Question: Pie ‘n Burger or Apple Pan?
—Wynn, Culver City
Answer: You don’t think I’m going to fall into that trap, do you? I choose whichever one of the two I happen to be closer to at the time. They are the two great exemplars of the California lunchroom burger, which is to say layered crunch, sweet sauce, vaporized cheese and a thin, carbonized patty of meat on nicely toasted buns. The question basically comes down to the optional hickory sauce on the Apple Pan burger, which I firmly believe is a matter of taste. I do believe, however, that attention should be paid to the “Kobe-style” burger served at Cora’s Coffee Shoppe in Santa Monica, which is layered with farmers-market-quality lettuce and dead-ripe tomatoes, and includes a loose, squishy patty of incredibly expensive Wagyu beef that practically weeps rich juice when you bite into it — the sort of hamburger you might build yourself if you had all the money in the world to spend on it and plenty of time to source the ingredients. (Even at $12, it almost seems like a bargain.) There’s really good, mustardy potato salad, too, although, unfortunately, no fries; as well as freshly turned caramel ice cream; and iced tea guaranteed to be free of raspberry leaves, passion-fruit essence or tiny sprigs of mint. Cora’s Coffee Shoppe, 1802 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 451-9562.