The New Black Star Burger

When Plan Check closed on Fairfax Avenue, I was eager to see what would open in its place. Located down the street from Jon & Vinny’s, Supreme and Canter’s Deli, Black Star Burger has become one of the trendiest food and clothing destinations in Los Angeles.

The very first Black Star Burger opened in Moscow in 2016 and became so successful that 20 locations opened across Eastern Europe.

For the grand opening of its first American location, Black Star Burger partnered with Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, a songwriter, American record producer and singer who co-wrote many of Justin Bieber’s hit songs. When he hosted the grand opening in November, celebrities Justin and Hailey Bieber and “Dancing with the Stars’” Val Chmerkovskiy attended the party to support their friend. Also attending the opening was one of the founders of Black Star Burger and Russian rapper Timati.

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Since there are a lot of burger restaurants in Los Angeles, I hoped Black Star Burger would offer something different than all the other casual burger chains. Last weekend, I brought my daughter to join.

A large menu screen at the entrance of the restaurant lists four beef, two chicken and two vegan burgers, side dishes, a kids menu, drinks and desserts.

The burgers can be made the “L.A. Way” with a lettuce wrap instead of a gluten bun.

The hemp-seed burger piqued my interest, so I ordered it with a side of sweet potato waffle fries. My daughter ordered a grilled Beyond Meat burger the “L.A. Way” with a side of fried “Cali” flowers and a beverage.

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With booths along the wall and tables in the center, the dining room features an ice cream counter with a long bar with stools. Guests can try an array of beer on tap that includes Peroni, Blue Moon, 805 and a New England-style hazy IPA.

Within a few minutes, my name was called to pick up our food. On the tray were a pair of food-grade, latex-free black gloves in a clear, sealed package.

My daughter appreciated the gloves while biting into her juicy “L.A. Way” Beyond Meat burger wrapped in lettuce. The theory of these gloves is that you use less napkins while eating.

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My hemp-seed burger was a delicious, high-protein, sustainable meat alternative topped with vegan pepperjack cheese and a special Black Star vegan sauce. Each hemp burger offers a full spectrum of omega fatty acids, 21 grams of protein and six grams of fiber.

The sweet potato waffle fries were served warm and crispy, and the small “Cali” flowers were delicious. Both were served without dipping sauces.

The Black Star chicken breast sandwiches can be fried or grilled. One is slathered with spicy mayo, pickles and slaw, and the other is enhanced with a house ranch dressing, tomatoes, mixed greens and pickles.

On the kids menu, younger guests can choose from a cheeseburger or grilled American cheese combo. Both come with potato wedges and a drink. For dessert, the ice cream counter offers different flavors and 10 candy toppings for customized sundaes.

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At Black Star Burger, you can enjoy a gourmet burger and beer in a fun environment for a quick meal, or hang out and listen to the music. You never know who might come in to support their friends in the music industry. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

$ 351 N. Fairfax Ave., (323)433-7792. This review was featured in the Beverly Press on Jan. 16, 2020.

5 Best Cheeseburger Spots in LA

Since National Cheeseburger Day is September 18, I thought I would list my favorite burger spots in LA. These are my go-to places to sink my teeth into a burger layered with textures and flavors.

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K Ramen. Burger. Beer -Photo by Jill Weinlein
  1. K Ramen. Burger. Beer. – Located at the lively The Americana on Brand in Glendale, above Katsura is a great burger spot.  This burger features 1/2 pound beef topped with caramelized onion, tomato, American Cheese, and the chef’s slightly spicy and creamy secret sauce. It’s served with your choice of fries or tots. K Ramen will be offering 50% off the delicious K Burger all day on Sunday, September 19. Order a Kirin frozen beer to pair with this tasty burger. 702 Americana Way, Glendale (818)244-5900. Read my review of  K Ramen. Burger. Beer – https://dineandtravel.me/2016/07/03/k-ramen-ramen-poke-burgers-and-beer/
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Photo by Jill Weinlein

2. Napa Valley Grille – The chefs have crafted a brand new exclusive purge dubbed, “The Westwood Juicy Lucy,” that is stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese, fried shallots, Early Girl tomato, arugula, and charred Serrano ketchup. It’s served with truffled tater tots. This burger pair nicely with a ripe and bold Merlot. Read my review of Napa Valley Grille – https://dineandtravel.me/2016/09/13/the-newly-opened-napa-valley-grille/

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

3. LAMILL – Stop by LAMILL Coffee boutique in Silverlake for the juicy LAMILL Burger. It features a 7 oz. Boulder Valley burger topped with roasted tomatoes, hook’s cheddar cheese, romaine slaw and a brioche bun. This burger is served with a side of fries. Be sure to enjoy it with a craft beer or creme brûlée latte. Here’s my review  and information about  LAMILL – https://dineandtravel.me/2016/09/13/lamill-coffee-boutique-in-silverlake/

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Photo Courtesy of Umami Burger

4. Umami Burger –  What makes these burgers different than others? Umami is one of the five basic taste sensations that includes sweetness, sourness, saltiness and bitterness. The American Wagyu beef patties on Adam Fleischman’s burgers are made with a little soy sauce and Umami dust, comprised of ground dried porcini mushrooms and dried fish heads to give the burger a savory flavor. Try the truffle burger, or keep it classic with the original Umami Burger. Looking for a fine fish burger? Try the ahi tuna burger, branded with the signature “U.” It’s the quintessential California fare with avocado, sprouts and shaved ginger carrots. Fleischman has 15 Umami Burger locations in Southern California, including one at LAX. 852 S. Broadway (213)413-8626.

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K Ramen. Burger. Beer -Photo by Jill Weinlein

5. Slater’s 50/50 – Founded in 2009 by Scott Slater and Executive Chef Brad Lyons. They created the worlds first 50 % ground beef from the top 12% of quality grass-fed cattle in North America with 50% ground bacon. Each patty meets a high-criteria for maturing, marbling, color, texture and firmness. The burger is weighed after cooking, not before. At Slater’s 50/50 there are a variety of burgers on the menu. The most popular is Peanut Butter & Jellousy. It has a Sterling Silver ground beef patty topped with a thick cut of bacon, creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly on a honey oat wheat bun. Some people order it a la mode for a meal and dessert combination. It may sound odd, but we tried this burger without the ice cream. It was sumptuous. The bacon with the peanut butter and jelly make a sweet and salty combination that is very satisfying. With multiple locations, find the closest to you at https://slaters5050.com. Near LA – 61 N. Raymond Ave. Pasadena (626)765-9700.

This article is now available as a mobile app at GPSmyCity.  https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/los-angeles-631.html To download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

K Ramen: Ramen, Poke, Burgers and Beer!

So far the culinary trends in 2016 have been ramen restaurants popping up all over Los Angeles. F096BC12-6C84-4628-9221-060B66FFBD32What if you don’t like ramen? Well, then there is poke. In some neighborhoods there are poke cafes every half mile. Elevated gourmet burger joints continue to be popular this year too.

The SBE Hospitality group discovered that not everyone likes just ramen or poke, so they created a new concept restaurant – K Ramen that offers a variety of ramen and poke dishes on the menu, plus a really good burger.

Known for their successful signature Japanese Katsuya restaurants, K Ramen makes dining easier for Los Angelenos at the Americana on Brand. Above the pretty sushi and Asian fusion restaurant is a more casual dining experience with one of the best views in the Rick Caruso complex.

A89CD4D6-9114-48B8-B574-E21A5687E5D3This space used to be an evening club, however residents weren’t too happy with the late night noise and crowd. They protested and insisted that the space only stay open until 10 p.m. This put a damper on the club scene and the upstairs venue sat empty for a while.

With its outdoor, covered terrace overlooking the dancing, musical water fountain, the executives at SBE and Katsuya developed a menu featuring salads, ramen, burgers, beers and poke for guests to enjoy before or after a movie or shopping. It’s also a great spot to meet family and friends for a meal.

The sit-down service is efficient, because Katsuya has two kitchens, one on each level. The atmosphere is dark with a Japanese beer garden vibe, that reminded us of the beer gardens we enjoyed in Kyoto, Japan. There are strings of festive light bulbs curving down from the ceiling, above booths and shiny wood picnic tables with benches.

Along the long bar, the staff serves a variety of Japanese beers that include a Kirin frozen beer with FullSizeRender-15a tall, icy head. Other Japanese beers include Sapporo, Asahi, Orion, Wasabi Ale, Hitachino Nest white ale or espresso stout. They even have a Coedo – Beniaka sweet potato amber. Not into Japanese beers? They have a Tahiti Hinano and Asian style lager Lucky Buddha that arrives in an artistic green, glass buddha shaped bottle.

They also offer Wente, Hogwash and Mark West wine on tap or Sweetzer Cellars by the bottle. Sakes come by the glass or poured from the 16 oz. carafe.

Here’s what I like about K Ramen, you don’t need to make reservations, just walk-in and sit where you want, at any empty table. They kept their club-like music playlist that adds to the atmosphere.

We started with calamari with a wasabi cocktail dipping sauce. This isn’t your traditional calamari, it’s big and thick pieces of calamari steak with less dough than most. It crispy and delicious.

FullSizeRender-16The K Burger is one of the juiciest burgers I’ve tasted in quite some time. It’s half a pound of two grilled meat patties with caramelized onions, sliced tomatoes, American cheese and a spicy cream sauce. Add sliced avocado and strips of bacon for the ultimate sandwich. It’s not too heavy, yet purely satisfying. The burger comes with thin and crisp fries or tater tots that have a drizzle of duck fat that are served in a Japanese-style wicker bowl.

There are four different poke plates that are different in flavor profiles. We tried the red snapper with kale doused with a citrus yuzu ginger sauce on top of a large aonori sesame rice. Aonori is a type of edible green seaweed that is rich in calcium, vitamins, magnesium, and amino acids. Black sesame seeds are sprinkled on top with thinly sliced serrano peppers offering a fresh earthiness to the dish.

Those seeking Hawaiian flavors will appreciate the albacore poke in a ponzu ginger sauce with mango cubes and chopped macadamia nuts. Those seeking creamy spicy tuna poke will find it on the menu.

Lobster Ramen at K - Ramen
Lobster Ramen at K – Ramen

At K Ramen they offer a lobster ramen with big chunks of the shellfish in a red, savory broth, that is not too salty, and not too bland. It’s enhanced with golden chives, green onions, bean sprouts and a marinated egg. There is also a black miso ramen with miso chicken.

We enjoyed the Shoyu ramen with a thicker broth made from boiling pork bones to extract tons of pleasing umami flavor. Pork belly cooked for over 12 hours is topped on thin, straight noodles.

Another ramen worth noting is the traditional Tokyo-style Shoyu ramen with chashu chicken. The clear, brown chicken based broth is enhanced with soy sauce to provide a tangy, salty, and savory balance of flavors that is fairly light on the palate. The broth is poured over curly noodles and adorned with a marinated egg.

Kids will like the Martinelli’s apple juice and Yoohoo beverages featured on the menu, and the Coolhaus ice cream pints for dessert. They offer salted caramel, chocolate molten cake or bananas foster flavors.

The American on Brand is the #1 Entertainment complex in Glendale.
The American on Brand is the #1 Entertainment complex in Glendale.

During the summer, guests can sit outside on the green grass and order this fare to go for an evening picnic under the twinkling lit trees.

During the dineLA Restaurant Week starting July 18 through July 31, K Ramen is offering a special dineLA lunch and dinner menu. The two-course lunch comes with tots and a fountain drink for $15. Choose from a first course selection of either spicy edamame, wings, or calamari. For the second course diners can choose either one ramen or poke dish.

K Ramen offers the newest food trends in a fun environment that everyone in your group will enjoy.

$-$$ 702 Americana Way, Glendale (818)244-5900.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspaper  and available on the mobile app GPSmyCity – https://www.gpsmycity.com/gps-tour-guides/glendale-5801.html.

Venice’s Leona: California flavors with a hint of Korean pizzazz

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Squash soup – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Strolling along the canals in Venice, built in 1905 by developer Abbott Kinney, is a relaxing experience. It’s a charming area with its eclectic architecture, the bridges tha span the canals and the graceful white egrets that fly overhead.

Located next to a canal and just a block from the Pacific Ocean is Leona restaurant. Owners Kristian and Breegan Vallas brought the former bakery and cafe back to life with the help of Scott Morris Architects and Executive Chef Nyesha J. Arrington’s dynamic menu offers progressive California cuisine.

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Venice Canal in California – Photo by Jill Weinlein

Arrington started cooking when she was five years old at the side of her beloved Korean grandmother. They rolled wontons together and made interesting dishes with bulgogi, octopus and homemade kimchi. This talented chef integrates flavors from around the world into appealing dishes at Leona.

Arrington previously worked nearby at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica and with the classically French trained Josiah Citrin at Mélisse. She appeared on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Texas” and Food Network’s series, “Chef Hunter,” where she won.

At Leona, her menu focuses on California cuisine with some Korean influences. She is well known at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, where she selects ethically harvested produce.

Karina and manager of Leona's Hershey - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Karina White with Hershey, the affable manager of Leona – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My niece Karina joined me for lunch recently and we opted to sit on the patio to enjoy the beautiful, warm weather. The interior dining room has a modern Restoration Hardware décor with orb lights, white brick walls, dark wood and caramel leather colored banquettes. Photographs from the Venice Historical Society are displayed in the dining room and large bar area serving beer, wine and mixed cocktails.

Our server recommended we order the freshly made cucumber passion fruit agua fresca. It was refreshing and not too sweet. The flavors change throughout the week and include blood orange catctus, sugar cane verbena and hibiscus pomegranate.

The cool cucumber passion fruit beverage paired nicely with the bulgogi chicken wings. She must have been inspired to put these on the menu from her days cooking in the kitchen with her grandmother. The glossy wings offered the essence of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, scallions, and ginger. In the evening she dresses up her short ribs in this sensational sauce.

My favorite dish of the day was the heirloom squash soup with flash fried sage leaves, bright red pomegranate and pepita seeds in the center. It was a gorgeous combination of colors, textures and flavors. The earthy squash was bedazzled with the sweetness of the pomegranate seeds. The pepitas squash seeds added a delightful crunch to the smooth pureed soup. Sunflower and grain bread accompanied the soup, perfect for dipping.

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Squash soup – Photo by Jill Weinlein

A foodie friend sitting next to us declared Arrington’s burger is the best in L.A. It’s served on a grilled brioche bun with white cheese and a side of arugula, sliced red peppers and a house-brined pickle.

I ordered the turkey meatloaf sandwich and wished I had ordered the lighter roasted turkey sandwich. The meatloaf was very dense, yet I did like Arrington’s housemade chips. The turkey sandwich looked appetizing on grilled grain and nut bread with pickled shallots, cranberry mayo and butter lettuce.

Healthy salads - Photo by Jill Weinlein
Healthy salads – Photo by Jill Weinlein

My niece ordered the Cali quinoa salad mixed with wild arugula, sliced apples, crunchy almonds, and cubes of avocado and dressed with housemade apple cider vinegar.

Chef Arrington elevates a Reuben sandwich by wrapping it with melted Swiss cheese, spinach, and her housemade fennel kefir kraut. She spices it up with her own Gochjang Island dressing made with Korean red pepper paste. Its dazzling zip tingles your tongue.

The smoked salmon pizza was piled high with watercress leaves and crumbled hard boiled egg and had a sprinkling of black sesame seeds along the crust.

A few of these items are served on Leona’s brunch menu. I will need to come back one weekend to try her brown butter pancakes with whipped coconut and a sea salt-vanilla butter. She also makes a Korean latka with creme fraiche and sliced scallions. It’s a tantalizing fusion of traditional potato pancakes with house-made kimchi served on a wooden board.

Locals bring their kids for lunch, brunch and an early dinner from the children’s menu featuring a vegetable plate, turkey Sloppy Joe, fish sticks, and cheeseburger.

Photo by Jill Weinlein
Photo by Jill Weinlein

The day we dined, Arrington had just opened a new cookie window which opens onto the sidewalk and attracts pedestrians on their way to the beach. Chef Arrington’s sweet cookies include a crunchy miso brown butter chocolate chip, zippy ginger macadamia nut and coconut macaroon. They are an ideal snack to pick up before or after a day at the beach or to nibble on while exploring the Venice canals.

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., weekend brunch is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner is served from 5:30 to 10 p.m. every Tuesday through Sundays. The cookie window is open from 11 a.m. to closing. Leona’s is closed on Mondays. $$ 123 Washington Blvd. (310)822-5379.

This article was featured in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News on February 25, 2016.

Innovative Cart Service at The Church Key

The Church Key earned a winning reputation with foodies and locals raving about their unique wheel cart dining service. Celebrating their second anniversary, Executive chef Steven Fretz and General Manager Joseph Sabato decided to introduce the cart service for a creative lunch experience. I invited a friend to join me for lunch last week.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

A 1960s Pan Am beverage cart near my table was stocked with carafes of green tea, black tea lemonade, and little bottles filled with different housemade elixirs. Our server, Parker, recommended a eucalyptus elixer to be mixed with iced green tea. There is no alcohol, just pure, thirst quenching refreshment. Other glass bottles contained hibiscus, passion fruit and a Chai that Parker said goes really well with the black tea. “We make new elixirs weekly to change it up,” he said.

Fretz and Sabato started the cart service when they opened The Church Key to offer diners instant gratification. Instead of guests waiting for a server to take a cocktail or appetizer order, the wait staff approaches guests after they have been seated and offers a beverage and a dim-sum small plate. “Diners can sit back and relax while looking over the menu,” Sabato said. “For lunch, we thought an ice tea and lemonade drink cart would appeal to our guests. Arnold Palmers are instantly made right before their eyes.” He said they are thinking about decorating the Pan Am cart to look more like a retro-lemonade stand.

Each meal of the day is a unique dining experience. Chef Fretz graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and joined the Michael Mina Group before opening The Church Key. He earned a reputation for pushing boundaries and making classic dishes more exciting.
His lunch menu, printed on a white paper placemat, looks almost like a children’s menu in an easy-to-read font. A jar of pencils is placed on the table for guests to work on a maze on the menu, or try a word search. “We like to get playful and artistic with our dishes and dining experience,” Sabato said.

Lunch fare includes a Brussels sprout Caesar salad with slices of grilled chicken, shriveled tomato raisins bursting with flavor, crunchy sunflower seeds and Parmesan cheese. You won’t find romaine lettuce in this unique take on Caesar salad.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

The avocado croissant toast is layered with creamy avocado, pickled egg, Hatch chilies and layers of smoked salmon with lemon zest shavings and dollops of luscious creme fraiche.

My favorite dish was the bright green English pea falafel patty on a dark pumpernickel and oat bun. Be sure to add the fried egg to the truffled tahini and tomato mixed with parsley relish. A skewered tomato raisin, grilled green onion and clove of garlic accompany the veggie-style patty, making a pretty dish and oh so delicious.

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Fretz’s creativity is evident in his French fries, which look like large steak fries, but are actually made from potato gratin. He prepares large trays of potato gratin, cools them, then cuts the gratin into long and thick sticks. Then he deep fries them and serves them with an aioli. They are a heavenly balance of salty, cheesy and creamy potato treats. Don’t be shy about asking for ketchup. I think these are the best fries in Los Angeles.

He also makes a tapioca crusted fish taco made with sea bass that is crispy on the outside yet moist inside. They are enhanced with a Serrano chili aioli, salsa verde, shredded slaw and chips with guacamole.

We had to sample dessert and ordered a plate of Fretz’s winning warm brioche donuts with a brown butter glaze and cinnamon caramel sauce. We each had one donut and took the last one home to enjoy later in the day.

Next time you want to celebrate a special occasion or want to meet a group of friends for lunch, brunch or dinner, reserve a table at The Church Key. The wheeling beverage cart service is one of Los Angeles’ most unique and fun dining experiences. $$ Open Monday through Sunday from from 11a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m., for dinner. Sunday Brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 8730 W. Sunset Blvd. (424)249-3700.

This review was published in the October 29, 2015 Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers.

Top 10 Favorite Restaurants in Los Angeles for 2014

We have enjoyed some wonderful meals at restaurants throughout Los Angeles. As devoted foodies, our team IMG_0980selected a repertoire of new and old dining establishments that provide creative fare, that is beautifully presented by attentive service, in an inviting atmosphere. Here is our list of honorees from some unique dining venues:

#10 Sonoma Wine Garden – Executive Chef Garee Battad, Sous Chef Jefferson Reyes

Located up on the third-floor dining deck of Santa Monica Place, the atmosphere offers the quintessential sunset viewing spot to have a glass of wine with a farmers market fruit and cheese board. The creative cocktails by the talented mixologist Rob Floyd go nicely with Reyes’ lamb meatballs served over linguine. Open for lunch, weekend brunch and dinner nightly. 395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. #350. (424)214-4560.

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#9 Open Sesame – Ali Kobeissi

This full-service, casual restaurant serves some of the best Lebanese cuisine in Los Angeles. Our favorite dishes include the grilled halloumi cheese with sliced watermelon, skewers of lean beef and lamb, smokey garlic baba ganoush and the fried cauliflower pita sandwich. Kobeissi has another Open Sesame in Long Beach and is passionate about using the best products for his classic dishes with a contemporary twist. Open daily at 11 a.m. 7458 Beverly Blvd. (323)525-1698.

#8 Crossroads – Founder and Chef Tal Ronnen, Executive Chef Scot  DSC_0096Jones

The elegant supper club serves vegan and vegetarian dishes that will convert almost every carnivore in town into eating healthier. Ronnen makes his buttery cheeses with almond and macadamia milk. Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and actor James Caan are all huge fans and dine here often. Make reservations for their Sunday Brunch to try their Bloody Mary rolling cart, Crossroads Benedict and fried “chicken” with waffles. There is a full bar and wine and beer list. Open for lunch during the week starting at 11:30 a.m. Dinner is served daily at 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday Brunch begins at 10 a.m. 8284 Melrose Ave. (323)782-9245.

#7 smoke.oil.salt – Executive Chef Perfecto Rocher

The scent of the wood burning oven lures foodies into this Spanish tapas and wine establishment. So does Perfecto’s multi-course paella dinners on Sundays for $49 per IMG_8645person. Partner Stephen Gelber offers some rare Spanish wines for guests poured by the glass using the Coravin system. Order the black skillet filet with a light artichoke omelet topped with a mosaic of sliced pickled fennel, celery, mint and cauliflower. Another must-try is the butcher’s filet of lean Iberico pork wood-fire grilled to seal in the succulent flavors. Dinner is served Tuesdays through Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to midnight. The Wine Bar menu is served until 2 a.m. 7274 Melrose Ave. (323)930-7900.

#6 DOMA – Executive Chef Dustin J. Tranibabt-beets-Doma

Visually stunning dishes come out of Trani’s kitchen, from grilled octopus to braised veal with crispy polenta. His special handcut pasta dish is coated with garlic, tomatoes, Dungeness crab butter and Parmesan cheese. Etheral light pasta pillows are dusted with truffle sauce. The restaurant offers pre-theater dinners for guests seeing a show at the nearby Wallace Annenberg Center of Performing Arts. The four-course meal is $38 per person. Open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday for dinner at 5 p.m. 362 N. Camden Drive (310)277-7346.

#5 Plan Check – Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura

DSC_0293This is a fun gastropub with three locations in Los Angeles serving savory burgers, innovative cocktails and comfort food. Uchimura incorporates an Asian flair to his pastrami sandwich with Kimchi mustard spread on to layers of double smoked pastrami, Swiss cheese and a sunny fried egg on top. The Plan Check burger has Americanized Dashi cheese with Uchimura’s famous ketchup leather, and schmaltz onions on a crunchy bun. Diners love the short rib pot roast, French fries cooked in beef tallow and sprinkled with smoked salt. Try the cruller donuts filled with cream and fruit. They offer a variety of draft beer, wine and Japanese whiskey. Open seven days a week from 11:30 a.m. to closing at 351 N. Fairfax Ave. (323)591-0094 and 1800 Sawtelle Blvd. (310)444-1411. Opens at 11 a.m. at 1111 Wilshire Blvd. (213)401-1616.

#4 Perch – Executive Chef Gerardo Benitez IMG_0326

After taking two elevators up to the 15th floor before arriving on the rooftop of a historic art-deco building in downtown Los Angeles, guests are treated to spectacular 360-degree view of Los Angeles while sitting at tables on the outside patio or near a blazing fireplace. Twinkling lights provide a festive ambiance. Chef Benitez prepares cuisine with French flair, like boeuf Bordelaise, steak with frites, Bouillabaisse, scallops, ravioli of rabbit and delightful fromage and charcuterie plates. Bring out of town guests here at sunset to show off our magnificent city. Open Monday through Friday at 4 p.m. for Happy Hour and at 5 p.m. dinner is served. On weekends, Perch opens at 11 a.m. for brunch and later dinner service. Live music and lively bar scene keeps this place open until 2 a.m. during the weekend. 448 S. Hill St. (213)802-1770.

Connie.Teds_.Lobster#3 Connie and Ted’s – Executive Chef Sam Baxter

Named after the award-winning Michael Cimarusti’s (Chef and partner) grandparents, this classic crab shack in West Hollywood offers some of the freshest seafood in town. Looking for oysters on the half-shell? A platter filled with Kumamoto from Washington, Matunuck from Rhode Island and Beau Soliel from New Brunswick are available. So are peeky toe crab cakes, and soft shell clam steamers bathed in butter and clam broth. Their lobster roll can be ordered hot or cold. Enjoy this fare with bottled or draft craft beer or with a glass of wine from California, Washington, Oregon or France. Spiny sea urchin can be spread on toast, and their Hook burger is better than most. Open for dinner only on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturdays Connie and Ted’s is open for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday it’s open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. 8171 Santa Monica Blvd. (323)848-2722.

#2 Whisper Restaurant and Lounge – Executive Chef Anthony Jacquet

Located at The Grove is Rick Caruso’s romantic restaurant that offers an engaging American menu with an international twist by Chef Anthony Jacquet. Last summer, Jacquet was selected amongWhisper-Lounge.-Tuna-Tartareover 30 talented chefs across the U.S. by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau to participate in an immersive culinary journey throughout Taiwan. He was one of three esteemed chefs selected. To celebrate his arrival back to Whisper Restaurant and Lounge, Jacquet is offering a new dish from Jan. 5 to Feb. 5, 2015 – a Taiwanese influenced Berkshire pork belly bun with housemade Hoisin sauce, pickled Fresno peppers, five-spice candied peanuts and a sunny fried quail egg. Other winter fare includes his slow-cooked short rib pot roast, Australian lamb burger, and whole grilled sea bass. Tuesdays they serve a Maine lobster roll on a brioche. Happy Hour is everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. Open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. 189 The Grove Drive, Suite F-90B (323)931-0202.

#1 Scratch Bar – Executive Chef Phillip Frankland Lee

Sitting at the bar and having an 11-course tasting meal prepared right before your eyes by a talented chef is a memorable experience. The 11-course menu at Scratch Bar is filled with innovative Cheff-Lee-Margartiasmall plates including “oyster, mussel, egg, belly, smelt, head, prawn, escolar, duck, chocolate and vanilla,” as the menu reads. Some of our other favorite dishes include a shooter of sake-enhanced green mussel and avocado mousse with a sea urchin. Another favorite is the bone marrow roasted in a hollowed out sourdough bread with pickled red onions and shimeji mushrooms. Desserts are prepared by Chef Lee’s beautiful wife Margarita. Open nightly at 5 p.m. 111 N. La Cienega Blvd. (310)289-8010. This article was published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on January 1, 2015.

National Burger Month Specials

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Today is National Burger Day and May is National Burger Month. What better way to eat a burger (or two) than by giving back while eating one of America’s most beloved foods. The “Feel Good Burger” exclusively at The Rockefeller gastropub  at both the Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach location offers a special burger for #3.99 every Tuesday throughout the year.  Proceeds from the sale of the burger support different local charities that change each month.

422 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254 – (310) 372-8467 and 1209 Highland Ave. Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 545-5810.image006

Cecconi’s

Chef Andrea Cavaliere’s has a new 4 to 7 aperitivo menu featuring a decadent fontina black truffle burger which features crispy prosciutto and is served up on a plush onion brioche bun. Priced at $7, and available from 4 – 7 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday, this burger packs serious bang for its buck. Cecconi’s West Hollywood, 8764 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90069, (310)432-2000.

securedownload-36Plan Check

Order an Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura’s Tommy Lasorda Burger at Plan Check. It’s made with housemade bacon spread, lettuce, tomato, onion, Americanized dashi cheese, and topped with a hot dog and mustard. Golden Road Brewery is taking over Plan Check now until Saturday, May 31 at both the Sawtelle and Fairfax locations. They will be serving tasting flights of five beers for $5 and eight beers for $8 including: 20/20 IPA, Heal the Bay, El Hefe (aged in tequila barrels), Get up of That Brown, Wolf Among Weeds, 329 Lager. Full pints range from $7-12 and are $2 off during happy hour at the Fairfax location from 3 -7 p.m. and at the Sawtelle location from 3 -6 p.m.

Dog Has

Known for their inventive twists on gourmet hot dogs and sausages, Dog Haus also makes a great burger. The fast-growing Pasadena-based restaurant has led the pack in Pasadena’s Burger Week people’s choice awards for the past two years with burgers served on King’s Hawaiian buns. The Freiburger features white American cheese, a fried egg, Haus slaw and  fries. a
Dog Haus Pasadena, 105 N. Hill Ave, Pasadena CA, 91106 / Dog Haus Biergarten, 93 E. Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91105 / Dog Haus Alhambra, 410 E. Main Street, Alhambra, CA 91801

Tapenade

Sawtelle’s Mediterranean gem serves a noteworthy burger. Chef Tri Nguyen’s burger features a New York steak blend patty with manchego cheese, sun-dried tomato tapenade, lemon aioli, and peppery arugula. 11301 West Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064.

Some of the burger specials will continue past the month of May. Enjoy them all summer long.

5 Bodacious Burgers in Los Angeles

IMG_8618Bar Verde at Nordstrom – The Grove

Order a burger at the Bar Verde restaurant inside Nordstrom’s at The Grove and then tell them you want the special one from the secret menu. The regular burger has roasted balsamic onions and a Fiscalini white cheddar from Modesto,CA. that is outstanding. Ask you server to have the chefs enhance it with bacon, avocado and a fried egg on top to make this one of the best burgers in Los Angeles. It’s a combination of salty, creamy and savory with a sweetness from the balsamic onions. It’s all placed onto a large and soft brioche bun.  It’s served with extra crispy French fries.

Go to Bar Verde at OpenTable or call (323) 900-8080. 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles.

 

Plan Check on Fairfax Ave.DSC_0761

When the talented Chef Ernesto Uchimura left the successful Umami Burger chain a little over two years ago, entrepreneur Terry Heller hired him to open the restaurant Plan Check in Culver City. It became a success with its  food, creative cocktails and fun atmosphere. Next they opened a second location in the Fairfax neighborhood.

I adore the double smoked pastrami – style burger with Kimchi mustard, melted Swiss Cheese, pickles and a sunny fried egg that rests perfectly on the top of crunchy bun. The blueprint burger is served with smoked blue cheese and luscious pig candy – glorified slices of carmelized bacon. 351 N. Fairfax Ave. (310)288-6500.

 

DSC_0709Slater’s 50/50

Slater’s 50/50 was founded in 2009 by Scott Slater and Executive Chef Brad Lyons. They created the worlds first 50 % ground beef from the top 12% of quality grass-fed cattle in North America with 50% ground bacon. Each patty meets a high-criteria for maturing, marbling, color, texture and firmness. The burger is weighed after cooking, not before. At Slater’s 50/50 there are 10 different burgers on the menu. The most popular is Peanut Butter & Jellousy. It has a Sterling Silver ground beef patty topped with a thick cut of bacon, creamy peanut butter and strawberry jelly on a honey oat wheat bun. Some people order it a la mode for a meal and dessert combination. It may sound odd, but we tried this burger without the ice cream. It was sumptuous. The bacon with the peanut butter and jelly make a sweet and salty combination that is very satisfying. With multiple locations, find the closest to you at https://slaters5050.com.

 

Umami Burger – BurbankIMG_3674

The Show Burger is not just good, but great. They take a Umami patty and dress it up with Hak’s BBQ sauce, crispy onion rings, bacon lardons and beer cheese. Hak’s BBQ sauce is made by Sharone Hakman, the Fox Network’s MasterChef who became a hit on the show when he crafted a bbq sauce with sophisticated flavors, that caused the judges to declare his sauce “a secret weapon.” It’s sweet and tangy flavors offer a robust taste with a deep smack of bourbon. Smoked and roasted chilies release a zip of heat.  4300 W Riverside Dr, Burbank, CA 91505 – (818) 433-3680.

25 Degrees

Inside the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, one can craft a custom burger or order the NUMBER ONE with caramelized onion, Crescenza cheese – a very soft Italian cheese with creamy texture and no rind. It has a mild and delicate flavor. There is prelibato (tasty) gorgonzola bacon, arugula and Thousand island dressing. Enjoy it with a spiked shake. 7000 Hollywood Blvd. – (323) 785-7244.

 

Bunker Hill – Downtown’s Hot Sports Bar

IMG_6645The downtown restaurant and bar scene has blossomed over the past few years. A newish-hot sports bar is Bunker Hill Bar & Grill, located on the ground floor of a downtown Los Angeles landmark building at Fifth and Flower. This comfortable lunch and after-work place joins the Kwan brothers group of restaurants that include multiple Wokcano’s, the nearby Le Ka, and Green Hut Café.

Inside are stylish wood, cocktail-height tables with low back stools and tables with cream-colored high back chairs. There are 11 flat screens showing different sporting events and one outside on the spacious patio overlooking the downtown public library.

During the lunch hour, people stream out of various office buildings for sushi, burgers and sandwiches, or healthy quinoa bowl. Choose from basil garlic marinated salmon with asparagus; pan seared chicken breast or a spicy green chicken curry. Interesting sandwiches include the brie and pear, the fried chicken with jalepeño sauce, and the Mexican BBQ pork belly. Prices range from mostly from $9-12, however, if you want to splurge at lunch, try the lobster roll with tarragon, melted butter and sea salt for $18.

After work, the well-dressed business crowd stops in for a small batch draft beer (a dozen taps to choose from) or creative cocktails that range from a Pimm’s Cup aperitif, to a whiskey inspired Bunker Hill Old Fashion or Gin Aquas Frescas with fresh lime, cilantro and cucumber juice. Happy Hour starts at 3 pm and goes ‘til 7, offering $5 beers on tap and a host of bar bites from sushi rolls, wings and wraps to tacos and sliders.

General Manager Jeffrey Midlam hand selects the beer menu. He offered us a taste of the Dales Pale Ale brewed by Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont, Colorado. “This beerIMG_6652 goes nicely with one of the burgers or the spicy albacore roll with crispy shallots and micro greens,” Midlam said.

It has a golden orange color with bubbles and a head that dissipatesquickly. It’s slightly creamy with a hint of apricot and complex taste that lingers.

We ordered the beef short rib tacos that arrived two on a plate, and the truffle burger sliders to accompany the ale. The sliders were topped with sautéed mushrooms, arugula, Munster cheese and a unique truffle shaving sauce with shiitake aioli. These little burgers were wonderful.

Midlam really likes the beers from Maui Brewing Company in Lahaina. The Maui Bikini Blonde Lager is brewed with floral hops and is bold, smooth and refreshing. It goes well with a pasta dish or the prime rib eye with fries.

Midlam also offered a handcrafted Maui Coconut Porter. The silky smooth chocolate brown porter had a hint of coffee flavor with a toasted coconut and hoppy spice finish. I enjoyed this with a white and spongy Peking duck on a Bao bun and Peking duck wrap.

For sweets they offer two desserts – a chocolate bread pudding or ice cream cookie sandwiches filled with vanilla or chocolate ice cream between two-better than average housemade chocolate-chip cookies.

Happy Hour is 3 to 7 p.m. during the week and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday with all draft beer at $5 and the House Snap Dragon Wine from Sonoma at $4 a glass.

Valet parking is $6 in the building’s garage. Open seven days for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays through Thursdays. On Friday and Saturdays the restaurant stays open until 2 a.m. $-$$ 601 W. 5th St. (213)688-2988. http://www.bunkerhillbar.com

This article was published in the February 20 issue of the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News.

North Shore Burger

Last year when the Rice Garden restaurant next to Starbucks and the UA Theatres closed their doors; the community was abuzz about what type of restaurant would fill the space.

Raised in La Canada, Craig Bittner and his business partner La Canada Council member Michael Davitt, saw the opportunity to open a Hawaiian theme burger restaurant with waitress service. They secured a lease and waited patiently for approval from the health department and to obtain their beer and wine license. Finally, North Shore Burger opened in Nov. 2011.

The interior is fun. A surfboard dominates the center of the restaurant. Bamboo wall covering adds to the tropical theme.

Since Patch readers voted North Shore Burger as the best burger restaurant in La Canada/La Crescenta, I visited Bittner to congratulate him on his award. He graciously invited me to sit in one of his comfortable booths and experience some of the North Shore Burger fare.

Bittner likes to work with purveyors in the community. The all natural hot dogs are from our local Schreiner’s in Montrose. They make a terrific Island Dawg with mustard, sweet relish and caramelized onions. Bittner gets his pork from Zeke’s in Montrose to make the Chun’s Reef sandwich with hardwood smoked Kalua pork and signature cole slaw.

Prime USDA meat is fresh, not frozen. The most popular burger is the Sunset Beach with housemade guacamole, lettuce and local bright-red tomatoes. North Shore Burger also offers a plump chicken breast and turkey patty for those seeking a lower-fat alternative. With 11 different burger options, everyone in the family will find one to their liking.

For vegetarians, the veggie burger is a tasty Morning Star patty. They also serve a vegetarian sandwich is filled with a Portobello mushroom, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, eggplant and topped with an herb Dijon sauce.

Kids adore the Off the Wall starter. It arrives with crispy French fries, enormous Island sweet onion rings and sweet potato fries. The Keiki (Kids) meal offers two mini hamburgers. It can be substituted with grilled cheese or chicken. Red grapes and a small fountain drink complete the meal.

Salad lovers will have a choice of five different healthy options. Sandy’s salad has mixed greens, tropical mango, candied nuts, goat cheese and dressed with a homemade passion fruit vinaigrette. They have a Caesar salad that you can add a charbroiled Ahi tuna steak or grilled chicken breast. The Queens Cobb salad is tossed with a chunky blue cheese dressing.

Teens enjoy the new summer Rings O’Fire. It’s a basket of their golden onion rings smothered with Longboard Island Lager chili and topped with shredded cheddar cheese for under $5.

For those with a sweet tooth, North Shore Burger has recently introduced The Wipe Out. It’s a warm chocolate-chip cookie with Thrifty (now Rite-Aid) ice cream and chocolate sauce. They also serve an ice cream sandwich made with oatmeal cookies and dark chocolate or a super sundae ice cream bar.

On Sundays, adults enjoy the 50 cent beer and wine with the purchase of a burger or fries after seeing a movie at the UA Theatre. Mondays attracts families with its 2 meals for $12 or 4 for $24. The special includes any sandwich, regular fries and a fountain drink.

North Shore Burger is offering PATCH readers a free soda with the purchase of a meal. Just mention that you read this review on the PATCH. 1929 Verdugo Blvd. #B, La Canada Flintridge (818)790-1672.