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Burgers are a form of currency for Los Angeles. We trade in Apple Pan’s and In-N-Out’s, and pay good deeds forward with meals at Father’s Office or Pie N’ Burger. We talk about burgers as we talk about the stock market or the weather, our not-so-secret point of domination against all other cities.
For Angelenos, our best burgers are money in the bank; they pay dividends in an almost timeless way, whether you frequent them or not. Restaurants like Comme Ça, Bill & Hiroko’s and Hawkin’s House of Burgers are invariably good bets when pointing friends to L.A.’s Best Burger, but they may not speak to the burger market’s more recent growth. There are plenty of newer, or otherwise unconsidered, restaurants that have been trending upward recently in their consideration of the burger, buoyed by a love of meat and bun that defies all market fluctuation. Stockholders love a good burger.
Here, then, is a list of 10 of the best burgers in Los Angeles, with the added caveat that we’ve strayed specifically away from the more well-known destinations that have been covered in these pages before. Everyone knows you can eat well at Golden State or Stout — but what’s next? Where is the city's burger future brightest? Here are 10 places to start looking.
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy Cecconi’s in West Hollywood — from its gorgeous bar to its Roman-inflected menu — but a best-in-city burger would not normally come to mind as one of them. Yet there it is, tucked away on the "4 to 7" happy hour menu (which is available on Saturdays, by the way): a $7 black truffle burger, laced with fontina cheese. It’s as funky as anything those big-boy burger places (read: Umami) tend to throw at you, but with a laid-back classiness that’s hard to match, especially when pitched against the on-draft prosecco. And to top it off, literally? A wide fold of griddled pancetta, just to seal the deal. And at $7, what a deal this is.
Don’t doubt the South Bay. This formerly sleepy beachside slice of Los Angeles has become a hotbed for innovative cuisine, and knows how to put together one hell of a burger at places like the Standing Room. But it’s at the Rockefeller in Manhattan Beach, newly helmed by former Larchmont maestro Cody Diegel, where one of the newest burgers shines strong. There’s the chef’s namesake Cody burger, a hearty mix of American Wagyu beef, truffle bacon jam and taleggio cheese, which is sure to entice diners with a powerful palate, but it’s the American Prime burger that really delivers. Double-stacked patties are cooked to medium and layered in with grilled onions, classic American cheese and the usual array of lettuce, pickles and aioli. It’s a purist’s burger, complete with the need for plenty of napkins.
Alvin Cailan is a sandwich whisperer. The affable man is behind the Eggslut brand, which began as a slick white food truck parked on Fairfax and has blossomed into the most popular stall at Grand Central Market; he knows a thing or two about the marriage of meat and bun. So it’s no surprise that Eggslut’s aptly named Eggslut Cheeseburger is a lunchtime marvel all its own. Pulling a mix of American Wagyu, caramelized onions, sharp, vinegary pickles and cheddar cheese, the burger is already primed for success. But it’s the all-too-obvious addition of an over-medium egg that turns the Eggslut Cheeseburger into something special. If you’re in need of a challenge, swing for the fences with a double.
At the other end of the purist’s spectrum is Badmaash, an Indian-by-way-of-Canada joint downtown known mostly for serving casual dishes such as chicken tikka poutine and inventively stuffed samosas. Gandhi makes for good wall art here, decked out in neon sunglasses. Badmaash's burger is a spicy grind of lamb leg cuts, packed loosely and left with just enough juiciness, which itself is no small feat when cooking up a burger with as much sear as this one has. Iceberg lettuce and red onion add some textural crunch, while a toss of cilantro and strong swipe of smoky paprika mayo add fuel to the burger’s fire, while a toasted brioche from Breadbar puts the finishing touches on a burger that’s as unique as it is delicious.
Everything about Flintridge Proper seems far away. The location itself, in a strip mall at the base of Angeles Crest Highway, is no easy drive for most Angelenos. The look is from the newly distant past, with its woody mix of reflective surfaces, high-backed bar seats and a formidable collection of gin. Deviled eggs, artichoke dip, wedge salads and other 1950s clubhouse favorites anchor the menu, while Flintridge’s Proper burger is classic in all the right places. American cheese still rules here, though it’s made in-house, and Thousand Island dressing has yet to go out of style. The half-pound patty is loosely ground and reminiscent of the best pub burgers from decades past — big, beefy and worthy of one of those heavy steak knives that used to ride shotgun next to a burger and a plate of fries. But that was decades ago.
Connie & Ted’s
In one of the worst-kept secrets around, the burger at Connie & Ted’s is a surprising star. More than just an over-seasoned afterthought for any seafood-averse diner who got dragged by his or her significant other to Michael Cimarusti’s preeminent house of shellfish and seabass, the hefty burger earns its place on the menu, thanks to a thick slice of Hook’s four-year cheddar that isn’t afraid to bite you back. Of course, Nueske’s bacon, house-made pickles and plenty of Thousand Island dressing help things along, and with a thin, buttery seeded bun that turns into a pillowy whisper as soon as the whole thing is picked up, it’s not hard to see why the word is out.
As if hitmaker Bill Chait didn’t have enough to gloat about, he makes a back-to-back impact on this list, thanks to one of his other popular projects, République. The beautiful La Brea eatery from Chait and Walter and Margarita Manzke is an all-day sensation, thanks to impeccable morning pastries and unburdened, French-leaning dinner options. The lunchtime burger is a dry-aged revelation, full of funk and precariously stacked, were it not for the wide knife through the middle. Using a grass-fed, mostly chuck patty (with dry-aged trimmings from those steaks you see hanging behind glass in the dining area), Manzke’s cheeseburger offers a window into indulgence. Not because the simply seasoned patty is too large, or the poppy seed-studded brioche bun too dense, but because the totality of the thing, with classic American cheese, Thousand Island dressing and crunchy iceberg lettuce, is as overwhelming to look at as it is to eat. With dripping juices and a side of perhaps the best beef-fat fries in the city, the look alone will get you halfway to burger nirvana.
As much as other restaurants like to tout the sincerity of their sourcing, no one in L.A. is picking better beef than Belcampo. That’s because the company raises it in Northern California, creating a purposeful bit of vertical integration when Belcampo’s burger lands in front of you at Grand Central Market. Using a responsible, nearly 6-ounce, grass-fed patty that’s been dry-aged and seared to a darkened patina, this burger’s background makes all the difference, especially considering there’s little more than some caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and leaf lettuce to finish the thing off. Don’t be scared off by that seriously seeded bun, either; it’s been treated just as well as those cows, and is soft as hell as a result.
Michael Fiorelli’s reconstructed double-double burger was long an off-menu hit at mar’sel, the upscale casual eatery hidden away at the Terranea Resort in Ranchos Palos Verdes. It eventually earned its rightful place on the everyday menu after Fiorelli left, under the direction of then-executive chef Rebecca Merhej. Now it’s Patina alum Charles Olalia at the helm, but don’t fear: The Downlow burger still anchors the brunch menu — almost literally — thanks to a none-too-shy double wage patty that’s partitioned with aged white cheddar cheese and caramelized onions. This one’s by no means a cheap date, though: The Downlow Burger costs a soaring $28.
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Despite the recent name swap, from Pete’s Cafe to just Pete’s to Ledlow Swan to just Ledlow, this Main Street mainstay retains its culinary acumen thanks to incoming chef/owner Josef Centeno. Initially focused on a straightforward mix of classic dishes, Ledlow offers a burger that's a cheffed-up look at yesteryear. Four-ounce house-ground patties can be stacked three to a bun if desired (two is plenty), and each is cut through with a double dose of American and cheddar cheese, as well as red onion and a bit of dill pickle. It’s a fantastic addition to the burger landscape citywide, mixing just the right parts of nostalgia, technique and ingredients to become an instant top option for anyone craving some beef and bun downtown.