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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

LA's best

Not to completely copy other blogs of note out there (Gridskipper comes to mind), but there is an awful lot of delicious food in Los Angeles, and I think it's high time we talked about it. Today, I tackle my first food column, an analysis of what are, in my opinion, the best hamburgers in Los Angeles. Agree, disagree, agree to disagree, whatever it is...these burgers will have you salivating worse than pavlov's dog in heat. I also think it's important to note that there are two types of burgers in Los Angeles: the gourmet burger and the fast food burger. Both have stand outs among them, so I have to make sure they both get their just desserts. (ah-thank you).


Like many of you, I first heard of In-N-Out from The Big Lebowski. In that epic film, arguably one of the top 10 movies of the 90s, John Goodman's character, Walter, tells Lebowski that after they see his landlord's performance, they should head to In-N-Out. The first few times I saw the movie, I didn't know what they meant, I'll be honest. I was a Midwestern kid, and the only way I had heard of In-N-Out was from their obnoxious tee shirts that everyone seemed to have. I didn't know what it was. Quite frankly, I thought it was a place for classic cars or easy lube place of sorts. Now I know the only easy lube is KY, and the only thin patty fast food burger is In-N-Out.

This place gets it's rep for a reason. Maybe it's the speakeasy nature of ordering, debating whether to go "Animal Style" or "Protein Style" or for the more adventurous, the "4x4" (that's 4 patties, 4 slices of cheese). No matter how you slice it though, they win me over with affordable prices, fresh food (fries cut daily), and their silly hats. Trust me, when you see it, you'll crap laughter.

All in all, this is the closest to what America thinks a fast food burger is, but they take it one step further: it's actually EDIBLE and DELICIOUS. So suck it, McDonald's.

Of course Fatburger takes it one step further. Recently, Matt Groening, creator of all things holy (and The Simpsons) was asked, "What would be Homer's favorite burger place in L.A., were he a real person?" Groening could only answer one way by saying, "Fatburger." Think about it...there's nothing really healthy about eating a burger. Add cheese to it, then all the special sauce/mayonnaise, and a side of fries...we're not talking about a low calorie diet here. And this place tends to bridge the gap between fast food and gourmet by offering such add ons as a fried egg or chili. But if you want to eat it for what it is, I recommend just getting a regular old burger, just how you like it. And don't expect to see any wimpy patties here, fatburger's thing is making fat burgers. Quite literally, one can choose from a fatburger, or a king burger (even bigger). Then they have their 'triple king' challenge...if you eat 3 king patties on one bun (and cheese of course), your picture makes the wall. Yes, it's a chance for fat asses everywhere to show America what they're made of. Not to mention the fact that it also justifies Groening's call on Homer's favorite burger.

Carney's was one of the first chili burgers I had out here, and it may be the last. Sure, Tommy's and other places like that are good, but nothing compares to Carney's delicious chili on top of a double cheeseburger. And sure, Fatburger offers chili on their burger, but it's not what they're known for. Carney's, on the other hand, is. In addition to their chili burgers, they offer Chili dog's (regularly rated the best in L.A.), and a wide variety of other menu options giving one the chance to eat healthy at their local burger place.

Two locations exist, one off Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, the other off Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. In this clash of old vs. new Hollywood, it's clear that old reigns supreme. The Studio City location is not only more accessible, but it's the original. And while it may seem fun to go up to Sunset and people watch on the Strip, the food isn't as good at that location. Really the only pro to the Sunset locale is that they offer beer as well, something that neither In-N-Out or Fatburger have on their menu. Gives you something to think about, doesn't it? That and the fact that there's something hot about a rail thin bimbo chomping down on a double chili cheeseburger. Ahhh sunset blvd...nothing beats cocaine and hamburgers after a night at the standard pretending you're cooler than you really are.

There are a number of other fast food burgers in L.A., but none of them really kick ass like these do. I'll give honorable mention to 1 and only 1: Irv's Burger Stand on Santa Monica Blvd. While you can't drive through, it's worth the walk. This is the original burger stand. It's the west coast equivalent to a hot dog stand in New York City: delicious, greasy, and surrounded by homos.

Sapiens...not sexuals. Why, did you think I meant the latter?


There's something about gourmet in Santa Monica. I'm not sure why, or how, but they like their burgers swanky. The Counter is no exception. Located in the heart of suburbia on Ocean Park Ave., the counter has been serving up some of the best burgers in LA for years. And the best part about this place: though it's short order, it's anything but short. When you arrive, you're handed a list longer than Santa's of sides, cheeses, toppings, sauces, bun types, etc. This place does it all. And just when you thought their burgers couldn't get any better, they started offering turkey burgers, veggie burgers and chicken breasts, so even the health conscious can find a home here.

The burgers, however, merely serve as the backdrop here. With options like shoe string onion rings, sweet potato fries, and their delicious chocolate chip cookies and milk shakes, it's hard not to splurge. A great place for the family or friends, they offer a great variety of micro brew beers, wine, and sippy cups for the little ones. Even your kid can get his drink on! Fuck yes!

Head down the street to The Viceroy and you can enjoy another of Santa Monica's delicious burger's at their delicious restaurant Whist. Though this burger has fallen off a bit in the past few years, it still holds up as one of the most delicious over priced burgers in town. To top that off, your surroundings aren't too shabby either. Though the burger may be somewhat normal, the ambiance is out of the ordinary. Ornate decor and bikini clad women will have you wondering, "why didn't we come here before?"

And just when you think you can't get any swankier, 25 Degrees comes along and shatters your expectations. Located inside Hollywood's Roosevelt Hotel, it's almost harder to get into than heaven. I kid. I know nothing about heaven. But I do know this burger, and I know it well. This burger is basically the equivalent of the Viceroy's in Santa Monica, but with a touch more class. Instead of outdoor summer opulence like Santa Monica, this is set in dark wood tones, with a very Hollywood feeling. A fantastic tourist attraction, and pool side service to boot, you'll feel like Cecil B. Demille cicra 1935.

But in Los Angeles, there really is only 1 gourmet burger. That of course belongs to the good people at Father's Office. No substitutions are allowed, which typically annoys me, and seating is first come first serve (otherwise you're hovering until you land a spot), but all that aside, the burger is worth the wait. Try going on a saturday afternoon and beating the rush, cause once night falls, the line waits outside the door as if it were LA's trendiest night club. An while the whole 'no substitutions' thing may throw you, this burger needs no subs. Take an amazing bun, a nice fresh arugula salad and Bermuda onions a top an Angus is to die for. It's the kind of burger people have dreams about. Really, I mean it. This burger'll make you fall in love with it and dump you on the curb after it took advantage of you. No joke. Plus, Father's Office boasts one of the most kick ass tap beer selections in the city.


So if you're in the mood for a burger this weekend, try one of these guys out. I promise you won't be disappointed. Until next time, this is Scott Towler saying, keep your grill hot, your drink cold, and your blogs free of stupid writing like this.

bon appetite!

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