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Tired of smash burgers? This new one will make you a believer again

A double cheeseburger from Heavy Handed in Santa Monica.
A double cheeseburger from Heavy Handed in Santa Monica.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Here are my weekly recommendations on where to eat — and what to order — right now.

Smash burgers and dipped cones from Heavy Handed

I will never tire of a good cheeseburger. I don’t discriminate when it comes to a properly cooked patty and melted cheese. There is a time and a place for a thick steakhouse burger, but I am partial to the smash burger, a ground beef patty smashed on a griddle and cooked until the edges approach a crispy meat lace.

There are too many smash burgers in Los Angeles to count. I credit Burgers Never Say Die with starting the frenzy. They are still excellent. For the Win has been a consistent favorite. And the latest and greatest addition to the scene is Danny Gordon and Max Miller’s Heavy Handed. The two started as a driveway pop-up in March 2020, transitioned to a truck and recently opened their first bricks-and-mortar, a square, bright yellow walk-up on Main Street in Santa Monica.

The Heavy Handed double cheeseburger is a two-patty stack made with a blend of short rib and chuck and American cheese. What sets these burgers apart from the pack is the onions, cooked down for two to three hours until they approach the consistency of jam. Along with the “heavy sauce,” a Thousand Island-inspired ketchup and mayo-based sauce with dill pickles made specifically for the condiment. And the bread-and-butter pickles, sweet and tangy hand-sliced cucumbers that are brined for months before they make it onto your burger.

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“It’s all the little details that compile a California burger,” Gordon said. “We do things slowly and meticulously and in-house when possible.”

Chocolate dipped cones from Heavy Handed in Santa Monica.
Chocolate dipped cones from Heavy Handed in Santa Monica.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

The burger is reason enough to visit, but Heavy Handed is also serving old school, chocolate-dipped vanilla soft serve swirled into flat-bottomed sugar cones. “Our chocolate dip is from a supplier in the Midwest, so our biggest worry is sourcing at the moment,” he said. “Hopefully we have enough to last us a couple of months.”

Fingers crossed.

Lunch at Coni'Seafood

An order of camarones cucarachita from Coni'Seafood in Inglewood.
An order of camarones cucarachita from Coni'Seafood in Inglewood.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Lunch at Coni’Seafood is never just a single dish. It’s a compilation of favorites, whittled down and expanded again over years of meals with friends and more than a few recommendations from the late great Jonathan Gold. When people ask for a restaurant that’s emblematic of the best Los Angeles has to offer, this is often where I send them. The Nayarit-style seafood restaurant started in Vincent “Chente” Cossio’s backyard in the ‘80s. It’s now run by his daughter, Connie, who continues to source seafood from Sinaloa and Nayarit for both the Inglewood and Del Rey restaurants.

The ideal four-course lunch starts with an order of the camarones cucarachita. The petite shrimps are fried with their shells on, in a rust-red butter sauce laden with garlic. They’re served swimming in the sauce and best eaten with your red-stained fingers. Next, create your own taco sampler with an order of the tacos de marlin (crisp tortillas folded around smoked fish and cheese reminiscent of a good tuna melt) and the tacos al gobernador (plump shrimp with sautéed vegetables and plenty of melted cheese). No meal is complete without an order of each.

Pescado zarandeado at Coni’Seafood in Inglewood.
Pescado zarandeado at Coni’Seafood in Inglewood.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

And for the grand finale, the pescado zarandeado. The snook is butterflied and grilled with butter and soy sauce, handsomely splayed out on a large platter. As important as the fish itself is the bowl of caramelized onions served on the side, a salty, saucy condiment drenched in what tastes like soy or Maggi seasoning. The best lunches are spent on the back patio, scraping tender bits of charred fish from the bone, making tacos with the fresh corn tortillas and onions while chatting with friends.

Malai broccoli from Delhi Belly

The malai broccoli from Delhi Belly in Alhambra.
The malai broccoli from Delhi Belly in Alhambra.
(Stephanie Breijo / Los Angeles Times)

Chef Sagar Ghosh wanted a unique name for his Alhambra restaurant, something that would be memorable and not easily confused with any other Indian restaurant around town.

“Lots of people already have tandoor or tandoori in their name, so I didn’t want to do that,” he said. “Delhi is the capital of India, and everyone has a belly, so I went with that.”

The chef, who is originally from Kolkata, also wanted to devote a section of the menu to what he calls “clay oven delicacies,” or dishes cooked in the tandoor oven he sourced from home. He’s cooking everything from slabs of paneer to lamb chops, pineapple and Cornish hen in the oven, but the most memorable was the Malai broccoli, a plate of charred florets coated in a creamy, tangy sauce laced with cardamom and white pepper.

“There is no recipe in India called Malai broccoli,” he said. “Malai is a generic term that can mean creamy, but when you make homemade yogurt, it’s that small creamy layer on the top.”

Ghosh strains and hangs his yogurt for two days to remove any excess liquid, then adds mascarpone cheese, labneh and lemon juice. He blanches his broccoli then coats the vegetable in the yogurt mixture, skewers them and cooks them in the hot oven until tender and charred. The marinade ends up clinging to the broccoli, creating pockets of the thick yogurt cheese sauce in between the florets. The treatment is enough to make the Malai broccoli the star of the table, a dish I’d happily eat as an entree with a side of garlic naan.

Restaurants mentioned in this article

2912 Main St., Santa Monica, heavyhanded.la
3544 W. Imperial Highway, Inglewood, (310) 672-2339, coniseafood.com
8 W. Main St., Alhambra, (626) 703-4710, delhibellyla.com


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