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Looking for a great burger? Head to this liquor store in Boyle Heights

Two burgers from Vaka Burger, a stand inside a liquor store in Boyle Heights.

Two burgers from Vaka Burger, a stand inside a liquor store in Boyle Heights.

(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)
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Forget for a moment the burger stand’s novel setting – in a far corner of a renowned and sprawling liquor store in Boyle Heights, with 1,300 brands of beer and almost as many tequilas. No man is an aisle, but if I were one, I’d want to be the tequila aisle at Ramirez Beverage Center.

There is nothing so American, so egalitarian, as an outstanding hamburger; so yeah, any setting is secondary, but I can’t help mentioning it, because these burgers come wrapped in this place.

Only six months old, the Vaka Burger stand is attracting more than just the thirsty to the liquor store at Soto and Olympic, about 10 minutes from downtown. The burger brand started as a food truck and moved to rental space in the liquor store this summer.

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Tall as they are wide, organic and crunchy fresh, the grass-fed designer burgers served here are gaining increasing notice, and the unexpected setting seems part of the experience. When another outlet opens downtown next year at Broadway and Ninth, it will be hard-pressed to match the sense of occasion that the Boyle Heights stop brings.

Stephanie Paramo takes orders at Vaka Burger in Boyle Heights.

Stephanie Paramo takes orders at Vaka Burger in Boyle Heights.

(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

But let’s talk meat.

Perfectly cooked, these are the kind of soft-packed patties that bleed down to flavor the brioche bun. Too often, burgers cooked “medium” come out hockey-puck hard and the fixings overpower the beef. Not here. Vaka’s finds that perfect match-up of beefiness and hearty toppings.

The stand’s most popular offering is the Vaka ($11.50): bacon jam, muenster cheese, tempura onion ring and a syrupy barbecue sauce. Indeed, the Vaka is drippy delicious, but even more succulently memorable was the Truff ($12), with sharp cheddar, truffle oil and caramelized beer-braised onions. The OG ($11) is a rich treat as well, featuring Russian dressing and red onion. For a vegetarian option, order it with a slab of portabello.

As you know, the perfect burger brings an inebriation all its own, often better than what a bottle offers. By the time we left, our pleasure centers were overloaded, and my buddy Tom was waxing philosophical about Vaka Burgers.

Point is, Vaka is the liquor within the liquor store. And it’s probably best to stop at just two.

Vaka Burger is open noon to 11 p.m., seven days a week.

2765 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 265-1111.

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