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Plate 38: First Visit, New #1 Burger!

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Okay, this may be a bit too much to settle on the basis of one visit, but I swear to you that the American Classic Burger I had for lunch at Plate 38 on Saturday was the best burger I've had in LA County. It was not the biggest by any means, and it was just one pinch too salty for perfection, but the balance of all its parts could hardly be bettered. The brioche bun had exactly the right texture, flavor and firmness; the patty was done precisely to the medium-rare stage I'd ordered, and was juicy, beefy and (as noted) pre-seasoned just that bit too much; the cheddar cheese was very good and of exactly the right amount, and the lettuce, tomato and shreds of red onion were of excellent quality and, again, perfect quantity. It comes on a metal tray, along with a fine Kosher dill spear and a quite substantial wood-handled knife, in case you prefer to cut the sandwich in half, which I did.

Mrs. O had the ham sandwich on croissant, of which she kindly gave me a bite; its contents include arugula, which I enjoyed very much, though that's not to everyone's taste. She loved it. We had just a small San Pellegrino each, since this was a sort of working lunch in a day of serious house-cleaning, and the tab with tip was around $27.

The burger itself is $8.50, and it's a third-pound patty, so it compares roughly with my previous favorite half-pound burger at the Redwood Bar & Grill downtown at $12. Overall, Plate 38's prices seem a little on the high side for a place with Oinkster-type service (order at the register, pay, and take the number to put on your table), but the space is attractive and comfortable, much cleaner than Oinkster and quieter than anywhere else I can think of (No music! No TV! No screaming!). I was pleased to note that items on the lunch menu did not change in price on the dinner menu, though that seems to be more common than it used to be.

Plate 38
2361 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91107
(626) 793-7100

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Oinkster
2005 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Redwood Bar & Grill
316 W 2nd St Ste 202, Los Angeles, CA 90012

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  1. I was there about a year ago, before the fire, and I recall that the burger was 1/2 pound.

    Maybe the fire burned down the size of their patties?

    8 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit

      Ackcherly, ipse, I'm just as glad they've standardized at 1/3. A fat man of 70 has no business eating half-pound burgers (okay, more than twice a year!) anyway, and this is a good size. Fits the bun perfectly (and vice versa), and with or without a side order makes a good lunch with minimal guilt. Just expensive enough to make me an occasional customer, not so expensive I feel like I need to take out a loan.

      I hadn't realized they were open before the fire. I must say that they've rebuilt beautifully, though the heavy crown moulding is totally wrong.

      1. re: Will Owen

        I don't recall, but is the burger is still grass-fed beef?

        1. re: ipsedixit

          Menu does not say, and I didn't ask, but it sure had more flavor that is usual for medium-rare. We were in the middle of a lot of hard and kinda dirty work, so I didn't engage any of the personnel in conversation. I do expect to have ample opportunities in the future, however.

          1. re: Will Owen

            When they first opened, it was grass-fed beef. 1/2 pound, for something like $9. Great bargain. Not always cooked right, but when they did, it was a great bargain.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              So it's possible the fire DID "burn" the burgers smaller … like maybe burn some money they'd not intended to spend? Anyway, as I pointed out, it's possible we just came in there on a day when they were hitting all their marks perfectly, and perhaps next time they won't. We will see.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I asked the owner, and yes, it's grass-fed beef and it's delicious!! I've tried their classic burger and the smoked one, both are really flavorful.

                I've also tried their lemon pancakes -- one of the best pancakes I've ever had -- moist!!! My only complaint is that they only gave 4 small pancakes for $9 -- pancakes are so dirt cheap to make!

                1. re: chowchow12345678

                  I forgot to mention that their fries are one of the best I've ever had, they're awesome!

                  1. re: chowchow12345678

                    Also, their bagel/lox/cream cheese plate is the best version I have ever had. They deep-fry their capers, for God's sake! ;-)

      2. Plate 38 Place Link (with website) added

        Will, I am jealous that you have this place in your neighborhood. Because I run on a VERY early schedule places that offer an early breakfast (as long as they offer their full menu?) are at a premium over here in WLA. This place has a great looking breakfast menu. If I'm ever out Pasadena way in the AM you can bet I'll be trying out Plate 38...so thanks for posting your very excellent review.

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        Plate 38
        2361 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

        1. Thanks for the positive review, Will. I got a Groupon for this place a while ago and have not used it yet. Thanks again!

          1. I have eaten at Plate 38 8 or 10 times and have enjoyed every meal including the fantastic hamburgers. The Chef/Owner makes this delight by grinding his own meat and this is why the burgers are so fantastic and you can order the meat rare as it is totally fresh. The review mentioned you had to order at the counter - - not true, they have total tale service I would also mention that although the hamburgers are great (the best I have had out) all the menu items and specials are usually delicious. One of the best parts of the restaurant is that the limited wine list is a real bargain with very nice boutique wines at very reasonable prices.

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            Plate 38
            2361 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

            2 Replies
            1. re: robtheintz

              Perhaps it's different at dinner, but at 1 pm on Saturday everyone was lined up at the register to order, and we were all given numbers to take to the table for service. The servers were only that; nobody asked if we wanted anything else, and the people I saw who were adding to their meals were going back to the counter to place their orders. There appeared to be just one guy who was schlepping orders for the whole room.

              1. re: Will Owen

                also, will, now they have a chowhound banner with your name on it there. good stuff.

            2. If it is anything like the sanwhich I had there a few months ago, I won't bother. My companion and I were so disappointed in the sub-par food I probably wouldn't ever go there again/

              1. Will - you're famous! They now have a banner proclaiming your anointing of this place as having the best burger in L.A. Co.

                3 Replies
                1. re: cant talk...eating

                  Yep he is. Have you seen this post?

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/806344

                  1. re: Mattapoisett in LA

                    Sorry - no. I didn't do an all-boards search I guess.

                    1. re: cant talk...eating

                      I think someone might get in trouble over this; they were of course free to use the quote, even to modify it (as they did, you'll notice), and they could probably have mentioned the LA Chowhound Board. But they needed permission to display the CH logo, and it's my understanding that they didn't even ask. Oopsie!

                2. I've always liked Jake's, Russell's and Lucky Baldwin's (even McCormick & Schmick's Happy Hour burgers) in Pasadena. I like my burgers on the greasy side with traditional sesame buns (or an onion bun if available).

                  What are your thoughts of those burgers in comparison?

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                  McCormick & Schmick's
                  633 West Fifth Street,, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                  Lucky Baldwins
                  17 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: scottca075

                    I have yet to try any of these, but I'll certainly remember your recommendations! I'd heard about Jake's, but I've not yet made it either to there or to Lucky Baldwin's. I believe I've been in Russell's once, but it was for breakfast as I recall.

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                    Lucky Baldwins
                    17 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

                  2. Will Owen - have you driven by Plate 38 lately? There's a banner up on the south side of the building quoting you! Saw it for the first time last night!

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                    Plate 38
                    2361 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: The Oracle

                      Words cannot express my embarrassment at this. They used the CH logo again, too; I'd have thought they'd get a cease-and-desist letter from CBS or whoever by now, but apparently they didn't. Worst of it is it's almost certainly my own fault! I was in there a week or two ago and got another burger, and when the waiter asked how it was I mentioned that I was the guy their ad misquoted, and I wound up having a pleasant discussion with the chef/owner … at least I made sure I'd already paid my tab before he came by.

                      And Yeah, it's still a damn good burger, though I thought it was curious that the brioche buns (from an outfit I think called Madison) used to have a brown egg-wash finish and don't anymore, and the owner seemed completely unaware of any change.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        I've also neglected to mention one very important thing: I ordered the garlic fries the other day as well, which I will probably never do again. Skinny, yes. The right color, yes. Crisp and tender, no and no. How a skinny fry can be both flexible and tough is beyond my understanding; how a chef so obviously proud of his food would allow such a thing is utterly flabbergasting. The presentation is SO right-on, and the appearance SO attractive that if I'd intended only to take their picture I'd have been thrilled. But alas, it was not so …

                        Oh, and I noticed that in my first review I applauded the lack of either music or TV. On that last visit there was a big flat-screen right in front of me, doing some kind of mindless hipster-fodder variety thing. From Fox!! Yikes!!

                        Okay, let's see'em put THAT on a banner!

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Hey, be careful what you ask for!! ;) That's a big space for banners they have there!

                          Have you tried anything else other than the burgers? It would be a perfect, local, neighborhood spot for me, but I had a borderline bad experience there that put a bad taste in my mouth and I have had no desire to return. Besides that, I thought the price point of the other items was on the high side for the atmosphere of the place.

                          1. re: The Oracle

                            I had a dinner item - short ribs - that was just okay, mostly because they were boneless; short ribs really need that bone to develop flavor. I've also tasted the ham sandwich and a couple of salads, all very good. I do agree that the prices are a tad high, but the guy is serious about using nothing but fresh ingredients and making everything from scratch, though he needs to take some potato-frying lessons.

                        2. re: Will Owen

                          they used CH logo - again- ?! Was there one up prior to this?

                          I thought it quite bizarre the way they used your quote - and I kind of chuckled inside with a: hey, I 'know' Will Owen! :)

                          In general, it reminded me of years ago when "world's greatest..." was used out of control....

                          1. re: The Oracle

                            They used the CH logo in one of those 2.5" square stick-on ads, stuck onto the front page of area-distributed copies of the LA Times some months ago. That one just said "Best burger in LA County!" with the CH logo underneath.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              Swung by today evening (Jan 2) but they were closed, so we hopped over to Tops for their Kobe Burger (plenty of Wisconsinites and Oregoneans had found their way to Tops). Have to try again!

                              1. re: suvro

                                That Kobe burger at the original Tops is good though not earth-shatteringly exceptional as a hound mentioned on the board so lovingly years, so many times, that i knew i had to hit it up at least one if not twice.

                        3. re: The Oracle

                          OMG! i was at the intersection at the red light and saw this banner! Will Owen it's still up! with chow hound logo and all!! i'm impressed...

                          1. re: trolley

                            I am so annoyed by that I'd vowed I wouldn't set foot in there until that thing came down, but then they had a featured veggie menu that looked good enough for me to treat Mrs. O to dinner there. It was okay, not stellar - their worst problem is their food is simply not as fabulous as they apparently think it is - but it was a nice evening out, the wine was lovely, and nobody knew who I was.

                            I was very much disappointed that the owners of the CH logo didn't send a Cease and Desist order out immediately - or ever, apparently - being a kind of fanatic about copyright issues, but it's their problem and not really mine.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              you know i had mixed feelings when i saw the sign. oh WIll! i'm sorry. it was just so random and the least expected. i've been at that intersection a million times but just never bothered to look around. so i take it that they just swiped the logo and quoted you from this very thread? i just think quoting anyone on a banner is slightly tacky, whether it's you or Jeffrey Steingarten although i do value both of your opinions :)