Burger Crawl: LA

I have both read and seen on TV that Los Angeles is having a burger renaissance.  I believe it is because the town is starting to emerge from the dark ages of Veganism.  Just think, that crap almost caught on.

Father’s Office is the reining “best burger” in the LA area but alas Culver City wasn’t really within walking distance of my hotel (15 miles).  Too bad because with two types of cheese (Gruyere & Maytag Bleu), bacon, caramelized onions and arugula served on a soft baguette it sounds like a great bite.  Ketchup is not only frowned upon at Father’s Office, it’s forbidden.  Here’s what evolved.

I relied on three things to put together my Burger Crawl:

  1. Luck – I ate at the first place I stumbled on
  2. Reputation
  3. Advice from a local, Average Betty

Now clearly this is but a brief sampling and for sure more study is necessary.  I guess I’ll have to come back.  Here’s who I tried: In-N-Out, Umami Burger, Molly’s, Five Guys, Stout and Juicy Burger.

In-N-Out BurgerIn-N-Out Burger – a legend in LA.  This is a classic fast food style slider (patty weight under 5 oz.).  Their special sauce is what McDonald’s wishes it was.  I had, at Average Betty’s insistence, the Double, double with onions.  A good fast food burger loaded with fresh toppings.  In fact, a little too loaded for my tastes.  Despite getting the double patty the meat’s flavor got lost in the over abundance of lettuce and tomato.  All in all, a really good slider and a steal for the price.

Umami BurgerUmami Burger – Average Betty described this place as trendy.  They feature beef that is ground on site and cooked medium rare (as God intended) unless otherwise requested.  They have fancy-pants burgers like the Truffle (truffle cheese and truffle glaze) and the Hatch (four kinds of chilies) but I opted for the signature Umami Burger with grilled mushrooms, roasted tomato, melted onion and frico (a cheese crisp).  The bun is exquisite with a very crusty toast on the inside and buttery on the outside.  The frico is a nice textural addition and the roasted tomato tasted like a really, really good ketchup.  However, the burger itself was lacking.  Little or no seasoning (salt and pepper are absolutely essential for burgers) and the patty was mushy with no crispy outer crust.  The best way to describe this burger is underwhelming.  I expected much more from a $10 burger (without a side).  The price could have been reasonable for the quality of the ingredients but the execution missed badly making it over priced.

Molly's BurgerMolly’s was this little roadside stand on the side of a parking lot just south of Hollywood and Vine.  It looks like the kind of place where you’d find the heroes in a classic 70’s cop show eating.  It wouldn’t have surprised me one bit if Starsky & Hutch had pulled up in their pinstriped tomato on their way to visit Huggie Bear.  They charbroil their razor thin burgers.  Molly’s burgers are reminiscent of the sliders you get at a concession stand only better.  I wouldn’t go out of my way to try Molly’s but if your hungry and you happen on it like I did go for it.  The price is right.

Five GuysFive Guys Burgers and Fries – actually headquartered back east, Five Guys fulfills the promise that In-N-Out just missed on.  The burger meat is front and center with a perfect cheese to patty ratio.  The fries are awsome and they let you know where they got ’em.  Not just whether they’re from the US or which state but which farm in which state.  That’s taking it seriously.  It’s no wonder Five Guy’s keeps getting voted best fast food burger by Zagat’s.

Stout is a gastropub and gastropubs tend to have fancy-pants burgers, Stout delivers.  The bun has that same toasty interior and buttery exterior as the pretentious Umami Burger.  This burger was seasoned perfectly and the outer crust of the in-house ground beef patty Stoutwas crunchy protecting a juicy center.  The toppings included blue cheese, emi gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion and horseradish cream.  This burger was letter perfect.  I can find nothing wrong with it.  Simply one of the best burgers I’ve ever had and well worth the $10 price tag.  The price included a side so I opted for the onion rings which were good but the very horseradishy horseradish dipping sauce is addictive.  The atmosphere is working class chic which is a pleasant change from the snotty Umami next door.  The music complemented the food well – I Touch Myself followed by Suspicious Minds then Bobby Darrin’s original Mac the Knife.  Are you kidding me?  If I lived in LA I’d be a regular at Stout without a doubt.

Juicy Burger describes itself as a purveyor of premium burgers.  They do not lie.  The patty was well cooked with a crusty exterior and juicy Juicy Burgerinterior.  The bun was nice and airy; at first it looked too big for the patty but it collapsed upon biting for a balanced bun-to-patty ratio.  The toppings were good as well.  Again that amazing bun like Umami and Stout – it must be an LA thing.  I’ve never had buns like these.  Their fries rock out hard.  Like Five Guys they are fresh-cut with the skin on but they’re even crispier.  The Tabasco-ketchup dipping sauce was fly!  While I was there they had a large order being picked-up for the iCarly gang; apparently the cast of iCarly know their burgers.  This was my vote for best burger before I found Stout.  It is a great burger for the price (burger, fries and drink for less than the $10 for just Umami‘s burger).

Be sure to check out the Burger Crawl I did in Alabama’s port city of Mobile HERE.

2 Responses to Burger Crawl: LA

  • averagebetty says:

    What a fun review Stuart! I'm happy I was able to contribute in my own little burger loving way. I see you didn't get the grilled onions on the dub-dub and that is kinda key. A lot of lettuce and tomato is one of the reasons I love In-N-Out. It's like a salad, right? 😉 But I gotta know… did you get the "secret" spicy peppers?

    • I did get the onions but I didn't know about the "secret" spicy peppers. Prolly cuz they're secret. In-N-Out is still a great burger, Five Guys just barely edged it out for the fast food style. If you haven't tried Stout you need to; it kicked Umami Burger in the shin. I did not have a bad burger the entire time.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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