[Elvis photo via] There's perhaps no greater summer-specific disagreement than the desire to maintain your perfect beach body versus the desire to plunge face-first into a juicy, delicious hamburger. Face it, the perfect summer moment more often than not includes burgers (and beer, but that's a different list), and this is a burger town. But rather than keep it simple and tell you to go to Father's Office, In-N-Out, or Umami (all of which deserve every bit of praise they get), we thought we'd branch out a bit. So here, in no order, are five other places in L.A. to get a fantastic hamburger, today:
Note: it was pointed out to me while I was compiling this list that almost all of these burgers have bacon on them. This is because bacon is delicious, but there's no secret agenda. I apologize to any of my fellow Jews who feel alienated because of this, but again, bacon is delicious.
California Pride Division:
I might take some flack for saying this, but it seems to me that East Coasties mostly take pride in the things that suck, as if being proud of where you're from is a contest of who's endured the most hardship. If I get back together with my childhood friends, we're likely going to talk about blinding snowstorms and subzero temperatures, as if we enjoyed those things at the time (note: we did not).
In contrast, Californians tend to get overly flowery with their home-state nostalgia (hey San Francisco, your weather secretly sucks), but this rosy outlook works perfectly for The Golden State, an "everything-from-Cali" cafe on Fairfax. And nowhere is their love of all things local more contagious than in the perfectly simple, delicious menu item, The Burger: perfectly seasoned patty, brioche bun, sharp cheddar, smoked bacon, caramelized onions, arugula, aioli, and ketchup. Pair this bad boy up with sweet potato wedges and one of their ever-rotating local craft beers on tap, and you have a perfect summer meal. Did I mention they have Scoops ice cream for dessert? 426 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles [photo via]
Straight Outta Compton Division:
I confess, I'm conflicted about passing along the reports that call Mom's the "best hood burger," mostly because they seem to come from white people who I guess want some sort of street cred for simply ordering a burger here. What's not up for debate, however, is the quality of Mom's Chronic Burger, essentially a bacon cheeseburger with egg on it. Delicious, and neither as expensive nor as big as some of the other burgers on this list, meaning you could order it at lunch and still (possibly) get something done with the rest of your day. And with 30+ years of continuous operation and devoted fans who drive miles for the burger, it might be worth your own pilgrimage, whether you get the street cred or not. 336 W Alondra Blvd, Compton directions [photo via]
Meals On Wheels Division:
3. Grill 'Em All Truck
If food trucks are the upstart kids of the culinary world, then Grill 'Em All is the Camaro-driving stoner that hasn't gone to class for two months and still got a 1600 on his SAT. The winner of Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race", Grill 'Em All churns out relentlessly creative heavy metal burgers like the Dee Snider (topped with bacon, peanut butter, jelly and Sriracha) and the Witte (cream cheese, deep fried bacon, malt vinegar aioli). Make sure you also snag some of the ridiculously delicious h-100's (cheese filled tater tots).
Hidden Gem Division:
It would be really easy to drive right past Hole In The Wall, tucked away as it is down a side street of a Santa Monica & Sepulveda strip mall in Westwood, but those with the perseverance to search will find what might be the least-known best burger in all of Los Angeles. Of course, if all of that fancy praise doesn't move you, maybe two simple words can: Pretzel Bun. Honestly, you may not be able to go back to regular bread once you've had a completely customizable burger (you choose your patty, toppings, bun and condiments via checklist) on soft, savory pretzel bread. Of course, if you're not feeling the pretzel, you have options there, too. Bring some cash along with your appetite- they don't take cards.
Fancy Pants Division:
5. 25 Degrees
This is L.A., after all, so no list of burgers would be complete without at least one overly upmarket meat-and-cheese combo with toppings like "prelibato gorgonzola" and "tarragon remoulade," served in an over-the-top celeb-friendly hotel where you can eat, drink, dance and bowl at the same time. Thank God the Hotel Roosevelt makes this inclusion much easier by actually having a phenomenally good burger that, shockingly, is comparably priced to the rest of the burgers on this list. Pick one of their three preselected gourmet configurations (the #1 is kind of like the Father's Office burger and is fantastic), or build it yourself, starting with a custom blend from their 16 different gourmet cheeses. So even if you see Zac Efron at the table next to you, don't panic- the burger, at least, is not a joke.
Post-Script: The mouth watering burger pictured to the left is from Lucky Devils which I could not add to the list because I haven't been there yet. Based on this photo and the general recommendations, however, I will be going there immediately, and you should, too.