If you've been blissfully unaware of the food world's Shake Shack obsession, it might seem odd that a West Hollywood fast-food opening would inspire so much excitement. But Shake Shack is a bona fide phenomenon, and openings elsewhere have inspired long lines and media frenzies. People are particularly interested in the West Coast debut of the publicly traded burger company, which was started by restaurateur Danny Meyer in New York in 2004, given that SoCal has its very own burger chain with a cultlike following. My guess is that we have room enough in our hearts and bellies for both burgers.
Shake Shack's West Hollywood location opens at 11 a.m. tomorrow, with locations in Glendale and downtown to follow. In celebration, we decided to catch up with Shake Shack's culinary director, Mark Rosati, to see what he likes to eat when he's in Los Angeles. We stuck mainly to things on buns, in keeping with his line of work, and we even got a peek into his inspiration for Shake Shack's L.A.-only offering, the Roadside Double burger. Here are his six L.A. picks.
6. Fried chicken sandwich at Son of a Gun
"Without a doubt one of the best in the business — when I first visited L.A., this was one of the first bites I had right off the plane. It exceeded my expectations all around and now every time I travel back to L.A., I can’t leave without having one." 8370 W. Third. St, Beverly Grove. (323) 782-9033, sonofagunrestaurant.com.
5. Fried chicken sandwich at Night + Market Song
"Keeping in line with fried chicken, the fried chicken sandwich at Night + Market Song is pure magic between a bun. I especially love how they combine their house-made ranch dressing with a fresh papaya salad. The sandwich is so flavorful, a little messy and perfectly balanced that once I take my first bite, I can’t stop until I’ve devoured all of it." 3322 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. (323) 849-0223, nightmarketsong.com.
4. Beef rolls at 101 Noodle Express
"Well, kinda sorta a bite between two buns here, but the beef rolls at 101 Noodle Express in the San Gabriel Valley has become a recent favorite. It’s so simple, perfectly composed and delicious. While the braised beef and hoisin are great, the fried flatbread is totally the star of the show in my book — beyond addictive. The dumplings are obligatory too any time I visit." 1408 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra; (626) 300-8654, 101noodleexpress.net.
3. French dip at Philippe the Original
"Well steeped in L.A. culture, culinary heritage and au jus … my first bite of their French dip was so special and memorable (roast beef, double-dipped, with Swiss cheese and some hot mustard on the side) that it inspired a recent burger addition to our West Hollywood Shake Shack menu, the Roadside Double. This is the second time in the history of Shake Shack where we added a special city-inspired burger to our menu." 1001 N .Alameda St., downtown. (213) 628-3781, philippes.com.
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2. Porchetta melt at Gjusta
"The porchetta melt at Gjusta has held a recent soft spot in my heart, too. I love how they keep their sandwiches simple and focused around great meats and their house-made bread, but I’m always a sucker for when a sandwich is embellished with a healthy dose of melted cheese, Fontina in this case, which sends this sandwich into pleasure overload. The baklava croissant is genius as well." 320 Sunset Ave., Venice. (310) 695-1748, gjusta.com.
1. Burgers at Apple Pan
"Lastly, a stop at the Apple Pan is always requisite to pay homage to one of the tastiest and most enduring L.A. classic burger restaurants. I double-fist every time I go and grab both the steak and Old Hickory burgers. Fries and pie, too, naturally…" 10801 W Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles. (310) 475-3585.