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The Ranch ~ 30843 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Westlake Village, CA 91362 ~ (818) 575-9033

The Ranch used to simply be the offices of a catering company when one day, not too long ago, chef/owner David Duimovich was fooling around in the kitchen and created humungoid buns that mushroomed out of giant ceramic pots like massive downy muffins. Sensing he was onto something, he nabbed two lunch-bound suits in the parking lot and forced them to sit down and scarf some burgers. The dudes came back with friends the next day, naturally wanting more burgers, and so on and so on until this strip-mall paean to the nation's favorite sandwich set its culinary roots down and overgrew the cubicles.

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The Ranch is big on charm in a very small, atmospheric room with sunrise tones and dark wood furniture. The menu keeps it pretty simple though: burger, cheese steak, beef dip, and 3 chicken sandwich options, all in the airy massive buns, with a few salads that we weren't too super-keen on. Being my birfday and all, I went for a cheeseburger, having been lured in t by local legends that it was the best for miles. The deluxe "Duimo Burger", which has a Serbian forename I'm forgetting the meaning of, is crafted from certified Angus steak with two types of cheese, and a blended Ranch BBQ sauce, betwixt the giant pillows of love they call buns.

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Our burgers came in gigantic, impromptu foil baskets, held at the nape by our server like fat, decapitated aluminum gease. Inside were huge hamburgers challenging us to take a bite. The bun is soft and airy as can be, exploding open with warmth and serving as the burger's most outstanding feature. The buns are baked immediately after ordering, as you can see thorough the kitchen doors, making them the fluffiest we've tasted, although those pictures of Rio make us think there might be softer buns somewhere out there that need nibbling.

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Between the sheets, as our dear friends the brothers Isley might say, is a very wide, though  slim patty of well-grilled beef. The patty is pressed tightly thick but loosely packed, and stays expansive and flavorful, as though it were beaten flat by the under-saddle of a Tartan warrior before becoming a griddled gossamer of tender beef, still maintaining all of its natural juicy qualities, along with those provided from seasonings, oil, and the kiss of the grill. Lettuce shares space on the burger with 'special' BBQ Ranch sauce and two kinds of cheese, of which the American added something I didn't dig. Overall, though, this burger was a joy to try for new and old flavors mingling amongst a classic standard. The star is that bun, and while the meat and freshness make the burger awesome as well, the presentation and taste of the bread is what brings everyone back.

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