By Valentina Silva
GLASSELL PARK — “VaKA is going places by thinking out of the box,” says Aaron J. Perez, a Boyle Heights native and the chef behind VaKA Burger. The new restaurant pops up a few times a week at Tested L.A., a house-turned-experimental-kitchen in a residential neighborhood in Glassell Park. The concept—gourmet, grass-fed burgers accessorized with house-made everything—is certainly new for the area, and the long lines VaKA attracts regularly prove that it’s the right place at the right time with the right food.
The focused menu features only three burgers: The OG, with Russian dressing, thick slices of red onion and beef steak tomato, and Tilamook cheddar; The VaKA, a fancy on take on a Western Bacon Cheeseburger, topped with a beer-battered Maui onion ring, bacon jam, smoky barbeque sauce and muenster cheese; and The Truffle, made with a hefty dose of truffle oil, arugula, Fontina cheese, caramelized onions, and roasted garlic aoli. Perez blends three signature cuts of beef to create big, juicy patties and makes all the dressings and sauces from scratch. While undeniably decadent, these well-designed burgers still master a restraint that’s uncommon in today’s burger world—all the components are balanced, so the condiments and add-ons don’t overwhelm the meaty goodness.
Inspired by flavors from his childhood, Ramirez rounds out the menu with a list of “Sides” and “Mas Sides” that seem to have been given the same deliberation as his burgers. There’s the Truffle Mack, creamy with house-made bechamel sauce; and the sweet and spicy VB Wangs, which are easy to devour and shouldn’t be missed. The Maui Rings, served with sriracha ketchup, are some of the best onion rings I’ve ever had—the Old Rasputin beer batter is so light and crispy that I likened it to “savory funnel cake air” on my first bite. Oh, and don’t forget the Russian-dressing-and-carmelized-onion-covered Dirty Fries.
For the time being, VaKA Burger will stay on this side of town, continuing to pop up at Tested L.A. and roaming through Glassell Park, Downtown L.A., Boyle Heights, Silver Lake, and Echo Park in their new food truck (you can’t miss it, just look for the black truck with the giant cow on the side). “We want to take VaKA to places that don’t have many local eateries….VaKA believes it’s the product, love, and passion you put in each dish that keeps the fans/customers coming back for more,” says Perez.
Valentina Silva writes about food and restaurants. You can also find Valentina’s reviews and stories on her blog, Eastside Food Bites.