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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

Square One Dining

4854 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029 (map); 213-629-1765; squareonedining.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Square One has mastered breakfast, but needs to rethink their burger.
Want Fries with That? They don't serve fries. I did enjoy their roasted potatoes that come with the burger.
Prices: Burger with side, $10.75
Notes: Are you a breakfast person? This is, as they say, the place. My choice is the French toast.

The folks behind Square One Dining might just have well called their restaurant Square One Brunching. The menu and the hours (8 a.m. to 3 p.m.) are squarely focused in that lovely liminal space between the most important meal of the day and the end of my hangover. Pancakes, French Toast, and omelets are served all day, and come 11:30 a.m. sandwiches and salads join the party. For all of my intents and purposes this means there is only one menu, though I imagine lots of folks actually show up before lunch starts.

Despite my late to bed and late to rise habits, I'd found myself so enamored of Square One's breakfast options that I'd never actually looked beyond them. That was until recently when a friend mentioned that Square One had a burger worth a closer look.

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Square One is located on an odd strip of Fountain Avenue in Hollywood. The street itself is largely residential, and for me (and a number of other savvy commuters) mostly thought of as a good East-West artery during rush hour. Years on in its life, it's still the only establishment of its ilk on a block that offers a smattering of storefronts that service the working class residents to its south.

As is often the case in Los Angeles, there is more to the story. Directly north of the restaurant is a neighborhood that could be called "Scientology-wood." The seemingly ever-expanding real estate empire of the religion started by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard is headquartered across the street from Square One. I don't know if the Church of Scientology was considered a target audience for the restaurant, but it can't hurt to have hundreds of potential customers who exercise early-morning routines just around the corner.

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The burger is a hefty eight-ish ounces of Harris Ranch beef served on a bun that lacks the sponginess I am looking for. And it's heavily seeded—we're talking sesame, poppy, and sunflower. It's the kind of seeding that frustrates because it makes me think "health food" when I am looking for something bad for me. While that's not exactly Square One's motif, it points to what they're up to. Square One boasts their commitment to locally sourced and natural ingredients. Of course good ingredients are the makings of a good burger, but it's the cooking that makes the meal. This is where the Square One burger is undone.

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I was surprised to find that a restaurant that manages the most sensitive of ingredients—the egg—so deftly, was so ham-fisted when putting together their hamburger. The patty lacked fat and was finely ground. Along with a seasoning regime that (sadly) moved far beyond just salt and pepper the meat had the whiff of meatloaf. It was properly cooked, but even a little extra fat, from the aioli couldn't overcome the dry and unappealing texture.

To salvage the meal I filled up on the excellent roasted potatoes that came along with my burger. This was the kind of execution I expect from Square One: Perfectly roasted and beautifully salted and peppered; the potatoes are a quality ingredient properly handled. The potato salad, which I also ordered, was interesting with a vinegary kick, but not to my taste.

As is too often the case, my high burger hopes were dashed by the reality of another restaurant that can't seem to manage the delicacies of making this delicacy. The bad news is the burger at Square One just isn't worth much attention. The good news is that they serve breakfast all day.

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