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Opening today: Juicy Burger in Los Feliz (replaces Mako Japanese restaurant next to Los Feliz 3 Cinemas)

January 12, 2011 |  1:12 pm

JuicyBurger Last night while I was out on a "me" date in Los Feliz (I took myself out for a martini at the Dresden, an antipasto salad at Il Carpaccio and to see "The King's Speech" at the Los Feliz 3 Cinemas) I noticed with initial alarm that my favorite cheap-eats go-to restaurant, Mako, was gone.

In its place was a sign for Juicy Burger. This morning I called the restaurant (the phone number is the same) to see what the deal was. I spoke with Juicy Burger owner Mario Kattan, who confirmed that Mako had indeed closed and that the Los Feliz Juicy Burger is opening today (Wednesday). There is one other Juicy Burger location, at Hollywood and Ivar, which Kattan opened in June 2010.

Since I moved to L.A. in 1999 I have worried that Mako would close up shop. It was too cheap, and as Los Feliz became more and more upscale it stuck out like a sore thumb: A gritty little place with a grubby counter where you could order teriyaki, tempura or California rolls and not spend more than $5. My friends and I took to calling it simply, "$1 sushi," which was a misnomer because it didn't actually serve sushi. But the food was good and comforting and we loved the place.

Fortunately, Kattan says that Mako did not go out of business, but rather chose to give up the lease. "They wanted to retire, it was an older couple," says Kattan, explaining that he took over the lease a mere two weeks ago. He also did a quick remodel -- basically just paint, flooring and a colorful new counter.

He says that the most popular menu item at Juicy Burger is the "make-your-own-burger" option. You get to choose a 1/3-pound or 1/2-pound patty and then doll it up with a variety of sauces, cheeses and toppings.

Sounds like a tasty meal to eat before a movie. I think I'll try it on my next "me" date.

1820 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 660-1211.

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo credit: Jessica Gelt / Los Angeles Times