How to Hack Your Way to the Perfect Burger
Ladies and gentlemen, You Can Do This! is back with a splash because today, Cliff is putting together his idea of the perfect burger. Yes, the perfect burger is subjective, but this is Cliff’s, and hopefully these hacks will get you closer to finding yours.
BONUS: 21 Best Burger Places in LA!
Hamburgers are truly America’s food, born of the country’s fascination with beef amidst the 1950’s commoditization of farming. Those same mid-century decades also spawned the rise of the nation’s modern highway systems and LA’s fast food culture in general, making the lowly hamburger something to be sought out as a destination or grabbed quickly on the way home.
There’s also no convenient diagram for what makes a perfect Los Angeles burger. Some hew close to the Southern California standard, with thin griddled patties, fresh toppings, American cheese, and a slightly tangy spread. Others stack multiple massive patties together for a bit of primal indulgence, while still more trade in mayonnaise for foie gras-inflected bordelaise sauce. Here now, the essential Los Angeles burgers.
Removed: Hinoki & the Bird, Mo Better Burgers, Plan Check, Fatburger
Added: Burgers Never Say Die, Electric Owl, HiHo Cheeseburger
1 Connie and Ted’s
There’s no secret to Connie and Ted’s burger standby at this West Hollywood seafood restaurant is a well-built option simply made with quality ingredients. That translates to Hook’s four-year-old cheddar, pickles, onion, lettuce, and 1000 Island dressing.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
2 Belcampo Meat Co.
Belcampo’s $6 fast burger shows what’s possible when good people control every level of a process. Because the team behind Belcampo raises their own beef and owns the humane production line process, a reduced-price fast food-style burger is possible from their multiple LA locations — and it’s one that doesn’t skimp on flavor in the least.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
3 Bill’s Burgers
This Van Nuys staple continues to impress with its roadside flair and lovable crank of an owner. Fresh meat is brought in daily and patties are griddled in front of customers (mostly because there’s nowhere to hide inside the tiny shack), which means all you’ve got to do is belly up to a stool with a friend and enjoy the show.
Van Nuys, CA 91411
4 Cassell’s Hamburgers
Koreatown’s Cassell’s is a history lesson in real time. Hanging signage recalls the longtime former location not far away, though today’s iteration inside the Hotel Normandie is a glossy reminder that times change. Thankfully the well-griddles burgers are as sturdy as ever, lovingly overseen by burger whisperer Christian Page.
Los Angeles, CA 90020
5 Everson Royce Bar
This Arts District favorite is among the most talked-about beef and bun options anywhere in Los Angeles. Former Mozza lead Matt Molina has turned up the seemingly simple burger to 11, showing that it’s not always about stacking ingredients. A simple seared patty on a plush bun, for a kind of ideal take on the McDonald’s cheeseburger.
Los Angeles, CA 90021
6 Father’s Office
Who knew a burger could be so polarizing? Yet here is the Father’s Office burger, a no-ketchup-allowed option served on a split roll and topped with caramelized onions and lots of arugula. This massive sandwich uses dry-aged beef and maytag blue cheese for a remarkably different kind of burger.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
7 Grill ’em All
The Grill ‘Em All guys sling massive burgs (their word) from an unassuming space in Alhambra. They’ve got legions of fans who show up for their overclocked concoctions, and with a full slate of craft beer, heavy metal on the playlist, and wrestling on the TV, which make for a guaranteed good time.
Alhambra, CA 91801
8 Hawkins House of Burgers
Watts’ most beloved meal is Hawkins, where the loosely formed beef patties arrive thick and impressive from their time on the griddle. Service is perilously slow, but in the end that just builds your hunger — which is exactly what you’ll need when tackling these behemoths.
Los Angeles, CA 90059
9 Hinano Cafe
This Venice staple is a must for anyone heading to the beach. There’s nothing fancy about the burger or the dive bar digs, but that’s the point: this is an everyday burger joint, complete with the smoking flattop griddle at the end of the bar.
Venice, CA 90292
10 In-N-Out Burger
Picture one LA burger in the mind, and it’s likely to be from In-N-Out. That’s how embedded the locally-based burger chain is in the minds of Los Angeles, and speaks volumes of the enduring deliciousness of the Double Double. In short, it’s one of the best, most important burgers on the planet.
Hollywood, CA 90028
11 Irv’s Burgers
Once a quaint roadside stand tucked onto the near-end of Route 66, today’s Irv’s Burgers is a different sort of success story. Run for decades now by Sonia Hong and her clan, the restaurant just down Santa Monica Boulevard keeps the personal charm of the original location without sacrificing the quality of the burgers themselves.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
12 Original Tommy’s Hamburgers
If chili should to be a main staple on any burger — or even just an occasional indulgence — there’s Tommy’s to thank. The chain is now 70-plus years in marrying beef, bun, chili, and cheese, and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Huntington Park, CA 90255
13 Petit Trois
Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s Big Mec is the stuff of legend, with its $18+ price tag (sans fries) and shimmering photo-worthiness. Double-stacked patties drop with a foie gras-spiked Bordelaise sauce and melted cheddar, an ode to the sloppy burger favorite found at Chicago’s Au Cheval.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
14 Pie ‘n Burger
Pasadena notoriously claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger, and while the truth of such things are lost to history, there is no denying the enduring prominence of Pie ‘n Burger. A legend since 1963, this diner turned ode to all things burger continues to turn out impeccable California classics, complete with special sauce and lightly melted American cheese.
Pasadena, CA 91106
15 Shake Shack
With tons of anticipation built up before they even opened, Shake Shack has delivered on just about every promise with their now multiple LA-area locations in West Hollywood, Hollywood, LAX, Century City, El Segundo, and Glendale. Sporting long lines, awesome service, and the sort of quality product one expects from this booming chain. Try the LA area exclusive Roadside Double.
Glendale, CA 91204
16 The Apple Pan
There is nothing in LA so iconic as a burger from Apple Pan. Wrapped in Formica counter seating and manned by occasionally gruff old men, the restaurant itself is a throwback to a different time. But it’s those burgers, especially the smoked hickory option with a mass of crunchy lettuce and strong pickles, that remain as timeless as ever.
Los Angeles, CA 90064
17 The Golden State
As one of the burger destinations that helped jumpstart the modern burger craze, Golden State deserves a spot on this list. Their classic Harris Ranch beef burger with bacon and arugula is a timeless look at the early days of a thoughtful burger renaissance.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
18 The Oinkster
Andre Guerrero’s Filipino-inflected menu at Oinkster is a reflection of the man himself: colorful, filled with purpose, and open to all. The Eagle Rock location spawned the pastrami-toped Royale burger, and still plays spiritual home to LA’s annual Burger Week. The Royale burger with pastrami is a two-handed beast.
Los Angeles, CA 90041
19 Electric Owl
Now well removed from his stint as the opening chef/partner of Plan Check, Ernesto Uchimura has found a casual home at Hollywood’s Electric Owl. The restaurant’s resulting burger is a smashed beef bit of decadence, with white cheddar cheese and griddled shallots to complement all that beef.
West Hollywood, CA 90046
20 HiHo Cheeseburger
One of LA’s newest casual burger spots deserves to be one of its most essential, even this early in the game. What makes HiHo so remarkable? The double-patty wagyu beef is rich but not overwhelming while the double cheese binds it all together. The wisps of lettuce and tangy ketchup balance out the meat/cheese while the thin bun just barely keeps it all together. Oh, and the fries are fantastic when properly fried.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
21 Burgers Never Say Die
This invite-only underground smashed burger situation happens almost every Sunday in East Hollywood, and is drawing legions of fans. The simplistic burgers rely entirely on technique, crafting a crispy lace of meat at the edges and just enough American cheese on top. Email in to get on the list.
Los Angeles, CA