Burger Reviews and other stuff

Monday, July 30, 2007

I've been away a while I know...

I 'll be posting some new reviews soon... like today...so everyone can feel the love of the burgers and other stuff.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Dreamburger Come True

A dream come true…

You ever just want a hamburger to really live up to its name? I mean the Whopper doesn’t really Whop you, the Big Mac isn’t quite so big, and the Jumbo Jack while quite the value just doesn’t hold up in size. It doesn’t just mean size is the all important most important thing some places have burger names like Tasty burger, or Astro Burger, or whatever other kind of name; while they might be catchy and fun and hey the burgers might be good also, they always leave something to be desired.

Here’s the exception:

The Dream Burger from Pann’s

Let me give you a little back ground, Pann’s is an old diner/coffee shop type place that has been sitting on the same corner of La Cienega & La Tijera for several decades now. I used to drive by this place on my way to and from work almost every day, and I never stopped. I don’t know why. It always stung my curiosity and yet I never stopped.

But, I did stop one fateful night about two months ago. I was shopping nearby and I needed a late night fix. I wasn’t sure about a drive through and I did kind of want to sit and rest. Magic Johnson’s TGI Friday’s is right across the street and I was debating going there. I changed my mind and I settled on Pann’s. I figured I just wanted a root beer float, or a shake. I basically needed some desert.

I sat down. The host was quite a pleasant fellow

And he brought me the menu. And there it was staring me in the face in bright pop-art letters… The Dream Burger.

What a claim to have…the dream burger. I had to try it. Mind you I already had a very hearty and filling diner, but I was going to have one anyway. How could I pass up the chance to have a burger? I couldn’t that that’s how…

So I ordered it and oh ho…check it out they have world famous onion rings! This I couldn’t miss, so I didn’t and ordered those too.

The waiter came with my plate, a sensible looking thing…white with no frilly things, no funny sayings, just your standard white plate. The Burger looked fresh, and it looked big, but not too big…and it looked good, and let me tell you something smelled good too, I could see steam coming off of the meat, because it has just been good. The cheese was still melting on the meat. It’s one of those burgers you always see in commercials, or on the pictures in menus. I mean this was a beautiful looking burger, I almost wanted to take a picture of it, but alas I didn’t.

The problem with burgers that are steaming hot with cheese, is that they are steaming hot with cheese, so as I bit into the burger I burnt the tip of my tongue. Well let me tell you that wasn’t fun, but the rest of it sure was delicious. My mouth was watering as my hands approached my mouth with the burger I almost couldn’t keep my eyes off of the burger. This wasn’t one of those if it doesn’t get all over the place, it doesn’t belong in your face kind of burgers, this burger retained it’s wonderfully burger-esque shape throughout the eating process. Panns puts their special relish and dressing on the Dreamburger they don’t drown it in the stuff, it’s a subtle dab of the stuff right on the both of the buns. In the wrong hands this stuff could go horribly wrong, but they have it so right here. The rest of what they put on the burger is your standard burger fare, tomato lettuce, all very, very fresh crisp veggies on the burger.

Side note: Fresh veggies are very often over looked on a burger, I mean there’s so many places that use the shredded lettuce stuff and they’ll you the part of the lettuce that is white and shred that, which somehow, sometimes detracts from the flavor, and you have to have the right tomato at the right point of ripeness, sometimes tomatoes are too green on burgers.

In my waking dream state, eating the dream burger I almost forgot to try the onion rings after all they were sitting there…and these weren’t your typical bulk restaurant onion rings. No, these were special battered huge cut onion rings fried to golden brown perfection, these were to say the least delicious, and you can quote me on that.

I’m going to end with that, try Pann’s the atmosphere is great, the onion rings are good and the burger lives up to its name.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Big Boy is back and he never really left.

What the hell is in Hesperia?

I looked on the official city website and it reads: “Experience the beauty of the California High desert.” Damn, I was screwed I was going out there for a family thing. Yeah you all have family things to go to. Sometimes they are in little one horse towns like Hesperia

The Hesperia, was the evening star in Greek Mythology, one of the Hesperides, (pretty convenient huh) or the western nymphs. These nymphs tended lush beautiful gardens that belonged to goddess Hera. I don’t know what Hera would think about Hesperia in Southern California. I didn’t see any lush and beautiful gardens out there. There’s nothing but sand and loco weed and the occasional dried up Joshua Tree.

Family things are fine and dandy, I just wasn’t looking forward to the drive. I mean it’s like an hour and a half away, and that’s with no traffic. Not to mention if I get bored at the family function, I can’t just tell my cousin, hey let’s blow this joint and go to a bar or go catch a flick. Why? Because there’s nothing to do in Hesperia, that’s why.

Except – BOB’S BIG BOY.

Yeah you know him, he’s been around forever, I know you forgot about him, hey I did too there’s no problem in saying it. He’s still there, with his red and white checkered overalls his bright smile and Kewpie Doll hairdo.

Ah the Big Boy.

You know it’s been a while since I saw the big boy in person, and probably just about as long since I’ve seen a Big Boy advertisement (save for the cameo appearance in the Austin Powers movie) but he’s still out there offering the same great meals for everyone to enjoy.

I pull in to the parking lot, its right by the exit from the freeway. It’s there with his rosy cheeks and big smile just making you feel warm and fuzzy inside ready for one of the most delicious burgers you can have this side of the 210 Freeway.

There’s a lot of people there it’s Sunday morning so everyone goes for the breakfast specials and the all you can eat breakfast bar with so many yummy delicious fried things and breakfast food things…mmm mmm mmmm.

Big decision do I want a Big Boy burger or do I want the breakfast bar? They both sound so good and great and tasty. I said to hell with it and go with the burger.

For those of you that have never seen a Big Boy Burger it’s basically the original double-decker hamburger, something akin to what most everyone knows as the Big Mac, which is a direct rip off of the big boy burger right down to the special sauce. GASP!
Yes the Big Boy burger comes with its own special sauce, something like a special relish. The special sauce on Big Macs is basically Thousand Island dressing. The Big Boy is somewhat similar, but better.

The place is not quite fast food, it’s more sit down than anything else. They have these booths with these big cushiony seats all over the place, very diner-ish. I don’t know if any of the Big Boys have drive through windows, I would doubt it, the one I went to didn’t.

The great thing about the Big Boy Burger is that it’s fresh, how fresh, well I don’t know, but I’m pretty damn sure it’s fresher than a Big Mac.

They have a larger version of the Big Boy, the Super Big Boy with about a half pound of meat, I wasn’t that hungry at the time, but remind me on the way home if I get a little hungry to kick it up a notch and grab a super big boy.

I love this place the food is fresh and yummy and good and you can leave with a cool little knick knack like a Big Boy bobble head, or a Big Boy coin bank, almost anything really. So if you’re ever out in Hesperia and can’t quite find something to do other than count grains of sand…there’s always Bob’s Big Boy

Is the Big Boy in your town?

check here:


Monday, August 08, 2005

Mel's Drive-In Sunset.

I was at the House of Blues last night catching a Spanish Rock-Pop band, I know the sound engineer, and the band was actually pretty good. As I left I looked to the girl I was with and said, what do you want. She looks back and replies: “anything but, burgers.” I stood aghast, how could she deny me the one foodstuff that I love so much, especially being on the Sunset strip with so many wonderful options. Then I remembered, hey! I drove, it’s my car and I’ll cry if I want too. After a good bit of pouting and begging and pleading and whatever other adjectives you can come up with that make me sound like some pathetic loser, I won a victory. She said: “Okay we can go eat burgers as long as they have something else to eat.

Perfect, I knew just the place.

Mel’s Drive in on Sunset, you know the place, it was in American Graffiti and it’s all about 50’s diner feel kinds stuff.

So Mel’s is one of those 50’s diner looking places with the typical pop art architecture and the music selection machines at the tables complete with full selection of Doo Wop oldies classics that came out of one of those Time-Life record collections. It looks 50s-ish enough…I guess. But, it is a bit too Hollywood, a bit too clean, a bit too watered down, a bit too nice.

The food menu is 50’s enough with a touch of nouveau LA veggie, with a touch of that gourmet panache. So, it can all seem a little fake a little non-diner-ish. If I sound bitter it’s because every time I walk into a 50’s diner type place I end up thinking I’m going to see a bunch of Fonzie guys and preppie kids in school sweaters, and hot rod’s and classic cars, and all I end up getting are a bunch of wannabe trendy hipsters. I don’t like hipsters... They always seem so dis-genuine, so unoriginal. Hipsters are Hollywood yes-men. Liberal lip servers with a no real sense of community service. With that, I guess I’ve vented enough about them. However, I reserve the right to further vent.

Onward to the burger.

I will tell you this, any burger joint worth its buck should always be judged by its regular hamburger. So, that being said, I had the cheeseburger, and I have to say I’ve never been a fan of places that serve their burger unassembled to the customer. I know that some people like the idea of having control of putting certain condiments and or certain things like lettuce and tomato and onion on them. Not me.

I go to a place to have people make my food for me…not half make my food.

Aside from that, the Mel’s burger is good, not great, but good, about a few steps above fast food, but not super great, but good. Not disappointing at all. The fries here are pretty standard and therefore good. They have wonderful shakes. I will say that the meat on the burger was very moist and tender. Mel’s claims to use 100% Angus beef on their burgers, and you know when beef is all ground up into some crazy mash; you can still taste the difference. Call me crazy, but you can, and it really does make a difference in this burger. It’s what sets it apart from your standard restaurant and fast food fare. As for the rest of the materials used to assemble this burger, they are pretty standard, nothing exciting about the bread, or other stuff. The burger is filling but not outrageously overfilling.

Mel’s is the kind of place you either want to start the night, or end the night at. It really isn’t a lunch spot if you get my drift, and not really a take out kind of place. It’s also not the place if you’re on a budget. The valet, oh yes that’s right they have a valet, hit me up for like 5 bucks. If you’re in the neighborhood and you feel like a burger and you really want to spend some cash. Go to Mel’s

8585 Sunset BoulevardWest Hollywood, California90069, USA

With other locations in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Friday, August 05, 2005

What a load of overrated crap.

So, a buddy of mine and I decide to take the word of the Downtown News on a recommendation for a taco place. I don’t know if that was our initial mistake, or if that was just an honest mistake. Whatever.

The night started off good enough rock-paper-scissors, to see how would drive…I lost, so I drive. We head over to El Taurino restaurant on Hoover and 11th street. We’re real excited once we get there like some kids in a candy store. The place is littered with bull’s heads and horns and all kinds of bull fighting memorabilia. The wall to wall Talavera bathroom tile is great and the decor is very Mexican, not like these New Mex or Fresh Mex cuisine place all dull and white, or pale, with their over done artsy Mexian décor.

No, this is pure Mexican décor at it’s finest lots of Spanish influence in this place not that the architecture and the interior design is what brought us to the place I mean it's a fricken taco joint for chrissakes.

We walk over to order our food, the numbers on the cashier’s lines and the pick up windows look hauntingly familiar, but we ignore it. I can’t decide between a torta and tacos, so I have both. 1 torta de Carne Asada, and 2 tacos al pastor, my buddy had 2 and 2; tacos that is.

They serve us up some salsa on a side little cup, it’s starting too look more familiar. The give us napkins with their logo in red ink…again something is tugging at me telling me I might have been here before.

I bite into the taco like and I feel the flavors permeate the inside of my mouth.

KING TACO this fricken thing tastes just like a King Taco, taco.

Okay – I rationalize, maybe it’s just the taco, it might not be the torta, let’s give it a shot.

The bread comes within inches of my mouth and I look to it for flavor connect…you know that whiff of - or smell of flavor that comes into your mouth right before you bite into something? You know that? Yeah you do. Well it didn’t happen. No flavor whiff, no good yummy stuff coming into my person. None of that stuff.

I ate, because I hate wasting food, I tried drenching it in salsa…nothing. I tried putting some lime on it, nothing. I tried to drown out the taste with beer…nothing.

We both sat there like some grumpy old men complaining about tacos that tasted like something out of some Baja Fresh reject kitchen. This wasn’t Mex to the Max, this wasn’t greasy yummy good tacos. No! This was some crap that someone put together in some back alley kitchen trying to pass it off as good tacos.

What puzzles me is how the place is still open, I guess some people like bad food, how else can you explain Arby’s still being open (that’s a conversation for a different time)?

I was angry, I mean I wanted to take the Downtown News review, burn it, toss it in the trash, destroy it. I wanted to scream in the face of the guy that wrote that review. My friend with a clam head started to reminisce of a place and time when tacos were good and everyone was happy and the world was a better place.

I started to lose my faith in humanity and all things that are good.

My friend with the calm head said to me: “no, do not go gentle into that good night.” Which, I know he ripped off from a poem, but I didn’t argue. I wanted to hear what he had to say, he continued with this: “there is still a place were tacos are good and where never is heard a discouraging word and the deer and the antelope play.”

I was going to call bullshit on him for that, but if he felt so strongly about something as to start sounding like some 19th century gold prospector, then I thought he certainly must be on to something.

I drove, he pointed where to turn and stop and do all of those things. I listened and did those things, and we arrived at:

La Taquiza.

On 30th and Figueroa, we were in enemy territory being that this is USC neighborhood and I went to UCLA, but I thought: “eh it’s not rivalry week.” We walked in and immediately I saw a sight that brought a tear to my eye…a vertical rotisserie with Carne al Pastor…I almost broke down. My adrenaline and taste buds were all writhing with excitement! I could feel the scent of greasy yummy tacos just permeating into my skin and flowing into my pleasure senses.

It happened like magic and love, and lovely magic of magical love. Oh to touch the fingers of the gods that created this wonderful delicacy of delight.

To my amazement their variety of tacos was huge of all kinds of meats with all kinds of stuff. Two wonderful signs that told me this was a great place. Sign the first: 3 cops cars showed up, to eat there. Sign the second: some paramedics showed up to eat there. (Here’s a little secret for those of you that don’t know. If you want good cheap, eats just follow public service workers such as police officers, fire fighters, and public works employees, they’re always out on the street and always looking for good cheap eats).

I had one Taco de Carne al Pastor, and instantly it erased the horrible experience that was the crappy tacos that I had ingested before. It took me by storm. The sight of serve yourself salsa bar with almost any and every color of salsa known to man helped to soothe my anger.

How could one taco erase what so many bad tacos had done to me? That I don’t know. What I do know is that El Taurino was not good, and La Taquiza was great. The mysteries of the world may go un answered, but as for where to get a good taco…well there you have it my friends La Taquiza.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The Tam’s/Tom’s conundrum.

If you’ve ever driven in South Central or some the East side small municipalities of South Gate Huntington Park, or Lynwood you’ve probably noticed a burger joint named Tam’s or Tom’s. If you’ve ever eaten at either of them, you’ve probably noticed that the burgers taste the same. Is it the same restaurant? Do they all have the same operators? How the heck should I know, I just eat there. Heck if they are owned by aliens who are out to control us and stuff our bodies with fat so that we can be delicious, or if they are some corporate giant that wants to fatten us up to turn us into soylent green, who cares? This is a Burger Review…and although we may touch on politics and other issues in here, I frankly don’t have the time to research all of this…if any of you want to do this go ahead, be my guest.


Anyway, all of these places taste like they got their burger supplies from Smart & Final, the smaller faster wharehouse store, and hey if I wanted to make a burger like them all I would have to do is go to Smart & Final, purchase supplies and BOOYAH instant Tam’s/Tom’s burger, as far as I’m concerned it’s the same place, they all look like they might be run by Greeks and have your mandatory staff of Mexican cooks. They all have variations on the same burger, from hamburger, to cheeseburger, to double cheeseburger, to chili cheeseburger, to double chili cheeseburger, to bacon cheeseburger, to colossal burger with all kinds of grease and fattening yummy stuff on them. I’ve pretty much had them all. They’re all pretty decent. Some of them will have vegetarian patty available, but don’t hold your breath, almost all of them will have one or two broken down arcade machines, and the gumball machines where you can get Homies (if you don’t know what Homies are, go here: http://www.homies.tv/home.htm) part of the fun of going to these places is waiting for your order and spending your left over change buying some Homies.

I digress.

These places are all your typical diner type set ups, they have booths to sit at and some of them have a drive through, the have a full menu with other crap like fried chicken, carne asada, burritos and tacos and will most likely also serve breakfast, all of which are usually pretty tasty as well.

These places are gritty and down to earth, they give you that sense of real inner city urban comfort if, you grew up in the hood you know what I’m talking about. It’s the closest thing to down home those of us with urban upbringings can think of. There’s always a film of filth somewhere, somehow, and it’s not disconcerting, did I just say disconcerting? Alright, there goes my 75 cent college word for the day, that English degree is finally paying off! Back to the point, it’s that small underlying grit that lies at the soul of those of us in the Inner city, these places aren’t the burger joints of southern California car culture, or of a post World War II boom town, or pop culture. No, these are the burger joints of bulletproof glass and disenfranchised communities with no access to the services and goods in other areas. Many times you’ll find these burger joints are the only store around for blocks, you’ll find them in areas of South LA where the larger fast food chains are still trying to make headway, if you can call that headway. Other times you’ll find Tams’/Toms’ in strip malls lumped together with video stores and Laundromats, many times you’ll find the clientele of these burger joints are the cops that are patrolling those particular areas. Such is the case with the Tom’s in Lynwood on Imperial, which is frequented by the LA County Sheriffs.

All socioeconomic exploration aside, the burgers at Toms’ and Tams’ aren’t anything to really shake a stick at, they are better than most of the signature burgers of the big fast food chains, but not quite up to par on some of the newer specialty burgers that the fast food chains like Carl’s Jr. or Burger King are coming out with. Most of the time you’ll find people ordering out at these places, they’ll have really good deals for the family, such as: 4 burgers and 4 fries and 4 drinks for some ridiculous price like $12.95. If you’re the coach of a little league or junior soccer team, this is where you take your team for dinner after the game if they’re craving burgers.

Whaddaya gonna do?

Ups and downs of getting a burger at Tam’s or Tom’s. On the plus side, they usually give you a really large amount of fries, most of the time they are seasoned with Lawry’s seasoned salt, which may sound generic, but is really good. (A personal tip, if you get your fries in a separate bag you can drip a generous amount of ketchup in the bag and then shake it up the result is, mushy seasoned fully ketchuped fries, so very delicious!) Also on the upside, the burgers are usually pretty meaty, not some really thick piece of meat like some of the big specialty burgers, but about a ¼ pound. One thing that could go either way is the condiments of the burger, some people like really wet burgers with lots of mayo or dressing and ketchup, others like a dry bun, if you’re in the dry bun category, then this may not be the place for you, Tam’s/Tom’s love to make burgers that are really wet. I don’t so much know if they love doing that, so much as every time I go there, that’s what they do. Seriously on the downside, the fountain drinks, they usually give you an exorbitant amount of shaved ice, (oh crap there goes another college word) which sometimes ends up looking like a soda flavored slushy.

Tam’s and Tom’s are located in various areas of South LA and or Southeast cities in LA County. You can look them up in the Yahoo Local search and you’ll find some.

Final thoughts: comfort food of my inner city childhood.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My First Burger Review

So after many lunchtime discussions with my friend I have decided to start a Humburger Review...this will mainly deal with burger joints in the Southern California area, mainly focusing on mom and pop joints, although I will scamper through to restaurant and fast food joints occasionally. Los Angeles is a wonderful place for burgers there is a long beautiful history of some of the greatest burger fast food places getting their start here in LA...and hey who doesn't love burger? probably communists...that's who.

HAMBURGER HABIT this little dive located in a strip mall off of Sepulveda and National in West LA is really a great little place in a stirp mall. Tha ambience is almsot 1950's...there's plenty of old Coke ads and they come from all over the world. The menu is very 50's diner, but of course doesn't make you forget that you're in a stirp mall which takes away form it a bit, you have your choice of basically the same burger with different topings such as bacon and swiss cheese or the works, the works has chilli, and unlike most chilli burgers comes with letuce tomatos and all that other typical "regular" hamburger stuff. Your order is served on a paper plate with fries and a pickle spear. They call your order out by yelling out the name of playing card the give you when you place your order..."10 of SPADES!" kind of like that, adds a good amount of kitsch factor to the place, don't lose your card and don't be a dumbass that starts throwing it around at your frineds.

The Works burger is my choice, the meat on the burger is juicy and the chilli is good, you'll find places that make chilli burgers where the meat is good but the chilli is sub-par or vice versa so I was very happy to find that this burger joint came through on both ends. Although the burger holds together well but does tend to get a bit messy towards the end. There are moments when I feel the need to add a little bit of green tabasco sauce on the bruger but, hey that' me...I love the abundance of condiments set out on the counters mustard, ketchup tabasco sauce. Gives you the option of flavoring up your burger however you like.

The fries are your standard cut fries, tasty. various flavors of milk shakes are really good not too thick not too runny, just about right.

Price - a meal at Hamburger Habit will run you from 4-6 dollars depending and well worth it if you ask me grade A meat and a good quality burger, a variety of choices on burger style. About the only downside to the place is location, not easy to get to and it is tucked away in a little corner on the edge of a freeway on ramp and not to visible, you may have already passed by it a couple of times. They stay open late, it's a great place to start your evening or go to lunch.
Hamburger Habit(310) 478-5000
11223 National Blvd Los Angeles, CA

I hope you find this review helpful, drop me a comment if you feel it's too much info or not enough. My hope is to have this burger review out once a week, and in the coming weeks I hope to have explanations of differences in burger styles...and I want this to be fun for you and for me.

Rock on,


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