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Monthly Archives: December 2013

Number 1 at 25 Degrees            Have you ever been introduced to someone with whom you have shared a social circle for years, but managed to never encounter? You’ll be at some engagement speaking to a friend, this new person comes up, you introduce yourselves, and your mutual friend says something like “Wait, how can you two possibly not know each other?!?” You spend the remainder of the evening discovering that you have quite a lot in common, and in short order are friends as if you had been all along. Though some variation of this story has happened to me many times, only recently has it happened with a restaurant.

25 Degrees, found in the heart of Hollywood’s touristy shit-storm, is my new friend who I can’t believe I only just met. Located on Hollywood Blvd. between La Brea and Highland, 25 Degrees shares a building with the famed Roosevelt Hotel and is quite the oasis of quality in an otherwise overwhelmingly underwhelming pocket of Los Angeles. No more than a block away you can find struggling actors dressed as your favorite character from Pirates of the Caribbean shaming themselves for a shot at your one dollar bill, and right across the street is Madame Tussauds; where you can have your photo taken with life-sized wax statues of famous people (if you happen to think that that sounds more like fun than like creepy). Foot traffic is always heavy in this area, and made worse by the wealth of pedestrians pausing every 4 feet to capture images of the experience in that ‘they just don’t have stuff like this in South Dakota!!’ Perhaps it is no surprise that 25 Degrees and I managed to miss each other until now, because I clearly hate her neighborhood. The food however, has got me wanting to be besties.

Onion Rings 25 Degrees            Though they have a solid assortment of sandwiches, salads and sides, (in addition to a full breakfast menu during the hours that it would make sense to make such offerings) the burger is clearly the featured food media here. You can build your own via the broad but not off-putting list of toppings, cheeses and sauces, or you can go with any of their four pre-constructed formulas. I chose the Number 1, as I always go with the flagship/specialty/namesake of any place the first time I eat there. The Number 1 is: caramelized onion, crescenza, prelibato gorgonzola, bacon, arugula, thousand island. This tops a 6+ oz. beef patty, and comes on the best version of the pseudo-brioche I have ever had. There are no surprises, but the sum of the parts was just delightful. The gorgonzola was applied very sparingly so the strong flavor was quite subtle in context. Crescenza, a cheese of which, prior to this burger I was completely unaware, is mild and melty; as if mozzarella had twice the fat content but the same flavor. The bun is like many other places’ (The Park, Slater’s 50/50, Salt’s Cure, etc.) but unlike any of the others the inside was soft, flakey and malleable in exactly the right way. The patty was cooked a little more than the medium rare that I ordered but was still very flavorful and appropriately seasoned. French fries and onion rings (you can get half and half) accompanied this burger, and were as good as you can get anywhere. Having to pay an extra $2 for the sauce flight is a minor bummer, but on the upside they make all their condiments in house, and they were excellent. I’m a real sucker for house-made Ranch. Still not sold? They have a full bar and are open 24 hours. So next time you’re contemplating a post- Hollywood clubbin’ 4th meal, don’t you dare make that nice Uber dude take you to a drive through.

25 Degrees, let’s be friends. I’ll probably groan about having to come to your house because the area is lame, but I can already tell that every time I visit I’m going to be glad I did and wonder why we don’t spend more time together. I’m so happy we finally met.

-Geoff Sawyer

Number 1 Guts 25 Degrees

Grown ass cream soda 25 degrees

Interior 25 Degrees

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Photo by Eli G.

Photo by Eli G.

What happens when a super fancy chef decides he wants to open a little diner? Super fancy burgers, of course. Would he stock just any beef burgers? No, they would be wagyu burgers, of course. Chef Bruce Marder of Capo fame opened up a tiny café on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica right across the street from some enormous hotels.  I wandered inside one rainy day and was immediately charmed by its black and white tiled floors, wooden furniture, and the speakers which pumped out hits from Buddy Holly and Otis Redding. It’s exactly the kind of vibe you would want from a diner. Crowded, warm, and unpretentious.

Usually it’s incredibly crowded, but I lucked out and grabbed a table right away.  The menu was speckled with fancy ingredients in an otherwise traditional diner menu. Their bagels come with a side of burrata cream cheese. Their vegetable omelet has artichokes and tarragon. Instead of a tuna melt they have a fresh albacore tuna panino.  And of course, their burger is a wagyu “kobe” burger.

Photo by Brian S.

Photo by Brian S.

Now honestly I couldn’t give a damn whether my beef was wagyu or kobe or whatever. I don’t care if the cow was massaged during its life or not. I don’t care if it was born in Japan or Omaha. What I do care about is how it was raised, how it was fed, and whether it was killed humanely, but they never put those details on a menu, now do they? Occasionally they’ll put grass-fed (which is good in my book. It means the cow may have seen the sun.) And organic is always a plus although if you put a gun to my head and asked me what passes as organic meat these days, I would not be able to tell you.  I can only give you a list that I found on the Whole Foods website. 1. Must be raised organically on certified organic pastures. 2. Must be fed certified organic feed for their entire lives. 3. No drugs, antibiotics or growth hormones are allowed. 4. Must have year-round outdoor access. Those all seem like good things.

But you’re not interested in my feelings about organic meat. You want to know how this fancy burger actually was.  On top of a fresh bun with butter lettuce, slices of red tomato, red onion, and melted gooey cheddar cheese, it was very good. Well-seasoned and full of herbs the meaty patty stood out on its own against the traditional array of flavors. Here’s the thing, though. It was fourteen bucks. Fifteen dollars with the cheese, which wouldn’t have bothered me too much if they sides had not been so very dreadful. It came with a lump of the worst potato salad I’ve ever had. It tasted vaguely like sardines with just a hint of gasoline.  And the complimentary pickle was a cucumber with pretensions of grandeur. I don’t believe it had even touched brine. I think they just chopped up a cucumber, dunked it in water, and called it a day.

At that price point, I expect better. I expect my sides to be made with love and at least tried before they’re sent out. A decent side of fries, is that too much to ask? Otherwise, I’d just as soon go to the Hole in The Wall and spend ten bucks on a gorgeous gourmet burger in a paper bag.

 

Photo by Joan S.

Photo by Joan S.