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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.

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