[Missed an installment? Catch up with 30 Burgers in 30 Days in our meaty archive.]As its name implies, Pie 'n Burger is known for two things, and you'd be remiss not to order them. But this very old school Pasadena eatery also dishes up a credible American breakfast: eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage and ham as well as cinnamon and pecan rolls. Don't worry, you can order a burger at 9 a.m. (Not that we'd know anything about that.)
Can you, however, order a pecan roll in the middle of the afternoon? That depends on your waitress. Technically, it's only on the breakfast menu (served until 1 p.m. on Sundays and 11 a.m. the rest of the week), but a little sweet talk can smooth the path to a sweet roll. This inconsistency is both the charm and the Achilles heel of Pie 'n Burger.
Meat & Bun: Sometimes, we get a great burger: crumbling, juicy, perfectly charred with a side of thick golden brown fries. Other times, we get a dry, bland, greasy patty and a pile of undercooked potato rectangles. Maybe, this, too, depends on your waitress. The bun, at least, is always the classic American white bread bun.
Pie 'n Burger has made few concessions to modernity. It's still a dimly lit, lunch counter where they don't take credit cards. They do, however, offer turkey and veggie patties in addition to beef. (All burgers cost $6.75.)
Toppings: Burgers come with iceberg lettuce, Thousand Island dressing and pickles. A slice of cheese is an extra $0.35; a slice of tomato, $0.25. The cheese is worth it. The tomato, we don't care about.
Sides: At Pie 'n Burger, the waitresses still pull fountain Cokes the way they used to. It makes us feel, for a split second, like we're on Main Street in Disneyland. That alone is worth the price. (Also, see fries, above.)
Dessert: Whatever other issues they may have with consistency, the pie quality is reliably high. The pie roster varies slightly with the seasons, but pies like apple, custard and pumpkin (!) are served year-round. Our favorite is the olallieberry, served for only a few weeks during the middle of summer. We're also partial to their mincemeat pie, offered during the winter holiday season. On a daily basis, we're like Agent Cooper, always sticking to the cherry pie.
The milkshakes here are made with real ice cream, though we don't love the syrups they use to flavor them. It's fun to watch the waitresses use the vintage, counter-mounted stick-blender (near the front of the house), but the pie is a better bet.
The Upshot: We love the dimly lit, old-school, lunch counter vibe. If you're there in the a.m., try the pecan roll. If not, be nice to your waitress, get a burger and fries, and cross your fingers. Save room for pie! CASH ONLY.