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Monthly Archives: January 2013

PCB CloseThe 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.

PCBUpon 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.

Pastrami friesAs 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.

PCB GutsFortunately, 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.

-Geoff Sawyer

PC Chicken

Pickled eggs

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scorpion burger

For those of you chasing your New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, this is the article for you. I am here under protest. I hate eating healthier. It’s one of my least favorite things. I mean, sure vegetables are wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but a salad is always better with a medium rare steak draped on top of it. That being said, my beautiful, brilliant younger sister is getting hitched in June to a wonderful man and those pictures last FOREVER. Not just my lifetime. No, no. My grandchildren and their grandchildren and possibly their grandchildren are going to see these photos. I mean, it’s not a matter of looking good (I always look good) it’s a matter of looking svelte and sophisticated and at the moment I am neither.  I need those descendents to look at that photo and say the words, “Wow, great Grandma Molly was super fine.” Or something to that effect in whatever slang is popular at that time.   If they utter the words, “Woah! Who the hell is that?” I will rise up from the grave and rip their eyeballs out of their heads and eat them.  No one wants that.

So in the name of being super hot, I’m eating more vegetables and hiking mountains more often. I’m even taking fancy classes where spandex clad former dancers beat you up with tiny weights and ballerina bars. It’s awful.  I’ve even said no to cake recently. To cake! For those of you in the same boat, I present to you my favorite veggie burger in LA, The Scorpion Burger from Native Foods Cafe in Culver City. (They’ve got other locations, but I’ve never been there. I’m not sure how their Scorpion Burgers compare.)

native foods

Yes, I know. It’s not a pretty burger. Square faux meat patties fill no one with pangs of desire even if they are described on the menu as “homemade blackened Tempeh.”  But just shut your eyes, grab a hold of it and dig in. They get the spices on this thing exactly right. The sweetness of the carrots and onions blend really well with the creaminess of the avocado and the tempeh gives it just the right amount of savory to make the sandwich really work.  It’s called the Scorpion Burger because of it’s “spicy” chipotle sauce, but I’ve always found it needs a couple slugs of hot sauce. Actually I think all vegan food improves with a couple slugs of hot sauce.  Whatever you do, do not get the optional vegan cheese on top. I’ve had silly putty that tasted better. It is unbelievably disgusting.

All of their burgers come with a side, so if you’re feeling virtuous get their kale salad. If you feel like you’ve already ordered a veggie burger, dammit, and that’s about as good as a person can get, get the sweet potato fries. They’re lovely.

photo: Frederick Guerrero

photo: Frederick Guerrero

Happy New Year!! Mine is going to be anyway, and I certainly hope the same is true of your 2013. At the very least it is a continuation of this divine quest on Earth, and more specifically, our search for Southern California’s finest hamburger. In the spirit of acknowledging the fact that many folks make incredibly predictable New Year’s resolutions, I had planned to only review veggie burgers this month, in that I never otherwise see much reason to focus on them. However I abandoned that idea nearly as fast as some of you have abandoned your ambition to eat more healthily, so let’s celebrate what’s truly cause for jubilation: life on this planet post-apocalypse is not NEARLY as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’m kidding of course, and since I am sure we can agree the world didn’t end 3 weeks ago, we can probably also agree that filling our basements with long-life batteries and non-perishable foods was maybe not the smartest use of our Christmas bonuses. True as that may be, we should all find solace in the fact that one restaurant in particular has found a positively superb way to disseminate its unneeded stockpile by way of perhaps the wildest burger we have discussed to date, brought to you by long time favorite, The Oinkster.

For those who don’t know, the Oinkster has begun to do a “Burger of the Month,” each of which so far (there have been 3) is a pretty brave step away from the king of their permanent menu, the perfectly crafted Classic Burger. The prior two have been awesome: the first in November was a turkey burger that captured all the flavors one would expect to encounter at a proper thanksgiving dinner (including among other ingredients sautéed leeks and celery [that when combined in a bite with bun totally resemble stuffing] and cranberry sauce), and last month’s Cochinita Pibil burger (all pork patty, slow roasted Yucatan pork stew not unlike adobo, lettuce, tomato, mayo, guacamole, refried black beans and pickled onions). I ate and thoroughly enjoyed both of these but have never intended to cover burgers that you guys can only get for a few weeks- it just seems like such a tease. Today I eat those words because January’s burger blew my mind. It is titled: The Doomsday Prepper’s Burger.

photo: Frederick Guerrero

photo: Frederick Guerrero

You are going to be skeptical when I tell you what’s on this thing. I certainly was. It was obviously designed in the spirit of Armageddon bunker foods and consists of: 6oz. angus patty, grilled Spam, rehydrated onions, a healthy slab of melted Velveeta, thousand island, Funyuns, pickles, and fruit cocktail chutney(!!!) all on a sesame seed bun. Truthfully I only ate it out of morbid curiosity but please believe me when I tell you that it does not even make sense how delicious this burger is. The sum of the parts vastly outweighs their individual strengths and as you probably know I am rarely a fan of a busy burger. Go ahead, scoff. Assume that I must have just grown up eating trashy factory-made stuff like this (you’d actually be right to do so but I have not gotten excited about Velveeta processed pasteurized cheese food product since the early 90’s). Think that it just can’t be good. Think, “Who eats Spam?” All of these thoughts are natural and were native to my own mind until I bit into the burger. I made them bring me a little side of the chutney so I could figure out what made it so yummy. By itself, it is easy to tell that it’s flavored with curry but on the burger you almost wouldn’t ever pick it out. It just works. I grow ever fonder of throwing crunchy things in the mix too, in this case Funyuns. A dash of texture in a sea of soft savory salty stuff is always pleasant. This burger is one juicy sloppy doomsday mess in the best possible of ways.

Doomsday Guts

The Doomsday Prepper is rich and hearty, so don’t plan to play basketball immediately afterwards, but do yourself a favor and go get one. I have done you all a disservice by waiting until 10 days into the only month it will ever exist before sharing my experience with you (sorry!!). Also, if you go, tell me about it. I could really use some affirmation that I am not out of my mind and that against all odds, this burger is confoundingly delicious. I suspect you’re all going to be as blown away as I was.

-Geoff Sawyer

photo: Frederick Guerrero

photo: Frederick Guerrero