If you, as a restaurant, are going to call yourself great, as the Great Steak and Potato Company does, you had better be truly great. If not, you are opening yourself up for a slew of invited criticism. As an optimist, I figured the place was worth a try, if for no other reason than I had pretty much exhausted the options at Burbank’s Empire Center.
I wasn’t expecting a fancy steak dinner joint, so when I walked in and found it to be a predominantly cheesesteak and fries joint, I was pretty happy. I cannot claim to be a cheesesteak expert, since I’ve never had one in Philly, but I feel as thought I’ve tried enough to say what a good one should taste like. I ordered their Original Philly Cheesesteak, which was offered at a discounted price, without the onions (it was only cheese, onions and steak), then ordered their Coney Island Fries, which were topped with chili and cheese.
My story of breakfast from Corner Cottage in Burbank is one of blind trust and bacon. My morning started out like any other when I received one of the greatest text messages of my life. It read:
“Hey Zack. I’m going to pick up a burrito from Corner Cottage this morning. Want one? Bacon, sausage or even double bacon is really good.”
It came from one of my coworkers and my response was a “Hell yeah!” followed by a request for double bacon and to avoid all vegetables. Like most well-informed and educated people in the world, he was aware of my meat blog and disdain for vegetables, but I still had to make the request.
Walking into Hook Burger in Burbank, I had the odd suspicion that I had walked into some grown-up version of Habit Burger. It wasn’t until I got home and looked up the place for this review that I realized just how right I was. Hook Burger is quite literally a grown-up Habit Burger, started by the same guys, but featuring more of a fast-casual concept that also includes booze. And the use of the word “hook” is a clear reference to hookers, which are totally a grown-up thing as well.
Smokehouse in Burbank is old school Hollywood. Opened in 1946, it’s the kind of place you could picture Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman or Audrey Hepburn eating a steak. New Hollywood has embraced it as well, and apparently it is a regular stomping ground for George Clooney. I don’t fit into old or new Hollywood, but Smokehouse is a steakhouse and I certainly fit into that crowd.
LA is a huge place and just when I think I know all I need to, it hits me with a surprise. Sometimes that surprise is unwanted, like closing a lane on the highway that I take to work every day. But more often, it is a pleasant surprise like Handy Market. This local market in Burbank has all the looks of any regular, old-fashioned grocer, but if you head to the back, that all changes. Back there is one of LA’s best-kept secrets, a meaty sandwich lover’s dream.
But first, I want to say that this place reminded me on many levels of another meat paradise called Superior Meats in Wisconsin. Whether it was the grill out front that supposedly is used in full force over the weekends, the friendliness of the staff, the selection of meats or the prices, I kept seeing signs of Wisconsin and the simpler life everywhere I turned.
There’s something about a gimmick that alienates people. You go to Hooters and while they have good wings, a small part of you feels dirty because it was a gimmick that brought you in in the first place. Many times I drove by Tinhorn Flats in Burbank and wrote it off because it looked like an Old Western saloon, which to me screams out gimmick. Little did I know that Tinhorn had been around since 1939, which makes it one of the oldest things in LA. If it was simply a gimmick, it never would have lasted these 70+ years. So when my coworker encouraged me to check it out, I roped in the troops at work to head east on Magnolia – straight for the Old West.
Up in Burbank is a classic-looking hot dog shack called Larry’s Chili Dog. They have an awesome neon sign that looks like it was built in the 1970s at the earliest, but likely goes back even further. The true age of the joint is bit difficult to ascertain, for while another, smaller sign says “SERVING BURBANK FOR OVER ’50 YEARS,'” I’m not really sure what 50 years amounts to when you put them in quotes. Whatever the case, this place was definitely old and old school.
While LA may not have a signature food (the closest it gets is either Asian fusion or burgers), it has a hell of a lot of options for immigrants who miss the signature food of their homeland, be it Chicago Pizza or Detroit Coney Dogs. The Philly Cheese Steak is no exception, with plenty of places offering their “authentic” version. I don’t claim to be an expert on the cheese steak (only been to Philly once, during a massive blizzard), but the sandwich has always been a dear friend of mine. After all, what can go wrong when meat and cheese mix? Don’t answer that if you’re one of them Kosher people. South Street in Burbank has been bringing Philly toLA for a few years, so I thought I would see how they measure up.
In secret corners of Los Angeles, there are places that just scream, “Old Hollywood.” You know, the Hollywood before organic Whole Foods soy milk took over, when hot dogs were chock-full of nitrates and the only conceivable burger was of the “ham” variety. Vestiges of this near-forgotten time still exist, as proven by Irv’s Burgers, which I visited a few months ago. But Irv’s is not alone, as I recently discovered a similarly classic-looking place called Papoo’s Hot Dog Show in Toluca Lake.
Long before there was a Disney movie called Pinocchio, there was a classic Italian story featuring that classic wooden toy. Pinocchio’s (no relation) in Burbank is much more about those Italian roots than it is about the Disney story. And although that Disney classic has stood the test of time, there is one thing it certainly cannot do – feed you. That’s where Pinocchio’s comes in.