Los Angeles is a burger town. The cheeseburger was arguably invented here (on the Pasadena/Eagle Rock border), and we've spent the last 90 years perfecting the form. Now, there are some perfect burgers out there that aren't on the list. Because to know L.A. is to know about In-N-Out. And maybe your non-chain favorite isn't here, either. Take a deep breath: Everything's going to be OK. Heck, maybe you'll even discover a new favorite! Happy eating.
Brought back to life in the Normandie Hotel after closing in 2012, Cassell's pays homage to original owner Al Cassell and his legendary burger. It's a thing of simple beauty, served on a Parker House bun, with lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion on the plate for you to utilize at will. You can add bacon or a fried egg or even avocado if you'd like, but it really doesn't need any of that. Cheese is also optional, and I'm not going to tell you whether a cheeseburger or a plain burger is for you. What I will tell you is that it's the burger itself, its tangy, meaty juiciness, that's going to make this a great few minutes of eating. The kitchen grinds Colorado Angus chuck and brisket daily for the patties, using the original Cassell's grinder. Maybe it's the meat, maybe it's the grinder, maybe it's the magic of that grill. Whatever — it's a damn fine burger. —Besha Rodell
3600 W. Sixth St., Koreatown; (213) 387-5502, cassellshamburgers.com.
Though the idea of putting the visceral experience of eating a steak dinner between two buns has been tried before, nothing we've had in the past succeeds the way the Big Mec at Petit Trois does. The burger is a mashup of cultures, taking inspiration from the classic American cheeseburger as well as chef Ludo Lefebvre's homeland, in the form of bordelaise sauce with a smidge of foie gras and piles of caramelized onions. There is more than a hint of French onion soup but, with its American cheese and rare beef, this is also undeniably a cheeseburger. It's a monstrosity of a thing, which won't hold together after a couple of bites, but you find yourself unable to slow down long enough to figure out a decorous way to eat it. You look up, stunned, 10 minutes later, covered in sauce and meat juice and having eaten the entire thing, which is far too big for any one meal. It's a glorious experience. —B.R.
718 Highland Ave., Hancock Park; (323) 468-8916, petittrois.com.
Everson Royce Bar
ERB's cheeseburger contains the merest of toppings: a lashing of Dijonnaise and mild, melted Tillamook cheddar cheese. That's it. The 4-ounce beef patty is sourced from Harris Ranch, courtesy of Huntington Meats' Nancy Silverton Burger Blend (80% prime chuck to 20% fat), which goes on a buttered egg bun. Chef Matt Molina describes the cheeseburger as "something approachable for all guests, uncomplicated and straightforward." It's served with homemade dill pickle spears, and that's it. The less than aesthetically pleasing appearance of the burger — compared with other gourmet burgers around town — is apparently by design. "It shows the restraint within it." —Kayvan Gabbay
1936 E. Seventh St., downtown; (213) 335-6166, erbla.com.
This expensive butcher shop offers two burgers, each delightful in its own way. There's the Fastburger, a 3-ounce patty made from grassfed beef trimmings, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion. It's only $5. Then there's the Cheeseburger, at 5.5 ounces, with cheddar, onions, lettuce and an aioli-ketchup mix. Plus, the cooks try not to lose any of the fat when cooking the burger. Pair that with the tallow-fried fries, and it's straight to bed after eating this bad boy. —Katherine Spiers
Multiple locations; belcampo.com.
What defines a burger? If it's just ground beef between two slices of carbs, details be darned, then this could be the burger king. Of course, it's a controversial choice, since the carbs in question are not in bun form, and there's arugula on this bad boy. The proprietor either did himself no favors, or is a marketing wizard, when he declared way back when that ketchup was not allowed on the burger. (And they know people try to bring their own.) Ultimately, it tastes really, really good. Don't fight it. —K.S.
Two locations. fathersoffice.com.
This comes close to being just a standard SoCal burger, but that hickory ketchup is a revelation to many. There's something to be said for the atmosphere of the Apple Pan contributing to our collective taste nostalgia for the place: the u-shaped bar, the stools, the pie, the soda served in paper cones. I think that's fair. (And, even without all that, the burger is a genuinely good one.) —K.S.
10801 Pico Blvd., Westwood; (310) 475-3585.
This one's a bit of a wild card. It's lamb, not beef, and there's cilantro on the thing. But there's also tomato, onion and lettuce, and it's served on a bun. This burger represents a good way to expand your horizons a little, while still mowing down a delicious burger. Which is all we really want. —K.S.
108 W. Second St., downtown; (213) 221-7466, badmaashla.com.
A classic since the day it opened, the Oinkster serves a beefier, heartier version of the thin-patty burger that's synonymous with Southern California. Once a year the restaurant holds a "burger week" where the cooks come up with seven outlandish, burger-ish concoctions. It's fun, and often delicious, but you gotta make sure you come back for a regular cheeseburger. And fries. When the Oinkster's Belgian-style fries came on the L.A. scene in 2009, they caused an absolute sensation. We're more jaded now, but the fries are just as good. —K.S.
Two locations; theoinkster.com.
Given the restaurant's flagship location in the overheated heart of Hollywood, you might think this place couldn't possibly be a destination restaurant. But the kitchen really knows what it's doing with burgers. Top yours with fig jam or rosemary bacon (or both) and see what kind of magic can be conjured between two halves of a bun. You can take vegetarians here, too, and definitely bring your beer-loving friends — the beer list gets as much love as the burgers. —K.S.
Multiple locations; stoutburgersandbeers.com.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Love & Salt
This off-menu burger has legions of South Bay fans. It's the chef's invention, something he created at his previous job and had to start serving at Love & Salt when the people's clamoring for it became too overwhelming. Called the Downlow, it has two patties, a ton of pickles, cheddar, grilled onions and a tomato-y aioli. It's a delicious mess. —K.S.
317 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach; (310) 545-5252, loveandsaltla.com.