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In the Thanksgiving feast preamble, my dear reader,I hope you can sneak in a burger… or at least a review. Over a recent late lunch, I planned to resume the hunt for a quality gourmet burger on the Westside,  desperately trying not to think of poultry. My target was the place I should’ve gone instead of Steingarten LA, avoiding one of the worst burger dining experiences I’ve had in recent memory, in favor of a place that had the potential to deliver a burger meriting its asking price.

The buzz for Plan Check Kitchen + Bar was audible from blocks away. People, random strangers and those I trusted, would often fold Plan Check into the mix of great burger purveyors in the City of Angels. The spot wasn’t new to me; I couldn’t escape the thriving eatery while I was picking up plants at the nearby nurseries or miss the glowing LA Times review from Jonathon Gold a month back.

On a corner of Sawtelle Boulevard, sandwiched between Japanese Nurseries and an array of Asian eateries, the contemporary bar and kitchen combo stands apart, pumping out libations while filling  bellies with punched-up comfort foods. A friend and I arrived in the late afternoon and passed on dining indoors (trendy communal tables, spacious booths and bar seating) to take root in their great outdoor space, basking in the mid-fall warmth awash Los Angeles.

We took a studied glance at the menus—the burgers were a must but the sides are where we ventured into the great unknown. The wine list was devastatingly simple and I elected to go for a draft beer—pining for my flask full of wine.

Between the sweet potato waffle fries, hot pastrami fries (a special), and two “Chef’s favorite burgers, we were as good as gold.

The sides arrived first. Overflowing from their cast-iron trays, the sweet potato waffle-cuts were glowing and when mixed with the peach ketchup it was uncomfortably close to becoming a desert… nicely done, but cloying. The pastrami fries were covered in melted Swiss, copious pieces of pastrami and topped with diced pickles. The best version of smothered French fries I have had to date. We ate a little to save room for the entrees.

Creativity sets Plan Check’s burger apart from its competitors, with innovative additions like ketchup leather, and serving bacon and cheese in two ways (a gooey mess and a cheese crisp). Those additions add depth of flavor and provide some much needed contrast in texture to this incredibly tender burger. The first bite broke the yolk; my fingers were mired in a messy yellow and red (hot sauce), as I tried my best to keep clean. The patty was well executed—cooked to a medium rare—and the ketchup leather added a nice complement of sweet to the already savory and lightly spiced cheeseburger. Two strips of bacon added to that savory smack.

If anything the burger was too much. I felt weighed down and in need of shower afterwards. It was an intense and delicious experience, but too rich for me. At its best, Plan Check combined a lot of my favorite elements like serving the sides first (a la 25˚), a fried egg like some of those standout burgers in Compton, and wielding a soft grind like the delightful 5 Star burger in New Mexico. Not on the shortlist for best burgers of Los Angeles but a close outlier that is worth the price and a niffty destination if you are on the Westside.

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