Monday, January 21, 2013

The Counter (Los Angeles)

Living in LA for a couple months now has altered my eating habits to align with the healthy culture that is Southern California. From fruit smoothies to fish tacos my daily intake has become much healthier than what it used to be. Right now I am actually flirting with the idea of being a vegan for a couple of weeks to see what it feels like. 

But every once and a while I reflect on how liberal I was with what I put in my body and immediately want to return. Resisting this urge is very difficult and doesn't help when your friend asks you to go to The Counter, a burger restaurant that allows you to fully build and customize your burger. 

The Counter is a chain restaurant centered on the premise of allowing customers to have it their way. I found out about this place the same way I do with most restaurants I try by sifting through Yelp. When I looked through the first couple of pictures and saw a burger that was the size of a car battery I immediately decided to bookmark this spot to try. After consulting with a few friends who had visited in the past I decided to set up a date to try it myself. 

I visited to their Santa Monica location on a Friday night with a friend who had been a couple of times. Like most chain restaurants the atmosphere was a mix of a bar and family friendly dining hall. Once seated we were both given clip boards with the menu on them. You have one of two choices, you can take the safe route and order one of their menu burgers or be daring and make your own from scratch. 

(Parmesan French Fries) 

I started building my masterpiece while nibbling on some parmesan french fries I ordered to start with. While Scanning the bevy of options over and over again an insatiable fever of hunger began to grow within me. I channeled my inner Ron Swanson to exuberant levels and set out to craft a burger that symbolizes everything that is great about America. 

I started with a 1 pound beef patty which is the biggest they had to offer on a regular bun. I then added apple wood smoked bacon and a fried egg to make it a multi-anmial burger. I was in the mood for spice so I added jalapenos and hot wing sauce on the side. I thought about incorporating some fresh aspects of the food pyramid but decided to pass because they would just take up space. I topped it all off with a couple of slices of sharp cheddar to give it components of a classic bacon cheeseburger. 

(My Amurica Burger)

Surprisingly it did not take too long for my burger to come out and once it did I stared in awe. Once it was set before my eyes I took my knife and pierced it square in the middle declaring it the meat lovers Amurica burger. I teetered off my power trip and sliced the burger in half knowing full well I could only eat half of it. I thoroughly enjoyed devouring the half pound of meat heaven, the patty was seasoned well and cooked medium rare per my request, the spice level was adequate and the egg wrapped the whole meal up. 

In conclusion I can say that The Counter serves a respectable burger. While I will not go out on a limb and say that it is in the upper echelon of burger joints that I have tried they do a good job at serving you a burger however you please. Prices vary depending on whether you order one of their menu burgers or a custom burger. I paid around $25 for my burger, fries and a beer so it is not cheap. I can't wait to try it again to see what crazy combination my mind thinks up of next. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bay Cities Italian Bakery & Deli (Santa Monica)

Of all the things I could ask for when it comes to food, nothing trumps a dependable deli/sandwich shop. While New York will always and forever be king in this department the District provided some solid options to satisfy my need. When I moved to Santa Monica I did not have the same level of excitement. But this negative sentiment quickly dissolved when my friend Davaish from NYC came to visit. 

Once he got settled in my place we went for a quick drink to catch up on the times. During once of his ADHD laced run on sentences he thought out loud and reminded himself of a renowned deli in Santa Monica called Bay Cities. He asked me if I had tried it yet, too embarrassed to tell him I was unaware of it I lied by nonchalantly replying no. To my defense I had only been there 2 months at the time so I think I can be cut some slack. 

With both of us being foodies we decided to visit the next morning in hopes of having a good sandwich and cup of coffee to start off a long day of photographing the city. Our plans were shattered when we drove past the restaurant only to see a closed sign staring us straight in the eyes. We both failed to look up the house prior to going so we were unaware that they are closed on Mondays. It was a shame because that was Davaish's last day in LA so we were unable to compare and contrast our thoughts on their food.

After my two uncharacteristic gaffs I found it imperative to fully verse myself on the history of this establishment before I tried it. My research found that it opened in 1925 and has since served millions upon millions of customers coming to try what is said to be one of the best sandwiches in LA. Its fame and popularity have made Bay Cities a city wide attraction.

(The Godmother)

Once you enter you are greeted with a chaotic ballet of both locals and tourists perusing the deli, ordering sandwiches or shopping for groceries. I decided to enter this circus for lunch to try their most famous sandwich called The Godmother. A play on a classic Italian cold cut this sandwich is a love affair for most residents who praise it left and right. I decided to go a bit after the usual lunch rush to avoid the long lines, I also ordered online to avoid any other lines if there happened to be any. 

With sandwich in hand I walked outside and found a table to sit and enjoy this sandwich in the unbeatable weather that Southern California has to offer. Like any meal I blog about I try to do some research beforehand to see how my opinion relates or differs from the consensus. After my first couple of bites I could agree with a handful of customers who say that the bread is tough, I myself will go a bit further and say that you could purchase this loaf and use it as a club of hammer. The ingredients themselves were good but to go so far to say that this is the best sandwich in LA is a stretch for me. My overall impression after my first visit was disappointing which I relayed to my friend back in NYC.

(Roast Beef & Cheddar) 

I returned a week later to purchase a different sandwich and give this deli another shot. While I was walking there I debated on whether to have a roast beef or pastrami sandwich. I ended up choosing the former on the count that I only like pastrami warm and was not in the mood for a warm sub at the time. With it being winter now I decided to pass on basking in the 55 degree sunshine, instead I enjoyed my sandwich in the confines of my office nearby. While I did enjoy this sandwich a bit more that The Godmother I still found the bread to be a major issue.

All in all Bay Cities Italian Bakery and Deli is a solid option but does not come close to living up to the hype. Most of the time this place is a zoo so I would advise going during odd times, I myself do this because it spares the ache of sifting through the chaos and waiting in line. It is pricy for a deli but that comes with the territory of being in Santa Monica. I end my post with a piece of advice, if you are like this elderly lady that advised me to get The Godmother because "it is the best sandwich she has ever had!", please visit NYC.