Bachi Burger (Las Vegas, NV)

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Bachi Burger
470 E Windmill Ln, Ste 100
Las Vegas, NV 89123
(702) 242-2244
www.bachiburger.com

So, Bachi Burger…
Are you going to open?
LA is waiting.

If you didn’t pick up on it, that’s what we call a haiku – a haiku I am eloquently reciting to the Las Vegas-based burger joint, for their construction on a new location in LA has essentially been halted, despite the occasional reassurances from Eater LA that the project is still in the works. I’ve been jogging by the location on Sawtelle for months now (that Sawtelle – it’s so hot right now), and I swear this one bag of concrete mix or whatever has been sitting in that same spot all this time. So no, I don’t expect Bachi Burger to open anytime soon, certainly not in 2013. Maybe next year though…or maybe never.

Luckily, I had a chance to try Bachi on my last trip to Vegas, for my friend Will’s bachelor party. It had been at the top of my to-dine list for restaurants off-strip (I also tried to hit up Chada Thai, but they were unexpectedly closed for lunch, indefinitely). Mattatouille had told me that I should try to go as early as possible, because they get really busy. And that proved to be true – we were there around noon, and had to wait an extended amount of time. Waiting outside a restaurant in Las Vegas weather during daytime isn’t the most desirable of situations to be in, but Bachi proved to be worth the wait.

Bachi’s creations are technically on the fusion side, with regards to Japanese cuisine. Unlike at most places, the concept is well-executed here. Take their signature Ronin Burger, for instance. There’s an Asian slaw. There’s a tonkatsu-sauce glaze of sorts. There’s a yuzu aioli. And that sesame-miso sauce on the side. All very Japanese flavors. But the burger construction is all-American: a well-seasoned, juicy patty, cooked medium-rare, a fried egg, and a nicely-toasted brioche bun (although it had a touch of sweetness). Forget all the teriyaki burgers or whatnot that you’ve tried – this is what the concept is all about.

I’ve also read plenty of positive reports of their oxtail chili cheese fries, and it did sound very promising. It was a nice dish, but didn’t actually blow me away. The fries were already a little limp, but could’ve been affected by heft of the chili. The chili (w/ beans) was actually pretty straightforward, but replacing the ground beef with oxtail. However, the flavor was a bit too sweet for me (don’t know if it’s supposed to be). That sweet flavor, combined with the seasoning salt mixed with the fries, had a little too much going on in my opinion. But it’s still a good side.

Many people consider the burger at Bachi to be the best in Las Vegas, and I believe that to be true, despite my limited experience with burgers in Sin City. I do know, however, that it could possibly be my favorite burger in LA…if it ever opens here. If not, I just might vandalize the location with bachi sticks as if it was a taiko drum.

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Oxtail Chili Cheese Fries – garlic aioli, fried egg ($11.50)

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Ronin Burger – angus beef, caramelized onions, Japanese cole slaw, miso goma dressing, fried egg, katsu BBQ, yuzu citrus aioli ($11)

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Burgers Las Vegas/Southeast $$ B+

Bachi Burger on Urbanspoon

Hawkins House of Burgers

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Hawkins House of Burgers
11603 S Slater St
Los Angeles, CA 90059
(323) 563-1129
http://hawkinsburgers.com/

This song immediately came to mind after I devoured my whipper burger at work. One, the song is supposed to reflect on positive change in the hood after the 2008 recession (I wiki’d that). That’s roughly around the time food/restaurant blogging started to pick up steam as the new art and culture. While it hasn’t exactly been a Golden Age (see: Yelp “Elitism”), the sign of the times did help shine light on restaurants that have been criminally long-ignored, in areas that used to be deemed too “urban” for the standard foodie demographic. Nowadays, you see plenty of “adventurous” diners (like myself) patting ourselves on the back while posting photos of us waiting in line in Compton for some Bludso’s on Instagram/Twitter.

Another reason “Put On” came to mind after I finished eating my burger from Hawkins House of Burgers was because I thought of all the pounds I was putting on eating stuff like this. Similar to Mom’s Burgers in Compton, this is a hood burger at its finest. The large patty is hand-formed, well-seasoned, and well-finished on the griddle. The hand-formed patty was extremely loose, but that actually helped the melted cheese on top, as it basically melted into the crevasses of the patty, creating a ghetto Juicy Lucy of sorts.

The variation that I ordered, the whipper burger, was a fully-loaded ride, with plenty of pastrami and slices of hot link. In a neighborhood and culture where pimped-out rides are revered, this is obviously the signature item. And it was indeed glorious, although maybe a bit too much for its own good. All the heft in between the thin, grilled commercial bun kind of rendered it useless; I finished the burger with a knife and fork, an act that might have gotten me shot in the hood. Still, I am not deterred in reflecting positively about the burger. But I will have to order it sans pastrami and hot link next time, because I know that a real burger is about the meat and bun, not the tricked-out accessories (see: SinoSoul’s post on Grill ‘Em All).

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Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
American, Burgers South LA $ B+

Hawkins House of Burgers on Urbanspoon

Mom’s Burgers

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I like moms. I like my mom. I like other people’s moms. I like people like they’re my moms. And I like stuff that moms make. I’m not sure if the people at the joint are mothers, or if “Mom” is a mother herself. But the burgers that are served at Mom’s Burgers certainly would win the argument of “my favorite ___ is the one my mom makes.” Except this mom is black and probably sassy.

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Bad jokes aside, this is a ghetto burger at its finest. The patty is hand-formed, finished well-cooked on a flat top griddle. No aged meat or calculated blends or (insert ranch name here) artisan source, just a simple patty – well-seasoned with salt and pepper, and then seasoned even more by the grill via decades of its burger predecessors cooked on it. Yeah it’s well-cooked, but it’s still juicy and full of flavor. Bun is your standard commercial hamburger bun, which isn’t a bad thing, because these buns have been designed to be the right size for fast food patties, and there’s no place for bougie brioche in this part of town. And to top it all off, a combination of calorific fried egg, bacon strips, and/or cheap and fatty pastrami. Note that the burgers in the photos are the junior sizes (around 1/4 lb. sized) since I also bought food from Bludso’s – so the regular sized burgers are quite large here.

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Eating at Mom’s reminds me of my high school days when I used to go to places like Oki-Dog and Roscoe’s – neighborhood joints that are delicious, filling, and give you a sense of street cred. But while those places won’t fully satisfy my now-snobby palate and cravings, Mom knows best. Except Compton ain’t my hood. But now I have two places to hit up down south, and I’ll probably die if I go too often. But it would probably be a glorious death from the most wonderful heart attack one can get.

Notes: cash only. Also, phone order ahead. I ordered my burgers while at Bludso’s, and still had to wait by the time I got there (not a big deal though – they’re cool peoples).

Chris Hei grade: B+

Mom’s Burgers
336 W Alondra Blvd
Compton, CA 90220
(310) 632-6622

Mom's Burgers on Urbanspoon

Dog Haus

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Dog Haus is popular. I get it. Hot dogs all jazzed up with different condiments and toppings, and served on King’s Hawaiian buns. Menu sounds like Pink’s but updated for present day. I wanted to like this place. And I do, but there’s one small flaw to the place: the hot dog itself. The frank itself is pretty…unspectacular. Basically looked and tasted like a good Hebrew’s National that you boil yourself (yes it was boiled, not grilled). So I’ve come to the conclusion that a hot dog at Dog Haus (like the Sooo Cali one above) is the equivalent of a specialty roll from cheap sushi joints. But that’s not too bad. In fact, it can be quite decent. If distance is not a problem, I’d go to Fab though.

Chris Hei grade: B-

Dog Haus
105 N Hill Ave, Ste 104
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 577-4287

Dog Haus on Urbanspoon

Burger Parlor

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I already went over a brief background on the inception of Burger Parlor in my Early Bird post, so let’s just say that this was one of the OC’s most anticipated openings in 2012, having been named as having the best burger in the OC Weekly while in its pop-up iteration early in the year. Greg’s been hyping up the opening for months, and was obviously all over it when Burger Parlor finally opened earlier this month. Despite a rocky start (due to service issues that were just ridiculous to complain about – damn Yelpers; see SinoSoul’s post for more info), I was confident that the quality of the burgers would be up to par as I’ve read/heard before the brick-and-mortar opened.

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I went last Thursday (via 1.5-hour-drive) to hang out with Greg and Han while pulling off the trifecta of watching three games at once – the 2 MLB ALDS matchups + the Steelers-Titans game. Via Greg’s advice I texted the restaurant’s “mailing list” to get a secret deal of a burger + side for $10.50. My burger was the Chip Shot, with fontina cheese, potato chips, tomato confit, mushrooms, arugula, and chipotle aioli – sounds like it could be from a gourmet place like Father’s Office or Umami, but devoid of any pretentiousness (I mean, it’s in Fullerton after all). It’s a bit small for what we’ve come to expect from these types of burgers (roughly 1/3 lb.), but man is it well put together. Patty was cooked medium by default, but oozed of meaty flavors and plenty of juice. The supporting cast was just enough as to not take the spotlight away from that patty (although wished the chips were more crispy), as was the bun (brioche obviously, but was light and just the right proportion).

Best burger in the OC? I can dig it. Best burger I’ve had in 2012? You can dig it.

Chris Hei grade: N/A (no official grade < 1 month of opening, but arguably the best burger I’ve had this year – enough said)

Burger Parlor

204 N Harbor Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92832
(714) 441-2003

Burger Parlor on Urbanspoon

Holsteins

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Man The Cosmo is blowin’ up with all these nice restaurants! On a trip to Vegas with Greg, Jen, and Matt in late May, the four of us tried Holsteins at The Cosmopolitan. We figured it was a good place since it’s casual and Greg loves burgers like a Chris Hei loves pork belly. So what better place to try than what is arguably Vegas’ best burger restaurant? We were too hungry, since it was an early dinner (for my sake so I could drive back to LA later that night), so the four of us split three burgers and a couple of boozy shakes.

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Just a note on the decor: it’s pretty freakin’ awesome. Very reminiscent of a Japanese pop art store, with in-your-face bright hues via cutesy but badass murals and paintings. Think of a cross between Tokidoki x A Bathing Ape x Giant Robot, with a cute cow as the central theme. If Holsteins was a book store, I could see myself loitering all day reading manga.

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The three burgers that we split were: Gold Standard, The Rising Sun, and Big Fat Greek. The first two are their most popular burgers, with the Gold Standard being their breadwinner with regards to various “best burger” honors in town. The construction of this burger is very similar to the gourmet burgers you’d find in LA (think Father’s Office) – aged beef blend w/ bacon, sharp artisan cheese (goat cheddar here), peppery green (arugula obviously), and aioli. It was a good burger, cooked to a good medium-rare upon our request, but I like my patty to have more char (it was quite juicy though), and the aging wasn’t very prevalent here.

The lamb burger, while is only available well-done, was solid, but quite standard (with the requisite Greek flavors). My favorite of the bunch was the Rising Sun, an Asian-inspired burger made with “Kobe” beef (still bothers me that “Kobe” is thrown around so easily in U.S. restaurants, although the Las Vegas branch of CUT supposedly carries it again). Predictable teriyaki glaze, but everything just worked in that burger – glaze was sweet but not overpowering, and the creamy avocado coated lightly with tempura batter and thin strips of yam provided nice contrasts of texture. The same brioche bun used on all the burgers wasn’t too dense, but for some reason was rather forgettable.

Boozy shakes were well-made, and service was casual, yet attentive. Overall, a very fun place to go with a group (the reason Greg brought our bachelor party group here the following month while I sneaked off to dine at e by Jose Andres). LA has spoiled me burger-wise, to the point where I’m nitpicking each one of my visits to said places down to the smallest detail (although I’m sure most of it is just talking out of my ass). And while the variations offered at Holsteins can’t compare quality-wise to the top tier of gourmet burger joints in my hometown, I can see how it’s the star of a mid-market team – like what Joe Johnson was to the Hawks (and yes, that’s a slight knock on the price of these burgers). Definitely a consistent scorer.

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Complementary cheese popcorn

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House draft (free w/ foursquare check-in)

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The Rising Sun ($17) – Kobe Beef, Teriyaki Glaze, Nori Furikake, Crispy Yam, Spicy Mayo & Tempura Avocado

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Big Fat Greek ($17) – Greek Spiced Lamb With Feta Cream, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion & Olive Relish, W/Tatziki Sauce

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Gold Standard ($17.50) – Dry Aged Beef Sirloin Burger With Smoked Bacon, Aged Goat Cheddar Cheese, Tomato Confit, Baby Arugula & Garlic-Chive Aioli

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Campfire Smores ($11) – Smirnoff Marshmallow Vodka, Chocolate, Marshmallow, Graham Crumble

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Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake (? – not currently on online menu)

Chris Hei grade: B

Holsteins
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
3708 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109
(702) 698-7940

Holsteins (Cosmopolitan) on Urbanspoon

Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory

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As part of my self-serving lunch section of the blog (since I’m really doing it to create more lunch options for myself), I polled a dozen of my coworkers on what their top 5 lunch spots were. I’ve been to most of their choices, or am fairly indifferent about the ones I haven’t been. But one choice, by coworker Melody, caught my attention immediately: Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory. She really recommended the place for their burgers, but I remembered reading about Jeff’s Gourmet re: the Kosher Corridor in LA Weekly, as well as the publication’s top 10 best hot dogs list (at #7). So last Thursday, I decided to give the place a go.

I was determined in ordering 1 of the gourmet sausages and 1 of the regular hot dogs, but while I was looking up the address of the place I stumbled upon this LA Times article. The article sung praises for Jeff’s old-fashioned pastrami sandwich, and it didn’t help the cause when coworker Han was coincidentally bragging about how he brought a Langer’s pastrami sandwich to lunch that day. For a wuss who proclaims himself as agnostic, I do have an affinity towards believing in “fated” events. And there it was on the specials board when I arrived at the restaurant: the old-fashioned. They callin’ me…

Determined to be a kosher fatty, I ordered an old-fashioned and a regular hot dog with grilled onions. First of all, the hot dog, while fairly standard, was pretty damn good. Jeff’s makes all of their hot dogs and sausages in-house, as well as cures and seasons their deli meats as well. In this case, the house-made aspect was evident – the hot dog had a cleaner taste than the street hot dogs I’m more accustomed to. But I didn’t write 300+ words so far to talk about the hot dog. It’s all about the old-fashioned here.

The sandwich was old-fashioned indeed: thick-cut pastrami slices with deli mustard on rye bread. It’s very easy to hear that and immediately discredit it as some cheap imitation of the legendary version that can be found at Langer’s (and understandably so). But while Langer’s has essentially perfected the execution of the cured and seasoned pastrami, Jeff’s takes a (literally) sloppier approach. The beautiful slices of pastrami are unapologetic-ally bursting with fat, loaded with enough juice to soak the toasted rye bread as if it was dipped a la Philippes. You pick up alternating hints of garlic and smoky flavors with each enormous bite, but the star is that fat. Kosher pork belly, if you will.

It’s not the cheapest of options at $15/sandwich, but such delicacy transcends a moot price point. I will definitely be back to try other items on their extensive menu (the boerewors sausage and the western burger in particular), but if that old-fashioned is there on the specials board, it’ll be might hard to say anything but l’chaim and submit to the Old Testament. In my search for a greater purpose in life at lunchtime during work hours, I have finally found my calling.

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The Old Fashioned Pastrami Special ($14.95) – a ½ pound of hand-carved garlicky pastrami on crusty rye bread with deli mustard. Served with cole slaw and a pickle.

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Jeff’s Kosher Dog ($3.25) + grilled onions

Chris Hei grade: A-

Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory
8930 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 858-8590

Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory on Urbanspoon

The Counter

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I loved the Santa Monica location of The Counter when it first opened. I loved it so much, I took Coach Mom. That’s like bringing my girlfriend home to meet her.

Most people in L.A. should know the deal with The Counter: you get a board with a checklist of options and ingredients for your burger. But the times they are a-changin’, and the gourmet burger craze of recent years has unfortunately kicked the place off the top of my burger hierarchy (despite their rapid expansion, which we’re seeing from Umami more recently) – and it’s not even close.

Still, take out the newer places that have spoiled me, and The Counter still delivers a solid burger. My coworkers and I went to the newest one in Westfield Century City mall, since it’s very close to work. Not the juiciest and most flavorful, but the burger was cooked a good medium-rare, and the plethora of options gave me the idea of creating an Asian burger that day. Satisfying enough, but the love isn’t there anymore. I hope we can still be friends though…

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Chris Hei grade: B-

The Counter
10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 282-8888

The Counter on Urbanspoon

The Oinkster

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The Oinkster: where all the hipsters in Eagle Rock congregate. This was proven true during my visit with Greg a few weeks ago. We came around 6pm on a Friday, and it was surprisingly not too busy. However, after we ordered and sat, the line was out and around the restaurant. Guess hipsters come out to play around 6:30 – noted. Anyways, The Oinkster is a well-received restaurant that specializes in burgers and sandwiches (featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, as well as in more blogs than you can count, and most importantly to Angelenos – J. Gold’s 99 Essential Restaurants). They also offer a variety of beers, both on draft and in bottle, as well as artisan soda and coffee, and my favorite: shakes!

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I ordered the famous house cured pastrami, as is, since I wanted to taste the pastrami meat in detail. Greg ordered the Royale, which is essentially a pastrami burger. According to their website, the pastrami is “cured for two weeks, rubbed with special Oinkster secret spices and smoked with applewood.” Sounds amazing, no? Expecting Langer’s-esque quality, I was not. But one cannot help but have high expectations, especially from reading that Chef Guerrero improved the pastrami after studying briefly with the Langers. What I ended up with, however, were thin slices served on a French roll. This is very similar to the pastrami you’d find at The Hat and Johnnie’s, not exactly what I was desiring and expecting.

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The pastrami itself was full of flavor. Maybe a little too well-seasoned though. Yes it’s cured and I can certainly appreciate and handle well-seasoned food, but I felt that the pastrami here was a bit too salty, at least salty enough to overshadow the peppery and smokey flavors that were promised. The thin slices were a bit difficult to appreciate from the texture perspective, as well. And adding to the disappointment, the roll was unspectacular. Maybe I’m too much of a pastrami sandwich traditionalist, but I haven’t exactly been pleased with these types of sandwiches mentioned in the previous paragraph.

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The fries, done Belgian-style, were also a bit of a disappointment. I felt that, while they tasted pretty good, the fries were too soft and limp. But they did go well with that garlic aioli, which certainly lived up to its name (very garlicky). All the disappointment over this meal, however, briefly went away once I received my ube shake. Made with Fosselman’s ice cream, the ube (purple yam) shake was delicious! If I had to describe it, it was like a marriage between coconut and taro flavors. Truly the highlight of the dinner. Despite my disappointment, I can see why The Oinkster is so popular: decent quality and prices in a fun and casual atmosphere. Definitely a place I would’ve loved had it been in Westwood during my college years.

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Chris Hei grade: B-

The Oinkster
2005 Colorado Blvd
Eagle Rock, CA 90041
(323) 255-6465

Oinkster on Urbanspoon

The Golden State

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The Golden State is one of those places that have been on my to-dine list for the longest time. I just don’t go out to that area much anymore (probably due to painful memories from high school – not really; just lazy). So when Han made me run an errand for him in the area during my lunch time a couple of weeks ago, it was a good opportunity to cross what supposedly houses one of the best burgers in the city off the list. Not the optimal time to try The Golden State (since I wasn’t going to drink on a working day lunch), but at least the place wasn’t busy.

Since everyone loves comparisons (especially me), I would compare The Golden State’s burger to a more economical version of the one offered at Rustic Canyon, with the interior and vibe being that of a less pretentious Father’s Office. But don’t let the “negative” connotations fool you – the burger here definitely stands up to the two burger havens. On a brioche bun, this 1/3 lb. patty came with white cheddar, bacon, arugula, and a smidge of ketchup. Got it medium-rare obviously.

I thought that the griddled patty could’ve used a bit more char, but the patty was beefy and juicy. Somewhat messy, but nowhere near the greasy mess that the burger was at Rustic Canyon. White cheddar was sharp, bacon didn’t overshadow the star, and arugula was a nice contrast. The broiche bun was on the thicker side (notice the bottom bun especially), but proved to be a nice vessel. Fries? Not bad, but not a necessity. They have other sides like sweet potato fries and coleslaw that might be worth trying on future visits.

Not a perfect burger, but can compete with the top dogs for sure. The burgers at Rustic Canyon and The Golden State are like the Lopez twins (NBA players for those not basketball-familiar). One is the more talented and highly-regarded one; the other more of an everyday workhorse. The talented one periodically underachieves and gets hurt, while the lesser one just keeps on churning. That’s how I see The Golden State’s burger: a bougie burger for the everyday man ($11 – includes side) that always comes to work prepared.

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Chris Hei grade: B+

The Golden State
426 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 782-8331

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