asian fusion vibe of the Standing Room and it happened to be a successful combination of ingredients all around.

I finished my burger, while Jeremy had to roll up his sleeves and get medieval on the Napoleon burger; drippings from the egg, pieces of tender short rib as well as Parmesan Truffle Fries were strewn about the wrapper and basket. He was in hog heaven (stating later that it may have been his favorite burger on the West Coast) and I was left scratching my head over a Riesling that had the power to stay with the Cash burger. I still have to try the crab sandwich (one day making it back to Redondo Beach), but this pairing proved to be another fortuitous experiment in burgers and wine.

I have been maintaining a burger & wine blog for few months more than a year now and in no way has my love lessened for my favorite comfort food nor the more venerated beverage that sometimes quaffing keeps them company–instead, my appreciation for both has grown exponentially. As my burger count grows like a tomato under the summer sun, friends, family and other people who learn of my quest keep me apprised on newer establishments and other burgers that they hold dear. My roommate last month had shared with me a burger that he thought was incredible and I worked on my little burger planner, inserting Upper West into the count somewhere between G Burger and The Standing Room. It’s a packed schedule but burgers and wine are no joke.

I assembled a large group—ten strong—reserving a spot to dine at Upper West on a Saturday night. Not quite sure what to expect aside from a “great burger.” Would this place be a let down? What kind of scene was it? There were a lot of questions brewing before I got there.

Arriving just west of the 10 freeway on Pico Boulevard, I had met up with my friends, already seated in the back. Making my way to the table, Upper West was projecting Some Like it Hot behind us. The films were an interesting touch that made me think of San Francisco where similar open-air and enclosed cinema-on-the-wall-during-dining occurs. There were clear glass partitions separating dining rooms while still affording us a wonderful vantage point on the other parties in the restaurant. The space was comfortably upscale and suddenly my visions of a perfect burger were coming into focus.

You would think ordering would be difficult and rather drawn out with ten different diners but you would be wrong and what’s more is that less than half of my friends ate the burger—the menu was rife with delicious alternatives that lessened the burger’s appeal. I was resolved but threw in a request for a vegetable Carpaccio. The only hitch in the giddyup was ordering wine; we wanted to enjoy ourselves, ordering two bottles of wine that would compliment most of the fare and we needed to be economical because a dive into the wine list can be a costly decision.

My buddy from my wine class and I put our heads together to come up with something that we thought would be fruit forward and a bang for the buck—basically we stayed new world and went with a Carménère and Garnacha.

The Kunza Carmenere (#219) and Santo Cristo Garnacha (#218) were brought to our table quickly and parceled out, evenly, splitting the wines amongst us all. We performed group sniffs and tasted the wines. Both were adequate decisions and I was intrigued by the chalkiness of the tannins in the Kunza Carménère—a reason I am particularly drawn to that grape. It finished with a healthy dose of ripe plum and was enjoyable on its own.

All eyes were on the only starter—the vegetable Carpaccio; a picturesque dish with filleted golden beets under goat cheese scoops, bean sprouts, Meyer Lemon and an earthy midsection. It was good and nice (no deprecation intended) to see the formal showcase but I was ready for the burger after a few bites.

When the burgers hit the table, I was dubious; the presentation seemed a little too flashy, arriving on a cutting board with a dagger (steak knife) piercing the core of the brioche bun and atop the bun were a pair of bread and butter pickles. Odd. To the right stood a metal cup stuffed delicately with fries, providing balance to the canvas—it made me feel like I was about to eat a MOCA exhibit.

The dressed-up burger came with an onion marmalade that was sweet and tangy, the pasilla pepper goat cheese spread added sharpness and the dry aged grind was particularly tasty in rounding out the flavors with savory notes; it was clear that the gimmicky* plating was carrying a carefully crafted burger.

The meat was tender and cooked perfectly medium, the bun was soft and did not wince under the jus that escaped the patty… almost all the components were executed textbook. The only imperfection I found—and for fifteen dollars I am going to be critical—was that the burger was a touch over-seasoned (a little too much salt). With that one exception it was clearly worth the price of admission and probably one of my favorite gourmet burger experiences.

The ambiance was relaxed and chic, the food fit the bill, the wine list was reasonable and the only real headache was splitting a bill by ten, other than that, my roommate was right, they do have a great burger, enough to make me readjust my top five in LA. Kudos, Ryland.

* I feel the presentation was bit overstated but from reading this blog you know I have a fondness for the traditional and understated.

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