Dear Mr. Gold:

I have a burger-loving friend coming to visit, and I’m at a loss to find him a great burger in L.A. Father’s Office has a great burger, but I don’t like the roll it comes on or the scrum; there are too many Tommy’s joints now; and Apple Pan has always been a bit overrated in my book. I’m bored with In-N-Out. And I’m tired of spending $14-$16 to taste a burger in restaurants — although a recent Rustic Canyon burger for $12 at lunch the other day was terrific.

Also, what’s your favorite wine bar right now?

—Michael, Santa Monica

Dear Michael:

I like Apple Pan a bit better than you do, I suspect — a lunch of a Hickoryburger, well-done fries and a cut of pie has never done me wrong. Still, I go to Pasadena’s Pie n’ Burger a lot these days. If the thin-patty, sheaf-of-lettuce, grilled-onion, sweet-pink-sauce school of California crunchburger is your thing, and it is mine, you could hardly do better. And Chronicle Wine, the best-value wine store in the L.A. area, is right next door. The expensive burgers I’m liking these days are the Kobe burger at Cora’s in Santa Monica (soft, squishy, luscious) and the pug burger at Hungry Cat in Hollywood (on a crusty La Brea Bakery French roll, if you like that sort of thing). And of the big-meat school of burgers, Cassell’s in Koreatown is under new ownership but still formidable — especially if you order the massive two-thirds-pound burger dripping rare. Oh, and my favorite wine bar is Lou, on Melrose. The next couple weeks are Biodynamic Wine Fortnight. Because nothing goes better with a Beckmen Syrah than a plate of pig candy.

—Jonathan Gold

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