When Greg Morris, the man behind The Spanish Kitchen, The Belmont, Oak Fire Pizzeria and, more recently, The Olive, offered a top-of-the-line gourmet burger for only $11.50 at The Oaks Gourmet Market, he knew what he was doing. He was throwing down the gauntlet, challenging L.A.'s well-known, high-end burgermeisters to a duel.
“I'm not going to say that it's the best burger I've ever had, but I definitely think it's one of the best burgers in L.A.,” Morris told the LA Times, referring to the burger chef Greg Paul developed for The Oaks.
He was right. The Oaks' burger routinely pops up on various “best burger in L.A.” lists.
Opened in September 2009, The Oaks is cozy market tucked between Victor Square and The Upright Citizen's Brigade just off Beachwood Canyon. It's stocked with fancy cheeses, jams, crackers, olive oils and a diverse selection of obscure beers, which, unfortunately, you cannot drink on the premises. It still annoys us every time we're there, but we blame ABC not the restaurant.
Meat & Bun: The eight ounces of dry-aged meat form a crumbly, loosely-packed patty with a moderate flavor — not the minimally seasoned, plain patties of Cassell's or the forceful concentration of a Lazy Ox burger. Cooked medium-rare, this patty walks the line to find a happy middle.
The brioche bun is, maybe, the only thing to quibble about. It's adequate but doesn't rise to the greatness of the buns at Comme Ça, Cassell's or Lazy Ox. It's so yielding that by the time the burger is done, the bun has nearly been squishing down to nothingness.
Toppings: We take our bacon the way Sir Mix-A-Lot takes his women: thick and juicy. This is where The Oaks excels. Their Black Forest bacon packs so much back, it's some of the thickest we've had. Chewy throughout, still crisp on the edges and with a hint of sweetness, this is hands-down the best bacon we've yet had on any burger.
Plenty of burgers arrive blanketed in melted cheese, but at The Oaks, the burger oozes with taleggio. Its creamy texture and mellow, buttery flavor is highlighted by the sweetness of the smoked jalapeno and pineapple compote. Raw red onions, sliced tomatoes and greens add a nice crunch, but the bacon-taleggio-compote trio is a stroke of genius.
Sides: None to speak of, but we highly recommend their Ultimate BLT. It's hard for us to convey just how much we love their Black Forest bacon, but we will use any excuse to eat more of it.
Dessert: Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches in the freezer and Cake Monkey desserts in the bakery case. We're partial to Cake Mokey's s'mores and their chocolate sable cookies, so if those could be worked into the rotation, we'd be forever grateful.
The Upshot: Bring a friend, order the burger and the BLT, and go halfsies — or do all of that but don't bother with the friend. If you manage to park in the lot and get a table indoors (good luck), stare longingly at the Delirium Tremens, which you won't be able to drink until you get home.
- Day 12: Lazy Ox Canteen
- Day 11: Cassell's in Koreatown
- Day 10: Burgers & Beer at The Bottle Room
- Day 9: Pretzel Buns at Hole In The Wall Burger Joint
- Day 8: Late Night Burgers at Eveleigh
- Day 7: Apple Pan Keeps on Truckin'
- Day 6: Perfection at Comme Ça
- Day 5: The Fix Is In
- Day 4: Fun with Buns at Rounds Premium Burgers
- Day 3: Whipped Cream & Other Delights at The Counter
- Day 2: Kimchi & Cultural Fusion at Kalbi Burger
- Day 1: 30 Burgers in 30 Days: Alcohol & Excess at GO Burger