Take Two

News and culture through the lens of Southern California. Hosted by Alex Cohen & A Martínez

National Hamburger Day: VaKA Burger has the best burger in SoCal

by A Martínez and Jacob Margolis | Take Two

The Vaka Burger: A grass-fed patty, muenster cheese, bacon jam, a tempura battered onion ring and homemade BBQ sauce, all on a brioche bun. Jacob Margolis

The people have spoken! For National Hamburger Day, and in honor of the most American of treats, we asked you to tell us where to find the best hamburger in Southern California. 

VaKA Burger won! 

Unsurprisingly, Umami Burger and In-N-Out were near the top, but it was a newcomer to the SoCal burger scene that won. Chef Aaron J. Perez's VaKA Burger concept, in northeast LA's Glassell Park neighborhood, is only four months old, but it still managed to take the top prize. 

The kitchen is small — maybe 10-square feet — and the restaurant has only a handful of seats outside, but Chef Perez says that people have been lining up around the block to eat his freshly ground grass-fed burgers. Maybe that's because everything is home made. From the BBQ sauce to the bacon jam to the ketchup.

Chef Perez's Recipes

The Truffle Burger

  • 6 oz. Burger Blend (ring mold)
  • 2 slices Fontina cheese
  • 2 tablespoons stout onions (see recipe)
  • 2 tablespoon Garlic Aioli
  • ¼ cup baby rocket arugula

Directions:

Ring mold 6oz. signature blend and season with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper generously Heat flat top and ladle clarified butter, and place burger on heat and sear good to create caramelization on both sides of patty, finish off in oven. Depending on cooking temperature of patty, 1 minute before taking burger add slice of Fontina and allow to melt.

Toast bun on all sides, coat top bun with clarified butter. Take of heat, and add house made signature garlic aioli (bottom bun). Top with cooked burger patty, add stout onions, truffle oil, and baby rocket arugula.

Stout Onions

  • 5 Large sweet onions
  • 1 cup Old Rasputin beer
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper

Directions:

Thinly slice onions on a mandoline. Heat a large pot on a large pot, and add salt to boiling water. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes until translucent (stir sides to get brown bits cooked). Bring up heat and pour in 1st ½ cup of beer and reduce completely. Add other ½ cup and reduce completely. Add 2nd ½ cup of beer and reduce. Taste adjust seasoning as needed.  

Bacon Jam:

1 pound thin very-smoky bacon (you can always add a drop or so liquid smoke
if bacon isn't smoky enough!)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2-5 drops of Tabasco sauce (more or less to taste) (regular or Chipotle style)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 tsp. coarse salt

Directions:

Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and put into large cold Dutch oven or large pot. Over medium heat, cook bacon until a lot of the fat has rendered and the bacon is starting to brown. Using slotted spoon, removed bacon to drain on some paper towel and pour off all but 1/4 cup of the bacon fat-you may reserve the remaining bacon fat to brush on the outside of the Panini sandwiches.

Add the onions and garlic and sautee in the bacon fat until it is translucent.

Add bacon back to the Dutch oven and all other ingredients. Bring to simmer and then lower heat and continue to simmer uncovered for an hour or until thick and jam-like, stirring occasionally.

Allow the jam to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to food processor. Pulse the mixture 8-10 times or until it reaches your desired texture. Put into a jar and allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate.  

Thanks for answering our social media poll!

 

 

With digital and social media contributions by Michelle Lanz

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