The Golden State Cafe

As I suspect will eventually become a theme and possibly even mantra here at hoodburger, quality need not be complex. I’m not saying that smoked foie gras and exotic crossbred microgreens cannot be skillfully applied to a burger mind you, I’m simply saying that it is possible to really nail it in the quality department without the aid of a gimmick, and this week’s west side super star does just that.

The Golden State Café is not a burger spot, but rather a proper yet informal restaurant, with a full menu of good looking hearty sandwiches, sides, a solid beer selection and even scratch made ice cream from Scoops (which, if you don’t know about you are doing yourself a great disservice). Located just across the street from Canter’s Deli, Golden State enjoys a nice plot right in the middle of the hip drag of South Fairfax. Their burger is but one of many choices available, but I implore you to find any diner in that place eating anything else. Seriously, when you go, have a look around and what the other patrons are eating. In my experience, a pretty dependable 80% of the entire restaurant will be eating cheeseburgers, and with good cause.

As alluded to initially, the burger at Golden State is pretty simple, topped only with apple-wood smoked bacon, white cheddar cheese, arugula, aioli and ketchup. Seems too simple to be amazing right? WRONG. The beauty is in the execution. I have had this burger several times and the bacon is always perfectly crisped, the patty always skillfully seasoned and medium rare, the brioche bun always fresh, moist and sweet. The greens provide a nice complimentary sharpness and are plentiful but never overpowering, while the sweet familiar tang of ketchup functions just as it should on any burger. The proportions of each ingredient to the others is spectacular, as if these burgers are constructed with each component exactly measured to the fraction of a gram.

The difference between a nearly perfect burger and a nearly perfect meal is all about the accompaniment, and The Golden State delivers in this department as well. Their French Fries and sweet potato fries are both delicious though predictably so, and the jalepeno cole slaw is out of this world. Everything about the slaw is so subtle, with the exception of how fresh it is. Either I always get lucky and show up right when the it has just been made, or they make it twice a day everyday, because it always tastes like it was grown let alone prepped only hours before. Not too much mayo, not too much vinegar, sugar or salt, just fresh mild flavors and a little spice from the raw peppers. It almost eats like a salad. I recommend it highly not only because it is a joy to consume, but also because the slaw sticks out as (what at least feels like) a responsible dietary decision among many choices that are less so.

The Golden State is a favorite spot of mine and generally my default for a quick meal if I’m in the neighborhood and I am not alone. Upon eating there recently for the purpose of this review, I showed up at noon right when the doors opened, and watched the place fill up entirely in 15 minutes. Despite the secret being out, the wait is never long and the service always good. Ask questions too- every staff member with whom I have interacted is not only knowledgeable but obviously really into food. So, next time you’re shopping for streetwear, or the prospect of a swarm of adorable 12-year old skater kids whizzing past you at way-too-fast-to-be-on-the-sidewalk speeds sounds appealing, make sure to pop into Golden State for what really is one of the best burgers in Los Angeles. Until further notice this place is definitely on my personal top 5. They have instant iced tea, which to me is a sin, but I have never eaten a bite prepared by the Golden State that I would describe as anything less than scrumptious. They even have a veggie burger that’s not half bad if your date happens to not understand that deep down, all cows truly desire to be eaten.

– Geoff Sawyer

p.s. On this visit they were playing Outkast: “Aquemini” (one of the greatest rap records of all time) from start to finish, further solidifying my opinion that these guys FULLY get it.

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