I haven't done restaurant reviews in a while. I figure they're kind of pointless to write because I usually only go to places that are great. I don't mean that in a snobby way but I mean that they're places that people already know are going to be good because they have high yelp reviews, have been praised by food critics, etc. You don't need a little blogger named Marilynn adding her two cents as well.
But, as with most things food-related, I can't resist adding my two cents. So here you go, just a few pennies to toss and get lost in the sea of restaurant reviews that exists online.
In hindsight, I'm not sure why this place got so much buzz. I guess it's because it is a nicely designed space led by some big LA names (chef, owner, and barmen are all connected to other successful ventures), and it brings something new and arguably, needed, on Sawtelle: a casual burger place with good beers instead of the usual sushi and ramen and Japanese curry hot spots. Sounds like a good business venture that promises some good food and and a good hangout area on Sawtelle.
If that's all I was looking for (good food and a good hangout) I think I would have liked Plan Check. But I expected more. For the price ($16) and the small portion size, I think it was okay to expect more out of the burger. But the chef's favorite didn't taste that special. It had bacon, some sweet/sour sauce (thankfully, mild, because I don't like the taste at all), a fried egg, and some cheese (tasted like American Cheese to me). The bun was nice and fluffy but collapsed as soon as I took a bite. The meat was tasty - but not the tastiest I've had. And the ketchup leather is definitely not a personal favorite at all...
Also, the fries weren't that great to me. I tasted the lard too much, and not enough potato? My friend and I both hated the housemade ketchup (watery and vinegary).
However, my friend's fried chicken was perfect. Nice and crispy and seasoned on the outside, and juicy on the inside. The gravy was delicious (though the pickled okra was weird). Overall, I gave this place 3 stars for effort but the creativity and innovation didn't work for me the way it does at Umami, where the flavors stand out yet meld.
It's been on my list for a while but mainly because it's also on Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential LA Restaurants List.
The decor is simple but nice (kind of typical industrial look with wood tables and paneling above the bar). The menu changes daily and they make everything in-house (they don't use anything canned so they make fresh ketchup sauce (among other things). They also cut and cure and ground and form their own bacon and burger patties respectively, as well as their other meats.
One thing that doesn't change on the menu is their burger.
It was very, very memorable. Phenomenal in fact.
The meat was by far the tastiest burger patty I've had. They ground it to a chunky yet tightly knit texture (not loosey-goosey at all). The bun had a similar problem's to Plan Check (collapsed as soon as you held onto it firmly) but I liked the flavor in this poppyseed version more. The ketchup was a lot better (more thick and traditional tasting) but I still prefer regular ketchup. The fries were awesome - freshly cut (I saw the guy behind the bar peeling and cutting ours) and well-seasoned with pepper and rosemary and salt.
I can't wait to try other things from Salt's Cure (including their weekend brunch) but for now, it gets a definite two thumbs up from me!
The bacon here was much better but that didn't surprise me. The burger was about the same size and price as it was at Plan Check but I didn't have to pay another $5 for a side of fries. I just wish they had beer on tap (they have a lot of wines it seems).
If you plan on going, definitely make a reservation because it's a small space.
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