Some time in the spring, medicine Sean emailed me a list of the best burgers in LA compiled by LAist. Even though Sean wanted to start working through the list, impotent we never got around to it, at least not intentionally. We crossed off The Apple Pan as it was across the street from the theater where we saw Thor.
Earlier this month, LA Weekly posted another best burgers in LA list. Sean nudged me about it. We decided to make a dent in the list this week since we both are on vacation.
Thus, began Burger Week. After the second day, we made a spreadsheet in Google Docs and included any spot on LAist’s 2010 best burger list, 2011 list or LA Weekly’s 2011 list. Yeah, the spreadsheet is nerdy, but it made picking the next spot easier. We based our choices on type (“gourmet” vs “basic”) and location. Most of the high end burger spots are located on the Westside so we didn’t ever travel more than 6 miles.
Father’s Office Burger @ Father’s Office
Los Angeles (near Culver City)
FO is a familiar spot. It’s less than a mile away, but I don’t go very often as I’m not much of a drinker and it’s pricey for a burger. Still, after a few visits over the last few years, it’s easy to see why the FO burger is consistently listed as one of the best burgers in LA.
In short, it’s delicious. We both had the Father’s Office burger: Kobe beef, Gruyere, caramelized onions, applewood bacon compote, maytag blue cheese and arugula on a roll. I love the combination of Gruyere, arugula and caramelized onions. We passed on the shoestring fries (they’re good) and split a basket of sweet potato fries with garlic aioli on the side for dipping. The burger is great, but the sweet potato fries with garlic aioli are my favorite menu item. Since FO is a gastropub known for a wide beer selection, we paired our burgers with Unibroue Fin du Monde.
It’s not cheap, but you get what you pay for. The burger can easily feed two people with smaller appetites. FO does not do substitutions and does not have ketchup in house. This has never bugged me. The LA location gets very crowded at peak hours and you might have to stand around waiting for a table or spot at the bar to open up before ordering food. Be patient.
SoCal Burger and Triple Pork Burger @ Umami Burger
Los Angeles (La Brea location)
Umami was the first new spot we tried. I’ve passed it several times while heading up to Hollywood, but never stopped by. We were immediately seated and got quick service. After checking out the menu for a few minutes and trying to decide, Sean ordered the Triple Pork Burger (ground pork, chorizo and applewood smoked bacon with manchego cheese and pimento aioli). I ordered the SoCal Burger (butter lettuce, slow-roasted tomato, house spread, house-made american cheese, carmelized onions). My burger was medium rare and very juicy. I didn’t expect it to be so messy. The bun was delicious and tasted slightly sweet. I didn’t care for the slow-roasted tomato. Sean’s review: the burger was delicious, not too juicy, the chorizo really stood out and added a spicy kick. We ordered sweet potato fries on the side. They were okay, but were a little soggy.
We both agreed that we’d return and would like to try some of their other burgers.
Burgers cost $10-14. I’ve heard from some that the burgers are small. I think the size is fine. Parking is by valet (at least after 5), but we easily found street parking nearby.
The Naked Truth and the Big Scene @ Hamburger Habit
After two $10+ gourmet burgers, we opted for something more affordable. I’d seen Hamburger Habit many times on the bus to school, but had never visited. Burger Week was the perfect opportunity. Upon entering Hamburger Habit you feel like you’ve gone back to a 1950s Coca Cola commercial. There’s lots of red, retro tables and counters. The cashier handed us a printed menu and we made our choices: The Naked Truth with added bacon for Sean, the Big Scene for me and chili cheese fries to split. We followed the menu recommendations and added grilled onions to our cheeseburgers.
I enjoyed my burger and found it worth the price ($20 for 2 burgers, chili cheese fries and two drinks). The fries were too salty and the chili was okay. I wouldn’t order them again. Hamburger Habit is okay, but I don’t see what sets it apart from other similar burger joints.
The strip mall parking lot is tiny. Free wi-fi.
The Comme Ça Burger @ Comme Ça
Spoiler alert: The Comme Ça Burger was the first I unable to finish; I left about a third of it. And I had it for lunch after skipping breakfast. That would make it brunch.
We arrived shortly after they opened for the lunch hour. We had our pick of tables as there were only a few other patrons. I have no clue how crowded it gets for dinner. The waitress brought us a delicious breadstick and butter. We each ordered our burgers and she advised us that the medium rare was still quite bloody, so we changed asked for them a little more well done.
The Comme Ça burger features a thick Angus beef patty on a brioche bun. I’ve read other reviews that say it must be 8 ounces. The patty is topped with gooey Vermont cheddar, onions, and iceberg lettuce in dressing. The creamy lettuce and dressing combo reminded me of cole slaw. Even in a brasserie, the burgers are served with a side of fries, er pomme frites.
Of the gourmet burgers we tried this week, Comme Ça was my least favorite. It’s definitely worth trying, but I don’t like being a messy eater when I’m out in a restaurant. I liked lettuce and dressing topping, but it was too much and too creamy. As for the beef, I should’ve gone more well done as it was rarer than I’d like. The best thing about Comme Ça was the pomme frites. They’re the best fries I’ve had in LA.
It’ll set you back $18, comparable to FO considering the fries are included. We didn’t order beer, but it’s definitely the kind of burger that would go well with a beer. How ever you usually order your burgers (e.g., medium rare), go a little bit more well done. Valet parking or metered parking on Melrose. We found free parking a couple blocks away. I’m cheap. Free wi-fi.
Cheeseburger @ Capitol Burgers
Mid City (Pico & Crenshaw)
We visited Capitol Burger for lunch. Capitol Burger is one of the basic burger spots on best of lists. I wouldn’t disagree. Capitol Burger is your classic no-frills burger stand with a couple of guys flipping burgers in a tiny shack. It’s good and cheap. We spent $10 for two cheeseburgers ($2.80 each), drinks and chili cheese fries. Um, that’s less that we spent on a single burger at the gourmet spots.
We both ordered cheeseburgers. Sean got his a little more plain. Mine was topped with tomato, lettuce, mustard, onions and pickles. I appreciated the pickles. Our food came in a box. Much different than chic white plates at Comme Ça.
While the burger didn’t stand out in comparison to other burger stands I’ve eaten at (similar size, toppings), the chili cheese did make an impression. Capitol Burgers tops thin fries with a hearty helping of chili and cheddar cheese.
Lunchtime service was slower than I expected. We waited ~20 minutes for our order. There are only three tables available. If you’re sheltered and avoid the “bad” parts of town, you might be uncomfortable going to a burger stand with bars on the windows. Personally, I didn’t feel unsafe.
Cheeseburger and bacon cheeseburger @ Hole in the Wall Burger Joint
Our final spot was another basic burger in West LA. The website says Santa Monica, but it’s only on Santa Monica Boulevard. We entered and each filled out order forms with options for proteins, buns, cheese, basic and premium toppings. Although Hole in the Wall offers chicken and turkey burgers, we stuck with beef for consistency. Sean’s burger featured chipotle mayo, applewood smoked bacon, pepperjack cheese, red onions, and red leaf lettuce on a brioche bun. I got the same thing sans bacon and with tomato on an old fashioned plain bun. We shared house made fries and sweet potato fries.
When my burger arrived I thought it would be one I wouldn’t be able to finish. I was wrong; my stomach has probably expanded a little this week and I ate it all minus a bite or two of the bun. I found the beef overly salted, but liked the chipotle mayo. Even though Sean had bacon on his burger, he didn’t find it too salty. I didn’t pay attention to the bottom of the order form where they noted that burgers are cooked medium unless specified. I was okay with that, but next time I’d go medium well.
The sweet potato fries were almost as good as the fries at Father’s Office. Both types of fries were well portioned, salted and perfectly crunchy. We dipped our fries in Hole in the Wall’s homemade ranch and ketchup (check out the ingredients). The ketchup isn’t red and looks like a thin orange marmalade. It’s good, but if you’re a fan of Heinz you’ll miss the sweetness and thickness.
We spent $14-16 for our burgers ($8.95 without toppings like bacon and avocado), fries and drinks. Bring cash, they don’t accept credit cards. I didn’t notice a parking lot, but that wasn’t a problem. We easily found street parking on Bentley. That might be tougher in the evening as it’s a residential area.
And on the seventh day, they rested…
Coming next week: master cleanse week!
Burger Week was fun, but as you might expect I won’t be making it a regular thing. I’d like my pants to zip without needing to lie down. Plus, I need more variety in my diet. It’s probably not good for me if my only vegetables are fried potatoes. And there’s the whole cost associated with eating out daily. Even the cheap spots quickly add up.
If you’d like to check out any of LA’s best burgers according to LA Weekly and LAist, check out the spreadsheet.