The Underrated Burger Smackdown: Brick + Mortar Vs. The Original Tops

Brick + Mortar's burger on the left, the TOPS Special on the right
Brick + Mortar's burger on the left, the TOPS Special on the right
B. Rodell

Los Angeles has plenty of much-hyped burgers. Some would say we have quite a few over-hyped burgers. But we're also a city of relatively unknown burgers, some of them deserving of their own notoriety. It was with this in mind that we set out to find the city's most underrated burger, with your help.

First, we asked for nominations for Los Angeles' most underrated burger. Then, after narrowing down the competition, we held a poll to determine which burgers should be considered for the ultimate title. The two burgers with the most votes earned the right to go on to the finals, which consisted of a taste test by yours truly. Turn the page for the final results of the underrated burger smackdown.

The TOPS Special at the Original TOPS
The TOPS Special at the Original TOPS
B. Rodell

In this corner, TOPS Special at the Original TOPS in Pasadena.

The Original TOPS got a lot of love in the original round of nominations, with most nominators referring to the the TOPS Special, a 1/4 pound burger topped with pastrami, mustard and American cheese, as well as lettuce, tomato, red onion, dill pickle, and thousand island dressing.

The TOPS Special is an outrageous burger, a monstrous gut bomb of a thing, piled with pastrami and oozing pink thousand island dressing. I only ate half of one and it put me out of commission for a good part of the day. I can see how this is a cult favorite, the sloppy messy fun of it being somewhat irresistible. I found the burger itself a touch underwhelming, however. Just to be sure, I tried a cheeseburger as well, and again found more the pleasure in the toppings -- the crisp lettuce, the pickles, etc -- than the meat of the burger or the bun. TOPS is fast food and doesn't aim to be anything but that, and there's no doubt the TOPS Special is indeed special. But its specialness is all in the novelty of having half a Reuben piled on top of your kind of average burger.

The Chuck burger at Brick + Mortar
The Chuck burger at Brick + Mortar
B. Rodell

And in this corner, the chuck burger at Brick and Mortar in Santa Monica.

On the other hand, the chuck burger at Brick and Mortar is all about the burger itself. Yes, the toppings are quite good: cheddar, tomato, and grilled onion marmalade. There's a nice kick of heat in an otherwise subtle horseradish mayo. But the star of the show here is the meat, a hulking patty of ground chuck that's juicy and savory and everything a $14 burger should be, brioche bun included. There's less piggy glory to this burger than the TOPS contender -- it's a far more straightforward affair.

And the winner is ...

As much as I'd love to go with the cheaper, more fun, more proletariat TOPS Special, the winner here has to be Brick and Mortar's chuck burger. Not because it's fancier or thicker -- I adore a good fast food burger. But because the burger itself was tastier. So, all hail L.A.'s no-longer underrated burger!!

See also:

10 Best Burgers in Los Angeles

A Salute to Burgers in Los Angeles

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Brick + Mortar

2435 Main St.
Santa Monica, CA 90405


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