Walking through the doors of Oaks Gourmet Market, I found it hard to breathe. There was so much stuff. It was as if a foodie pack rat had decided to horde all of his favorite things about Los Angeles in one store. Rows and rows of obscure hot sauces, beer, fancy cheese, organic olive oil, fonuts (gluten free donuts), ice cream bars from Milk, homemade smoothies, a giant steam punk coffee roaster, and walls of wine lined the tiny shop. It was impossible to absorb all at once. I had to sit down for a minute and tried to figure out where the hell I was supposed to order a burger.
Fortunately a blonde lady at the middle register took pity on me and handed me a menu. It all looked lovely. It’s easy to see why this market inspires such devotion. Nestled between UCB and Gelson’s on Franklin it is open every day until midnight. Need a round of pink Himalayan sea salt at 11pm on a Sunday? No problem. Need a Zuberfizz cream soda at 10am? No sweat. And they build baskets for the Hollywood bowl. Need them to deliver? Sure thing. It’s hands down the fanciest convenience mart I’ve ever been to.
Their burger is a special point of pride, although there is scarcely space to eat it. One metal table wedged between the display cases of mojito mix makes for very close quarters. There are a few tiny tables outside, but even there eavesdropping isn’t a possibility- it’s as inevitable as is viciously fighting for elbow space. So pray that you’re not stuck next to people sorting out their relationship problems, or worse, their acting reels.
The burger itself is relatively simple. It’s got Black Forest bacon, tomatoes, Taleggio cheese, arugula, red onions, and a grilled brioche bun, but what makes it special is the jalapeno-pineapple compote. Not enough people pay attention to the sauce on a burger. It truly can make or break a sandwich. Just ketchup or mustard is fine if you’re playing it safe, but to make something really stand out, pay attention to the sauce. This softball sized, two-handed affair meant there was no chance of a side dish for me. All my concentration had to be focused on not dropping the deliciously greasy thing all over my (ill-advised) white shirt. Next time I’m standing in line for UCB I will definitely grab this burger (and a bib) for sidewalk munching.
– Molly Bergen