UPDATE: The two finalists have been revealed! Time to vote for which burger will be crowned champion!
In any good tournament, an underdog rises to the top and against all odds and overthrows a powerhouse team. Well, our burger bracket is no different. This is the part of the game where major upsets start to occur, and also where the Elite Eight become the Final Four. See below for how each battle went down, who won according to both the judges and readers, and how to vote in the next round (for the chance to win tickets to our upcoming Burgers & Beer festival).
In-N-Out vs. Hawkins House of Burgers
Judge: Garrett Snyder, L.A. Weekly contributor
Like many of the match-ups in this round, our judge had a hard time deciding between these two burgers. "They are so different," Snyder says. "I ordered a cheeseburger at Hawkins rather than one of their more monstrous burgers, but it still ended up being massive." Saying that Hawkins was "all about excess" and incredibly "expressive," in the end he said: "I had to give it to In-N-Out, in part for the breadth of their cultural achievement, the way they represent that SoCal utopia. They just never serve you a burger you don't want to Instagram immediately. The way the melted cheese and the secret sauce kind of emulsify into one another, it's a perfectly calibrated experience."
Reader's Choice: In-N-Out
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Father's Office vs. Pie 'n Burger
Judge: Zach Brooks, Midtown Lunch blogger and Food Is the New Rock podcaster
Our judge Zach Brooks says that the Father's Office burger is really one of the only burgers in town that you would direct visiting burger lovers to. "If you were telling someone, you've GOT to try this burger, Father's Office is the only one that's really unique enough, that's so L.A-specific," he says. And yet, he questions if it's really a burger at all. Is it more of a sandwich? "The patty is thicker than I remember," Brooks says, "and it definitely has a lot of beefy, burger flavor. But that doesn't change the fact that most of what I taste is the cheese and the onion/bacon jam." He emphasizes that he loves the Father's Office burger (even if he's not convinced it's a burger). "I love Sang Yoon. I love his fascism. The fact that you can't change it? I don't mind that, but it makes it less burger-like. It's delicious. It's a delicious sandwich." In the end, he had to go with his purist heart. "If I really want a unique burger and fries and a beer, I might go to Father's Office," he says. "But if I'm just like, I really want a burger, I would rather have Pie 'n Burger. Pie 'n Burger is not going to blow you away, and it's not going to be the place that you send someone to and say 'this is something amazing that you've never eaten before that you have to eat if you're in L.A.' But if you want to pay homage to the classic L.A. diner burger, where burgers came from, Pie 'n Burger is the best example of that in L.A., hands down."
Winner: Pie 'n Burger
Reader's Choice: Father's Office
Petit Trois vs. Ledlow
Judge: Mara Shalhoup, L.A. Weekly editor
I'm going to employ the opposite logic of Zach, excellent though his argument in favor of Pie 'n Burger is. Eating Ledlow's burger is like freebasing the perfect backyard burger. The iceberg lettuce is somehow crisper, the pickle more acidic, the mayo creamier, the American cheese more velvety, the bun more buttery — and the meat itself, though cooked through (just like in the majority of backyards), is, well, meatier. It is not merely a fine specimen of the quintessential burger, it is an amplified one. But let's remember that I am judging in the "fancy" category, and though Ledlow is a fancy enough place, fancy this burger is not. The Big Mec at Petit Trois is fancy (and French) with a capital F. It's a weird and perfect union of a cheeseburger and French onion soup. Though not a burger's burger, the Big Mec is marginally more delicious than the Ledlow burger, and it is infinitely more memorable.
Winner: Petit Trois
Reader's Choice: Petit Trois
The Oinkster vs. Plan Check
Judge: Hillel Aron, L.A. Weekly staff writer
Perhaps not as controversial as the L.A. Originals matchup above, I'd still venture to guess that many of you will be surprised by the verdict here. "There are those among you who will prefer Plan Check," says Aron, "with its fancy ingredients like pig candy (which turns out to be bacon), peppercress (googled it, still not sure) and ketchup leather (pretty much exactly what it sounds like and it kind of works). Indeed, Plan Check makes a delicious and neatly manicured, structurally sound hamburger." However ... "The Oinkster burger couldn’t be more different. This thing will fall apart when you eat it. You will need at least four napkins, probably five or six. It comes on a simple, run-of-the-mill sesame-seed bun. Nothing about it will surprise you except for the taste, which is one of the fullest realizations of a basic hamburger. The patty is juicy and flavorful, it melts in your mouth. The accouterments just stand out of the way. The Oinkster isn’t where you’d take a first date, but it gets the job done every other time."
Winner: The Oinkster
Reader's Choice: Plan Check