Wednesday, August 29, 2012

There's No Place Like 'Home'

Greetings, Readers!

Summer is just grinding along here in Los Angeles with the temperatures again hitting triple digits this weekend, I wanted to continue our summer discussion here on Burgers before the unofficial end to summer with Labor Day.

On a Friday night, we headed to Home, a quiet restaurant in Los Feliz made to look, well, home-y with a house-like exterior and a warm atmosphere lit by candles and accent lights at night. This is an excellent place to have a quiet dinner with one person or a small collection of friends, and was a place I hadn't visited in over two years.

Not planning to actually review a sandwich at this place, I quickly changed my mind when I saw that they had a Hawaiian burger on the menu. It had been quite awhile since I had one of those, and was curious to try it even though my original intention was some breakfast food.

The Hawaiian burger is made up a of a thick and juicy beef patty, topped with a thick slice of grilled pineapple, roasted green ortega chili peppers, pepper jack cheese and Home's special sauce.

The mixture of the slice of pineapple and the spicy green peppers and pepper jack cheese are the perfect combination. In each bite your taste buds surge between sweet and spicy. A perfect contrast and combination.

The burger patty was thick and juicy and, despite the flavor blast of the other ingredients, still shines through.

Really, the only downside here was the bun. By the end of the burger it had fallen apart because of the other ingredients. Don't get me wrong, this was very delicious, but by the end, you may be opting to use a fork instead.

I think I'd have to consider my suummer of exploring summer foods has been a fairly large success. There have been some real winners (here and here) that I hope you will get a chance to try out, or at the very least find a comparable option in your neighborhood.

This weekend I am off to Cleveland for a wedding, but have no fear, I will still have time to delve into the sandwiches while there. So stay tuned for next week's blog entry all you 216-ers.

P.S. - Thank you for all of your votes for LA Weekly's Best of Web competition. I did not get nominated, but your support is greatly appreciated. I will try to get even better by next year's nominations so that hopefully I have a shot to be nominated. Thanks again!

Hawaiian Burger
**** Stars
1760 Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Surprising Finds

Greetings, Dear Readers!

You know, I'm not going to lie here, but even when you've been sandwiching as long as I have, every once in a while, even I get surprised by a sandwich find.

Take this past weekend for example, while shopping at the mall with Charlene, we stopped at the newly revamped food court at the Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks. Having looked around at all of the new options (the only real noticeable franchise left was Subway), we stopped at a new local chain I had never heard of before: Stone Oven.

Looking through their tempting sandwich menu, I was surprised how delicious all of the sandwiches had sounded, but the thought never occurred to me to actually write a review about a new local chain restaurant in a mall food court.

I ended up ordering the spicy chicken sandwich which had pulled spicy chicken breast in a red BBQ sauce, melted provolone cheese, chipotle mayo, black bean and corn salsa with avocado between slices of freshly baked foccacia bread.

Now as with any fast food place, whether or not the bread dough was actually made in house is up for debate, but if anything I watched it bake right in the stone oven in the middle of the store. So they aren't kidding when they say the bread is "freshly baked".

Now here's the thing, and this point was surprising: while Stone Oven may be a chain/franchise, it still crafted a well made sandwich. Well enough that I would write a blog about it.

The chicken was tender, a bit spicy and tangy. The chipotle mayo added another spicy kick while the avocado and black bean and corn salsa cooled the sandwich down a bit.

Oh, and the mustard and black pepper potato salad was excellent. 

And so while I will never recommend a chain restaurant over a mom-and-pop shop, I will say that even I can be surprised that a chain can still create some decent sandwiches. Regardless, I am looking forward to get back to finding some excellent non-chain local finds next week.

How about you, Readers? Was there ever a time you found a sandwich you liked that you didn't think you would?

Until next week...

Spicy Chicken Sandwich
*** Stars
Stone Oven
Various Locations

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

That's A Spicy Meat-A-Ball

Greetings, Readers!

You know, sometimes in life we are thrown curveballs. We've all faced an experience in which we've ended up with something we haven't expected.

This week provided one of those experiences for me.

I had been researching places for my sandwiching this week (and have been given excellent suggestions from reader Matty) when I came across a place called the Grilled Cheese and Cupcake Company.

Yes. I said it. That's the name.

So of course I had to check this out as that combination seems to be about as nonsensical as the numerous Chinese Food and Donuts shops I see in Los Angeles.

Arriving at the shop, which I then realized used to be only a cupcake shop for a number of years, I found it locked up earlier than the store hours stated.

Then I noticed the piles of mail just inside the front door and realized that maybe this place had been closed for slightly longer than an early day would account for.

Feeling a bit dejected about missing out on this new adventure in eating, I resigned myself to grab a slice of pizza at Danielle's Wood Fired Pizza next door. My day brightened up a bit when I saw that they also served a meatball hero.

Danielle's is a cute little mom-and-pop shop in this small shopping center where the wood fired oven (you actually see the logs burning to cook your food) is visible from your seat.

The wait seemed a bit long for the sandwich, but that's because it's made completely from scratch when you order. No re-heated meatballs topped with cheese at this place. This is one of the reasons that the sandwich was so delicious.

The meatballs were cooked through without a single scorched mark on the outside, and retained their juicy and slightly spiced centers without a single dry spot. The marinara sauce was liberally applied without drowning the sandwich and the mozzerella cheese was thick while not being a choking hazard.

Although the bread could have been a little less toasted, as it became a little too dry, this was definitely one of the best meatball subs I've had in quite a while.

So, lesson learned here that sometimes we aren't meant to go to the place we plan for, but in the end we may just end up with something even better than we hoped for.

Have you had a similar experience where you ended up going to a different eatery than expected and had a better/worse experience than expected? Sandwiches or not.

Until next week, Readers!

Meatballs Hot Hero
**** Stars
Danielle's Wood Fired Pizza
Valley Village, CA 91607
4822 Laurel Canyon Blvd. (In the shopping center with Starbucks)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Art of Sandwiching

Greetings, Dear Readers!

This week I took a break from the summer burger hunt and decided to enjoy a warm Sunday afternoon at the LA County Museum of Art.

As if the sandwiches are stalking me, I was greeted with a line of food trucks in front of the museum, each one beckoning me with their delicious works of sandwich art.

After pacing the line for a few moments, I settled upon the Cali Banh Mi Truck (@CaliBanhMi).

Banh Mi is a type of sandwich that I have missed for quite some time now, as my last one was from the time I ran into the Nom Nom Truck in Studio City.

The Banh Mi is such a simple sandwich, sliced pork, cilantro, pickled carrots, cucumbers and jalapenos, but it's flavor is incredible. The pork on this particular version was very tender with a smooth, smoky flavor. The accompanying vegetables all threw in their competing flavors. In one bite you'd get sensations of smoky, hot, sweet, and tangy. It was a full of flavor experience with every bite.

The baguette was delicious, golden, and even was allowed to have its sweet, bready flavor join the flavor parade with all of the other ingredients.

My only complaint, and it's a small one, was that the cilantro stalks were a bit hard to chew occasionally. A minor annoyance, and not something that should turn you away from this truck if you happen to see it around Los Angeles.

Overall, this Banh Mi definitely is sitting pretty near the top as one of the best I've ever tried. There are still many more Banh Mi shops in LA to sample, but I have a feeling that this one will continually place near the top of the pack.

As a side note this week, please head over to LA Weekly's Best of Web poll and vote for The Danger Sandwich in spaces #20 and #21. You don't have to fill in any other categories if you don't want to, but I'd appreciate you taking the time to fill in those two quick entries.

Until next week, Readers!

Cali Banh Mi Truck
**** Stars
Los Angeles, CA

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Federal-ly Mandated Burgers

Greetings, Readers!

I hope that in the last week you've put my burger recipe to use, or at least pondered what your own special concoction would be.

This week, I continued my summer burger run by visiting a bar/restaurant in my own neighborhood: The Federal.

Now I've visited The Federal a few times before, but only for drinks. This swank throwback-style bar on Lankershim in the NoHo arts district has become quite the hotspot since it opened.

From looking at the burger menu (and beer menu as well) it's obvious the Federal has a great selection for you to choose from. I settled on the Greco burger as I have yet to have a lamb burger for the blog.

This thick lamb patty came topped with a heathy dose of feta cheese, a handful of parsley, sliced tomato, olives and covered with tzatziki sauce.

The lamp patty was delicious. Cooked through nicely, but still thick, juicy and flavorful. The pungent feta cheese and tzatziki sauce added their contrasting flavors or pungent cheese and cucumber yogurt to the mix. In such a heavy sandwich, the refreshing cucumber tzatziki was an excellent, yet expected, addition.

Despite this burger being absolutely delicious, there were two problems that held this burger back from greatness.

The first problem was the parsley. Now the idea of adding parsley to the sandwich, I totally agree with. But in this sandwich, the stalks of the parsley were just too thick. So thick in fact that it usually took more than one bite, or gnawing, to get through them, not allowing for quick and clean bites of the burger.

The second problem was the bun: it did not hold together. I made it about two-thirds of the way through the sandwich before the bun was just in tatters. Part of it came from the fact that the sandwich is fairly large, but also that the tzatziki sauce had caused it to break down after a few bites.

Both of these problems should not deter you from trying the Greco burger, but they both had their part in holding back this burger from getting closer to five stars.

Until next week, Readers...

The Greco Burger
*** 1/2 Stars
The Federal Bar
5303 Lankershim Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91601