The irrefutable power of marketing. It sure is amazing when properly executed. Are any of my hoodburger loyalists also whiskey drinkers by chance? Would you describe yourself as a whiskey drinker? Aficionado even? Do you like Jack Daniel’s? I bet it makes you feel like an outlaw biker when you order it. Choice drink of Rock n’ Roll badasses worldwide. Each sip provides a tiny snippet of affirmation that you’re tough and/or cool. I have a secret that I must share: Jack Daniel’s is GARBAGE. There are economy budget-barrel bourbons for half the price that are far superior in quality- but you won’t see anyone wearing one of those brands’ belt buckles on the sunset strip. Jack Daniel’s has presented its product in such a way that consumers believe so strongly that it’s good, the fact that it’s a shit whiskey makes little to no difference. Granted my feelings about JD far outweigh those regarding this week’s burger spot, but nonetheless. The best thing that Plan Check does is careful presentation of otherwise unimpressive food.
The Ocean is nearly the only thing with enough pull to get me out that way, so traveling West of the 405 is a rare occurrence. My personal proportion of culture to money appears inverted to that of (my personal experience of) the typical West LA resident, for which reason I tend to feel out of place there. However, Plan Check has been on the Hoodburger hit list for a number of months, and upon confirming that I actually had several friends who wanted to try it, we did. The establishment is not huge but it manages to make efficient use of the space with communal seating and tight fitting booths. Hard woods, concrete and iron adorn the interior, and the space is not only quite nice but very much looks the part of fancy gastropub, which is currently an extremely popular restaurant genre for those of you living under rocks. If you show up at 8:00pm on a Saturday, expect to wait at least half an hour to be seated. Having only been once I am no authority on how busy the place usually is, but my party of 4 waited about 45 minutes to be seated, and there is not a particularly comfortable place to do it. The wait did provide ample time to familiarize oneself with the menu, which is written on chalkboards and placards above the seating at the bar.
Upon being seated at the communal table I immediately began sniffing at the food of strangers over their shoulders (as I am prone to do), and thankfully my privacy invasions were consistently met with polite and informative conversation. The service start to finish was excellent; both well timed and informative. Presentation is also a strong suit for Plan Check; as all the dishes are served in tiny cast iron skillets, with each ingredient placed just so. Most of the menu items sounded delightful and interesting, like the “Short Rib Pot Roast” which is served with “red wine, bone marrow turnover pie, sweet n sour mirepoix.” The only real problem, albeit a significant one, is that the food (at least most of what I tasted) wasn’t exceptionally good.
As I tend to do when eating anywhere for the first time, I ordered the signature dish, which is in this case the self-titled “PCB” or Plan Check Burger. Akaushi red wagyu beef comes adorned with “Americanized dashi cheese, ketchup leather, schmaltz onions, mixed pickles, crunch bun.” To me this sounded like an unnecessarily fancy way to describe a relatively simple hamburger, which is exactly what it proved to be. For once, the patty came cooked a little more rare than I would have liked, and was not noticeably seasoned. Ketchup leather is cool. You get tartness with no saucy mess. The pickles were not mixed, they were pickles. The cheese was American cheese. The bun was a bun. All of this is ok. But if you wish to present yourself as fancy, PCB, I shall require that you be fancy.
Fortunately, having dined at Plan Check with friends, I was afforded to opportunity to try many things on the menu. The Chef’s Favorite Burger (cheese two ways, bacon two ways, ketchup leather, sunny fried egg, hot sauce), and the Blueprint burger (smoked blue cheese, pig candy, fried onions, roasted garlic steak sauce, peppercress) both outshined my own, with the Blueprint being the clear winner. The verdict is in, blue cheese is yummy. I also tried the fried chicken, which was decent, as well as pastrami fries, sweet potato fries, a butter lettuce salad, and pickled eggs. None of it was terrible, but none was impressive either, and with the burgers at $14 and sides averaging about $8, Plan Check is too expensive to not have better food. Even still, the line out the door of people eager to geotag their next several instagram posts of pretty dishes served in neat little skillets on a cool table, would likely disagree.