The Best Burgers in Los Angeles

Where to begin. No wait, I know that part, I just came up with it in the shower eight minutes ago.

Far too often, we allow our friends to write things off for us before we even bother. New cities, like so many new bands, are never even broached because we’re not thinking like an anti-tourist. We’re being led, like a moron with a fanny pack (if you’re a hipster, then the fanny pack is cool but lose the attitude) in a group of other morons, by some undersexed guy with a flag and a Radioshack™ miniature bullhorn through life. No. Incorrect. FAIL.

Which leads me to discuss the non-stop gainsaying I always encounter when I tell anyone that I’m going to LA to have some fun. I’ve gone twice since Halloween to visit a good friend who teaches ESL in Koreatown and knows exactly what Los Angeles is about. Its not about finding celebrities, or going to the coolest club, listening to some rockabilly dickhead yammer on or wasting all of America’s electricity, but really a city of simple old-school pleasures. Notably, food.

LA does three types of food absolutely right. Donuts, mexican and burgers. On my latest odyssey, I figured I’d go around and try out a bunch of burgers betwixt my usual travelogue video-ing so as to contribute as the first vloger [srsly?] on the Anti-Tourist. O Hai.

My boss, pictured here (not kidding at all), is a big foodie and gave me more burger recommendations than I could remember, so I broke them into three categories and present my findings to you now. I’m only presenting the winner so as to keep this short. I have a Yelp-y tendency to write for longer than I actually ate.

Cheap, Quick and Dirty

Winner: In-N-Out. This is almost a ’nuff said scenario, but Jack in the Box and several other small chains exist although they, ultimately can’t go even one round with the Mormon Meat Machine. Aside from weird bible references if you look hard enough, the fries are slightly thinner than at a diner, buns have that soft top and are toasted so that they have a little crunch to them and perfect browning on the bottom. Whereas Jack in the Box has the type of burger you’d expect at a cafeteria, In-N-Out has a certian ‘je ne sais quoi’, a sweet temptation, much like the kettle corn of the burger world, salty with a hint of sweet.

The Old Fashioned Greasy Spoon

Winner: The Apple Pan. The Apple Pan has quite possibly the surliest service of anywhere ever. That said, once you have a hickory-smoked burger in your stomach and a piece of banana cream pie in front of you, all that melts away. They serve drinks in paper cone cups in metal holders, opened in 1947, and I’m pretty sure the waiters are ghosts that haunt it, more than actual servers. The burger itself was of medium thickness and greasy, doused in their own hickory BBQ sauce, counteracted by a sour cream type sauce on the other side of the burger. Sloppy, and divine. The fries were hearty and salty, and drinking a Coke really tied the whole meal together. Terrible eBayer that you love to hate, but an amazing product. A++++++++

The Gourmet Treat

Winner: Father’s Office. With a location in Santa Monica and one in LA, this burger destination (and upscale pub-y restaurant) has become insanely popular, with a vast array of local tap beers, cool clean atmosphere and scrumptious food. Upon arriving for lunch 10 minute before it opened…on a work day…there was already a line that packed the place in the first seating. We were lucky enough to get a table. As the bartender informed me, I was the only one in my party “wearing my man pants” after I ordered a first beer of the day, a local Hefewiezen with notes of Banana and clove. The burger here is king, and literally accepts no substitutions, as there are no modifications other than the way you want it cooked. It comes with some marniated grilled onions, gruyere cheese and some of the most fantastic fries I’ve had outside of the Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village. So shoesstring thin that they almost taste like potato sticks, but with a hint of stretchy give. The only downside here is that there was no ketchup to accompany the fries, although they had a delightful mayo aoili of some sort. This instantly made my top 3 burgers ever list and I don’t see it moving any time soon.

A few notes about the video, illuminating other aspects:

1. The game we were playing is called 1000 Blank White cards. Its a blast, check it out here
2. Yes, that is the where the cover of Elliott Smith’s album Figure 8 came from, its covered in Elliott Smith quotes now and apparently they repaint it fairly often.
3. The rooftop bar is at the Standard Hotel downtown, incredible, and free on nights other than Friday and Saturday, perfect for an early evening drink/swim.
4. The first bar is called Little Joy, its in Echo Park and has a really great crowd, we just sat down at a table with 5 people and were all hanging out for the night.
5. Roscoe’s chicken and waffles, yep, best fried chicken, best waffels. Checkmate.
6. The Prince – Old time huge plush bar in koreatown, now owned by koreans…who inexplicably serve chips and salsa…
7. We got the live octopus at Neptune Lounge in K-town (only $30), so tasty, and the owner gave us free live shrimp to see if we would eat that too. We did.
8. The opium den looking bar was super cool inside but crowded on a Saturday night, it was called Good Luck bar, in Silverlake.
9. Its not in the movie, but between you and me, The Museum of Jurassic Technology was the best part of the trip.

By: Dave Pinke


6 thoughts on “The Best Burgers in Los Angeles

  1. Hi! I’m the Community Manager of We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about Los Angeles and we think that this post is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from your blog (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at erin[at]
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  2. This post was pretty fantastic. I’m re-visiting LA for the first time since my college hiatus and was looking for possible places to take my friend (a San Franciscan who has never been to Los Angeles).

    Was that Roscoe’s in Hollywood or on Pico/Washington?

  3. Sorry, but you missed a bunch. THE best burger in L.A. is at the S&W Country Diner in Culver City. But here are some other comments and check this out for details:

    – Quick, cheap and dirty: Fat Burger. I’m a Los Angeles native and In ‘n Out is a fabulous original, but Fat Burger has them beat. Better fries too.

    – Greasy Spoon: Apple Pan is cozy, but if you don’t like the Hickory Sauce, you’ll be disappointed. Try Marty’s on Pico or Pie’n Burger in Pasadena (just as cool, friendlier and oh so yummy)

    Gourmet: The famed F.O. burger isn’t even really a burger, and there are better. Try Twenty Five Degrees in Hollywood for example.

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