I’m only one stomach in the sea of many.
But having built my palette resume over San Francisco and New York, I’m excited to share with you my Los Angeles faves. For my sanity, I’ve focused mainly on the West Side LA, and will expand slowly from there.
No. 1 All-Time Great
These are the facts.
Created in 1948, it’s older than most people alive right now. In-N-Out was conservatively worth $3 billion back in 2018 with 333 locations, it’s now 378 locations at the time of this writing. Only THREE facilities handle all the daily deliveries of never-frozen beef. “Buns are baked with slow-rising dough each morning…Heat lamps, microwaves, and freezers are banned from the premises. The recipes for its burgers and fries have remained essentially the same for 70 years.”
I’ve vigorously defended all other burgers over it during my foolish youth. Now here I stand before you, wiser and fatter. Dollar-for-dollar, the In-N-Out Double-Double cheeseburger is the best burger by the test of time and money.
Truly, a burger for the people.
Personal style: Double-Double Cheeseburger, Mustard Fried w/ Double Bun Toasted, Chopped Grilled Onions Fries “Animal-Style Lite,” Hand-cut Fries, and Pink Lemonade ($9)
No. 2 Best Smashed Burger
Burger She Wrote
This trend is here to stay, methinks. Might as well pick the one where pro-skater & restauranteur duo Don Nguyen and Steven Arroyo (Escuela Taqueria) push River Snake Farm’s 100% Wagyu on King’s Hawaiian buns.
I ordered the Smash with raw onions versus Oklahoma-style (Nguyen’s home state), with grilled onions. The saucing was sublime and there was so much patty ratio-to-burger that you can really relish that salty, brown crusting from the Maillard reaction.
We must mention fellow Waygu HiHo Cheeseburger, which was a simpler experience, but we gave the edge to Burger She Wrote. You’ll run up a bill here as the hand-cut fries are sold separately, and there are no bathrooms.
Double Smash Burger ($14), with hand-cut fries ($5) and Mexican sodas ($3.50)
No. 3 Best Beach Burger
LA Eater is already making references that this is the “new take” on the In-N-Out timeless classic. In a way, when they launched in 2020, they were the modern response to a COVID-19 public-facing “ghost kitchen” that essentially has no seating space. Their revenue per square foot must be incredible.
The burger was hot and brisk, topped with caramelized onions, pickles, and silky melted American cheese mixed with a Thousand-Islandesque house sauce. You can then walk over to the Skate Park, watching the talent pull off the big jumps.
Double Cheeseburger ($6.50), flat-top grilled
No. 4 Michelin Vibes
Adrift Burger Bar
I didn’t know about David Myers’ involvement with this restaurant, how many places can you say you’re getting an opportunity to try a Michelin-starred chef’s burger?
Though the 1940’s classic is the go-to order, the staff there personally recommended the name-sake DM Burger, a 5 Oz. patty wrapped in a brioche bun with lettuce, onion, secret sauce, and aged Vermont cheddar. The veggies were crunchy-fresh, and the brioche had huge ratios with the patties, well-sauced. It didn’t come with fries, which unfortunately if you’ve been reading most of this post, is now common practice.
There are just TOO many to try! This will require multiple visits, so thankfully the first location is on the oft-visited Abbot Kinney.
1940s Classic ($7.95), DM Burger ($11.95)
No. 5: Venice’s Bar Burger
Just steps from Venice Beach proper, they have the spiritual remnants of the summer of 1965 when Jim Morrison’s co-founded The Doors in Venice. It’s the quintessential beachside dive, down to the fading, pastel turquoise tiki hut front.
They serve the burger on a sesame-studded egg bun with the usual suspects: lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, mustard, and relish and add-ons like cheddar, Swiss, chili, and bacon. To be honest, the burger is better with beer (see if they have any Bora Bora Hinano’s!), but you’re mostly there for the good vibes and history.
World Famous Cheeseburger ($7.50) with Pickles & Chips
This list will continue to be updated as my palette rides across the burger savannah that is Los Angeles. I’m always open to burger recommendations!
*Burgers Eaten (in alphabetical order): 26 Beach, Adrift Burger Bar, Apple Pan, Beverly Hills Hotel Cabana Cafe, Blueys Market & Cafe, Burger Lounge, Burger She Wrote, Burgers Never Say Die, Cast & Plow, Chris N’ Eddy’s, Coast Santa Monica, Escondite Bar, Fatburger, Father’s Office, Firestone Walker Brewing, For The Win, Gran Blanco, HiHo Cheeseburger, Hinano Cafe, Hopdoddy, Humble Potato, In-N-Out, J. Nichols, MelrosePlace LA, Monty’s Good Burger, Pono Burger, Proudly Serving, Shake Shack, South Beverly Grill, Tripp Burgers, The Win~Dow, Umami Burger, Yellow Paper Burger.