If there’s one food that we excel at in Los Angeles, it’s hamburgers. There are no shortage of excellent eateries in this city at which to celebrate the holy marriage of grilled meat patty and bun, preferably with a thick slice of melted cheese, a whole mess of sautéed onions and a couple strips of bacon in between. It has been a life-long mission of mine to identify the very best of these local burger establishments. Here are my top ten favorites:
“The Burger” from Golden State with Harris Ranch Beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Arugula and Ketchup
10. The Golden State (426 N. Fairfax, Los Angeles) This little gem lies in the middle of all the hip hop shops and Jewish bakeries on Fairfax. All ingredients in their awesome burgers and other menu items are locally sourced from California including high-end Harris Ranch beef and award-winning Fiscalini cheddar.
Piku “Fig” Burger from Pono Burger with Housemade Drunken Caramelized Fig Jam, Organic Beef Patty, Fermier Brie Cheese, Niman Ranch Bacon and Crushed Hazelnuts
9. Pono Burger (829 Broadway, Santa Monica) The funky looking metal structure that houses this joint (it looks like a mini airplane hanger) will draw you in. The Hawaiian-style burgers, sweet potato fries and salted caramel shakes will keep you coming back.
Chef Katsu’s Original California Roll Hamburger with Snow Crab Salad, Avocado, Sushi Ginger, Boston Lettuce, Tomato, Nori, and Wasabi-Shoyu-Mayonnaise
8. 26 Beach Restaurant (3100 W. Washington Blvd in Venice) There are several places that have an extensive menu of over-the-top themed burgers such as a Peanut Butter & Jelly Burger. 26 Beach is the best of that lot. They are especially known for their “Sushi Burgers” including a California Roll Burger, and Spicy Tuna Burger and a Mori Eel Burger.
Cheese Burger from Pie ‘n Burger with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Pickles and Lettuce
7. Pie ‘n Burger (913 E. California Blvd, Pasadena) This old school diner with a long winding counter is a mandatory stop for me when I go to the Rose Bowl or am otherwise in Pasadena. As you can glean from the restaurant’s name, you’re missing out if you don’t order both a hamburger and a slice of one of their amazing pies.
Griddled Cheeseburger from Ledlow with American and Cheddar Cheeses, Red Onion, Dill Pickle, Dijon and Garlic Aioli
6. Ledlow (400 S. Main St in Downtown) The newest restaurant of local superstar chef Josef Centeno (Baco Mercat, Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston), Ledlow is more than just a burger joint. However, their Griddled Cheeseburger seems to be the speciality of the house and has quickly drawn much-deserved acclaim from LA foodies.
Double Double from In-N-Out Burger
5. In-N-Out (all over Los Angeles) Yes, it’s a fast food chain, but don’t hold that against it. At $3.60, the Double Double is the best deal in town and is better than most of the pricey burgers at nice restaurants. I like to add toppings from their secret menu, including chilies, grilled onions and pickles.
Hickory Burger from The Apple Pan
4. The Apple Pan (10801 W. Pico Blvd in Westwood) This 68-year-old diner is an LA landmark. All seating is at a U-shaped counter, where you’re served by uber-efficient grumpy old men. It’s super fun, especially late at night, and their Hickory Burgers are awesome.
Cheeseburger from Belcampo with Dry Aged Grass Fed Beef with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions
3. Belcampo Meat Co (317 S Broadway in Downtown; also 1026 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica) It’s perhaps more of a gourmet butcher shop than a burger joint, but the cheeseburgers sold at this stall in Grand Central Market are phenomenal. They’re made with a special Wagyu-Angus meat blend and are served on fresh sesame seed buns. Belcampo just opened a fancier restaurant in Santa Monica where you can also get a burger, but I’m partial to the ones served downtown.
The Hatch Burger from Umami Burger with Roasted Hatch Chilies, House Cali Cheese and Roasted Garlic Aioli
2. Umami Burger (multiple locations) In a short period of time, this revolutionary burger restaurant has expanded into a ubiquitous chain throughout Los Angeles and has been widely emulated. Their burgers are made from specially seasoned meat blends and their Portuguese-style buns are sweetened with milk and honey. It’s a toss up for me as to which of their burgers is the best: the decedent truffle burger or the spicy hatch burger made with four types of green chilies.
Cheeseburger from Cassell’s Hamburgers with House Ground Prime Beef Patty and Cheddar Cheese on a Parker House Bun.
1. Cassell’s Hamburgers (3600 W 6th St in Koreatown) This is my new favorite burger joint in LA. First established in 1948, this restaurant recently reopened in a cool retro space in the historic Hotel Normandie. Now under new ownership, their burgers have some similarities to the ones which made Cassell’s an LA institution, but are significantly improved. They are now the perfect combination of gourmet excellence and classic style.
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