Sunday, May 27, 2012

Okay, I gotta weigh in on the Burger Debate

On Friday I mentioned that I thought Five Guys is giving In N Out Burgers a run for their money. This sparked many great comments from various animal fat aficionados. Personally, when it comes to love of burgers, I fall just behind Wimpy. So here on this lovely holiday weekend when no one wants to really tackle any weighty issues ( I for one am Dan Harmon’ed out) I thought I’d share more of my burger thoughts. Please chime in with more of your own.

Five Guys seem tastier to me than In N Out. I like the buns better, there are more condiments, yes they’re more expensive but you don’t need fries. Just eat the free peanuts. That said, if I’m at some school carnival or organized daytime function and an In N Out truck arrives, I fall to my knees in appreciation.

Several people mentioned Hamburger Habit. Been there a couple of times. Okay but didn’t knock my socks off.

I’ve had White Castle when I was on the east coast. Don’t get it. Lethal pellets dipped in anti-freeze. Not for me.

I hear the Shake Shack is great in New York. Can’t wait to try it. Also on my list in Boss Angeles is Umami Burgers. It’s gotten a lot of hype.  But it seems a little “designery” for me. They feature truffles. Really? That sounds like a burger you’d get in the private club at Laker games. What do you think?

Best burger I ever had in New York was in the Parker-Meridian hotel. Don’t even know the name. Just go to the lobby and look for the line where no one is toting luggage.

Some of you praised the Fat Burger (perhaps a local LA chain – sorry New Zealand). My daughter, Annie has a great rule. “Never eat in an establishment where consequences are in the title.” This applies to Fat Burger or Tombstone Pizza. I don’t mind Fat Burger. I make sure I get my burger char-broiled.  And they're made to order. 

I know it’s an LA thing but for sheer nostalgia I head straight for Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake. Imagine a Big Mac only good.

I’m surprised none of you Angelinos mentioned the Apple Pan. Now this is an exceptionally tasty burger with or without the hickory sauce. Topped off with a slice of pie and you are in cholesterol heaven. The one downside is you can only sit at the horseshoe counter. When it’s crowded there are people standing behind you imploring you to chew faster. So I always feel a little rushed. The waiters have been there a thousand years and are fast. They’re the Blue Man Group with aprons.

Worth the wait (and there WILL be a wait) is Father’s Office in Santa Monica. Good selection of beers there too… just like in my father’s office.

I also love The Counter. Not sure if it’s just an LA chain or has spread elsewhere. Co-owned by Jon Favreau, which means nothing in terms of this discussion, but I might get more hits on Google. What I love about The Counter is that you get tons of choices. You fill out essentially an All-Star ballot. Twenty toppings. Six bun choices. Thirty condiments. Eight cheeses. And try the sweet potato fries.

Somewhat brought up Tommy’s Burgers on Beverly & Rampart. Open 24 hours and always busy. Tasty, messy chili burgers. There are a couple of picnic tables, but most people eat them in their cars. Very bad idea. They come in wax paper and within seconds the chili drips, gets on your upholstery and trust me when I say, it NEVER COMES OUT. You will smell that chili for the life of your car. Now if it could do that to leather, what do you think it does to your stomach?

There's also Carney's chili burgers.   Not as good as Tommy's but certainly better located.  Just look for the train car on the Sunset Strip.  

Burger King is what you order at the airport when Chili's Two is closed. McDonalds is… McDonald’s. Carl Jr.s is Hardee’s on the east coast and terrible on both.

There are a number of highly touted joints in downtown Los Angeles. I love hamburgers but not that much.

Still my favorite however, is Cassells at 6th & Berendo in the Wilshire District. Full disclosure: It’s not precisely as good as in the old days when Alvin Cassell owned and operated the place. Now it’s across the street, under new management, but the quality is almost the same. Their grills are on a slant so the grease slides down. The condiment bar is loaded and the best thing is their homemade potato salad made with a hint of horseradish. Only open for lunch.  And it's not just me.  The Korean Times also recommends it. 

Are you as hungry as I now am?  See you at Bob's.

105 comments:

rap said...

I like 5 Guys, too, but Steak n' Shake has been a favorite of late. Great value, too. Triple steakburger and fries for $3.99? Yup!

BunnySix13 said...

The best burger I"ve ever ever had, and I've had the fabulous Parker-Meridian experience, btw.....on the East Coast is..... Bobby's Burger Palace in NJ called the Crunchburger. Ahhh, pure heaven for me being a fitness fanatic! I will travel far and wide to have my cheat meal here :) That coupled with the Sweet Potato fries. Second is BBP Napa Valley burger. I've had In-Out and IMO Five Guys beats them hands down. The insane amount of fries they toss in your bag is worth the extra cents. Bobby Flay named his place just right - he's the King of burgers and that place is a palace of delicious sinful cheat meals for me!

Andy Ihnatko said...

Burger Joint at the Parker Meridien on 57th! I used to stay at that hotel several times a year. The first time, I wondered why there seemed to be a half-dozen people waiting outside the huge, floor-to-ceiling brown curtain tucked into the side of the lobby.

When I investigated...I rejoiced. You never forget your first real kiss or the first time you got a decent meal in New York City for less then ten bucks.

Birdie said...

My favorite all-around burger place in New York is still JG Melon's. It also used to be a favorite hang-out of someone who admire very much...Steve Gordon. On second thought, perhaps he should have gone there a little less often.

My favorite place but it closed a few years ago was RARE, in Murray Hill. More upscale than Melon's but not too so. And they had literally any topping you wanted, and they always cooked your burgers perfectly , which is always a pet peeve of mine when they don't. Usually overcooked, that is.


I'm a big In and Out fan but will have to try this place next time out. How ironic is it that LA the capital of health consciousness has some of the best junk food places ever? It is where the Cheesecake Factory originated, after all.

Funny you mention Toluca Lake...my first vacation out there in the early 80s we used to go to the Bob's Big Boy there all the time...also Marie Callendars, which was my absolute fave.

I've also become a mini burger nut in the years since it has become trendy...pretty much all the hotels now have them on their bar menu. And speaking of LA, L'Ermitage has these salmon burgers that are out of this world.

Back to New York, PJ Clarke's has good burgers too, though I still prefer Melon's.

Birdie said...

Someone "you" admire very much...oops.

Great Big Radio Guy said...

I'm concerned that you still go to school carnivals WHUUUUT?

Scott Carpenter said...

In Minneapolis there is the Juicy Lucy, or Jucy Lucy, depending on if you get one at 5-8 Club or Matt's Bar. Yummmmmm. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jucy_Lucy

Lauren B. said...

My favorite LA burger, hands down, is Umami (not Unami). And they do great turkey and veggie burgers too, which can't be said for a lot of the other places. And on a delicious brioche bun.

But I think we have to make a distinction between the tiers of types of burger places, y'know? There's fast food, fast casual, restaurant, etc. They're different animals, even if they're all beef ;)

I wasn't impressed with Father's Office. It's expensive, it only comes one way (with blue cheese), and it's served on something more like a baguette than a bun.

Jon88 said...

Cassell's! It's been far too long.

I've given Shake Shack three chances to convince me that their burger is great, but the highest rating I can give it is "acceptable." For great:

1) In my neighborhood (UWS), Burger Joint.

2) brgr on 7th Avenue between 26th and 27th, and goodburger, various locations. So great, they don't need capital letters.

3) When money is no object, the (off-menu, lunch only) bacon cheese burger at the Union Square Café.

Nathan said...

I'm a recent convert to Smashburger. And I love that each location has a signature burger designed for it's host city. The "Brooklyn" has Grilled pastrami, Swiss cheese, pickles, onion and yellow mustard on a pretzel bun. And a burger.
I've got nothing against Five Guys, but the amount of fries they serve is ridiculous and even if you order them without salt, they seem to absorb it from the rest of the store by osmosis.

@shaynbaron said...

Living in Miami Beach you quickly learn about the tourist traps, the locals know who to avoid. Everyone I asked recommend Five Guys for a good burger, and it was definitely one of the best I've ever had. When I moved back to NJ I was excited to see they opened a Five Guys in Westfield, but to my disappointment it wasn't the same. :(

When I lived in Studio City I'd visit The Counter but not exactly for the burger. Their regular fries with country buttermilk ranch are amazing and the sweet potato fries are divine!

I'm still a fan of In N' Out, especially in Vegas!

James O'Hearn said...

I recently ate at BugerFuel in Dubai. It's a New Zealand chain whose image is that of a biker gang run by a hippie co-op from Portlandia. High Octane imagery everywhere, with everything organic, recycled, and environmentally conscious.

I've never eaten such a good burger in my life.

Johnny Walker said...

I love how Tommy's claim that their chilli burgers are "world famous". I'm not sure they're even known outside of LA! Either way, I personally find their stuff too heavy. My stomach never thanks me after I've eaten one of their burgers.

When I was in Wisconsin I discovered a burger place called Culvers. MAN, I remember those being good burgers!

Ray Barrington said...

Second the Culvers rec. They have received favorable comparisons to both I-N-O and 5G. But if you ever get to Green Bay, stop at Kroll's (located across the street from Lambeau Field). Good burgers with a special ingredient - a pat of real Wisconsin butter on each one.

As for Tombstone Pizzas, they came originally from the Tombstone Tap in Medford, Wis., a small town northwest of Wausau. It was the Tombstone Tap because it was right next to the local cemetery. They were great pizzas until Kraft got hold of them and changed the recipe.

An (is my actual name) said...

In n Out was ritual for me when I ate red meat. I still crave it. Five Guys wasn't around back then, so can't compare. For an awesome turkey burger, The Stand in Encino is tough to beat. I hear the beef burgers are killer too. Soooo hungry...

Eric J said...

Cassel's was great in the 70's and even 80's. The 2" roaches were a little surly, but the burgers were great. Haven't been in a long time.

One poster questioned Tommy's "World Famous" tagline. If he realized that means in medical circles, he'd understand. Tommy's belly bombs are not the cause, but they contributed to my 30 years as a vegan.

Anonymous said...

The best burger is no burger. Why would you take perfectly good steak and grind it up with gristle and fat into a mush and possibly add pink slime?
I am no vegetarian but burgers are a big reason America is NUMBER ONE in heart disease, obesity and planet destruction.
But since you brought it up, how about Steak and Shake? They have good steak burgers and awesome milkshakes.

Scott said...

There is a place in Anaheim Hills (if you happen to be out this way for an Angels/Mariners game) called 50/50. The burger patties are made up of 50% ground beef and 50% bacon. You can add a whole lot of other things (an egg, ham, more bacon, etc.). Also they have maple bacon shakes. The burger was pretty darn good, and the shake grew on me after a few minutes. Definitely worth a try.

princess apr said...

I generally like the idea of a burger better than actually eating one. I prefer the Five Guys Lil Cheeseburger. I get the fries if I have someone with whom to share them. We do have a Shake Shack now, but I've yet to have a chance to try it.

I also like the sliders at Matchbox in the DC area.

Honestly, I only eat burgers so I have an excuse to eat fries - steak fries, waffle fries, sweet potato fries, you name it.

Jen said...

I went to Umami in Studio City. It was only okay. The burger I had was really good (huge and bacon lardons should be on everything lol), but the price (they aren't really fast food) combined with the fact they REALLY cook their burgers rare sort of put me off. They told me they cook on the rare side so I ordered well done and it was quite pink in the centre. Why they feel the need to suddenly change what well done means, I'll never know.

I wasn't a fan of their onion rings (no flavour) or cheesy potatoes (hello Tater Tots), but their fries seemed good, and apparently their ketchup is out of this world (but not vegetarian).

Overall I'd rather have In-and-Out lol.

David said...

Growing up here in L.A., good burgers meant Bob's, Apple Pan (with hickory sauce) and Tommy's double chili cheeseburgers with everything.

We'd hit Tommy's before a Dodgers game, and to stay semi-clean, we'd stand in a circle in the parking lot, bent slightly at the waist, feet well apart for balance, soda cans at our feet. It was like we were stretching for the game.

If you're going to Hollywood to try Umami, walk up the block (once you're hungry again) and try Stout -- also good upscale burgers paired with appropriate brews, but slightly better, IMO.

David said...

Oh, and we loved Burgerville when we visited the Pacific Northwest: a lot of healthy choices for a fast food place, sustainably-produced food, nutritional info on the wrappers, and tasty stuff.

Don Tandler said...

Nothing better than the Shackburger from the Shake Shack. First thing I do when I get to Citi Field: get on the line (it gets longer through the game).

dave™© said...

Next time you're up Mendocino way, take a drive over to Fort Bragg and try Jenny's Giant Burgers. A tiny little roadside shack and the double giant burger is great! Served with a ton of fries and you'd do well to wash it down with a chocolate malt!

Beach Blogger said...

Ken, you have been working in Seattle for a bunch of years now and not one mention for Dick's? If it's good enough for Sir Mix-A-Lot...

Biff Patty said...

Shake Shack makes the Kardashian family seem hype-free.

VP81955 said...

As a D.C. person, it's Five Guys all the way. Huge burgers available with an array of condiments, a seemingly endless bag of fries, and peanuts while you wait for your order. The few times I've had In-N-Out, the burgers were good, but not exceptional; same thing for Shake Shack, which unfortunately bumped Five Guys out of Nationals Park. (Of course, when you have Texas, Cincinnati and vegetarian chili available at the ballpark from Hard Times Cafe, not to mention the D.C. signature food, half-smokes from Ben's Chili Bowl, who needs burgers?)

Gary said...

As Mr. Beach Blogger says, it's time you visit Dick's in Seattle. For entertainment w/your meal, go to the Capital Hill drive-in...only the Queen Anne 'restaurant' has inside seating, the rest are pure drive-ins. I'm sure Ricky knows where it is by now...certainly someone on the KIRO staff knows!

If we're eating burgers, we don't really care that there is a FAT factor, hence, the name FAT BURGER has no ill effect on me. But like every place, it matters who's doing the cooking. There was a Fuddruckers in Billings MT that was excellent, but the one in the Chicago burbs was just not as tasty.

Remembering the troops you made the ultimate sacrifice, all those who've gone before us and allow us to celebrate their sacrifices. A-men.

Little Miss Smoke and Mirrors said...

Five Guys boldly opened up about a city block from the local In n Out here. I gave it a try. It's good, the fries are def better than In n Out fries (which suck), but at the end of the day, I still prefer the In n Out burger.

There's a place in Long Beach on PCH near the traffic circle called The Crooked Duck that has an amazing buffalo burger.

Leigh said...

Texas girl here. Tried In n Out when I was in L.A. Came to the conclusion it's popular because y'all don't have Sonic or Whataburger. :-P It's a fine, thin burger, but nothing life-changing, and definitely not worth waiting in line for.

Tod Hunter said...

I went to Umami in Hollywood with a trendoid friend who settled for Umami when he couldn't raise the location of his food truck of choice on his iPhone.

It's certainly a tasty (albeit pricey) burger but I was caught by surprise by the ketchup in an unpretentious squeeze bottle dropped on the table with the fries. No idea whether it's commercial or homemade but GOOD LORD is it tasty. Smoky and with little odd grace notes that make you understand why people say they taste "apple" in red wine.

I think I would have rather gone to In-N-Out by Hollywood High but the ketchup is not to be missed.

--t

Paul Guyot said...

Capitol Burger on Pico is the best I've had in LA. And with spending so much time in the Midwest and East, I believe LA burgers are overrated.

In And Out is more hype than taste. Good yes, but not earth-shattering as the hype indicates.

Apple Pan has a great burger. And Five Guys is a GREAT burger. Discovered them in St. Louis.

Umami defines the problem with LA and burgers. 'Nuff said.

My latest burger indulgence is Go Burger at Sunset and Vine. Outstanding.

But I would trade them all for one more bite of a burger from JG Melon in NY. Perfection.

Montana said...

I like both Five Guys and In-n-Out but favor the former because they're more efficient. Why does In-n-Out always take so long?

Anonymous said...

@DesertFan says it's Fuddrucker's for hamburgers and no place else. Always great burgers, fantastic tasty fries, and anything you want to drink. Here we have 100 choices in soft drinks.

cloudy said...

They opened a Counter here in Seattle but it never thrived. As I like my burgers plain, to enjoy the good beef instead of glopped on toppings, I never went. Why should I pay for condiments/addons I don't eat?

cadavra said...

As an old Ohio boy, I can safely say that you cannot overestimate the important of Frisch's in everyday life back in the old days. It's where you went, period. And unlike all the other Big Boys around the nation--and we never called it "Big Boy," only "Frisch's"--the ingredients were somehow different, and just tasted better than the others, particularly their unique tartar sauce (something I would never otherwise put on a burger). I always go once or twice whenever I'm back.

As for L.A.: Cassell's. End of story.

Al said...

To be fair, the two best hamburgers I ever had were nowhere near a chain. The first was at a liquor store/neighborhood market on Pico that also had a meat market. Their burger was phenomenal. Last time I was there they didn't have them anymore as that was like 15 years ago.

Also, at a driving range in Merced, CA. Don't know what they did, but it was way out of the way and they would have a line around the block all the time.

Best burgers are usually not at the chain, but some hole in the wall with a grill and one guy who just loves burgers.

RCP said...

Annie's words would no doubt apply to the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas - check out its Web site.

The best burgers(like those found at Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe)require nothing more than a bun, tomato slice, and lettuce leaf - the beef doesn't require condiments because it has so much flavor and is dripping with juice. I like In N Out but the burgers don't knock me out. Tommy's was really good - just be sure to have 50 napkins to go with it. Can't judge Five Guys until I try them next time I'm in CA.

Growing up, whenever we'd see a dead animal by the side of the road, my Dad would invariably remark "The McDonald's truck will be by soon." Of course, that didn't stop us from going there every week - and I still like the fries!

Becca said...

I think Five Guys are just about everywhere now...we have several here in Indiana. I must say, I wasn't terribly impressed. The burger is certainly huge (and messy) and the enormous bag of fries you receive is insane...but they seemed more about quantity than quality to me.

My favorite place to get a burger is one I've not seen mentioned here: Ted's Montana Grill. Owned by Ted Turner. Yes...THAT Ted Turner. Supposedly the meat is NEVER frozen, always fresh, and to me, you can really tell the difference. Although they offer an array of various toppings (including unusual choices such as blackberry jam, guacamole, etc.), just the plain burger by itself has marvelous flavor. They also will do a buffalo burger instead of a beef burger for any menu item for only a couple of dollars difference in the price (their burgers are anywhere from $10-12 depending on toppings...not bad for a nice sit-down restaurant), which is amazing considering that ground buffalo meat easily costs 2-3x what ground beef does.

My 2nd favorite place: Bynum's Steakhouse, a single restaurant on the southside of Indianapolis.

I lived in Ohio for a little while and I remember Frisch's Big Boy (and yes, I was confused right after I moved there and heard "Frisch's" again and again, not realizing people were talking about Big Boy). Not bad, but not one of my favorites, either.

Steak 'n' Shake's corporate headquarters are in Indianapolis, and I do love their Frisco Melt, but I think it's more about the sourdough bread, Swiss cheese, and tangy sauce than about the paper-thin burgers themselves. I once ordered a more traditional burger there and didn't much care for it.

MacDonald's, Burger King, and White Castle are all disgusting. Hardee's is the only national chain I can remotely stomach, but it's never a top 10 choice for me.

Jack in the Box opened its first store here recently. For weeks, there were literally lines around the block. 2 hour waits for fast food burgers and fries. Articles in the newspaper. People coming from as far away as Michigan. Insanity. All I could think was "Isn't this the place that poisoned all those customers back in the '90s?" I haven't been there. Doubt that I'll go, even now that the furor has died down.

Remember that '70s rumor that Wendy's put worms in its burgers? Good times.

Becca said...

Anybody seen that episode of "Parks and Recreation" in which Ron Swanson entered a cooking contest with...I forget his name, Rob Lowe's character...to see who could make the best burger?

Rob Lowe of course spent like $100 on ingredients at a health food store he had to drive like 50 miles to get to, getting ground turkey, all sorts of exotic spices, herbs, and condiments, and made brioche buns (probably sprouting) for them. Ron made ground chuck (no seasoning...not even salt and/or pepper) on Wonder Bread-like buns that he'd gotten at Food 'n' Stuff ("Where I buy all of my food...and most of my stuff.")

Guess whose burger was the winner?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I eat very few hamburgers, largely because I like them medium rare and since O157 e.coli it's almost impossible to get anywhere to cook them that way. I also despise hamburger buns. Back in the late 1970s/early 1980s, I made exceptions for Friendly's, because you could get a rare baconburger on buttered toast, and that was excellent, and for NYC's The Soupburg, where the the food was cooked in front of you in a place so tiny it was about the size of half a Benihana's table.

I have had In 'n' Out burgers. Just OK. I'd rather have fish and chips, hold the chips.stu

wg

AlaskaRay said...

The original Tommy's has been my favorite since college. Number 2 would be Hamburger Hamlet (do they still exist?) but not for their burgers. I love their lobster bisque, so I tolerate their burgers.

Ray

Little Miss Nomad said...

Only one of the burgers at Umami has truffles, I think, but I like the whole menu really. I like the Counter for the make-your-own aspect more than for the actual meat quality. In-'n'-Out I'm not even sure I like, but it seems healthier/better than McDonald's and slightly cheaper than a sit-down place. With Five Guys coming to Studio City, my neck of the Valley will be overwhelmed with above-average burger options.
I still probably prefer Shake Shack (miss you, NYC), but again it's because of the whole menu rather than the burger specifically.

Mike Schryver said...

Portland's not a big burger town, but a lot of places have good ones. My favorite is Nob Hill Bar and Grill. And Burgerville is the best fast-food burger I've seen, having lived all over the U.S.

Not burger-related, but about restaurant names with consequences -- my old home town had a Terminal Deli.

Anonymous said...

Fuddruckers at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. Something about the buns... just great!

5w30 said...

East Coast: Five Guys. NYC: brgr down 7th Avenue from Madison Sq. Garden. Shake Shack - OK at orig location in Madison Sq. itself, hype city anywhere else, especially at Debits Field, home of the Mets. Liked the special occasion burgers at the Parker Meriden [nice lunchtime walk from the CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th St]. Up until this weekend there was a place called Prime Burger near NBC that was old-school and fabulous. White Castles are only for drunken escapades. The #1 choice for local tv news cameramen in NY, though.
Midwest: Steak N Shake, Culvers, and in Chicago enjoyed M Burger tremendously.
Texas: Whataburger. Superb.
California/Nevada: The One and Only In-N-Out. Tommy's at the original location a good second.
And the best Canadian burger? In Vancouver, Vera's Burger Shack

VP81955 said...

My favorite place to get a burger is one I've not seen mentioned here: Ted's Montana Grill. Owned by Ted Turner. Yes...THAT Ted Turner. Supposedly the meat is NEVER frozen, always fresh, and to me, you can really tell the difference. Although they offer an array of various toppings (including unusual choices such as blackberry jam, guacamole, etc.), just the plain burger by itself has marvelous flavor. They also will do a buffalo burger instead of a beef burger for any menu item for only a couple of dollars difference in the price (their burgers are anywhere from $10-12 depending on toppings...not bad for a nice sit-down restaurant), which is amazing considering that ground buffalo meat easily costs 2-3x what ground beef does.

Looks like Ted has done for meat what he did for film preservation (and the fruits of that work can be found by watching TCM).

Cunningham said...

Believe it or not, one of the better char-grilled LA burgers i've had is at the Philly Steak Depot on Santa Monica and Vine.

The place qualifies as a "Hole in the wall" , but their burgers can't be beat for taste and quantity. I get a double burger with cheese and bacon on a french roll - making a sort of burger sub.

Delicious.

Janice said...

The Hamlet (formerly Hamburger Hamlet) - those locations that still exist - does a good burger, though it's not what I remember from college, when it was more of a slightly upscale burger joint. So does Chili's, which lets you have grilled vegetables instead of fries.

But for fast food, hands down it's In 'n' Out, protein bowl style.

Colin said...

Ken - Next time the M's play the Rangers in Arlington find Jakes. once you get past the poppy seed bun, it's a great burger.

Also in the Southland - Is Volcano Burger still across the street from Los Alamitos High School? It's worth the trip if you find yourself between Long Beach and the OC.

Bob Claster said...

I think the key to In-N-Out is their cheese. It's made with a rarely-found secret ingredient called "cheese." People who don't like cheese on their burgers are generally not fans of In-N-Out. Glad to hear that Cassell's is still worth a shot. I should go back, haven't been there in years. The Counter is a great idea, but the burgers are fairly tasteless. Better than that are Hole in the Wall Burgers (one in W LA and one in WeHo), and Golden State (across from Canter's). Similar to Umami but without the snooty snarky attitude. One can also, sometimes, get an amazing burger from Jan's Restaurant, the coffee shop on Beverly just east of La Cienega. And terrific onion rings, too.

D. McEwan said...

Oh Ken, Ken, Ken, you're just BEGGING Roseanne to come waddling in here, slinging her "Loose Meat" sandwiches (with extra fat added), to call you an "asshat" again.

gottacook said...

I enjoy the Five Guys burger and fries, but I find them so satisfying that I don't go there more than once every 18 months or so.

I had my first Steak 'n' Shake burger this past December, on a trip to Florida (drive down, train back), just north of the Florida-Georgia border. I had a triple something-or-other with little fried onions on top and a side of baked beans and a shake. Reasonable and very tasty.

Never have had the chance to try In-n-Out or Sonic. Best standalone old-fashioned burger and thick shake place in my experience, and I just checked that it still exists: the Convention Grill, in Edina (Minneapolis suburb); 1950s (or earlier) through and through.

Richard said...

We just got In-n-Out here in the Dallas area about a year ago. There were huge lines when they first opened, but my wife and I were really disappointed. They were OK but we couldn't understand the fuss. (And their fries are awful - soggy and undercooked). There's a Texas chain called Whataburger that blows all the other chains away, especially when they have the green chile burgers every couple of years. The Wisconsin Buttery burger at Steak n Shake is also pretty awesome.

We just got a Five Guys in Irving a couple of months back and I hope to give them a try soon.

Dave said...

Best burger ever was Meatty Meat Burgers on Pico and Fairfax. Long gone, but never forgotten.

Current champeen: Shake Shack. Nothing else is even close.

In 'n' Out gets points for consistency, but isn't real exciting. It's the kind of thing that, when you want that, it's what you want.

Five Guys was great the first time I had it, and has been disappointing in every subsequent visit. Maybe the mediocre fries are coloring my opinion.

I'm currently in the midwest and am looking forward to finally hitting Steak 'n' Shake.

Michael Hagerty said...

Actually, the best burger I ever had was the cheeseburger at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. $16 twenty years ago...and awesome. Probably $30 now.

andrew said...

I like five guys,best fast food burger chain. Best burger in Toronto has to be Priest Burger. Owner quit seminary to make fresh ground hamburgers. They area religious experience

Doktor Frank Doe said...

Watching CoCo's long, slow, painful death spiral is the only gift we get for them having assassinating Bob's.
-Fuckers


Next time in San Diego, hit Hodad's on Newport Ave in Ocean Beach. NOTHING comes close, nothing.

Bill said...

Sigh. We have nothing even close in New Zealand. Sure, we have Thunder Burger and Murder Burger and Dunno What Else Burger. But their burgers are like "NZ nachos". Not even. Sigh. But you guys just keep enjoying your great U.S. burgers and nachos and pizza. In Nu Zillans, we will just suffer through. The only upside is we will survive the nuclear war. And we have a lot of sheep to slap on the barbie.

KoHoSo said...

Even though I disagree with some points, I think you gave a very fair review of all the places brought up in the previous post. If there's one great thing about the greater Los Angeles area, at least there are lots of places to try so everybody can find their own favorite. Not all cities are so lucky.

All I will add is that one doesn't have to eat Original Tommy's in the car to get it to smell like chili. Just take it home without even opening up the wrappers and the inside will smell like Tommy's for almost exactly two weeks. If it's bad that Tommy's chili leaves that kind of lingering odor or will never come out of one's upholstery...well, who wants to live forever? :-)

Oh, and to Mark Evanier who said on his own blog in response to all of this that Tommy's is better without the chili...infidel! :-D

Steve said...

Ken, if you ever get to Detroit for a Tigers game or whatnot, you'll have to edit your list to include Bates Hamburgers on Five Mile and Farmington. None better.

http://www.batesburgers.com

Paul Duca said...

IN the Boston area, there is a chain called Wild Willy's that is getting great buzz. I've been there a couple of times.

The one nearest to me has a sign out front...NO MOVIE STARS, JUST GREAT BURGERS. That is because a couple of miles down the road is an upscale burger place owned by a Wahlberg brother who made his name in the kitchen--he also runs a popular Italian bistro. And of course, Mark and Donnie drop by when they are in town.

SkippyMom said...

I grew up in the city where the original "Five Guys" opened. It was consistently voted "Best Burger in Washington" almost every year [although it was actually in VA]. And they were the best burgers.

But since the family franchised and they are now on every corner they just don't taste the same. I don't know if it is because they grew so large, so fast or the memories of going to the local Five Guys [when there were just two locations and one was in a former Arthur Treacher's - talk about a hole in the wall] but I wouldn't rank them as a "best burger" anymore. They are over hyped.

They did open a Shake Shack in DC recently, but I have yet to get there and see what all the fuss is about.

SkippyMom said...

PS - we had Bob's Big Boy on the East Coast too - way back when - and you aren't kidding. They're burgers are great. I miss everything about BBB.

Tom Galloway said...

The Counter has indeed expanded, first up here in NorCal a couple of years back. Now, per their website, they've got places all over; east coast, Texas, Hawaii, and even a couple in Ireland.

I've had a Five Guys burger a few times, and just don't get the hype. It's OK, but nothing special.

Best burgers I've had are at Bartley's Burger Cottage in Harvard Square. It's your basic college semi-dive (not quite the right way to describe it. It's not a dive, but it's definitely not fancy, with the main feature in the dining area being a 25 or so seats on each side communal table), with great burgers of good size and a very wide variety of toppings, cooked to order. A significant number of named after various celebrities/politicians, particularly locals. And a great lime rickey. Been around since 1960, and still as good as when I first ate there in 1981.

Bill McCloskey said...

Bob's Big Boy was my favorite place when i grew up in Pittsburgh in 50's and 60's. It was one of those places you drove up to and they loaded the food on trays that attached to the car window. Itmwas always a treat and the had a great Big Boy statue in front. Thanks for the memory

Ed D. said...

In Cincinnati it's Zip's Cafe in the Mt. Lookout 'burb. Been there for years. Used to skip out on grade school to go there. It's a bar really, but open to everyone.

Here in Nashville there's a great place called Gabby's. Grain fed beef, burgers made individually, and great fries, both regular and sweet potato. The staff is entertaining... and it's just a couple hundred yards from Grier Field where the Sounds play baseball.

Johnny Walker said...

How could I forget Bob's in LA?? Great burgers there, too!

Barry Traylor said...

This has nothing to do with burgers but today's blog made me think of the best darn hot dog I have ever had and that was at the Papaya King in NYC.

coolgirl said...

Best burger in the D (that's Detroit) is at the Red Coat Tavern on Woodward in Royal Oak. Fabulous onion rings, too.

al said...

I've had many good burgers in NYC, but they all seem to go through periods of fluctuation. Sugar's on 1st and Houston was the best for like three years, now it's just average. Dutch Boy Burger in Crown Heights had some amazing choices... until they started becoming mediocre. Mother Burger on 49th and 8th has gone from "eh" to "Hey that was pretty good!"


Hard to find consistent quality.

Paul Duca said...

Message to Johnny Walker...speaking of Wimpy, what is WimpyBurger across the pond like>

Jason said...

I see a lot of complaints about In-n-Out's fries. They actually have some of the best fries ever, you just have to know to order them well done. "Double-double animal style, fries well." You're welcome.

As for best burger: Coal Burger.

Chris Knerr said...

If you're ever out by Cal State Fullerton/Angel Stadium go to the Short Stop BBQ in Fullerton. They have a grilled burger with smoked ground chuck on a buttery brioche with sweet homemade bbq sauce and crispy thick pork belly bacon. Theyre almost directly across the street from In-N-Out and guess what, they blow In-N-Out outta the water with this burger.

jbryant said...

Jason: I guess that explains why I've never cared for In-n-Out's limp, undercooked fries. If I ever get there again, I'll try 'em well done.

Sandiegocinerama said...

The San Diego wing feels like chiming in...

Five Guys burgers are pretty good but the fries always feel like too much. If someone could engineer a meal of a FG burger and In n Out fries... Heaven.

The Counter is great. Unfortunately you have to sell a kidney to pay the bill.

I like Hodad's, but haven't been there in years since the line is that long. San Diego people: Crazee Burger on 30th in North Park is pretty great.

Kali said...

Five Guys is great, even (sacrilege!) better than In-N-Out and Fatburger.

Still, a lot of people swear by Pink's, and I've never understood that. They boil their mushrooms which takes all the taste out of it. And their hot dogs are Hoffy, which I've never developed a taste for.

For hot dogs, go to Cupids in the San Fernando Valley. Not the fake ones that don't know how to cook fries (or chili, really), the real ones in the huts that offer only chili dogs and chips and nothing else. Get your fries from Mickey Ds (or Five Guys) and then come over here, like everyone else does.

One place I really miss is The All American Hamburger. Once they were all over LA County, and now they are all gone (mostly taken over by Chipotle Grill - ick). They had a hickory burger that was absolutely fantastic, and their chili fries are fantastic. You see, lovers of Tommy's, they used to use something called meat.

John said...

I miss the Five Guys they had in Nationals Park in Washington the first few years it was open, though I suppose now with a winning team people wouldn't want to miss three innings of play waiting on line for food out in right-centerfield, plus they're all over the country now, to the point that just about any city/metro area with at least 200,000 in population has or is getting one.

In-and-Out to me tastes like a bigger version of White Castle's burgers. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing, just that being drunk or high at night adds more to the epicureal experience, even if you can't jam 5-6 down your throat in a minute as you can with WC's sliders.

In-and-Out

Ref said...

"Double double, animal style. Fries well done." This "insider ordering" is fricking annoying. If you're going to offer something, put it on your damn menu.

Dana Gabbard said...

AlaskaRay, Hamburger Hamlet is down to four locations -- two near L.A., two near DC

Dave, I miss Meatty Meat Burgers on Pico and Fairfax also.

Taylor's steak house in L.A. Koreatown (near 8th/Iriolo) has great burgers, patties made from steak trims and they know the difference between rare and medium...

Birdie said...

The advantage with a relatively thin patty like In and Out or burger joint is that you don't "really" have to worry to much how it's cooked. Just as long as its (I hate the word) moist and fairly juicy, and the the toppings and bun take care of the rest. But with thicker patties (which 5 Guys looks like) if a burger is more than medium rare I just....can't. I find that more a problem than ever these days is that people have no idea how to cook burgers. And then if you send one back because it's too well done (I'm talking a restaurant now, even if a casual one) they'll go completely the other way and give you a second that's practically raw. That's why it's ultimately just easier to get your fix with something like an In and Out.


Does anyone else have issues with how their burgers get cooked?

Tom Chandler said...

I loved the Tommy Burgers and all the chili -- as you ate, the grease would run down your arms and pool on the inside of your elbows.

A co-worker once bought two Tommy burgers and drove home to Simi Valley, left them in the car by accident and flew off to Alaska for three weeks.

This was in the summer.

It looked like he was staging a remake of The Blob in his front seat, only the movie version seemed cuddly by comparison.

Anonymous said...

If you're ever in Edmonton, Canada...Marco's Burgers are the best in town. Five Guys is here to and yes, is damn good, but no Marco's Burgers. Their patties are almost like steaks. There's a couple restaurants and they are greasy dives, but looks in this case are deceiving.

Anonymous said...

In the land of Seinfeld and the Baldwin Bros., it's All-American Burger in Massapequa, Lawn Guyland, NY. Perfect for after the beach. Best East Coast approximation to a In-N-Out double-double. And there's only one store. And it has a soft-server ice cream place right next to it.

Tom Mason said...

I'm in for Five Guys and In N Out. I love 'em both. Also Carneys. I used to schedule meetings so they'd let it in time for me to eat there. I've eaten at the Burgerville in Woodland, WA while traveling and that was a really good burger, too.

When I was in college (Virginia Tech), there was - and still is - a local place called Mike's Grill that made the best burger in town.

Frank Abe said...

Fondest memory of growing up in Cleveland was dad taking us to Bob's Big Boy, where we'd get the color comic books along the burger with what was probably thousand island dressing on it.

As was said above, forget the okay Kidd Valley burgers at Safeco. Next time you're in Seattle we'll take you out to Dick's Drive In for a real Dick's Deluxe.

Dana Gabbard said...

Birdie asked "Does anyone else have issues with how their burgers get cooked?"

Oh, yeah. That is why I noted in re Taylor's "they know the difference between rare and medium..."

Years ago Cassel's had a crusty chef who once told me "If you want medium order medium". He said folks often hudged their order (asked for medium because at a lot of places you would end up wuith medium rare, which is actually what they wanted) and were surprised to get exactly what they asked for.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe Red Robin didn't get a mention!

Anonymous said...

Nathan (above) had it right -- Smashburger is the new champ of burgers!

Knuckles said...

Ken: It sounds like you need to check out Lunchbox Laboratory in Seattle the next time you're in town. They're in South Lake Union and Ballard, with possibly another location on the Eastside. I've not been there, but it's apparently both fancypants, and delicious. I'm vegetarian, so for me it's all about who makes the best veggie/black bean/whatever burger. Right now I'll give that award to BGR the Burger Joint in Maryland/DC/VA. Their black bean burger is ridiculously good.

HourOfLead said...

The Chicago area is home to Portillos, which is widely recognized as one of the better burgers around. There happens to be a couple Portillos in So Cal, so look it up. Very good.

Deanna said...

When in Atlanta, you MUST make time to have a burger at The Vortex! A fun, irreverent atmosphere; and the best burger around!

http://www.thevortexbarandgrill.com/

Andy Munsey said...

Two small places with great burgers in LA:
Magnolia on Lake in Pasadena (dinner only).
Bashan in Montrose (only on Sunday - their "burger night"). The latter is pricey, but worth every penny.

http://www.magnoliaonlake.com/

http://bashanrestaurant.com/

You're welcome.

Janet T said...

I love Five Guys, and one small order of fries between the two of us is plenty.

Ken, I cannot believe you did not mention Zigs in the Valley.......one of the few things I miss about living there.

D. McEwan said...

"KoHoSo said...
Oh, and to Mark Evanier who said on his own blog in response to all of this that Tommy's is better without the chili...infidel! :-D"


When I saw Mark's comments re: omitting the chili from Tommy's and/or Carney's chili burgers, I sent him an email saying: "I'd sooner leave out the meat patty than the chili."

Burger Bill said...

Ken, very impressed with your grasp of burger culture. You’ve nailed all of ‘em.
I grew up on Apple Pan and lately have been enjoying the Habit in Woodland Hills, both outstanding choices.

But hands down the best in LA is Umami. I frequent the location on La Brea. The hipster crowd is annoying; silly hats, relentless texting etc. But my god that is one awesome burger, check it out

capejules said...

Wild Willy's in Watertown, MA outside Boston makes the best burgers. I moved away 3 years ago and still crave them.

chuckcd said...

I second the Bob's recommendation.
I have fond memories of going there as a kid when my single mom could only afford Bob's.
We would go for our monthly dining experience and swear we were going to try something different each time and always end up ordering the Big Boy combo.
With a slice of strawberry pie!
Ah, good times!

chuckcd said...

I also remember a place called Knowlwood's that was pretty good.

chuckcd said...

There is a new Bob's Big Boy iin Orange, California now.

Jim Hanley said...

For my money, my all-time favorite burger was at the old Bun'n'Burger on 34th Street, between Lex and Park, in Manhattan. In the '70s, there was some franchising, including one that was in the Staten Island Mall, into the '90s. As far as I can tell, though, they're all gone, now.

These days, the one burger that still haunts my dreams is the one that can be found at Roll-n-Roaster in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

It's very different from the three-inch tall burgers at B'n'B, but I love it so. Also highly recommend is their stock in trade, the R'n'R roast beef sandwich. One each of those and two of their fresh brewed iced teas, and My week is made.

Jeremy said...

Ken, it doesnt get much better than being at the original Tommy's at one in the morning, and the line still going down the street. Five Guys is completely overhyped, overpriced, and thus overrated. Give me a Western Bacon from Carls Jr, or in the Midwest, a Steak and Shake. If you are really in the mood, go for a cheap Whataburger!

Jeremy Again said...

By the way any so-cal people remember Cole's Burgers? My dad and uncle raved about it! they have yet to have a chili burger or dog that compares, and it has been at least 40 years.

Shake Shack said...

Ken, thanks so much for including Shake Shack in your burger debate. We're psyched to be included!

Our team can't wait to see you for your first time at the Shack!

-Brandy, Shake Shack

Micah King said...

No one mentioned COOKOUT.

COOKOUT prevalent in NC, SC and TN is my favorite burger at the moment.

Better than Five Guys, steak and shake and easily better than In and Out (HIGHLY overrated in my opinion).

Their shakes, onion rings and hush puppies are great too.