The Best Burgers in California for 2017 Slideshow
July 13, 2017
If you live in the Golden State and love burgers, consider yourself lucky
The Best Burgers in California
Is there any food more quintessentially American than the burger? The simple sandwich of ground beef on a bun allows for considerable creativity from the chef or home cook who's making it, and there are thousands of variations, from one end of the country to the other. And when done properly, there are few foods more delicious. We recently published our annual ranking of the 101 Best Burgers in America, and these are the 11 California burgers that made it onto the list.
#11 Double Burger, Irv's Burger, West Hollywood, Calif.
Being greeted by the eager-to-please Hong family that owns Irv's, known to draw up personalized doodles on their plates and bags, is a big part of this West Hollywood spot's attraction. But another huge draw, of course, is the juicy, old-fashioned burgers that are flavor-packed and the perfect size for stacking, so you’ll want to order the Double. Angelenos breathed a savory sigh of relief when Irv's reopened in a new location last year after losing their lease in 2013. Their revival was partially thanks to a local community group calling themselves the Burger Brigade, dedicated to saving their beloved burger institution. Now that's a cult following.
#10 Cheeseburger, Cassell's Hamburgers, Los Angeles
Along with its near-contemporary, the 1947-vintage Apple Pan, Cassell's, opened in 1948, defined hamburger excellence in LA for many decades. Cassell's now occupies a corner of the historic Hotel Normandie in Koreatown, a few blocks from its original location, but stays true to founder Al Cassell's old ways: the beef is Colorado Angus chuck and brisket, ground daily in-house, formed in the original burger press and cooked with Cassell's original crossfire broiler. Cheddar or Swiss draped over the top and a Parker House bun complete the burger. All the usual condiments are available (the mayo is house-made with organic eggs), and bacon, a fried egg, or avocado are available as optional enhancements.
#9 Hamburger, Pie ‘n Burger, Pasadena
If you want to experience what a perfect burger tasted like in 1963, head to Pie ‘n Burger, where nothing about the place — including the butcher from whom they source ground chuck — has changed in decades. The double is the best way to go, with two quarter-pound balls of beef smashed down on the well-seasoned flat-top with a big can of tomato juice, then topped with lettuce and homemade Thousand Island dressing, all tucked into a toasted white bun and wrapped in wax paper. Don’t leave without trying some pie; the butterscotch variety is legendary.
#8 F.T.W., Grill ‘Em All, Los Angeles
What do you get when you combine a love of heavy metal and a passion for good food? A menu of some 16 burgers with names like “Napalm Death” and “Dee Snider” and topping combinations as unusual as you can imagine. Peanut butter, strawberry jam, bacon, and sriracha? Fried chicken, Cheddar, bacon, maple, and hot sauce on waffle buns? You bet. Chef Ryan Harkins and Matthew Chernus of Grill ‘Em All rose to national prominence as winners of the first season of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. The truck is still in operation, but like a fair number of successful food truck entrepreneurs of the past few years, the crew has since settled into a brick-and-mortar location. Grill ‘Em All’s crazy combinations are tasty, mostly because of their sound technique and sense of balance; if they go with an over-the-top bread, they’ll be sure there’s enough moisture to go with it, but there’s perhaps no better example of why they deserve to be on this list than the F.T.W. It’s just a big old juicy burger on a bun with cheese. And you have to respect that.
#7 Fontina Black Truffle Burger, Cecconi's, West Hollywood, Calif.
This trendy Italian mainstay, part of the Soho House group, with sister restaurants in Miami, London, Berlin, and Istanbul, is a bright and sunny place to while away an afternoon, and those who arrive between the hours of 4 and 7 p.m. can treat themselves to one of LA’s most under-the-radar burgers: the fontina and black truffle burger. A thin patty gets a stellar sear on a griddle, and it’s draped with plenty of truffled fontina and a folded slice of griddled pancetta. It’s earthy, funky, salty, rich but not too rich, and best of all, it only costs $9.
#6 Hamburger, Zuni Café, San Francisco
The lunch-only grass-fed burger at this San Francisco classic is ground in-house, medium-lean, and comes on grilled rosemary focaccia slathered with aïoli. Beecher's Flagship or Bayley Hazen blue are available options, as are grilled onions or sliced heirloom tomatoes. There's very much of an only-in-Northern-California feel about the whole arrangement, which is just fine with us.
#5 Double Bacon Cheeseburger, Hodad's, San Diego
With two locations in San Diego and another inside Petco Park, the nearly 50-year-old Hodad’s might very well be the most popular burger destination in San Diego, and for good reason. These are some seriously good burgers, and when two patties get stacked with mayo, mustard, ketchup, onion, pickles, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and bacon, it’s burger heaven. The secret to Hodad’s success may be the bacon; instead of just adding plain ol’ strips to the burger, they boil the entire belly until it falls apart, then fry up a patty on the grill before adding it on. It’s nothing short of brilliant. And make sure you don’t miss the fries, which are more like giant battered potato slices.
#4 Cheeseburger, Gott's Roadside, San Francisco
Back in 2011, popular California hamburger stand Taylor's Automatic Refresher renamed its three locations (Napa, St. Helena, and San Francisco's Ferry Building) because its owners, brothers Joel and Duncan Gott, didn't own the rights to the original name and couldn’t persuade those who did own them to let the Gotts trademark it. It may have been jarring to see the name change and the introduction of the neon-lit red “G,” but one thing didn’t change when they adopted the family name Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet were the storied grilled third-pound Niman Ranch burgers. Cooked medium-well and topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato, and secret sauce on a toasted egg bun, Gott’s cheeseburger gets pressed lightly in a machine at the end of the line (employees say this steams the bun, but leaves the underside crunchy). It’s an icon.
#3 Half-Pound Niman Ranch Cheeseburger, Mustards Grill, Napa, Calif.
There are all kinds of good stuff on the menu at Cindy Pawlcyn's ever-popular wine country bistro (crispy calamari with curried slaw, Dungeness crab cakes with chipotle aïoli, Mongolian pork chop with homemade mustard…) but the cheeseburger (Maytag Blue is an optional choice, and one well worth making) is just so big and juicy that it's hard to resist. The house-made pickles and impeccable fries and onion rings don't hurt, either.
#2 Hickory Burger, The Apple Pan, Los Angeles
This standalone counter-only burger-and-pie place in West Los Angeles hasn't changed since it opened in 1947 (well, except for the prices). The Apple Pan's signature Hickory Burger is a juicy round of hickory-smoked ground beef on a reasonably standard bun anointed with mayonnaise and a secret sauce that tastes like slightly spiced-up ketchup. Pickles and lettuce complete the package, with Tillamook Cheddar melted on top for an extra 50 cents.
#1 The Office Burger, Father's Office, Los Angeles
What do you get when you go to Father's Office, chef Sang Yoon's gastropub in Los Angeles (now in both Santa Monica and Culver City)? No table service. And no pretension. It has the wood-paneled, comfortable vibe of a great local lived-in spot, but it's clean, to the point, and one of The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Casual Restaurants of 2017. You’ll find great craft beers and small bites (think smoked eel with fennel and onions). You can also "Eat Big" and opt for the spicy oatmeal stout ribs or the bistro steak. But let’s face it: you're there for the Office Burger, which many people in LA refer to as the city's best burger. There's nothing frou-frou about it, just arugula, bacon, caramelized onion, Gruyère, and Maytag Blue on a loaf that’s more similar to a baguette than a bun. It's a very, very juicy burger with funk, freshness, and great flavor. The fries are also among America’s best, but don’t forget that there’s no ketchup on the premises.