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Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles Cheeseburger’

Playa del Rey, CA – The Shack

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“The Shack” is one of Southern California’s homages to the classic surfer bar…even though you cannot surf nearby, it exudes an atmosphere of beach, beer, burgers, and “bums.” Purchased by the current owners in the 70s, this Los Angeles burger bar has spawned a number of off-shoot locations in Southern California and Hawaii.

When I lived in Los Angeles, a long time ago, maybe even before cars, I had a burger posse, and one day a week, usually, we would head out in search of a new burger find, and tho we endeavored to try someplace new each week, more than once we’d head back to the Shack for sloppy seconds, as it were.

By today’s hoity-toity Los Angeles standards, the Shack probably isn’t on most burger efficionado’s radar these days,

Seeking a bit of burger nostalgia on my current burgerama tour of SoCal, I invited my old friend Magoo from Missoula to meet me at the original location, which is snuggled between LAX and the Marina.

Magoo is the kind of girl who is far more at home alighting from a Bentley at the valet parking in front of some posh Beverly Hills eatery, but to patronize an old guy, she agreed to step it down a notch for one night to make me smile.

Things were looking up right away when we scored a parking lot for her sleek German lux uber SVU in the Shack’s tiny lot.

We slid into the spot, then slid into a booth overlooking the bar. This location also has an enclosed outdoor patio on the street side. We perused the menu before placing our order at the bar, with a couple of Stella’s to lube the dusty pipes first.

The Shack’s menu is pretty typical bar fare, wings, rings, poppers and the like. In deference to the Hawaii connection, they also offer the typical Hawaiian “plate lunch”, a piece of protein with two scoops of rice, and a scoop of mac salad.

But their tagline is “serving epic burgers since 1972”, and tonight I would be diving into one of those epic creations, my old favorite, The Shack Burger, (“Try the Burger that made us famous!), a 1/4 pound cheeseburger, all the fixins, and plopped right on top of the burger, a split, nicely-charred Louisiana hot sausage (or Portuguese sausage). I took it as prepared, as is my habit lately, even if I am not going to consume it in that fashion, so I can see the finished product as the chef envisioned it. Magoo went with a straight cheeseburger, hold the mayo. We split an order of fries.

The Shack Burger was everything I imagined, and everything I could have wanted. Having lived in New Orleans, I’m always more than happy to wolf down a Louisianan hot sausage, and it’s the perfect overkill addition to a char burger experience.

The Shack Burger comes piled high with condiments and burger veggies, and is also available in a half-pound version.

The patty is good tasting, slightly seasoned on its own, with a nice grill flavor.

The bar was bespeckled with its group of familial regulars it seemed, the sports tv’s volume low enough to be tolerable, and the memories invoked by the ambience, food, and company were enough to take me back to a kinder, gentler, time in burger history.

The Shack is a short cab ride from LAX if you ever find yourself on a big layover there, and you’ve answered all your emails, done your duty free shopping, and have hours left to kill. Think of it as your own personal “man cave” away from home!


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Shack on Urbanspoon


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Los Angeles, CA – The Golden State Cafe

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Larry the Lawyer and I continued our burger crawl the other day at “The Golden State”, a tiny storefront establishment on Fairfax, across from Canter’s Deli, coincidentally, one of our regular hang-outs.

We were fresh off our laugh fest at Umami Burger, that joke of “naute cuisine” to the east. As we were walking down Fairfax, through the rain (hey, two rare occasions, Larry walking, and Los Angeles rain!), I asked LTL what was so special about Golden State.

He said it was the meat itself, and the way it was prepared. Fair enough. We walked in, and Larry started kibitzing with the owner, the two acting like old friends, asking about each other’s weekends, kids, and what not.

Larry then introduced me (dammit, I’m supposed to be an ANONYMOOSE guy!), and we chatted with the owner about what makes his place ‘special’, and he talked about his theme (“Golden State”, every product is state-local and as sustainable as possible); he and Larry talked about meat experiences from their childhood, and me, all I wanted to do was to order and get to it!

We ordered the signature burger (Harris Ranch Beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar, Applewood Smoke Bacon, Arugula, House Made Aioli and Ketchup), with a side of sweet potato fries. I opted for the house root beer (Golden State is a micro-brewer and gelato maker as well), we went to a corner table overlooking the pouring rain on Fairfax, and the owner toddled on over to talk some more. He explained some of the trials and tribulations about opening a place like this, and his views on how different people like their burgers cooked. (We went with medium rare).

We recounted our less than stellar experience at Umami, and he said they were good competitors. (Nice tact!)

The burger came, delivered by the waitress who had just returned from New Orleans, (ok she was hot) and it had been deliberately arranged on the platter, not in a pretentious way, but in a loving way, looking more like art, than a blue plate special.

Larry sliced the burger in half, and eyeballed the two pieces diligently, finally pushing the larger half towards me (he always gives me the big pieces. Ok, always when I am buying). We snapped our pix in the process, before taking a bite.

I poked at mine, as I have a habit of doing, lifting the bun, contemplating the toppings, the placement of same, the size of the patty, the state of doneness.

I lifted my half of the burger to my burger hole, and took a bite. The creamy flavor of the aioli, met the bitterness of the arugula, the sharp tang of cheddar, and the flavor of perfectly cooked quality beef hit my taste-buds simultaneously, I closed my eyes, cleared my head, had a burger orgasm (was I loud?) (did you notice my blush?) and blurted:

THIS MAN CREATES FUCKIN’ BURGER ART! This is twice, nay TEN TIMES the burger Umami is! Why don’t people know this? Shout it from the rooftops!

Golden State has produced the Willy Wonka of Golden Tickets in burgers. The difference here, is everyone that has one, is a winner, not just a lucky few.

Trust this man to be your burgermonger. Let him prepare it the way he believes in his heart, this piece of meat should be cooked, and assembled. Forget your preconceived notions about how you want it.

You want it the way he intended it to be prepared. No Shit.

On a scale of 1-10, this burger is a 15. Menu.


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The Golden State on Urbanspoon

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Los Angeles, CA – Umami Burger (Snicker!)

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Everyone in the world, at least the burger blogosphere world, has been talking about this burger for over a year. It wasn’t referred to in muted tones like the 2nd coming, but quickly became the 3rd, 4th, and 5th coming as Umami spread its wings across L.A. One usually knows what’s coming when a restaurant expands this fast.

I wanted to come away from popping my Umami cherry with OOOOOOOOOOh. Ahhhhhhh. Or at least with “Umami?” YOUR MAMA! Something clever.

Los Angeles Burger Reporter Larry the Lawyer and I went to explore a couple places today, when I told him of this upcoming tour, I suggested he pick one that is ‘massively popular’, and one or two that he liked personally.

Umami was the massively popular pick, with the runner up being The Foundry. The Foundry wasn’t open for lunch today, so we waddled into Umami and sampled their wares.

We were at the original location, which is smallish, but large enough for $10 valet parking. We ordered the signature burger, @ $10, and a side of hand cut fries (triple cooked the menu says), and a side of rings (“Malt Liquor Tempura Onion Rings”) $3. (3.50 for the fries). Larry had a Mexican coke, and me in my nightshirt, and he in his cap, I had plain old h20 tap.

So what IS umami? The fifth “taste” in our lives, following the four horsemen of the taste apocalypse: sweet, sour, salty, bitter. Some call umami “savory” and believe it belongs with the other four. For a further explanation of this (IF you must have one, refer to Umami Burger’s treatise here. For a kinder, gentler explanation, see Wikipedia’s entry).

So the story goes, some guys, somewhere, one day, were sitting around and came up with the whole umami thing and decided to exploit it via the perfect umami vehicle, hamburgers. In checking our vast world-wide network of sources, one of our investigators turned up a transcript of that first session, we reprint it here, without permission of the participants:

(Fade in, two men sitting in a booth at a nondescript diner)

George: You have to taste this burger, Jerry, it’s most excellent. Really SAVORY.
Jerry: Why the heck isn’t savory one of the four “tastes’ anyhow? It really gets a bump rap.
George: No foolin’. Even Steinbrenner would agree with that.
Jerry: I think it needs a name, a definition, something unique.
George: Youmama it does!
Jerry: No, that’s not quite right (furrowed brow, thinking). We’ll think of something, and we should open our own diner featuring this new flavor.
George: That would be difficult, since this flavor isn’t really defined. You know, it’s really NOTHING.
Jerry: Yep, we should have a diner that features NOTHING as a flavor. We’ll make millions!

And the rest is history, as they say.

We were served our umami burger, cut it in half to share, it was topped with some condiments, indistinguishable, and a smidgen of mushroom and slice of tomato, both of which appeared to have come thru a half hour in the microwave. The menu says all beef burgers are cooked “medium rare”, but that’s subjective, isn’t it? Everyone has their own definition of cooking stages, as we were to learn later in the day.

Anyway, a bite….two. And a collective WTF? Really folks, this is the emperor’s new clothes of burgers. It’s about NOTHING. Truly. Get over it.

The onion rings could have been from anywhere, and while the beer flavor comes through, umami also gives new definition to the concept of “tempura,” leaning towards way too thick of a batter.  Don’t even get me started on the fries.  Boys, if you wanna try this kind of thing, go check out “potato souffles” in New Orleans.

Damage? $22 for food and drink, $10 for parking.

Save your money folks, move on…these aren’t the droids you are looking for.  Apologies if there are typos…. I was still laughing as I wrote this.


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Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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