Tuesday, May 14, 2013

LA's 5 Most Craveable Burgers

Aside from "Why are you staring at me, creep?," the question I am asked most frequently is, "What is your favorite burger in LA RIGHT NOW?" It's probably because I look like a guy who's digested a good amount of burgers (a.k.a. emerging waistline), but everyone wants to know. At least a few times a week. Sometimes multiple times a day. Local denizens want to know the best burger - but not simply the best burger in Los Angeles. No, no. They want the intel on the best burger in the Southland this very second. That's sort of how the city works though. Everyone wants to have their finger on the pulse to the latest and greatest. And apparently that extends to the burger arena.

For a long time, I had a very quick and confident answer to this query: LUCKY DEVIL'S on Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood. No doubt about it. LD's Kobe Bacon Bleu was the city's finest combination of burger, meat and cheese (as I noted in this here blog two years back). Then sadly (and without notification), they removed the burger from the menu. While their current burger offerings sound mighty attractive, I just don't see them living up to the Kobe Bacon Bleu. Similarly, running a close second for a while was the burger at Culver City's Beacon, a 1/2 lb meat behemoth with Nueske bacon, gruyere and a sweet soy glaze. I loved that burger so much that when the restaurant suddenly closed I wrote a haiku about it. Ah, memories...

So with two of my favorite LA burgers RIGHT THEN now six feet under, I think it's time to update my answer to the oft-asked query. But, also in typical LA fashion, I'm not really going to answer your question. Best burger in LA? Way too subjective. What I am willing to discuss and share are the burgers I crave most RIGHT NOW. Burgers that I enjoy, but due to distance and logistics I simply don't get to enjoy as much as I wish. The burgers that I think, if you try, you will crave as well. These hearty burgers stuck with me. But they didn't just stick to my gut - they stuck to my brain.

((Presented in alphabetical order because Los Angelenos are passive and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by picking a "winner." These are all winners...))

CALIFORNIA GRASS-FED BURGER at Cooks County (8009 Beverly Blvd, LA) - Cooks County is one of those restaurants with so many appealing and accessible options on their menu, the burger often finds itself overlooked. Hell, the name, 'California Grass-Fed Burger' screams boring and do not order me. Ignore this intuition and order the burger. The Cooks County burger is not a fussy one. Rather, a burger of spare ingredients, each meticulously chosen by the chef. The perfectly, but not over-seasoned patty. The white cheddar cheese just sharp enough. And the secret weapon: an expertly grilled red onion that really puts the burger over the top.

Photo Courtesy Haven Gastropub.
McCORMICK ALLEY BURGER at Burger Haven at Haven Gastropub (42 De Lacey Avenue, Pasadena) - Proof I adore this burger? It was #3 on my 2012's Top 12 LA Foodstuffs Under $12. That's pretty much my Oscars, so yeah, this burger rocks. I mean, look at that picture. The gastropub's house burger, The Haven Burger garners most of the accolades, but I'm telling you, go McCormick Alley. When I dare rush hour traffic to make the trek from Santa Monica all the way to Pasadena for a freaking burger, that says something. The burger's make-up: Paso Prime beef, aged Grifton cheddar, butter lettuce, raw onions and an apricot-bacon-stout jam all between a custom bun from O.C. Baking Company.

LAZY OX BURGER at The Lazy Ox Canteen (241 S. San Pedro St, DTLA) - People had been insisting I check out Lazy Ox's burger for a while. "It's the tits, bro!," I heard on more than one drunken occasion. A few months back I finally made it downtown with a couple friends and I must admit the group was divided on the burger. Half of us really enjoyed it; the others not so much. I, obviously, was amongst the former. That said, I agree with A Hamburger Today, and feel the tri-blend patty and assorted accruements would be greatly heightened by a better bun. Bun aside, the burger had a tremendous char and taste. Not to mention the fact the fries, with a delicious touch of dill, are maybe the city's top frites. They also come with two dipping sauces, which never sucks.

FUEGO at North End Caffe (3421 Highland Ave, Manhattan Beach) - North End Caffe is one of my favorite lunch spots in all of Los Angeles. They make great sandwiches and stellar Belgian fries with a beautiful beach backdrop. I'll be honest though: I never considered ordering a burger there until I saw the Fuego featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." I am glad I gave it a shot though. Yep, the bleached blonde, spiky hair dude knows what he was talking about. A hefty beef patty comes with pepper jack and cheddar cheese, crispy bacon, avocado, salsa and house-made chipotle mojo. This all atop a crunchy baguette - which for a San Francisco native like myself, I feel I do not see used as a burger bun hardly enough here in SoCal. For the Fuego, no single ingredient stands out, but like a ragtag group of misfits, together they shine. The view probably kicks it up a few notches as well. A truly halcyon burger eating experience.

RUSTIC CANYON BURGER at Rustic Canyon (1119 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica) - For a very long time I resisted the urge to try the Rustic Canyon Burger. After all, it costs $18 and I really felt there was no way it could live up to the price tag. Obviously, I was wrong. The 80/20 Niman Ranch blend RC Burger -- topped with an onion fondue, housemade pickles, an herb remoulade, arugula and a sharp cheddar -- lives up to any hype you may have heard. At eighteen buckaroos though, it's not meant to be an everyday burger. It was created to be a special occasion burger. A burger to lust after. A burger to dream about. A craveable burger.

Honorable Mention: Pier Burger, the burger and fries pictured at the top of the post. Due to its proximity to my house, I eat there a lot. Thus, I don't really crave it persay. But it's a high quality burger under $5. [[Five questions with the owner of Pier Burger]]


  1. I can't believe I haven't had any of these burgers - and I eat a lot! Recently had one at Plan Check that blew my mind. SRIRACHA LEATHER!!!

    1. I'm a Plan Check fan, but -- and I know this is ridiculous -- I think they put a tad too much cheese on their burgers. Drowns out the beef flavor. Call me crazy.

  2. FYI, the Rustic Canyon burger is off the menu, though they'll make it if you ask. Personally, I don't think it's that great a loss. For some reason, my burgers there always came out overcooked.

    However, Rustic Canyon is kicking it right now under Jeremy Fox. I highly recommend checking it out -- and skipping the burger in favor of some pork terrine and asparagus with bone-marrow gravy.

  3. I'm a big fan of Rose City Pizza in Rosemead. I discovered them on my "Burger a Day in May" journey. They make their burger buns out of pizza dough and the patty was a bit like meatloaf.

    1. Tom, thanks for checking out the blog. And, that does awesome. I'm always a fan of sandwiches (usually meatball and such) on pizza dough bread. May need to make the drive out to Rosemead sometime. Appreciate the recommendation.

    2. Hey Tom - I don't see the burger on the menu on their website (http://www.rosecitypizza.com/menu). Is it off menu? Would love to try.