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Between La Habra, Fullerton, City of Industry and Brea there are no paucity of stellar burger joints, some of my favorites. These are mostly unassuming-but-great-tasting-burgers that can be found in this sector of North Orange County. There are, however a shortage of Gourmet burger spots, places that step up the classic ingredients—sourcing beef, making their own condiments and using organic vegetables— in that same easterly area. So, it was to my surprise when my brother sent me an article last week in the OC Weekly about the newest gourmet burger on the block. I planned the trip to visit my brother, see his newest ride, spend time with my nephews and hopefully eat an amazing burger.

I made the drive, thundering due east on the ten and transferring to the 60 east, at a time when driving fast was feasible. I was there in a little over an hour, motoring my way to my brother’s work to switch vehicles and head down to G Burger in La Habra.

I was familiar with the signature sandwich from this burger bar after reading that article but I was in the mood to keep it original and my burger free of pastrami and the endless array of toppings that are heaped on the behemoth G burger. And I did. Ordering a hamburger, I decided it would be best to try something unique to G Burger so I ordered the G Fries.

We were told it would be a fifteen-minute wait before the food arrived and I was okay with that, getting to discuss my brother’s newest car, the upgraded suspension and other small talk—you know, brother stuff.

When the food arrived on and in red dishes, I was surprised by the size—accustomed to the petit burgers of Umami—and the seasoning that blanketed the patty. The bun was pristine and the toppings fresh and with the first bite I was on to something good. The pepper-forward coating really made the difference, taking the meat up a notch from so many casual burger joints that inhabit the area.

The G fries were on par with In-n-Out’s animal style fries, but in G Burger fashion, they were a richer version. I tapped out fairly quickly, fries have never been my thing, and I was content to eat my burger because these fries distracted me from a nice sandwich. My brother helped me finish the fries that were replete with cheese, thousand island sauce, grilled onions and thick ‘n chewy pieces of smoked bacon after polishing off his chicken sandwich.

I was impressed with the caliber of burgers that were coming off the grill at G Burger, not the biggest or the most complex but executed perfectly. There is some room for improvement despite the obvious dedication to improving upon the classic burger: Making house sauces, unique to G Burger, would be a first step, and then upgrading the drink selection to incorporate more than a stock soda fountain’s worth of choices. It seems that the menu was a deliberate attempt at upstaging the stiff competition in the area but after that they were content to call it quits. There are a lot of choices in this locale—and North Orange County may be where I source my next Burger Bonanza—but G Burger warrants the extra dollar or two that separates it from its competitors—at least where food is concerned.

My brother and I exited happily, getting into the Mustang (that is a serious understatement) and cruising off until we reached his home, meeting up with my nephews where I spent the remainder of the day playing games before their bedtime approached. As always, it was great to catch up with family and eat my favorite food. Before I departed we made plans to do it again soon but who knows when our schedules will align. I am hoping soon.

It was time to leave behind Tustin, trading it away for another destination, saying goodbye to close friends and newer acquaintances that would not be joining us on the trek to Compton. We arrived at the roadside eatery and took in the surroundings. A large field, with ample parking, horseshoeing around the center attraction—I had finally made it to Mom’s Burgers.

Piling out of the car we stood out, especially me, with a camera clinging firmly to my chest and my dark rimmed spectacles lining my mug. We were a mixed group of kids like a hipster clique in a different part of town.

Immediately we were asked if we were from the area, the person asking knew the answer and wondered how we’d heard of the place. He took an interest in us, walking us through the menu. His name was Devon and his recommendations were more than helpful when it came to ordering from the assorted list. Sifting through the popular items, he hinted that his favorite was Mom’s Soul Burger with added relish. That burger normally consisted of fried egg, tomato, shredded lettuce, chopped onion and apparently the relish was the only thing missing. He broke down all the burgers, listing the ingredients that had been missing from the names and when we felt good and ready about our decision we ordered. I respected our courier’s knowledge and requested Mom’s Soul burger with the extra relish and the others put in their orders.

After ordering we spied a chess set parked on a table in the seating area. We brushed up on our skills, over small talk and colorful conversation with another local by the name of Capone until we were called to retrieve our meal.

I found Mom’s to be the perfect spot to pour the Vietti Nebbiolo (#308) from Langhe—a pedigreed vintner with a penchant for beautiful labels. Nebbiolo is the grape of Barolo and Barbaresco, two of Italy’s greatest red wines that can handle a wide array of gamy meats like rabbit stew to heartier fare of big roasted meats. Best of all it was cloaked in affordability ($23 for a superior red wine). I knew this wine would have enough acidity to help subdue the grease while enough structure to prop up the patty and I was itching for the combination.

Unwrapping the burgers, the presentation was sloppy, the egg could barely contain itself and the relish was seeping out of the monster burger. It was jarring in comparison to the ABC burger I had had an hour earlier.

Presentation is never enough to stop me from devouring a meal so I jumped in, the depth players (tomatoes, onions, relish) assisted in the win for this burger on the palate, transforming a coarse, hand formed patty into to a bigger sensation. The egg also really melded the flavors with the tang of the relish, combined to make a salty, sweet combination that won over my taste buds. Enough to make it the second star of the night.

The wine did wonders too; with big notes of ripe cherry and earthy bramble the Vietti Nebbiolo was more than up to the challenge of hanging with the big shot burger. The acidity, as predicted, helped cleanse the palate and ready me for another bite. After a drawn out game of chess and a solid meal it was on to the next spot.

Now under the spell of eating too much meat, a brief respite from bovine seemed a marvelous idea. I met with another friend who happened to be a vegetarian and she insisted that we go to the Veggie Grill on Sunset Boulevard.

For two of us in the group it was our first time eating veggie burgers, I was nervous about them disappointing me because I have never been one for substitute meat, in fact the idea appeared farcical for a vegetarian to even want to eat such a thing. We pressed on, assuaging my fright and splitting the V burger.

A short wait yielded a nice, unhurried presentation—clean and simple. I recalibrated my jaw for the petite portions in comparison to Mom’s and took a bite.

The fresh vegetables were pleasant and in proportion but the patty was suspect. Not because it tasted awful but because it lacked flavor. To make up for that there was a spicy mayo assigned to disguising the patty. In a word the veggie burger was disappointing, not the fault of the restaurant because it was executed perfectly but it leaves some room for improvements on vegetarian patties. However, I was now over the hurdle of my first alternate burger experience and much more open to the possibility of eating another. Umami anyone?

By the time we left it was late in the day and traffic was becoming a reality, a five-minute drive to Stout waddled into a thirty-minute bob ‘n weave through Sunset Boulevard. We decided it was not meant to be to consume the fourth burger, and our stomachs’ collective sigh of relief was palpable. Trying to outdo my first Burger Bonanza reflected in the spots I chose and the amount of petrol I used to get there. Though I did not complete the four-burger benchmark it was a complete success filled with friends, good music, interesting variations on a burger and of course… wine. When April comes again, here’s hoping the Bonanza rides again.

Last year I started the Burger Bonanza, in hopes of keeping pace with the flurry of gourmet and classic burger establishments opening in Southern California (a large enough drawing board). Devoid of critics, we are not quite the burger police, but reticent to fall for just any patty. I carefully studied the reviews and selected a few standouts to visit, covering more ground in one day than I sometimes would in a month, while being mindful to not overeat, splitting the burgers with the others who partnered on the journey. The original Burger Bonanza was three separate burgers to an excursion, all from within the confines of Los Angeles. This year, I was interested in upstaging my previous efforts, broadening the map to a beginning in Orange County and concluding the burgercurean tour in Los Angeles, visiting four restaurants along the way, with a larger collection of friends and as always trying to find a feasible wine pairing when applicable (unfortunately, only at Mom’s).

The menu du jour quatre fois included a quick pit stop to the Wine Exchange in the city of Orange—to stock up on some wines for this pairing and future events—then off to Peter’s Gourmade Grill, then a brief visit to Compton to try the legendary fare of Mom’s Burgers, a third spot was up to the people who were with me, and finally, ending at Stout. That was the plan and it took some serious resolve to make it work.

I waited for a buddy to carpool with and we headed south. Once at the Wine Exchange I loaded up on Rieslings of all different price ranges, and almost exclusively from Germany, to accompany my newfound preference for sushi and to tag along with the heavily spiced Indian foods that I hope to review. I lost focus among their jaw-dropping assortment of collector wines, priced much cheaper than in Los Angeles, but managed to regain focus and select a sampler of three bottles of Syrah from K Vintners—Morrison Lane, El Jefe and the Cougar Hills—and some more bottles of Vietti Nebbiolo for their already established pairing capacity with burgers, among other more traditional couplings.

After I stockpiled the wines, my friend and I headed out to Peter’s Gourmade Grill and met up with several more friends (new and old) to enjoy some high-end burgers at an unexpected location. Though it is not uncommon to hitch your eatery to a gas station, it just doesn’t conjure the best imaginable burgers and yet, they took top honors for the day. We queued up, placing our orders for the ABC burger loaded with avocado, bacon and cheddar ($5.75), and we shared a plate of Sweet Potato Gooey’s.

There was a major wait at the gas station for these burgers; we watched the cramped kitchen pumping out an endless procession of burgers on the terrifically warm day. Eventually, our meal was plated on soft pastel colors; mine was carrying a generous burger that was a hybrid, a blend of classic with gourmet tendencies. Sourcing the beef, including artisan items and attention to detail while maintaining the cornerstones of burger joints. With a nicely seasoned six-ounce patty, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, homemade pickles, avocado, thick cut bacon, a swath of condiments sitting between a potato bun, and its hidden pearl of a burger, save for the cheese.  The flavors were completely thought out—the bacon added fat and salt, the avocado was creamy and ripe, and the pickles added tartness. The texture of the grind was coarse, making it a signature burger. Everything was measured and worked in concert to create an enjoyably complex bite.

 The side of Sweet Potato Gooey’s was by far the most interesting side I have had at a burger joint, far surpassing fried pickles or chili cheese fries. They were a dessert, reminiscent of a Thanksgiving side, replete with a layer of baked marshmallow atop sweet potato fries and some maple syrup. Spectacular.

After the tasting it felt appropriate to select a burger joint hamburger, as opposed to any gourmet incarnation of the hamburger—glitz and frills were not necessary—we were hungry.

We packed up; wine in flask, strapped to our back pockets and made the trek to Santa Monica. When we spotted George’s Char-Broiled Burgers it had that genuine appearance, synonymous with summer, from the outside; it was the kind of place with one look you knew exactly what kind of burger you were about to eat.

On the inside however, it was barren. No customers to be found but a mess left in their place, the floors were the evidence of crapulous behavior and other components were amiss. I was beginning to doubt the place before we had even ordered.

With our expectations low, we kept the ordering simple, not veering too far from the standards like fries and burgers, except one of the group happened to have a craving for some zucchini fries.

When the burgers made the table, they came dressed in thousand-island spread, with rings of raw white onion, thick slices of hothouse tomato, leaves of iceberg lettuce and quarter pound charbroiled patties sitting between sesame seed buns. They looked picturesque and were definitely a nice surprise from what miserable burger-like thing I was expecting.

We worked the contents of the flasks around the table to be prepared for the first bites. We dug in and our eyebrows perked, we were content with the burgers; they were average—a little singular in their approach on the palate but honest and simple. The ingredients were fresh, the food was ample and the price was right. The wines (Redwood Creek Malbec and the Steak House Cabernet Sauvignon) married well with the charred meats.  Those zucchini fries on the other hand were below average, the batter was bland and copious, overpowering the vegetables on the inside. We were left pining those of Carl’s Jr.

I am happy we stuck it out and tried George’s (it had long piqued my curiosity as I drove to the nearby Whole Foods) because with the surplus of gourmet burgers in Los Angeles, it becomes increasingly harder to find the Charbroiled Joints and now I am aware of a decent one not too far away. With rash planning, I was able to throw a successful blind tasting, while dwindling my countdown (384 left on the year) and spending some quality time with friends over sharing one of my favorite foods. Imagine what I can do when given some serious planning time!

 

On Friday night I hosted an impromptu group tasting that was spearheaded by the desire to realize a dream of mine… one of sourdoughy-goodness (pure guilty pleasure), leading a group of friends to a burger at Hole in the Wall off Santa Monica Boulevard, where I would deign to have a Sourdough Jack in place of the gourmet burger.

Sometimes I just give into weird cravings. A few days ago I was hankering a Sourdough Jack with visions of Johanna (oh wait, sorry, that was Bob Dylan), instead, I thought of the wonderfully warm, soft and round sourdough bun covering a thin patty with tomato and bacon, it might just be the finest thing on Jack in the Box’s menu (that isn’t saying too much?). I couldn’t really sell the others on the delicious factor of that signature burger, so we went to two different spots and reconvened at the apartment to begin a fun night of pairing wine ‘n burgers.

To begin the night I had opened a bottle of 05 Cantina Santadi Shardana (#469 if you are keeping track at home)—an Italian Carignan[o]—giving plenty of time to open up and allow for an oxygen interchange before we started drinking it—I wanted to enhance the experience. The renowned critic Robert Parker gave it a 95 point score when he reviewed the wine. The Shardana was structured and tannic with ripe black cherry, anise and cedar. It paired beautifully with all the burgers at the table: a veggie burger, 3 beef burgers, a turkey burger and a Sourdough Jack, not that I tasted all my friends meals but they did say it was great. The first bottle was consumed quickly and it was on to the next bottle that one of the attendees had brought.

An 08 Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon (#468) was popped, sniffed and slurped. We (as a group) decided that the wine had nice notes of Chocolate, Bacon and Cherry… kind of like a Vosges chocolate concoction. The wine was interesting but did not wow the crowd.

As the night went on, a third bottle was retrieved from the wine rack. I fetched a bottle of 09 Monte la Sarda Garnacha Viñas Viejas (#467) a Peter Weygand selection—another acclaimed importer. After it was uncorked, we began a group sniff and found aromas of “Sourpatch Kids” and the more conventional cranberry juice. Of the set, it did the least for the group’s favor, showing a lighter body that may have had more to do with tasting out of order than actual failings. Like I said it was an impromptu evening: Quixotic for pairings; to find the perfect pair.

I think one of the most fascinating things about tasting wines is participating in a sampler with a bunch of people and seeing how the different components are interpreted amongst the gathered. For instance when someone smells jalapeño, that could be a green quality in the wine or, it might be that nose-hair singeing experience of smelling high alcohol disguised/perceived as a spicy green pepper. And what of the one soul who declares to perceive a smell that none of the rest had clarified till she mentioned it. As I continue this trek-to-500, I hope that I taste more wines with friends because it makes the experience a greater achievement. As for that Sourdough Jack it was okay, but it reinforced my qualms with fast food chains.

I rarely dine out in Long Beach despite the amount of time I spend in the city visiting my parents, yet I still take note of many eateries along the way there, bookmarking all the hole-in-the-wall spots that I prize. Unfortunately, I neglect the eateries of Long Beach, in favor of the highly touted and trafficked places in Los Angeles because somehow I feel that they are proven, with the high volume of people eating there. But then reality sets in: You can have incredible food from anywhere (Bisbee, Arizona anyone?). Why is it that I seem to go out of my way for offbeat restaurants in Los Angeles and treat Long Beach like a second-class citizen? No good answer really but all that changed Sunday.

I started my day at 2 a.m., up-‘n-at-em like I always say (I don’t really say that), but happened to be working REALLY EARLY! Afterward, I spent the remainder of the day with my parents, catching the Ducks game and trying Louis Burgers III, a local hamburger joint located off Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Long Beach.

The outing had been pre-orchestrated and I had arranged to serve the burger with a bottle of 08 Clos la Coutale from Cahors (one of the five Kermit Lynch bottles I purchased recently), a blend of eighty percent Malbec and twenty percent Merlot that seemed like it would be a stellar pairing on paper.

My first trip to the Louis Burgers III, after passing by it numerous times was exciting. The joint was hopping, diners occupied all booths/tables and a long queue was forming at the door. Somehow I was a tiny bit disappointed because I had romanticized notions of a dingier burger joint that would still serve a fantastic burger.

The workers, clad in purple attire, were working at a furious pace, pumping out order after order. The epitome of efficiency. We ordered a burger and junior cheeseburger with some fries to go. About ten minutes later we had our food and were on the road back home.

We transferred the food to plates; poured a few ounces each into our goblets of decanted Cahors red wine and began eating. The burger was served with a ¼ inch patty painted beautifully with char marks from the griddle, shredded iceberg lettuce, raw red onion, pickle, tomato and a little spread. The first bite was very good and this night was going off without a hitch. The Ducks were up 3-0 against Edmonton by the second period (who knew the sort of cardiac they had in store for us later!), and I tried the wine with the burger, probably my best pairing since I have begun this mission of marrying burger and wine, everything working in concert. Even the French fries were above average, heavy on the potatoes (much like their Dutch /Belgian forbears).

The Malbec-heavy blend supported the weight of the burger, it was a remarkable pairing and it got better with each bite, both serving to make the other better, no spikes of heat or being out of balance. On its own, the Cahors red wine was very tannic and big bodied, taking on an intense bloodlike color in the glass with earth, ripe blackberries and faint speckles of vanilla on the nose.

If this is any indication of the caliber of foods Long Beach offers, then I might be eating a little more frequently in the fifth largest city in California. This past Sunday was one of my favorite burger outings of all time, the food and drink were in symmetry, the Ducks eked out a narrow victory with Selanne potting his 1300th point and I spent time with my parents. The vinometer whooshed by marker 486 on the quest-to-500. Just gathering momentum.

After a burger snafu on Friday night that saw my dreams dashed of pairing a recently acquired Australian bottle of Grenache with a great burger from a bar in Venice, I had to scramble to find a replacement on a Sunday afternoon (although I did see my Ducks cruise to a 6-0 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets). I had given the decision some thought and a little research on the pages of Yelp, selecting a first choice that happened to be closed on Sundays , alas, but luckily there was another burger joint a couple minutes west on Venice Boulevard.

Sunny Grill, the other choice, looked promising with a nice décor and a steady stream of customers frequenting the drive-in and a bunch more on the inside, it was beginning to look like I stumbled upon a great find.  I ordered a hamburger with a side of zucchini fries ($7.89) to go.

I traveled up the road searching for the perfect spot to enjoy the burger and wine without drawing too much liquor-phototaking attention to my roommate or myself. I parked and began setting up the camera, rummaging through the tote carrying my flask, glassware and other drinking accoutrements and finally getting to the burger and zucchini all in the comfy confines of a Lexus.

As I poured the contents of the flask—2007 Epicurean Bistro Grenache—I snacked on the hot zucchini. Each bite bland but piping hot, made me pant frantically to keep my mouth from burning. The lack of seasoning left the melted innards of the battered zucchini wanting; just blah on the palate.

The Grenache (#496) was redolent of muddled ripe blackberries, woody notes and a crack of pepper. On the palate the wine was tannic and full-bodied with more black fruit and pepper.

After the few zucchini fries I had, my expectations declined, uncertain about what the burger had in store for me. I unwrapped it tentatively, spying a flattened bun with a razor-thin patty, lettuce, pickles, a tomato and some spread. These guys were not aiming for the best presentation but I was going to reserve judgment.

The first bite was mediocre—it was a second choice—and I reached for the glass of Grenache to wash it down. The heat (alcohol) in the wine was accentuated by the burger but the other structural components meshed. The burger was average but a definite improvement from the tasteless fries.

The wine seemed to rally late with the help of the surroundings: a friend to share it with, a lot of sun and some enjoyable music, compliments of Ry Cooder, the day transformed into a summer afternoon—carefree.

The trek didn’t produce the best results from a food and wine standpoint but it was fun to the hit pavement again, searching for that flawless burger and wine pairing.

New Tools

It has been a while since I have last written a post, interrupted by a brief flirtation with the LSAT—an arduous exam I prepared for by studying two months straight—and focusing the remaining time on work and the quotidian. I underestimated the difficulty of that exam, fooling myself by thinking that I could maintain the blog and play hockey as much as I was before I had embarked on my exhaustive prep work. Therefore the blog was neglected and even my hockey to some extent began to diminish. Though that was last year. I am happy to say that the exam is behind me and the blog is trained in my sights.

Not too much (other than the LSAT) has transpired since our last exchange, my favorite team, the Ducks are still floundering, displaying fleeting signs of greatness only to be supplanted by mediocrity. During my absence I still found the time to frequent my favorite burger joints and taste and explore all kinds of bottles of wine from Santa Barbara to Rioja.

The holidays came and went punctuating the end of a great year. Going forward, I will have some surprises along the way and starting immediately, some new tools to better operate my blog: a shiny flask, a funnel, and myriad new bottles of wine in my cellar to pair with my favorite foods (thanks parents). I am eager to expand this blog by incorporating music and hockey, or rather personalizing this web address and look to make a big splash in the 2011 calendar year. So everyone, lift your flute to the Maverickpalate!

On Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, there are a lot of hamburger joints vying for attention, yet only one has garnered heaps of acclaim. This establishment is a gargantuan on Yelp—over 1,000 reviews from users like you (and me). Professional critics like Jonathan Gold and Guy Fieri among others, have vaunted the ‘slow’ cooked fast food, making it an institution and another reason to drive to Eagle Rock.

The Oinkster is a cleaned up and re-invented ode to the hamburger joint, perfecting the ingredients and recipes of the classic dishes found in these roadside eateries, from reconsidered ketchup to the pastrami sandwich. They have also retooled the innards of the establishment with modern touches like suspending LCD TVs a la a sports bar and giving attention to the flooring, while maintaining the classic nuances like the long metal counter to the grand sign that each wonderful burger joint boasts.

The Oinkster serves up a lot of beers and fun beverages to pair with their fare. They are also capitalizing on the cupcake craze, placing a few in a case adjacent to a patron when ordering. The Oinkster packs a lot of people, nearly every time I have gone, I have queued up for a couple of minutes before ordering.

On my latest trip, a Dodgers day game had just finished, making the wait particularly long. The Oinkster was teaming with fans in blue causing a colubrine line to form, backing us to the door.

When it came time, I ordered the classic burger, harnessing a 1/3lb patty with the standard accompaniment of vegetables, seeded burger bun and a side of red cabbage slaw. A thing that is apparent when ordering is that the fixed prices that come tailored to ‘classic’ burger joints do not apply; two meals with two drinks were just over twenty two dollars.

As we waited for the food to arrive, I told my father about their sauces: Chipotle ketchup, house made ketchup, aioli and other condiments that set Oinkster apart from it forbears. Intrigued, my father paid a visit to the other side of the shiny counter where their cache of sauces and pickled peppers were placed. We stockpiled jalapeños and the said condiments to be prepared for the food when it made the table.

Shortly after, we studied the presentation, it owed a lot to the burgers that came before, dressed invitingly in paper pockets, in a red plastic basket lined with paper. It was time to eat. The draw for the ‘classic’ burger is the thick patty of sourced beef, sharing the interior with full wedges of tomato, house cured pickles, crisp iceberg lettuce and raw white onion. The side came in a little paper fry basket with some wet, slightly limp, sorta sweet red cabbage. The burgers were great, nicely cooked (not perfect but not dry), soft bun and tender meat with some crispness from the onion and lettuce, the condiments spruced up the fries and added to the burger. As for my side of red cabbage slaw, it was not inventive and definitely not worth ordering again (I immediately pined for the cabbage slaw of Golden State).

The Oinkster does a lot of things right, the owner/chef spent a lot of time perfecting dishes and carefully crafting the ultimate spot for burger lovers, blending facets of traditional joints, tweaking them tenderly to incorporate them nicely into his envisioned space. For all that it has going for it though, it is simple fare executed (most of the time; the sides could use some help) correctly and at relatively mid level prices. The food warrants a strong score of 8 out of 10, for its quality and its homage to the American staple and making the spot homey and inviting, yet they fall short of my favorite burger joint (and cost twice as much), the one that defined classic.

Melrose Avenue much like Fairfax Avenue, houses a bevy of amazing eateries. These restaurants run the gamut of flavors, styles and expenses. All crammed within a couple miles from each other, an Angeleno can choose to dine at Lucques, Providence, Osteria Mozza, Comme Cà, Angeli Caffe, Hatfields, and the newest eatery on the block Red O—an outstanding collection of culinary stalwarts. However, if you are feeling a little less than glitzy there is also another viable option… 8oz burger bar.

I was recently invited to dine here (for my third time) with a party of fourteen persons (a huge feat, in its own right), and although I like to find new places, I gladly embraced the invitation, knowing that the 8oz. burger is consistently well made.

After parking close by—on a street that did not require a parking permit—I made my way into 8oz where there was a large party waiting at a makeshift table. The first thing that I notice about the place is the lighting, always a little too dark for my taste—very difficult to take photos without a good flash—and it barely illuminates the spare setting of mostly worn wood and dark tables/benches that are often filled with the well-groomed residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. It is a bare bones and relaxed ambiance that is conducive to enjoying a dressed down meal or drink sin pretense!

The menu selection is also simple and direct, there are two main options: pre-created burgers or the do-it-yourself variety, giving the chefs a greater success rate since they’re not really testing themselves. I decided to change things up and order the Estancia grass fed beef burger ($9), which made use of charred escarole, tomato, onion, sautéed mushrooms and their special sauce. The other two times I had been to 8oz. I ate the signature burger but thought that if I were going to try the same burger bar then I should try a different style burger. I also wanted a break from my comfort zone and gambled on an order of fried pickles ($4). Three of us split a bottle of Hey Mambo—a Rhone-style blend of red wine ($28) that would meld into the flavors of the burger while the rest of the group favored a pour of the decent beer selection to accompany their burgers.

After we sipped our respective beverages as the burgers made the table relatively quickly, considering our group’s size, and they arrived on top parchment paper lined plates—again, nothing fancy. Most burgers shared the plate with their respective sides, unless you ordered the potato skins with truffle oil, they came nestled in their own basket.

The presentation was nothing special, if not a little messy but it showcased a flawless burger bun framing a thick patty and some vegetables protruding from the vertical composition. However understated the presentation, the patty was incredibly tender and oozing with jus. The texture of the grind was soft and fine and it worked in tandem with the fresh, non-descript bun. The charred escarole did nothing to enhance, nor take away from the perfectly executed patty. As for those fried pickles? Cloying tartness, with just about every bite the acid became more pronounced. It was not my favorite side dish.

Out of all fourteen diners, there were no complaints (at least none that I could hear in table range), just fourteen perfectly executed burgers and fourteen content diners, yammering in satisfaction. While some of the elements fall short, namely the burger’s informal appearance, the first bite makes up for it. In my book, consistency is king with any establishment, so, for all three separate occasions to yield a success, means that these guys can cook to a perfect medium thus deserving of a nine star burger rating. 8 oz. is casual—through and through—and its change of pace is a welcomed reprieve on this major epicurean avenue that nicely compliments its big time culinary peers.

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