The city of Los Angeles is known for Hollywood stars, sprawling traffic…and gourmet burgers. Yes, that sandwich concoction that first appeared in the late 1800s has become a staple in the City of Angels. There are the obvious picks like Umami, Father’s Office, Apple Pan and of course In-N-Out; but a quick Yelp search for “burger” reveals almost 6,000 places to sit and enjoy ground meat on a bun. We decided to dig deep into the beef and spent a week seeking some of the lesser-known but equally (arguably more) beloved options.
West LA Mixing rustic and industrial decor, well-made cocktails and delicious burgers and sides, Plan Check has quickly grown in popularity and number of locations. The PCB (Plan Check Burger) — with Americanized dashi cheese, schmaltz onions, a crunchy, puffy bun and their signature ketchup leather (think fruit rollup) — is served in a small iron skillet, perfect for catching all the juices. The sweet potato waffle fries are a nice addition, and for those who plan on fasting the rest of the week, the homemade doughnut is a necessity; it tastes like a churro and cruller made a delicious baby. Be sure to have extra napkins on hand.
The Meal: PCB, orange Smash, sweet potato waffle fries, homemade doughnut
East LA From the catchy name to the public school chairs to the A-Frame construction, this restaurant is straight out of 1980, but not in a cheesy way. (Well — anything out of 1980 will be a little cheesy). Though they’re known for their BBQ brisket, the burger, like the restaurant itself, is refreshingly no nonsense. The Nebraska angus beef patty, white sesame seed bun, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese, together with crispy fries, a rich milkshake, and house-made spicy ketchup, will remind you of summers cooking out in the backyard. Thankfully, dad isn’t burning these.
The Meal: Oinkster burger, fries, Yuba milkshake
Stout Burgers and Beers
The Valley There are plenty of great LA burger eateries, but Stout is best at pairing a wide assortment of burgers with craft beers. On the outside, it’s an unassuming brick building, but the inside is a handsome display of wood and brass anchored by a half-circle bar. Stout aims toward the casual connoisseur with on-the-menu suggestions for beer and burger pairings; you can also go off menu and quiz the knowledgeable staff about their recommendations. We passed up the Truffle Shuffle and the Morning After and landed on the classic Stout Burger: blue cheese and gruyere with rosemary bacon, caramelized onions and horseradish cream on a house-ground patty. It was remarkable. The crispy onion rings on the side were the perfect size for sharing and the beer recommendation was spot on. It’s no surprise that three locations in LA popped up so quickly — and there are plans to grow outside of CA as well.
The Meal: Stout burger, onion rings, Epic Brewing Company Hopulent IPA
Mid-City The Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax is an LA institution. Sitting at the corner of these famous streets is Short Order, a wall-less modern take on a farm house featuring marble, steel and wood. An herb garden out front and a neon cow remind patrons what they’re about to eat. At the second-level bar we had a Drunken Girl Scout with custard and Irish whiskey, which was arguably the best thing we’d tasted in years. The burger menu offered turkey and lamb, but we went straight for Nancy’s Burger: a grass-fed beef patty topped with avocado, mayo, lettuce, tomato, swiss cheese and onion. It felt light for a loaded burger, so we went in for some crispy fried pickle slices, too.
The Meal: Nancy’s Burger, lemonade, fried pickles, adult Girl Scout milkshake
West Hollywood Smack dab in the middle of the flashy Sunset Strip is the eco-conscious Burger Lounge, which, as its name suggests, offers a relaxed burger-consuming environment. Last year we had their “Wild Game” menu with bison and boar, but this visit was all about their 100 percent grass-fed beef burger made with locally sourced ingredients. Their decor has an updated diner feel with crisp white table tops, stainless steel stools, bright orange pleather seats and big windows to scope the beautiful locals heading to boutique sunglass stores between auditions. The Lounge Burger was just as delectable: grass-fed beef, organic American cheese, onions, lettuce, tomato, house-made Thousand Island dressing and a soft bun. A 50/50 fries/onion rings side was a nice touch, too.
The Meal: Lounge Burger, 1/2 fries and 1/2 onion rings, vanilla milkshake