Haven't gotten enough vitamin Burger in your life lately? Well, considering that yesterday was Memorial Day, if you still have a hankering for burgers, it's either an indication that yesterday's party plans fell through, or you're the type of tough S.O.B. who just can't get enough burger in your life.
With you hardcore beefeaters in mind, we've compiled a little mini-roadtrip of some of the best burgers around. Maybe you can't make the drive today, but save this post for some upcoming Saturday when you've got fire in your belly and a full tank of gas.
Stop 1: The Market Grill, Monrovia
We're beginning in the east and heading west, to follow the sunset as we unfold burger after burger on the road ahead of us. The first stop, then, is The Market Grill in Monrovia, just east of Arcadia. Begin your tour promptly at 11 a.m., for several reasons, the most important of which is the fact that The Market Grill doesn't open until then. But you'll also want to be first in line because of the buns they serve here, freshly baked and cooling on some racks near the window. Not too spongy, not too dense and bready, these white buns are a soft and pliable delight. They wrap and compress around your fingertips with ease, while the buttered and grilled interior stands up nicely and offers a little crunch. The beef, is no slouch either, having been ground fresh that morning and given a prodigious and salty sear. With a thick slice of melted cheddar, this is simple, homemade burger purity — a great way to start the road trip. 525 S. Shamrock Ave., Monrovia; 626-303-4314; Closed Sundays.
Stop 2: Pie 'N Burger, Pasadena
For a lesson in Southern California burger classicism, there is no higher learning location than Pasadena's Pie'n Burger. This is the sort of long, formica-countered destination that opens at 6 a.m. and seems to pay a cadre of old men with coffee mugs to just sit around the place, looking awesome. There's an undeniable vibe of “this is how things are done” that permeates everything from the waitresses to the burgers. A heat-crunched commercial white bun, thin slip of beef and a slab of perfectly square American cheese. Expect a lofty tuft of iceberg lettuce, a tomato slice hidden in there somewhere, a couple of pickles and a healthy smear of Thousand Islands dressing. This is the essence of true cheeseburgerdom that Southern California relies on, and has for generations. Keep in mind they're cash only, so bring a few bucks with you on your journey.913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena; 626-795-1123.
Stop 3: The Oinkster, Eagle Rock
Things are starting to heat up on this burgerventure, especially if you've planned your Oinkster stop around Burger Week. With a full seven days of unique burger exploration at the hands of Andre Guerrero, you can expect long lines and great conversation with other meat-heads. Any other week and you should opt for the $10 Royale, a gleaming beacon to what outsized burgers we humans are capable of. Teetering above that slightly smoky 1/3 Angus cheeseburger are a few runs of wavy bacon and a heap of steaming pastrami, freshly cut and oozing juice. Of course, there's going to be chili too (lots of it), so expect to stuff your pockets with napkins before sitting down to dig in. Not that it's recommended on a burger crawl like this, but if you've got the gumption consider getting a milkshake; they're top notch. 2005 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock; 323-255-6465.
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Stop 4: Capitol Burger, Mid-City
Head southwest along the 2 until it spearheads into Echo Park, then dive into the city along Alvarado until you reach Pico Boulevard. This is a golden road of Angeleno cuisine, a well-traipsed passageway to all things delicious. After a mile or two you'll spot Capitol Burger just west of Crenshaw, a kind of dusty off-white shanty where the window bars might be offering structural support. As one of the best burger stands you'll find in Los Angeles, this place is simply magical. The no-frills attitude at Capitol Burger means you'll be sharing your picnic table space with chatty old Korean men, Crenshaw neighbors from around the corner, teens looking to share a box of fries and lots of pigeons. Ordering a double cheeseburger just seems right, once you get a glimpse of the old man working the smoke-black griddle and his prison yard son taking orders through the bars. Wrapped in paper and complete with a thick bite of tomato, these are perfect burger standard-bearers, the sort of thing you need to recalibrate with after the chili-bacon beast that is the Royale. Capitol Burger is also cash only.4301 W. Pico Blvd., Mid-City.
Stop 5: 26 Beach, Venice
Skate down Washington Boulevard until you almost hit the marina and then pull over when you see tables full of people wiping greasy hands on their board shorts. You've reached 26 Beach, a westside megalith of burger ingenuity. You want a sushi-inspired burger that's topped with snow crab salad, nori, pickled ginger and wasabi mayo? It's the first thing on the menu. You want a half-pound burger laced with Fuji apple slices and brie? Keep scanning the menu, it's there. Sour cream? Peanut butter? Coconut curry sauce? Corned beef? They're all available atop the burgers at 26 Beach, with nearly 30 completely different choices available at any time, plus specials that don't make the regular list. When outsiders wrinkle there noses at our love affair of putting food on top of food, take them to 26 Beach and watch smiles turn up on their faces as juice runs down their sleeve. 3100 Washington Blvd., Venice; 310-823-7526.
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Stop 6: Pier Burger, Santa Monica
End your long burger day journey at Pier Burger in Santa Monica, overlooking the ocean and quickly setting sun. While the burgers here are a destination unto themselves, after a hard day of trying to avoid a food coma from behind the wheel of your car, you'll enjoy the relaxing views and flapping seagulls. You might even be breathing a little heavy after walking the pier to sit down, but the salty ocean air is good for your lungs. The burgers? Those are good for just about everything else. They come loosely packed and generously thick, with a colossal sear that packs in juicy flavors until the moment you bite inside. If you've got it in you, ordering a double cheeseburger is the way to go here, or you can opt for a few slabs of bacon for a greasy, porcine finish to your day. What really sets Pier Burger apart, aside from the location, is the potato bun, a little-used option that gives springiness and a touch of sweetness to the whole savory package. With fresh lettuce and tomato, plus a secret sauce that borrows heavily from the In-N-Out ethos, you'll even start to realize that this whole trip has taken you right back to where you started, back at The Market Grill in Monrovia. Fresh bun, seared patty, warm cheese and high quality toppings? That sounds (and tastes) just about right. 330 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica; 310-587-2747.
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