Best Burger Within a Five Mile Radius

Ever since 5 Guys opened up at Fox Hills, the best burger in LA debate has resumed. You have your classic In-N-Out v. Fatburger and Father's Office vs. The Counter. And fries? You can't forget about the fries.

Here is my take on the best burger & fries combo within a five mile radius from home.

5. Five Guys. Okay, I've only had their burgers once and the hype put my expectations pretty high. I like all the topping options but I hate how they list the calories. The roasted peanuts are a nice touch but 4.29 for a little cheeseburger seemed a bit much. I like the skin on fries and the cajun fries are tasty in a Hot-Cheetos kind of way.

4. Father's Office. If there is a burger Nazi in LA, this is it. No modifications. No substitutions. This is the burger they serve and if you don't like it, don't order it. No ketchup. Grilled onions, blue cheese and a big hunk of ground beef. I like it, but can never finish it. To me it's about the beer and the sweet potato fries at Father's Office but there is no ketchup and be prepared to pay. Father' Office is pricey (David and I rarely get out of there with less than a $50 bill). There's no table service and if you want water belly up to the bar and get it yourself.

3. Hole in the Wall Burger Joint. This hidden gem tucked behind Winchell's at Santa Monica and Sepulveda allows you to create your own burger (turkey, veggie, ground chicken, or beef). It's pretty pricey at 7.95 each, but it's big and I am able to make two meals out of my turkey burger. Toppings are generous and their sweet potato fries are tasty. Like Father's Office, this is an anti-ketchup establishment. *cash only

2. The Counter. When I want to build my own burger, this is where I go. My favorite is their Monday happy hour. You choose a three-slider tasting along with three beers. So tasty. And along with their half-and-half fries (sweet potato and regular), for me this is the best sit-down gourmet burger meal in town.

1. In-N-Out. Let's face it. If I'm craving a burger and I'm really hungry, I head to In-N-Out. So consistently fresh and delicious, I'm a cheeseburger and fries girl (and I occasionally add a neapolitan shake). It's simple and tasty and I always seem to be starving whenever I eat it. The fries aren't the best but the combo works and I'll take it for the price any day.

That's my list. I'm sure there are some Fatburger, The Habit and Apple Pan fans out there. Let the debate begin!


Oprah's New Favorite Memoir is...

Through Eyes Like Mine!

She just doesn't know it yet. And it is my job, as this book's author, to get my quiet little book into her hands so that she can fall in love with it.

Want to help out? Let Oprah know she should read this memoir. After the James Frey Million Little Pieces debacle, this is the memoir Oprah needs to restore her faith in the genre. Besides, I'm a teacher and she owes me after that Waiting for Superman episode.

Here's a section I think Oprah will like in particular so tweet her @Oprah, hit up her website message board, share this blog with your people who know people who might know her people. Oh, and if you are a sister who once appeared on Oprah (Sr. Maximillian Marie aka Loretta) get your people on it! 

Oprah, you will LOVE this book!

Movie Night

t's late, way past our bedtime, but we rented a VCR and the Butlers are over so Mom lets us stay up. Mom picked out some old movie for us to watch. 

"Are there kids in it?" I ask.
"The little girl tells the whole story, Nori." Mom says. "You'll like it."

I take the stairs two at a time to the family room but still don't believe the movie will be any good. It's in black and white.
The family room is still warm from the hot summer day. The door to the deck is open and a chorus of crickets filters in from the night. The grown-ups just finished watching a movie about some lawyer. Mr. Butler's a lawyer too with an office downtown by St. Francis. When he gives us a ride to school in the mornings, he gives us a word and we're supposed to look it up in the dictionary and tell him what it means the next day. One day I look up culpable which means deserving punishment.
I lay on the floor as Mom turns the lights out and presses play. The tape clicks and the music starts. There is a box with crayons and a pocketknife. A marble rolls; an old watch ticks. A girl draws a bird and laughs. The people in the room fade away and my world becomes black and white. A little girl named Scout counts and swings from a tire tied to a tree branch. I follow her adventures until I can feel the thin denim of her overalls and the summer heat on her back. I imagine what Scout thinks as she sits on Atticus's lap on the porch and he tells her you never really know a man until you walk a day in his shoes. I wonder if Jem, Scout and Dill will ever get Boo Radley to come out and if Atticus will help Tom Robinson. In the end, Atticus doesn't win, Boo Radley comes out, and I think I know why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.

The next day I pull on an old faded t-shirt and shorts fraying at the edges but I wish they were Scout's overalls. I climb up the crooked rungs on the willow tree and sit in our tree house. I look across the backyard at our neighborhood and wonder who in this town might be the Ewells or the Robinsons. I try to figure out how to get everyone to start calling me Scout but the name doesn't stick. No one calls me Scout, and the summer turns to fall.

School starts, fourth grade, and at our first recess I notice an old house on the border of the playground. I peer into its dirty windows, past the dusty green jars cluttering the sills. It's dark inside and I imagine Boo Radley in there, plotting to murder his family. I tell my classmates about it and they say I'm crazy. I think about beating them up. That's what Scout would've done, but Atticus wouldn't have liked that. Then I see Matt Rose looking in the window of the Boo Radley house and I know he's wondering.

Winter brings snow and during a close game of kickball, Richard Eigeren sends the ball flying over the fence into the Boo Radley yard. 

"Go get it, Richard," Matt Rose yells. 

"No way, that place is haunted." 

"Oh, don't listen to Nori. She just made that up from some old movie she saw." 

I look at my classmates and back to the dark house across the fence. "I'll go get it, you big babies." I sprint out the playground gate and up the sidewalk. The red rubber ball is far into the yard, resting on a pile of dirty snow. I look at the ball and remember the time Jem pushed Scout in the tire and she landed right on the Radley porch. I take a deep breath and push open the gate. One, two, three, four, five, six, I count my steps and heartbeats like Scout did when she was waiting for Jem to get his overalls from the Radley yard. I snatch the ball and huck it over the fence where the boys dodge it, not wanting to touch the rubber contaminated by the haunted yard. A dog barks and I nearly slip on the icy walk as I slam the gate and sprint back to the safety of the schoolyard, far from Maycomb, Scout and Boo Radley.


Sneak Preview of Overdue Apologies

When #teenagememories trends on twitter, it's the twitterverse asking for a preview of Overdue Apologies, the middle school memoir that is my daily grind these days. Remember that middle school dance? The crush you had as a seventh grader on the cutest eighth grader? Yeah, this might take you back.

Getting Ready

            Daylight savings time ends so the sun is up when Robin, Bianca and I walk to school. Spring is close and as soon as the afternoon highs reach into the 50s we wear shorts to school and tank tops that reveal pale skin hidden all winter long behind knit sweaters and jeans.
            The Friday of the spring dance Kim and Jamie come over to get ready. We watch one another closely and check out what we've chosen to wear: surf company t-shirts, shorts and sandals. We thread together leis from the crabapple tree blossoms in the front yard. We brush our hair, curl, and spray. We apply deodorant, lotion and perfume and by the time we're ready to go we are three variations on the same look and smell: shoulder length hair, curled and sprayed, pink lip gloss, shorts, t-shirts, sandals and flower leis = perfect for Spring Dance.
Pilot Butte, Bend, Oregon.
            Mom drops us off at school and we can't wait to dance to Prince's "U Got the Look" or Billy Idol's "Mony Mony." Our leis fall to pieces, white petals drifting to the floor, but we don't care. The eighth graders dance in their circle and we dance with the other seventh graders, but I keep an eye on Shawn. He and Caren finally broke up and maybe if I'm around on a slow song he'll ask me to dance. But when they play "Take My Breath Away" Shawn leaves so I head to the bathroom, hoping we might bump into one another. Yes. I time it perfectly and we almost collide at the door.
            "Cool sunglasses," I say as I pull them from his face. "Oooh. Varnets. Can I borrow?"
            "Uh," before he can answer I walk off with his glasses and I wear them for the rest of the night.
            It's almost 9:00 and the dance is almost over. U2's "With or Without You" comes on and Shawn comes up to me.
            Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.
            He looks uncomfortable and won't look me in the eye.
            "Uh, hey Nori," he says, turning to look over his shoulder.
            I can't believe he's right there, standing right there in front of me. He reaches out a hand and I smile and look down at my feet.
            "Can I get my sunglasses back?"

The Dukes of Hazzard

When #childhoodmemories trends on twitter, it's the twitterverse asking for a new blog post. So here's a memory of my brother, Mitch, and them Duke boys.

Dukes of Hazzard

om doesn't like us watching the Dukes of Hazzard. She says it's unrealistic to have all of those car crashes and then show people walking away without a scratch. She also doesn't like how the cops are stupid and those "good ol' boys" always get away. She doesn't like the Duke boys' car either because it has the Confederate flag on the top. Somehow that means they are racist. 

But Mitch and I like watching that show and I like Luke Duke. He has dark hair and grey eyes. Most of the girls in my class like Bo Duke because he looks like a Ken doll. I also like how Daisy Duke has brown hair instead of blonde. I get the feeling Mom doesn't like Daisy Duke though because she hates it when I tie up my t-shirts like Daisy does. 

Mitch and I play hide and seek in the backyard. He counts from the willow tree, which is home base, while I run to hide behind the woodpile by the back porch. I can barely hear him counting. He gets to twenty and peeks out from the side of the tree. I try to keep an eye on him but can't see him when I hear a strange crash and Mitch starts yelling. He shouts so loudly I know we aren't playing hide and seek anymore. Mitch still has a strong accent but I can tell he's saying something about the Dukes of Hazzard. I run to the willow tree and there is a car right there in our backyard. Mitch shows me with his hands and crashing sound effects how the car jumped from the road, crashed through the fence, and landed between two apple trees. We run to the house to tell Mom. I try to explain but Mitch just keeps saying, "Dukes of Hazzard, Dukes of Hazzard!" Mom doesn't believe us until we pull her to the backyard and she sees the car sitting there.

Mom herds us inside and calls the police. She keeps hugging and kissing us both repeating, "My god, he could have killed you." 

With Mom's arms tight around me, I remember Greg Bob lying in his casket, and for just a second, I imagine Mitch or myself lying lifeless beneath the branches of the willow tree. Sirens blare from outside and Mom lets us go.

Mitch and I run upstairs to Chet's room to watch the police and ambulance from the window. They pull a man from the car and he looks like he's okay as he stumbles toward the ambulance. Mom talks to the police by the front door but I can't hear what they say. 

Mitch keeps saying, "Yee haw!" just like those Duke boys do when they go flying down the dirt roads of Hazzard County.

Through Eyes Like Mine is available at Amazon, Powell's, or for order from your local book seller.