Some of the most famous hamburgers in the world have been born in and around Los Angeles, including the iconic In-N-Out Burger and the more-recently famed Umami Burger. Even the McDonald's fast food chain started in Southern California, although most Angelenos wouldn't rank a Big Mac as one of the 10Best in town. But Californians know and love their burgers and will fight passionately over which restaurant serves up the top beef patty – with all the fixins', of course. Imagine burgers enhanced with truffles (like at Umami), burgers piled high with extras (think of the tater tot waffle on the Spicoli Burger at Hey 19 Public House) or huge patties made with Wagyu, America's version of Kobe beef (found at Boneyard Bistro). You'll find burgers on English muffins, burgers on brioche, burgers smothered in Brie and burgers that are made in the classic way, with a white-bread bun, lettuce, tomato and American cheese. There's something for every taste in the countless burger joints across the L.A. basin; these are our 10Best picks.
Hache LA puts a Gallic spin on the hamburger, with impressive results. This Los Feliz burger joint makes only steakburgers. ground in house using 100 percent all-natural, hormone- and antibiotic-free Angus beef. That's part of why their burgers are so good; the other reason revolves around all the different toppings that get piled on. Try the Roaring Forties, a gooey combination of blue cheese, caramelized onions and portobello mushroom, slathered in a horseradish sauce, but be sure to have plenty of napkins nearby. Or go for the Habanero, with its four-chile mix, garlic mayonnaise and queso fresco for a spicy bite. Pair your burger with select beer, wine or Hache's non-alcoholic speciality drinks (try the Mojito Iced Tea) and a pile of crunchy French fries while sitting on the large patio and you'll have a meal to remember. (323-928-2963)
Pie 'N Burger Diner
Since in 1963, this classic diner has been serving up a legendary classic hamburger. In fact, George Motz's "Hamburger America" lists Pie 'N Burger as one of the best burger joints in the whole country. This little Pasadena diner has been wowing food critics for decades – and for good reason. Their cheeseburger is a thing of beauty, a quarter-pound patty of fresh beef fried up on a griddle, then piled high with pickles, American cheese and a large slab of iceberg lettuce. Then their "secret sauce" (a house-made Thousand Island dressing) is added, the whole thing is wrapped in white paper and ready to delight. Make sure to add an order of crispy fries and leave room for a piece of their wonderful homemade pie, just like Grandma used to make back in the day. (626-795-1123)
At Boneyard Bistro, all their burgers are made with 100 percent Snake River Farms American "Kobe Style" Wagyu beef, presented in your choice of a five- or eight-ounce patty. Build your own, with ingredients including cheese, bacon, avocado or grilled onions; they'll even slap on a slab of two ounces of foie gras for $15 extra! But the real winners are the "Chef's Creations," special concoctions like "The O.M.G." that's piled high with onion rings, house-made bacon, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, onions, pickles and more. The chef asks that no substitutions be made on these special burgers; and they actually post a warning (and something of a dare, we think) on the "Burn in Hell" Burger, written in all caps and saying: EXTREMELY SPICY! NO MERCY! NO REFUNDS! It's got poblano and jalapeño peppers and is smothered in a habanero aioli. (818-906-7427)
Stout Burgers and Beers
An upscale twist on the ever-growing emergence of elite gastropubs all over Los Angeles, Stout Burgers and Beers offers unique gourmet burgers served with a dizzying selection of handcrafted draft micro-brewed beers. The menu suggests beer and burger pairings with the sole purpose of bringing out the subtle flavors of the house-ground meat, which is cooked medium rare for fullest flavor. Pair the hugely popular Six Weeker, a hearty burger topped with brie and fig jam, with a fruity ale; or try the Goombah, a fat beef patty topped with parmasiano flakes, smoked mozzarella, crispy proscuitto and a lemon basil aioli, and pair it with one of their Pilsners or IPAs. (310-260-8679)
When founder Adam Fleishman opened his first Umami Burger location in 2009, even he had no idea Angelenos would go crazy for his uniquely flavored hamburgers. Using umami, the fifth taste flavor (after sweet, salty, bitter and sour), to make his gourmet burgers practically irresistible, Fleishman's recipes have taken SoCal and beyond by storm. Now with more than twenty locations across the U.S., he obviously hit on a winning savory and bold taste sensation. All Umami burgers are made with beef that is freshly ground in house and served medium rare; the classic version has Parmesan frico, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onions and house-made Umami ketchup. The most decadently delicious one on the menu is the Truffle Burger, smothered in truffled aioli, house truffle cheese and a truffle glaze. Every restaurant serves up wine and beer, too, for a complete dining experience. (323-469-3100)
For the one of the best hamburgers in Los Feliz, hit Messhall Kitchen. Located in the domed building that once housed The Brown Derby restaurant and later The Derby nightclub, the structure is now a protected Historical Cultural Monument of the City of Los Angeles. Messhall is an easygoing watering hole that locals seem to love, probably because of its luscious burgers paired with wide-ranging (and funny) drinks. Try The Mess Burger, an oversized beef burger topped with slow-cooked onions, Vermont cheddar, bread-and-butter pickles and a smoky sauce, all presented on a homemade brioche bun. Wash it all down with a sip of White Girls Can't Drink if you like vodka, or go for the Pride, w/Liberal Amounts of Prejudice if scotch is your poison. And you can even bring you dog along, as the restaurant's large patio is pooch friendly. (323-660-6377)
Hey 19 Public House
Hey 19 Public House has all kinds of wonderful food on the menu, but the burger that makes this fun South Bay gastropub stand out is actually an off-the-menu choice. The Spicoli Burger honors Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn's burnout character from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High'; and while we're not sure how this applies to that stoner dude, we do know that this burger is world-class good. You'll need to open wide to eat a Spicoli Burger, stacked high with a tater-tot waffle, mac & cheese sauce and bacon bits, with an eight-ounce Niman Ranch natural beef patty anchoring this beautiful mess. Lots of napkins are necessary by the time you've finished this beauty. (310-378-8119)
The Bowery is a little bit of New York City in the heart of Hollywood (literally, it's located at Sunset and Vine), a tiny place that changed the mood of Los Angeles a decade ago. The place is the brainchild of NYC native George Abou-Daoud, whose idea for The Bowery was simple. "I wanted to open a bar that had really good food," he says, and ten years later, he's obviously doing something right. The Bowery Burger, a grass-fed beef burger served on an English muffin is legendary, smothered in cheese and BBQ sauce with a choice of toppings like mushrooms, onions, bacon, avocado, etc. Belly up to the bar and chow down, or simply settle into the comfortable banquette. And don't be surprised if you see a famous face sitting nearby, for this is a popular place with stars who love the Bowery's hassle-free ambience. (323-465-3400)
No visit to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to one of the iconic IN-N-OUT Burger fast-food places, founded by the Snyder family in 1948. Everything is made fresh to order here, nothing is ever frozen, which is part of the enduring appeal. Locals order from the "not-so-secret menu" that includes favorite items such as the animal-style burger, which is built on a mustard-cooked beef patty, or (for the ravenous carnivores in the crowd) the 4 x 4 , four beef patties stacked with four slices of cheese, lettuce and tomato. Or just go off the regular menu and try the Double Double Cheeseburger, which is exactly what it sounds like. Throw in an order of crispy fries and a real ice-cream milk shake and your IN-N-OUT experience will be complete. (800-786-1000)
Known for its simple one-page menu, The Apple Pan has been serving up top-notch burgers and succulent pies since 1947. Grab a seat at the U-shaped counter and settle in for a burger experience that has changed little over the past 60 years. No matter which hamburger you choose, expect it to arrive wrapped in paper on a cardboard plate – this is a bare-bones diner experience that is as far from chic and trendy as you can possibly get. Order the classic Steakburger or the zesty Hickoryburger, both made with one of the joint's secret sauces, sip your soft drink from a cone paper cup held by a metallic holder and save room for the fresh apple pie with a dollop of ice cream. Drop by for a bite, and you might just run into a hamburger-loving celebrity, for everyone in town knows about The Apple Pan. (310-475-3585)
About Jenny Peters
Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good things in life. She is a founding/voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, who present the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards every January. Her favorite places to be are on the beach in Southern California playing volleyball, scuba diving with the sharks in warm tropical waters or strolling the streets and soaking in the atmosphere of one of the world's great cities (New Orleans and Florence are her favorites).
Read more about Jenny Peters here.
Connect with Jenny via: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest