There is a new burger in town. Well, not so much new as it is permanent. Vaka Burger Express opened its doors this June as a takeout counter inside the Ramírez Beverage Center on Olympic near Soto.
A little over a year ago, when celebrity food stylist Chef Aaron J. Pérez took his grass-fed burgers to the streets, they became well known and soon revered by some as the best. His food truck won Best Burger in SoCal from KPCC.
How will his different take on burgers fare in Boyle Heights? Chef Aaron has a leg up: as a Boyle Heights native he certainly knows what the community likes. He has a very original menu alongside some pretty familiar foods.
The OG burger is somewhat of an original –original to Chef Aaron’s menu– that cannot be found at a place like Jim’s Burgers. His take on the well-known basic burger, the OG is made up of julienned romaine lettuce, Russian dressing, beefsteak tomatoes, sharp cheddar, red onion and house ketchup on a grass-fed beef patty.
There are a couple of burgers on the menu that would be pretty hard to find in another establishment in Boyle Heights and would otherwise take you to Downtown LA to satisfy your craving. Are you in the mood for some delicious pork belly? I know I always am, and Chef Aaron has something to satiate that craving as well. El Porky comes with six-hour braised French soup onions, provolone cheese, crispy pork belly and Vaka’s signature BBQ sauce.
There is also a choice for all the vegetarians out there. The Grown Up Grilled Cheese is composed of roasted garlic aioli, New York sharp cheddar cheese, Firestone caramelized onions and baby rocket arugula tossed in white truffle oil, all served on Texas toast.
There are also some sides, perfect for late-night snack hankerings, since they are open pretty late (hours are daily from 12 to 11 pm). The small yet assorted menu consists of VB Wings (chicken wings), Maui Rings (perfectly fried onion rings), Truffle Mac (macaroni and cheese) and, of course, the flavorful Dirty Fries (with Russian dressing, caramelized onion, garlic aioli and parsley).
This takeout fare is definitely not cheap. As Erika on Yelp put it, “The burgers range from 11-13 bucks. Orders do not include fries or a drink. Pricey right? Yes, they definitely are but you are getting what you paid for.”
The reception in the area has been good, as far the reviews on Yelp go. Given its location, inside the Ramírez Beverage Center, they do have one thing that most burger places don’t: a large selection of drinks to go with your burger. Ramírez has a large array of beers to choose from, if you are in the mood to pair your burger with a brew.
For those not interested in a beverage, the off-menu “Happier Meal” gets you a burger and fries.
Vaka Burger Express
2765 E. Olympic Blvd.
Open daily 12 to 11 pm