Thursday, May 30, 2013

Partaking of P.F. Chang's New Summer Menu

P.F. Chang's 
61 Fortune Dr. 
Irvine, CA 92618

My parents absolutely love P.F. Chang's. So, when we were approached with the opportunity to try some of their new Summer menu items, it was an easy choice as to who would be joining us. The Irvine Spectrum location is a test kitchen for P.F. Chang's around the country and the world. We have not been back since our last visit, which you can read here. Sorry for the out of focus pictures and the even worse writing in that review. It's funny how things change in just three short years, not the writing, but at least the pictures look better.

Speaking of changes, this Irvine location recently underwent extensive renovations to the restaurant. I first noticed that the door now faces out into the center, instead of coming in through the side of the restaurant. This gives the restaurant a more inviting feel to it and makes it way more prominent. The inside of this P.F. Chang's is way more open now. They have a large patio in the front of the restaurant, the kitchen is now closed off, and the high ceilings really give this place a bigger feel to it.

We were here over the recent Memorial Day holiday. Meeting at the early dinner hour of 4PM, we had our pick of almost any table in the restaurant. Throughout our stay, the restaurant would have a steady stream of customers, but the restaurant was never more than half full. Most people at the Spectrum were watching one of the big holiday weekend blockbusters at the theater across from the restaurant. P.F. Chang's had plenty of staff on hand at this early dinner hour. Our waitress, Fiona, greeted us warmly and made sure we were well taken care of throughout our stay. She took our order, and this is how it all came out of the kitchen for us.

Okay, not from the kitchen, but new on the Summer menu are two seasonal cocktails. I debated on which one to get, and settled on the Long Island Rum Tea ($9). This refreshing concoction combined Cruzan Mango, Guava, and Aged Light Rums, with a fresh sour mix and a splash of cranberry. I'm not very partial to sweet drinks, but my parents really enjoyed this beverage. I would probably try the Long Island Tequila Tea on my next visit.

With this new Summer menu, P.F. Chang's is getting into the sushi game with these two offerings, the California Roll ($6.95) and a Spicy Tuna Roll ($7.50). For the two people left that do not know what goes into a California roll, it is crab, cucumber, and avocado, held in place by a sesame seed rice. The spicy tuna came with cucumber, daikon sprouts, and the same sesame rice. Predictably, I enjoyed the spicy tuna out of these two rolls. It really did have a pop of flavor, and when I added the Wasabi that was provided, it really got my taste buds going. The California roll was more subdued, but with very fresh ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised by both of these rolls.

As soon as the rolls were done, our food hit the table quick. Up first is another new item, the Korean BBQ Chicken Stir Fry ($13.95). This spicy chicken stir fry came with red peppers, green beans, onions, a kimchi slaw, and a spicy red chili sauce. The sauce was what really made this dish for me. It started off kind of sweet, then when it was about to go down, the heat was released. The veggies were very fresh, the chicken was cooked well, but the sauce used here really got my attention. Not to ruin the rest of this blog post for you, but this was the best dish of the night in my opinion.

Not a new item, but one my Mom requested that we get, the Chang's Spicy Chicken ($13.95). I did not detect too much spice in this, it was more on the sweet side on this visit. This very simple dish takes chicken pieces and stir-fries them in the sweet and spicy sauce. Tender chicken, but a little too plain for my tastes.

Since my Mom got to choose a dish, it was only fair that my Dad gets to choose one also. No surprise to me that he went with the Shrimp with Candied Walnuts ($15.95). His standby dish at P.F. Chang's comes with some pretty good-sized shrimp in a sweet cream sauce, with candied walnuts and honeydew melon balls. The perfect dish for a warm summer day. The sauce could have been a little more prevalent here, but it did its job of coating most of the dish. The earthy taste of the walnuts went well with the sweet taste of the sauce and melon, along with the slight saltiness of the shrimp. Really a well-balanced plate of flavors playing against each other.

Katie also got in on the act of picking plates here, and she wanted to try the Summer Vegetable Quinoa. This interesting looking dish started with the hippest grain of the moment, toasted quinoa, then squash, tomatoes, snow peas, and a sunny side up egg are added. The only one at the table that was feeling this dish was the girl that ordered it, Katie. I did not hate it, but it kind of tasted plain to me. The egg portion was enough to keep me interested for a while, but that did not last. My parents kind of felt the same way that I did about this plate. Not something that they would normally order.

No trip to P.F. Chang's would be complete without an order of their Dan Dan Noodles ($10.95), or as I like to call them, Chinese spaghetti. This pasta dish starts with egg noodles and ground chicken, then scallions, garlic, and chili peppers are added. This is then tossed tableside. A very simple dish, but one that definitely satisfies.

For the most part, we really enjoyed the new Summer menu items at P.F. Chang's. I always like it when a chain restaurant tries to change things up. It gives their customers a chance to experience something new at a place they have probably eaten at numerous times. I am also thankful that we have the P.F. Chang's test kitchen so near us, so we can be the first to try some of their latest creations. The new items were good, but it is still hard to walk into a P.F. Chang's and not order some of our old favorites though. As usual, when we visit P.F. Chang's, we had great service. Fiona really took care of us and was very pleased with her recommendations for the new items. I would also like to thank Emily Finely at Karwoski and Courage PR for letting us know about the new Summer menu at P.F. Chang's. We look forward to trying more of the new Summer items on future visits.

To find out more information about P.F. Chang's, click here to go to their website:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Captivating Night at the Capital Grille

The Capital Grille
3333 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Well we are getting into that time of the year again. It starts in April with my Brother-in-Law's birthday, and it goes all the way through mid June, with my parents anniversary and Father's Day. It seems like every week during this time of the year, we have either someones birthday to celebrate, or it is a national holiday, like Mother's Day, Father's Day, Memorial Day etc. This week it is Katie's turn to be pampered. I was picking her up from work, and we were going to be heading out for a nice dinner. She wanted me to surprise her, so I knew exactly where I was going to be taking her. We headed straight for the Capital Grille.

Capital Grille has been at South Coast Plaza for close to three years now. They took over the upper half of the old Clubhouse restaurant. Their sister restaurant, Seasons 52 now occupies the bottom level of the space. We have only been to Capital Grille for a media event, but that event impressed me enough to put this restaurant on my list of places to try. Capital Grille is pretty big back east, and really trying to win customers steakhouse dollars. They operate in 24 states, and the only other California location is in Los Angeles, at the Beverly Center. This OC location of Capital Grille helps complete what I like to call the Steak Pyramid. I came up with this because within a two block radius, there are two other big power hitters in the world of steakhouses, Maestro's and Morton's. I have not blogged about dinner at either of these, but we will be visiting soon to see who reigns supreme on top of our steak pyramid.

I had made reservations for 6pm on a recent Wednesday night. The dining room at Capital Grille was filled with older customers, all in business attire. More of the same demographic was located in the small bar area as well. There are wine lockers throughout the restaurant. This is a steakhouse, so of course dark colors and muted lighting are to be expected. They also feature large paintings of what our waiter called local OC people. I did not recognize the name of the old time tennis star that was depicted in the painting near our table though. I also forgot to write the name down, as I was going to do. Oh well, we had food to consume, so lets see how everything came out for us.

Staring things off was the bread basket that came to the table shortly after we sat down. I can not remember getting a more diverse bread basket anywhere. This had four kinds of bread, including the naan like creation. I liked the simple poppy seed/sesame roll the best. It was very fresh, and the soft butter that came with this spread over the warmed bread easily. It had a good crunch to the crust, and we could not help but to ask for more of these.

Katie went her usual route, when she started with the Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato, and Basil with 15 Year Aged Balsamic ($13). Capital Grille's version of a Caprese salad was really something special to Katie. They start with at least six different types of tomatoes here as the base. Then the big slices of tomato are added on top of that, with large basil leafs. This gives each bite a hit of the basil. The mozzarella is made every two hours in the kitchen at Capital Grille, so you know you are getting the freshest cheese around. Katie could really tell the difference with this mozzarella. Then the plate is drizzled with the fifteen year old balsamic and olive oil. Katie really thought this was a very generous sized salad, which could have easily fed two people. She liked the variety of the tomatoes on this salad, and would definitely get this salad again.

Since Katie was going with her usual salad choice, I decided that was a green light for me to do the same, so I ordered the Caesar Salad ($10). I had mixed feelings towards this salad. On the positive side, the Parmesan cheese was plentiful and good, while the croutons here were not overly crunchy, and still had a good chew to them. This salad could have used a few more croutons though. The lettuce could have been cut into smaller pieces, and the dressing could have been added more liberally. This salad was not bad, but nothing special either. I'd probably go with the spinach salad or the wedge on my next visit here.

Of course we are in a steak restaurant and the birthday girl orders fish. It's just as well though, because she likes her steak well done, and in these kinds of restaurants I always cringe when she orders it that way. This Parmesan Crusted Sole with Avocado and Crab Salad ($39) made the birthday girl as happy as any piece of over cooked steak ever would. She felt that the fish was light and flaky, without the greasiness she was expecting. The breading did make this dish a little richer than she had thought it would be. Almost overshadowing the fish was the avocado and crab salad. She loved how this simple salad was dressed, the fresh hunks of avocado, and the sweetness from the succulent crab. She loved this salad so much, she suggested that they offer it on their regular menu. Glad this meal made Katie so happy.

I had whittled down my steak choices down to two, then I asked the waiter for his opinion. He told me to go with the Bone-In Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin with Shallot Butter ($46). I was very happy with this steak. This is really a man's steak. I was a little worried that the coffee flavor was going to overpower, but it was a nice compliment to the natural flavor of the beef. This steak was cooked to a perfect medium rare, as you can see in the picture above. Even with the bone, this steak had enough meat to satisfy my big appetite. The shallot butter was a nice, not over the top complimentary sauce here.

As with almost all of the finer steakhouses, side items are not included with the entrees. Both Katie and I chose one side item to share. Her choice was the Lobster Mac and Cheese ($16). This is one of my favorite versions of this dish ever. This dish was predictably rich, but the richness did not overpower. The noodles were cooked quite well, the crumb topping added some texture, and this had bigger hunks of lobster in it than most of the other lobster macs I have had. This is a must get side item when you are at Capital Grille. I really enjoy Creamed Spinach ($10) and the one here really impressed. It's hard to get the consistency right with this side dish, but Capital Grille managed to do it. The spinach was cooked well, and the extra creaminess could be attributed to the addition of a bechamel sauce. We were two for two with our choices for sides here.

I had casually mentioned that it was Katie's birthday to our waiter, and at the end of our meal he brought out  a Creme Brulee for us to share. This creme brulee had a very smooth texture, with a very mild flavor. It was not overly sweet, like some brulee's can be. The berries resting on top of this dessert were very fresh, and I gave my share of these to the birthday girl. See, I can be giving sometimes.

We really enjoyed our visit to Capital Grille. The entrees and sides really shined here. It has been a long while since I have been to a real steakhouse, and it was good to be eating in one again. Due to the prices here, I would classify this restaurant as a special occasion restaurant. One in which you come for birthdays, anniversaries, and when you get a raise at your job. Worth special mention is the service that we got on this night. Our waiter, Shaun, really took great care of us and anticipated our every need. The management team was very hands on, making sure every table was taken care of. Bill came by to check on us twice, and on the third time to our table he wished Katie a happy birthday. It is safe to say that the Capital Grille will now become part of our rotation for family celebrations.

Out of five doughnuts, (because Capital Grille was founded in Providence, Rhode Island, and that city has the most doughnut shops per capita as any other city in the US), five being best to zero being worst, The Capital Grille gets 4 doughnuts.

For more information about The Capital Grille, click here:

The Capital Grille on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rise and Shine, it's Time for Sol's Take on Brunch

Sol Cocina
251 E. Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Yes it is true, another post about Sol Cocina. This just happens to be one of Katie's favorite restaurants, and one that we frequent quite often. Anything to keep the woman happy I guess. I actually do enjoy the food here too. We have been to Sol Cocina for dinner, for a couple of media events, and now we are trying the brunch here. Along with us on this trip are my parents, who are trying Sol for the first time.

Sol Cocina comes to us from Executive Chef and Partner, Deborah Schneider. I have had the pleasure of meeting Chef Deb a few times, and can honestly say that she is as nice, as her food is good, and I love her food. She has written five cookbooks, including the James Beard nominated, "Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta". Her passion for Baja cooking comes from her many trips down the coast, observing the small street stands which offer flavorful and healthy food. Chef Deb has brought what she learned in Mexico across the border, and opened Sol Cocina to help showcase her culinary talents. Now with two locations, (this Newport Beach location, and one in Scottsdale), they have just announced that a new sister restaurant to Sol will be opening at the Bella Terra Center in Huntington Beach. It will be called Solita, and will be a neighborhood-casual restaurant serving items that have bold flavors, while integrating traditional favorites with other more imaginative dishes. I can not wait to see what they come up with when this sister restaurant opens in September. For now though, I was really excited to try the brunch at Sol, so let's see how it turned out for us.

We got to Sol at about 10:30 on a recent Sunday morning. I had made reservations, so we did not have more than a couple of minutes of a wait. We were very lucky to get one of the last tables overlooking the marina. If at all possible, ask to be seated overlooking the water, whether on the outside patio or in the restaurant, with a window seat. It kind of gives the impression of being on vacation. The brunch crowd definitely was a little late in arriving, but by the time we left the restaurant was pretty full. I am usually partial to all you can eat brunches, but this one had a menu to order off of. After ordering from the waitress, this is what came out for us.

I was pretty hungry at this almost lunchtime hour, so I was happy to see that Sol Cocina serves their Taste of Baja, which consists of salt, lime wedges, and hot sauce, along with an addicting bean dip and a salsa that had a mild spice to it. The big round chips did not last too long at our table, as they were being gobbled up by the four of us. I definitely had more than my fair share of that bean dip. So good. The main plates were coming, so I really had to test my willpower to stop eating this bean dip.

If you can avoid being distracted from my Dad's wonderful peach Hawaiian shirt, you will see that he ordered the Crab and Shrimp Cakes Benedicto ($17.50). This unusual take on an eggs Benedict used the shrimp and crab cake as a base, then it was topped with a poached egg and a chipotle-orange hollandaise sauce. It is also served with black beans, a few slices of avocado, and bacon on the side. My Dad really had a hard time putting this away. It was very rich, and I was the willing recipient of what he could not finish. The crab and shrimp cake had a great crunch to it, and the hollandaise sauce was spot on, with a very subtle chipotle flavor to it. The one drawback I would say about this was that the seafood really got pushed to the background in this dish. Not surprising with everything going on here, but I would have liked the crab to play a more prominent role.

Before I had got to Sol, I had looked at the menu and picked out something I would have liked to have ordered. My Mom beat me to this Breakfast Changa ($11.75). This deep fried breakfast burrito came stuffed with scrambled eggs, cheese, bacon, Serrano chilies, cream cheese and onions. It is then topped with pico de gallo, avocado slices, and crema. Again, and not surprisingly, I got to eat what my Mom could not finish of this dish as well. I was really cleaning up here. I thought this changa was going to be a little more fried than it was. I would have liked the tortilla to be a little crisper. The insides of this had some big time flavors going on. The cream cheese kind of melted away, but the creaminess remained. Not something you could eat everyday, but once in a while this would be a welcome treat.

Katie's plate of food really lacked the color of the rest of ours. Maybe I should have had my Dad's peach shirt lurking in the background for this shot as well. Katie went with the Sol Chilaquiles Verde ($11.75). You do have the option to have this with meat added for three dollars more, but Katie declined this option. Pieces of corn tortilla are sauteed in a tomatillo salsa, along with queso fresco, then topped with eggs, crema, cotixa cheese, and onions. Katie felt this was really a well made brunch plate, but the tomatillo salsa was very mild. She has decided that she favors red salsa with chilaquiles. The chips were still crisp, which is very hard to find in a chilaquiles. She would probably get something else on future brunch visits here.

Since my Mom got the changa, I selected my second choice, the Papas Papi ($12.50). This started with a bunch of thick cut red potatoes and onions, then melted cheese on top of that, then a whole mess of items; Serrano chilies, crema, chorizo, bacon, pico de gallo, green onions, and then topped with three fried eggs. The base of this version of a breakfast skillet was very good and flavorful. I, of course would have liked even more chorizo and bacon, but I made due with what was given to me. I liked the flavors here, but this really needed more cheese. I should have also asked for the eggs to have runny yolks. That's my new thing, I have grown very fond of a runny yolk at breakfast. This was a very filling plate of food, and kept me full until dinner time.

I liked the brunch at Sol Cocina, but it still is not as good as the dinners here. The brunch was good, but nothing really rocked my world on this visit. After eating my food, and some of my parents, I was definitely very full. The food had a great flavor, but I might have been expecting more because I am so fond of the lunch and dinners here. The atmosphere for brunch can not be beat though. The great view, the laid back vibe, and the wonderful service really made this visit for me. My Mom took advantage of the $10 Bottomless Mimosa, and our waitress Donna was right on top of it every time the glass was nearing empty. My Dad had the Sol Bloody Mary ($8) and made very quick work of it. We all agreed that we would definitely come back for brunch, and eating here really got my parents excited to try their dinners in the near future. A return trip that both Katie and I are always up for.

Out of five soccer balls, (because the former women's professional soccer team based in LA, was called the Los Angeles Sol), five being best to zero being worst, Sol Cocina gets 3 soccer balls.

For more information about Sol Cocina, go to their web site here:

Sol Cocina on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Little Bit of Texas in the Shadow of the Hollywood Sign

Bludso's Bar-and -Que
609 N. La Brea Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036

To wrap up our day trip up the 5 Freeway, both Katie and I wanted to have some dinner. We had crammed two restaurants into our six-hour LA adventure so far, so neither of us was overly hungry when we decided it was time to hit the third restaurant for dinner. Before we had left the house, I had mapped out where I had wanted to eat. The third, and final restaurant I wanted to try was Bludso's Bar and Que.

Bludso's has been on my list of places to try forever. In fact, it was number four out of the over 70 restaurants that we have on our list of restaurants to try. I got this suggestion way back in 2009, when a reader of the blog, Joe C., had told me that I needed to try Bludso's in Compton. Compton is a little out of the way for us, but I was surprised and happy to learn that Bludso's had opened another location in the West Hollywood area of LA. This was way more convenient, as we were up this way running a Mother's Day errand and playing tourist.

Bludso's serves Texas-style barbecue. I love all kinds of barbecue, but Texas style is my favorite. This kind of barbecue is characterized by having the sauce on the side, or none at all. I really like having the option of trying the meat without sauce first, then using my desired amount of sauce. The man behind this restaurant is Kevin Bludso, who comes from a long line of barbecue masters. Using the barbecuing techniques of his great-great-grandfather, and the recipes of his grandmother, he has amassed a cult-like following in Southern California for his fantastic barbecue. Over 750 reviews on Yelp and nearly 700 of those gave 4 or 5 stars to this restaurant. To say that I was excited to try this barbecue would be an understatement.

We got to the restaurant just before seven on a Saturday night. There is no parking lot here, they offer valet parking, but we found a spot on the street pretty close to the restaurant. As soon as we walked in the front door, we got hit with the sweet smell of barbecue. I was surprised there was no wait, and we were ushered to a table near the back of the large one-roomed restaurant. The openness of the restaurant is heightened by the lack of decor on the walls, which have large, flat screened TVs hanging on them, showing the latest sporting events. This restaurant can best be described as comfortable. Large wooden tables really allowed the two of us to spread out. My eye was immediately drawn to the window that allows customers to take a peek inside the kitchen.

We were greeted promptly by a waiter that gave us our menu, which really just amounted to an order sheet. You check off any of the six kinds of meat and the quantity that you want, along with the seven side items offered. Very simple ordering process. If you are with a large group they have an option called The Tray ($85), which gets you everything on the menu. I saw a couple of tables of six get this, and they had enough to bring home. Unfortunately, Katie and I did not have a large group with us, so we only ordered three kinds of meats, and two sides. Let's see if this place can live up to the hype.

Here's a quick shot of the tray that came our way. Our food came out pretty quick, maybe about ten minutes, if that. Let's take a closer look at the three types of meat that made up our meal.

Starting with the Half Pound of Brisket ($11). Quite simply, one of the best briskets I have had. The first bite really highlighted the smokiness of the meat. The only way I can imagine someone not liking this is if they are sensitive to smokiness in their meats. The brisket itself was very tender, with a great flavor. There was just a small amount of fat on some slices, which definitely gave this meat even more flavor. Wow, is all I can say.

I was a little skeptical ordering pork in a Texas barbecue joint because they are more known for their beef, but this Half Rack of Pork Ribs ($14) has helped change my mind about that. If the brisket was the best I have had, these are definitely the best ribs I have had in Southern California. The meat was very tender, with just enough pull to it. The smokiness was very evident here as well. Each rib had lots of meat on it, with not a bad one in the batch. I guess this is a good time to mention the barbecue sauces here. They, of course, are served on the side, a sweeter one and a spicy one. I, of course, was more partial to the spicier version, but the sweeter sauce was fine as well. Both sauces coated the meats nicely while allowing the flavor of the meats to still be front and center.

I am usually against getting chicken in restaurants because most of the time they are overcooked and dry. This was not the case with the Half Chicken ($9) at Bludso's. This chicken, like the other meats, had a great smoky flavor while being very tender. When I had this the next day for lunch, people were raving about the smell of this chicken in my break room at work. I was stingy though and did not share with anyone though.

We only selected two of the sides to try, because we knew we would be stuffed by this point. The Regular Size of the Baked Beans ($4) really woke up my taste buds. This had a real kick to it, without being overpowering. The beans were cooked well, there were little bits of meat in here, and the consistency was just on the verge of becoming too soupy, but did not cross that line. The Regular Size of the Mac and Cheese ($5) was good, but not great. They really went easy on the cheese with this version. After a few bites this, it kind of got boring. Since they do not have sandwiches on the menu, I guess they provide the white bread if you would like to make an impromptu sandwich.

Even though we were full, there was just enough room for Banana Pudding ($5). This classic dessert came with two Nilla Wafers wedged into the pudding. The banana flavor was very subtle here, but the texture of the pudding was smooth. A very nice dessert, which did a great job of complimenting the savory meats.

If you have not read any of the above and only looked at the pictures to this point, you are probably not aware of how much I loved this restaurant. No beating around the bush here, I am ready to declare this the best barbecue restaurant in Southern California. It is that good. Even though it has been three weeks since we have been to Bludso's, I still find myself thinking about the meats here. Each one blew all other barbecue places we have had in California away. This is real-deal barbecue that could easily be served in any barbecue rich state in the nation. It's hard for me to pick out something I did not like here, but if pressed, I would say it is the lack of sandwiches on the menu. Any of the meats here would go great made into a sandwich. The service was good for us on this night. The food came out nice and quick, and we really had no other issues. Glad we could find time to fit Bludso's into our LA day. Now we just have to make up more excuses to come back this way again soon.

Out of five pecan trees, (the official state tree of the state of Texas, and because this barbecue is good enough to be served in the Lone Star State), five being best to zero being worst, Bludso's Bar-and-Que gets 4.5 pecan trees.

For more information on Bludso's Bar-and-Que, click here:

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Finding All the Good Things that the Golden State Has to Offer

The Golden State
426 N. Fairfax
Los Angeles, CA 90036

After walking and shopping through the Grove and the Farmer's Market, we were ready to take a load off and sit for awhile. I had really grown quite an appetite. Bucking the stereotype that people do not walk in LA, we took a short walk up Fairfax to a restaurant that had recently appeared on Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives. I know there is not a lot of love for the host of the show, Guy Fieri, in foodie circles, but I always enjoy going to restaurants that have been featured on the show. Sure some of them have not been so good, but at others we have had some really memorable meals. I was really hoping that this was going to be one of the more memorable restaurants we have been to.

As stated on their own website, Golden State's philosophy is to showcase local makers of food and drink. They are trying to feature everything that makes California so great. I like this philosophy, because I am really proud to be from California, and I know that our products really kick ass. After reading other people's reviews of this restaurant, I was even more excited to try Golden State. Most of the on-line reviews called the burger here one of the best in LA, and Golden State gets a lot of love from Yelpers, with tons of four and five star reviews.

We arrived at Golden State at about half past three on a Saturday afternoon. Kind of between lunch and dinner time. This restaurant, which is right across the street from the iconic Canter's, had a steady stream of customers even at this odd dining hour. Golden State is not a very large restaurant. They have about ten or so tables. The vibe here is kind of on the hipster side, without the douchiness. The brick walls feature some cool paintings, the high ceilings give the restaurant an openness to it, and the laid back aura of the guys behind the counter were all parts of the atmosphere here. The menu is not overly huge. It is highlighted by a number of sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads. They also have rotating offerings of local craft beers, along with other unique non-alcoholic beverage choices. Ordering is done at the counter, and then the food is brought out to you. We placed our order, and this is what hit our table.

Before we get to the burger at The Golden State, Katie opted to get the Tuna Sandwich ($10). This sandwich was made up of tuna salad, lettuce, tomato, and aioli. Katie really liked this sandwich a lot. The tuna was very fresh and seasoned nicely, the aioli did not hijack the sandwich like she thought it would, but the big winner for her with this sandwich was the bread. It had a soft crunch to it, and really held up to the contents inside of the sandwich. One of the better tuna sandwiches Katie has had. With each sandwich you get to choose one side item, which she went with the Golden State Potato Salad. This very good potato salad was made of red potatoes, mayonnaise, chives, egg, mustard and shallots. The potatoes were left in big hunks, and the salad was very moist, without being too soupy. This was one of the better potato salads we have had in a restaurant. The mustard really did not overpower, and the consistency of this salad was spot on.

Now on to the real reason we were here, The Burger ($12). At Golden State they use Harris Ranch beef, the white cheddar cheese comes from Fiscalini Farms, the burger is then topped with apple wood smoked bacon, arugula, aioli, and ketchup. This burger was very well made to start with. The brioche bun was fantastic. Great job supporting the burger, while not being too bready. The insides were more subdued than I had imagined. The beef was cooked perfectly to a wonderful medium rare. There was far too much arugula on this burger, which I easily pulled off, and could have made another salad with. The bacon kind of got lost here, as it was overpowered by the very good cheese. The condiments were used sparingly, but I remedied this by adding extra of the awesome curry ketchup. For my choice of side I had the Jalapeno Cabbage Slaw. This unique slaw combined shredded cabbage, jalapenos, carrots, and a red wine vinaigrette. It was a tad on the dry side when I started to eat this, but the dressing must have settled to the bottom, because as I ate it I got more and more dressing. The heat from the jalapenos really woke up my taste buds, and the crunch of the produce provided a good texture.

I really enjoyed the food at The Golden State. Is this the best burger I have ever had? No, but it is a very well put together burger, and it kind of reminded me of a bigger version of a burger that you could get at Umami Burger. They definitely use great ingredients here. Everything was very fresh, and I really liked the little twists that they used to make everything their own. If I lived in the area I would definitely place The Golden State into my rotation of restaurants that I would frequent. Well worth the block and a half walk from the Farmer's Market.

Out of five saber toothed cats, (because that is the state fossil of California, and one of the most abundant sources of saber toothed cat fossils found is just down the street from this restaurant at the La Brea Tar Pits), five being best to zero being worst, The Golden State gets 3.5 saber toothed cats.

For more information about The Golden State, click here:

The Golden State on Urbanspoon