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Insights, tips, and restaurant reports from CHOW editors and Chowhound.

Hamburger Toppings with a Twist

The Twisted Burger plays it straight with the meat, turning out a solid, classic hamburger, says Quetzal. The twists are in the thirty-plus toppings. Two popular choices are the Vermonter (Vermont cheddar and grilled apple) and the Blue Pig (bacon and blue cheese). Some others: the Honolulu (fried pineapple and white American cheese), Secretariat (horseradish, cheese, sauteed onion), and the Break Up (raw onion and Limburger). Chicken sandwiches come with the same toppings. Hot dogs are also unique and good, done in a hollowed-out roll that almost completely encases the frank and fixings (a shorter and more conventional lineup of cheeses, chili, bacon, etc.).

In Hell’s Kitchen, restaurant and caterer Mitchel London has pared its cafe menu down to just two items, hence the new name: Burgers and Cupcakes. Cheeseburgers are spectacular, says Felixnot (they come with American, cheddar, Swiss, blue, pepper jack, or goat), but fries are even better–fresh cut, nicely salted, very crispy.

On the Upper West Side, Nice Matin remains a dependable spot for the satisfyingly messy bistro-style creation dubbed the Five Napkin Burger: 10 ounces of beef with sauteed onion, aioli, and compte cheese, says JoanN. Great fries, too.

The Twisted Burger [East Village]
430 E. 14th St., between 1st Ave. and Ave. A, Manhattan
877-989-4783
Locater

Burgers and Cupcakes [Clinton]
formerly Mitchel London Foods
458 9th Ave., between W. 35th and 36th Sts., Manhattan
212-643-1200
Locater

Nice Matin [Upper West Side]
201 W. 79th St., at Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan
212-873-6423
Locater

Board Links
Best UWS Burger?
Burgers and Cupcakes —Mitchel London’s new place
Best fries around?
Twisted Burger–Anyone tried it?

The Dumpling Manifesto

Writer Tim Wu furiously attacked lousy dumplings in Slate yesterday—and good on him for doing so.

In his amply researched and incredibly passionate essay, Wu singles out the qualities of both good and heretical specimens of the dumpling species. He also relates a story of how his borderline-psychotic dedication to high-quality dumplings almost got him arrested at a pan-Asian place that had the temerity to disrespect the ideal form of the food.

Flipping out on the management is not good form, but there’s something misguidedly admirable about a foodie serious enough to raise Cain. And like all good critics, Wu doesn’t just sling mud; he also sings praises. Here’s his description of the lowly dumpling’s majestic potential:

The most decadent dumplings come, unsurprisingly, from Hong Kong. Recently, I sampled the ‘yellow-river crab supreme dumpling,’ the equivalent of Manhattan’s $32 hamburger. Available only in May and June, the dumpling is made in front of you from female crabs whose eggs have been mixed with meat. When consumed, they create a flavor explosion comparable to good foie gras.


In a word: damn.

Super Fried Fish at Brooklyn’s Liman

The Turkish seafood house Liman is best known for simple, beautifully grilled fish, but its fried stuff also kills. If St. Peter’s Fish (more commonly, tilapia) is on the menu, get it–and ask for it deep-fried in garlic oil. Best dish in the house, swears mysaltandpepper.

Liman Restaurant [Sheepshead Bay]
2710 Emmons Ave., between E. 27th and 28th Sts., Brooklyn
718-769-3322
Locater

Board Links
Need help identifying a Turkish restaurant

Sizzlingly Great Steak Sandwiches

Musso & Frank has a killer open-faced steak sandwich on its menu with an equally killer price of $27.

For a more modest $11, Nook Bistro’s ancho-rubbed flat iron steak sandwich with grilled onions sizzles.

Pete’s Cafe’s fantastic steak sandwich is made with marinated rib eye steak, baby arugula, caramelized onions, and tomatoes with horseradish aioli on a toasted baguette.

The Shore House Cafe’s has an excellent open-faced rib eye steak sandwich, says obscuro2006; it’s about $13, including french fries and veggies.

Houston’s prime rib sandwich is wicked good, russkar raves.

Musso & Frank Grill [Hollywood]
6667 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
323-467-7788
Locater

Nook Bistro [Beaches]
11628 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-207-5160
Locater

Pete’s Cafe & Bar [Downtown]
400 S. Main St., Los Angeles
213-617-1000
Locater

Shore House Cafe [South Bay]
5271 E. 2nd St., Long Beach
562-433-2266
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Century City]
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-557-1285
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
202 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-576-7558
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
1550 Rosecrans Ave. # A, Manhattan Beach
310-643-7211
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
320 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena
626-577-6001
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [South OC]
2991 Michelson Dr., Irvine
949-833-0977
Locater

Board Links
Steak sandwich?

No Hassle Burgers on the Westside

Where can you go for an fantastic sit-down burger at peak hours without the hassle of a big crowd?

Arsenal makes a pretty damn good Kobe beef burger, wilafur declares.

The Shack makes a really good cheeseburger that’s more like what your uncle would grill up at a BBQ than what you find at the high-end burger bistros, sumo10 says. Their signature burger comes topped with a Louisiana hot-link or a Portuguese sausage.

Houston’s California burger is a very juicy burger that’s worth the rather high price, says ThatPat. 26 Beach makes a very good burger, too.

George Petrelli’s Steak House makes a great burger. For a chain restaurant, Islands has good burgers (check out their Hawaiian burger). Beechwoods does an awesome burger. And don’t miss the French flair of the burger and frites at Nook Bistro.

Avoid the weirdly topped burgers at Izzy’s Deli and stick with the regular cheeseburger and fries, Xericx warns.

The bar at the Gardens on Glendon makes a superior blue cheese burger on sourdough.

Get a burger cooked rare at San Francisco Saloon; it’s never crowded, always good, mollyomormon raves.

It might seem lame to some, but the Apple Pan’s hickory burger is worth checking out, jessiebelle insists.

If you’re more of a backyard BBQ warrior, Trader Joe’s aged steak burgers are amazing, Cinnamon adds.

Arsenal Bar [Midtown]
12012 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
310-575-5511
Locater

Shack Restaurant Santa Monica [Beaches]
2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-449-1171
Locater

Shack [Beaches]
185 Culver Blvd., Playa Del Rey
310-823-6222
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Century City]
10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-557-1285
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
202 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-576-7558
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Beaches]
1550 Rosecrans Ave. # A, Manhattan Beach
310-643-7211
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [Pasadena-ish]
320 S. Arroyo Pkwy., Pasadena
626-577-6001
Locater

Houston’s Restaurant [South OC]
2991 Michelson Dr., Irvine
949-833-0977
Locater

26 Beach Cafe [Beaches]
3100 Washington Blvd., Marina Del Rey
310-823-7526
Locater

George Petrelli’s Steak House [Culver City-ish]
5615 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City
310-397-1438
Locater

Islands [Citywide]

Beechwood Restaurant [Beaches]
822 West Washington Blvd., at Abbot Kinney, Venice
310-448-8884
Locater

Nook Bistro [Beaches]
11628 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles
310-207-5160
Locater

Izzy’s Deli [Beaches]
1433 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
310-394-1131
Locater

Gardens On Glendon [Wealthy Westlands]
1139 Glendon Ave., Los Angeles
310-824-1818
Locater

San Francisco Saloon Co [West LA]
11501 W. Pico Blvd., Gateway, Los Angeles
310-478-0152
Locater

Apple Pan [Wealthy Westlands]
10801 W Pico Blvd, at Westwood, Los Angeles
310-475-3585
Locater

Board Links
ISO Best non-Hassle Westside Burger

Honey Curry Burritos

The special burrito menu at Hot Shop is exciting, though perhaps offensive to sticklers for authenticity. But sticklers for authenticity probably wouldn’t be reading a Chow Digest entry called “Honey Curry Burritos,” now would they? So go get some of their awesome Afghan style burritos, urges Agent 510. The Tropical features meat (tender chicken or lamb) marinated in garlic and lime sauce, served with rice and black beans cooked with oregano, says Sophia C.. There are awesomely weird burritos, like honey curry or artichoke. It’s like what you’d get at a silly fusion wrap place, but executed with soul. And it’s cheaper, says lmnopm.

All the meat is halal.

Hot Shop [East Bay]
909 San Pablo Avenue, Albany
510-528-9011
Locater

Board Links
Hot Shop, Albany

The 22nd Best Ramen In Town

There’s a new upstart in the much-contested 22nd-place spot on Melanie Wong’s rankings of ramen for the Bay Area. Kumako specializes in New York-style ramen, using a lighter and spicier stock than what you might be used to. Of the many broth options, the chef recommends miso, tonkotsu (pork bone), and shoyu (soy sauce).

The tonkotsu stock is milky-colored, much lighter and less greasy than other Hakata-style stocks in the area, and guaranteed not to put you into a lard coma. It’s spiced with garlic, a healthy dose of ginger, a whiff of anise, and much less salt than most ramen. $6.90 gets you a bowl with thick cut, tasty char shu, fermented bamboo shoots, nori, and bean sprouts, and, unfortunately, softish, gummy noodles. The only optional topping is extra char siu, but the deliciously roasted pork may be the best thing about the place–“it kinda blew my mind,” says kewlio.

Kumako [South Bay]
211 E. Jackson St., San Jose
408-286-2111
Locater

Board Links
New York Style Ramen @ Kumako in San Jose

Chocolate Malted Cake

This chocolate malted cake is Divamac’s favorite–she says it tastes just like a giant Whopper!

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup malted milk powder
3/4 cup (packed) cocoa powder
4 eggs
2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups half and half

Chocolate Malted Frosting–recipe below

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add malted milk powder and cocoa and beat just until mixed in. Add eggs and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients and add to chocolate mixture alternately with half and half. Spread evenly in a well-greased 9×13” pan, and bake 35-40 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan completely before frosting with chocolate malted frosting.

Chocolate Malted Frosting

1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup malted milk powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Stir together half and half and malted milk powder and let stand 15 minutes to dissolve the powder. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and cocoa. Add malted milk mixture and beat well. Add powdered sugar and beat on high until fully combined.

Board Links
RECIPE: Chocolate Malt Cake

Pizza Reheating Tip

If you like your pizza crust crisp and its top gooey, then don’t reheat your slices in the even. Yes, Virginia, even if you have a pizza stone, skip the oven, says Chas. Instead, put them in a non-stick frying pan over very low heat. Cover the pan and check it every couple of minutes until the top is melted and hot. At that point, the crust should be nice and crisp.

Board Links
Best way to reheat pizza…?

Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa nibs are the very essence of chocolate. They’re shelled, roasted cocoa beans that have been ground into little bits. You can use them in baking where you’d use nuts, to add a bit of cocoa-intense crunchiness. They’re particularly wonderful in brownies.

In this recipe they’re used in a salad

They’re a fabulous addition to banana bread, says Brandon Nelson.

The Chocolate Factory carries nibs, as does Scharffen Berger.

They’ve been spotted at Williams-Sonoma, too.

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what to do with cocoa nibs