LA has a reputation for frou-frou, veggie, healthy living. Yes, there are a ton of vegetarian places around, and you can get your precious, perfectly constructed tiny plates at a bunch of fancy restaurants. But you know what LA is really great for? A damn good, hearty hamburger. As an unapologetic carnivore, let me introduce you to a few of my favorites:
1. The localish chain with the best custom options:
Four locations in LA, almost 40 worldwide
Are you picky about your burger? Or incredibly creative? At The Counter, you get to choose exactly how you want your burger, from the type of patty (1/3 pound? Full pound? Beef or chicken patty? In a bun or in a bowl?) to the type of cheese (everything from regular cheddar to soft ripened brie) to the very creative toppings (Grilled pineapple? Marinated artichokes? Horseradish mayo?). Believe me, this is a crowd pleasing place.
Yes, this is a chain, but it started about ten years ago in Southern California, and it still keeps its Socal feel. And really, these aren’t your normal chain style burgers. They are truly delicious.
My choice? Turkey burger with blue cheese, sauteed onions and dried cranberries, with those addicting crispy onion strings as a side. Yes, please.
2. Best NOT customizable burger:
1018 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403
3229 Helms Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90034 (Culver City Location)
If there’s a joint that has a brand burger, it’s Father’s Office. No substitutions or requests allowed. You get the burger just how they make it. Thank goodness, it’s delicious. It is a bit on the pricey side, but many Los Angelenos I know swear by this burger. Plus, the beer selection at this place is pretty darn impressive, and the atmosphere is pretty darn cozy.
And, I’d just like to put in a word for the sweet potato fries. The perfect mix of salty and sweet, crisp and soft…they are seriously what dreams are made of.
3. Best burger joint poised to take over the whole gosh darn food world:
15 locations in California, 13 in Southern California
Umami Burger started as a burger place but now is the Umami Food Group, including a deli, a pizza place, a Vietnamese restaurant and a ton of burger locations. All of it’s good, but the burgers are outrageous. The original “Umami Burger” has a parmesan crisp (because the best cheese is crispy cheese, obviously) and shiitake mushrooms. Feeling extra testosterone-y? The “Manly Burger” has beer-cheddar cheese and bacon lardon. I know. Your arteries are thanking you already.
4. My favorite all around:
The Golden State
426 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
In some ways, I consider Golden State a friend. Just months after I moved into my neighborhood, it moved in around the corner, heralding the start of a slight restaurant renaissance. I got to know the waiters and owners by sight…and they kinda, sorta seemed to recognize me. Golden State was a go-to for our friends. You can always count on Golden State for a damn good dinner made from mostly local ingredients (usually. Sometimes it was just too packed!). The beer selection is yummy. And, to top it all off, they have a small ice cream counter with my favorite ice cream — Scoops!
But really, the whole place centered around its amazing burger.
This is everything a hamburger should be: medium rare, sharp cheese, good bacon and a soft, yet substantial bun. Golden State doesn’t have to try too hard, because they know how to do it right every single time. There’s no question. If I had one more hamburger to eat before the end of the world, it would be this one.
(As always, all of these images are by talented Flickr photographers. Please click on the image to be taken to their site)