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LA’s Apple Pan vs. Pie ‘N Burger: Who Rules the City of Angels?


Let me start off this post by re-iterating the fact that I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles.  I will not bother saying which one, because 99.9% of the country has not heard of the town and confuse it with a neighbor to the north (the oft-mistaken-for city is San Bernardino– special prize to anyone who can figure out my actual hometown).  But that is neither here nor there.

I wanted merely to set the stage for what has become a battle royale in the LA-area for lunchtime burger domination: Pie ‘n burger vs. The Apple Pan.

Both serve burgers and other sandwiches at a counter.  Both are lunch hot-spots.  Both have pie.  Both are old (for California, anyway).

And I had not been to either of them, despite the location of my upbringing.  In fact, I grew up less than 5 minutes away from P ‘n B.  I took French classes three times a week at the Berlitz school across the street for nine months and not once did I venture through the gates to beefy bliss.  Tragic, I know.  However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me, caused by my own childhood ignorance.  I do not have any bias when it comes to my critiques, and, ultimately, my selection as the lunch counter victor.

Continue reading ‘LA’s Apple Pan vs. Pie ‘N Burger: Who Rules the City of Angels?’

Beacon Restaurant Bar Happy Hour

Burgergal recently enlightened me to a happy hour special at the Beacon Restaurant and Bar.  For a mere $19.95, any time from noon to 9pm, you get two drinks (well, beer, or house wine) and a burger or pizza.

Of course we had to be there.  And my recent oral surgery (today, in fact) requires me to take a break from solid foods for a bit.  In fact, one of the two things that I could do to “really mess it up”: take a bite into a sandwich.  Now, before we get into a philosophical debate about whether a hamburger is a sandwich or not, safe to say that I will be heeding my periodontist’s advice.

All of that said, I needed one of my last meals to be a good one.  And I’ve gotta say, the burger at the Beacon did not disappoint.  I unfortunately did not take any pictures, since I was too ravenously devouring the burger, but there is a great set of pictures taken by our friends over at Midtown Lunch.

The burger comes out pre-cut, immediately revealing how cooked it is.  Ours were a perfect medium, with a rosy color all the way through and a nice char on the outside.  When I first saw the inside of the patty, however, I thought that it looked a little pre-salted, like Kenji on Serious Eats had warned not to do.  It didn’t look like it would be as crumbly as a JG special, or even a Shake Shack smashed burger.  This gave me my doubts, but at the price, who was I to complain?

But then I took my first bite.  The meat was well seasoned, and it was juicy as could be.  The flavor was great, enhanced by the onion bun, which absorbed all of the umami-rich fat that was dripping from the patty.  The burger had a smokiness to it that was earthy, reminiscent of the black label (although much less aged tasting), which was further enhanced by the smoky ketchup that was served with it.  With a slice of American cheese (as Laurent Tourondel says, “for a cheeseburger, the only cheese you can use”), it was great.  Even now, the memory of the burger is with me, as I am relegated to Jell-O pudding and yogurt, and even that hurts to eat 🙁

The fries were ok, but nothing to write home about.  They were a little inconsistent, with some being a little soggy.

But I still devoured all of them.

And that was that.  And today I went to aperiTIVO with uberchef for a my true last solid/tomato-based/spicy/hot meal for a week or so.  And it was great.

OBAO. I can't think of a clever phrase to match the acronym.

Last week, I wandered out of my new office space with a solid 8.6 out of 10 on the hunger scale.  Onya seemed like a viable option, but 47th Street was a bit far from the new spot on 54th.  However, noodles sounded like a good option that would be decently filling without being too unhealthy or pricey.

I then remembered back to OBAO, which opened late last year.  I hadn’t read too much about it except for ML’s early look of it, and I was definitely down for some pho.  That said, I walked in with only limited knowledge of what I was going to be eating, except for Michael Huynh’s break-neck speed of expansion and his strong reputation from Baogette and Barbao (both of which are on the BG duo’s list, and the latter of which will be a part of the eUWS project).

So, I walked down to the former bunchberries space on 53rd street.  Since it was a relatively slow day at the office, I decided to eat in.  The place was not too crowded, although people were still around.  Hopefully it will become more crowded as it stays open longer.  I sat down in a bright table at the front of the place so that I had something to look at, since I hadn’t planned on eating at a table alone.

The menu is pretty extensive, with a collection of Vietnamese and Thai inspired dishes, including noodle and rice dishes, and of course, some soups.  Since I only had pho on my mind, I went straight for the Pho Bo, which has thinly sliced beef and a beef ginger sauce, and of course the noodles.

A few minutes after ordering, I was presented with the main event.

The pho came with a side bowl with bean sprouts, thai basil, and some sliced jalepenos.  The pho itself was chock full of meat that was still cooking in the hot broth, which was laden with thinly sliced red onions and scallions.  I took a quick taste and found the broth to be a bit too delicate for my palate, although I was definitely catching the beef and ginger flavor.  I added a splash of sriracha and the whole lot of basil and jalepenos, and a tiny dash of soy, to try to increase the richness of the broth.  You can even see in the picture that the broth is not super rich in color, even after I had doctored it up a little bit.

The beef and noodles themselves were good, but after having been to Onya so many times now, I was left wanting more richness and depth of flavor.  Even with the addition of the salty umami-bombs, I wasn’t quite getting the pho to its full potential.  Even so, at $9, I wasn’t complaining.  All in all, it’s a great addition to the neighborhood when I’m looking for a quick Asian fix and am too lazy to walk seven blocks.  I might branch out within the menu though, based on some of the pics from ML.

53rd St. off Third Ave.

Two new obsessions: One Seasonal, One Not

Three things today for all of you guys:

1) First of all, I have only recently discovered the joy of the sunchoke, or jerusalem artichoke.  These little tubers are delightful.  Roasted plain, they are delicious.  They are like an artichoke heart, but better.  I cannot believe that it’s taken me this long to discover these little guys at the farmer’s market.

Get yourself some and try them for yourself.  They are delicious.  Just cut them in half and roast them up with some oil, salt, and pepper.

2) Num Pang.  12th St. and University.  Get there.

The place opened up last year in March, but somehow escaped my realm of cognizance.  But not any more.  They have a few sandwiches, but I can only speak to the pork and skirt steak sandwiches.  They arrive with some cucumber, carrots, and cilantro, on a toasted piece of bread with a spicy mayo.  A few squirts of sriracha, and we were good to go.  The pork is fatty and smoky, and as the picture above illustrates, it’s as tender as can be.  The softness of the meat is offset by the toasty crunch of the bun.  Just load up on napkins, it’s juicy.

There’s another shot.  Just because.

On another occasion, I had the skirt steak.  It’s more or less the same, but features some freshly griddled skirt steak.  It takes a little longer than the pork, which is already prepared, so be ready for a little bit of a wait.  The steak showed up with a lovely crust on the outside, but was just a little too medium for my taste.  I actually prefer my skirt steak cooked all the way through, especially when it’s been marinated, but this was still pretty good.  I still prefer the pork, but the steak was pretty good, too.  They have some other stuff, too, and I think they will soon be tried.

3) Monsanto gets named Forbes company of the year.  Quite a recovery from all of the negative press and the slamming in Food, Inc.  I haven’t read the article yet, but it definitely piqued BB’s interest.

Bak it up.

Hit up PJ Clarke’s for lunch today, and DID NOT have a burger.  I know.  For shame.  Instead, I just had some chili and a salad.  What can I say, I’m a healthy guy.

On the way back, we hit up the new Turkish Bakery on 2nd avenue and 52nd st, next door to Barros Luco, Güllüoğlu for some baklava.  I had read good things about this place on Midtown Lunch, and knew it would be solid.  Being that I had already eaten lunch, we just got a few pieces of baklava for the road.

We got some of the Şöbiyet, which is the baklava with pistacchio and cream, and some regaular baklava.  Both were tremendous.  The cream filled one was rich, almost like a ricotta (as said by a co-worker), and the traditional was flaky and buttery.  I highly recommend for anyone looking for a tasty treat over in Midtown East.  Sure is a great way to help pass the time on a Friday afternoon.


Definitely going to check it out for a solid lunch at some point in the near future.

Also worth checking out is Onya, on 47th street, for some high quality udon noodles.  I know it’s totally unrelated to baklava, but still, gotta give it some love somewhere.

2nd avenue and 52nd st.
47th st and 3rd avenue

I'll have the chilean sea bass, or maybe just a sandwich.

Uberchef and I hit up the farmer’s market, and fall is in full swing over there!  More to come on that later.

After filling up on some Ronnybrook Lowfat Yogurt drink (which I had never had before, got the honey vanilla flavor, and it was awesome.  And the price was right– free), we were starving.  We were going to hit up a ME standby, lenny’s, but uberchef remembered that a buddy of his had told him about Barros Luco, a new Chilean spot on 52nd street named after the famous south american sandwich and Chilean president.

I had a few doubts before walking in.  First of all, the space is one of those cursed restauarant locations that needs to just become a double-decker McDonald’s if it wants to become something that will last for more than a year.  Let’s remember back to Zip Burger and 99 miles to philly for a moment…

Now that that nightmare is over, let’s live in the now, and take a trip down to South America.  The menu is simple enough– for the sandwiches, which come on freshly baked chilean bread, you can get a traditional barros luco with either steak or chicken, with melted cheese.  If you are feeling adventurous, you can go for something a bit more difficult to pronounce, and get other accoutrements.  Or, you can get vienesas, which are basically chillean hot dogs.  They also have some other sides, including empanadas and string beans, and sweet potato fries.

Uber-c and I decided to split a couple of sandwiches, and nothing else, since we were both coming down from a milkfat high.  We went with a steak chacarero, which has some pounded steak, string beans, pickled peppers, and tomato, and a chicken italiano.  We started out with the steak, taking our first bite in synch so as to avoid any judgment tampering.  We both agreed that the string beans were flavorful, and I thought it was pretty good steak for something that is basically fast food.  I had picked up some fresh basil at the market, and I think that it added a nice herbal touch that was otherwise missing.  Uberchef was missing peppers, so I think that there were some consistency issues across our two halves.  Overall, it was satisfying, but a larger portion would have been appreciated.


We then moved on to the chicken italiano.  At first glance, I didn’t have high hopes for it, and the flavor, or lack thereof, was pretty consistent with my expecations.  The color was kinda blah, the avocado was blah, the tomato was blah.  It didn’t have any kick or anything.  It just tasted like a grilled chicken sandwich from a deli.  In the words of Uberchef, “this tastes like a diet.”

Anyway, check out Barros Luco if you are in the mood for something different.  Just do yourself a favor and stick with the steak.

Barros Luco
52nd st at 2nd ave
3.5 out of 7 cows (isteak alone would have been 4.5)