Chefs’ Picks: Favorite Burger Patties in Los Angeles
Chefs’ Picks tracks down what the pros are eating and cooking from coast to coast.
In addition to movie stars, sunshine and traffic, Los Angeles also offers burgers aplenty. While they never claimed to have invented it, the residents of Southern California have been cultivating a cultish obsession with their burgers for the better part of a century now. As a result, many an Angeleno chef will go aglow when asked to name his or her personal favorite. In this city of millions, it’s fitting that there be nearly as many opinions on the subject as there are chefs. Read on to find out where the pros go to score their perfect patty.
Layers of Flavor
Among the burger cognoscenti in this town, one man who commands exalted status is Umami Burger’s creator, Adam Fleischman. Though he’s now moved on to non-burger projects — namely the fast-casual Japanese restaurant Ramen Roll, slated to open in Culver City, Calif., later this year — Fleischman has been a hugely influential force in LA’s gourmet burger landscape. That’s why it comes as something of a surprise that his go-to entry doesn’t involve ground beef.
When he has a burger craving, Fleischman opts for a grilled spiced lamb patty at Badmaash in downtown Los Angeles. “Badmaash is an Indian gastropub, and like any good pub, they must serve a burger,” he explains. “The meat is ground and spiced in-house, thus preserving the freshness and flavor. A spiced mayo seals the deal. The Indian flavors work very well with a burger, probably the only one I have seen at an Indian spot.” Fleischman brings along a crowd to share in this culinary experience, with the burger serving as the starter for a sumptuous meal. “There are so many good dishes here. I like to go with a group, open a good Riesling, and get the burger as a starter to cut up and share, along with a bunch of other dishes, breads, rice and samosas.”
Executive Chef Tony Esnault is renowned for his French bistro, Church & State. But he reserves a soft spot in his heart for all-American fare. This much is obvious when he speaks about his favorite burger, which is made at the Ace Hotel, a few blocks across town from his own restaurant in downtown LA. “It is made with dry-aged grass-fed beef (I am a stickler about eating only 100 percent grass-fed beef) and it’s delicious,” he says. “It’s well-seasoned, with harissa and mayonnaise, and we French love our mayo. It is simple and it doesn’t have a bunch of extra ingredients that cover up the flavor of the meat.” Esnault lauds the juiciness of the patty, as well as the proportion of the meat to the bun. He pairs the burger with salad for a lighter meal or fries when he’s feeling extra hungry. Esnault values the experience enough to make it a family affair. “My wife, Yassmin, is a fan also. We love sitting at the bar at the Ace on [our] day off or after a night at the restaurant, while enjoying a drink and a satisfying burger.”
When you want a good cut of quality meat in this town, few eateries deliver on the scale of Salt’s Cure in Hollywood. It’s perennially positioned at or near the top of any self-respecting carnivore’s shortlist. So when its chef, Chris Phelps, offers up meat-minded advice, class is in session. “My favorite burger in LA is at the Everson Royce Bar downtown,” he says. Unlike many of today’s gourmet-ified examples, the burger at the Everson Royce shines with simplicity, as Phelps explains: “It’s probably the simplest burger in the city — a butter-lathered bun, griddled to a crunch, a charred patty and melted cheese. Just bread and cow. A big beefy flavor in a small package.” He’s prone to pair the patty with pretty much any of the bar’s red by the glass.
At Hyperion Public, Executive Chef Paddy Aubrey feeds the hungry hipsters of Silver Lake elevated country cuisine into the late hours of the night. Come to him when you’re craving biscuits and gravy, fried avocados or the best mac ‘n’ cheese in the city. He’s a man who celebrates variety, so it’s fitting that he favors many of his hometown’s hamburger spots.
“There are so many good burgers in LA, such as classics like Bill’s Burgers in the Valley or Irv’s burgers in WeHo. There are also some great high-end burgers at Petit Trois [pictured above] and the lounge at the Bel Air Hotel that are delicious,” he says. When measuring them to find one spot that stands above the rest, Aubrey relies on practicality as his yardstick. “My son has a wide array of places he likes, and my daughter is much pickier about her burger, so there is only one place we can all be happy with when it comes to burgers, and that’s Carney’s,” the chef says. Aubrey and his family all agree on this spot for a number of reasons: “We can actually walk there; the well-seasoned griddle; crunchy lettuce; American cheese; and the fact that it used to be a train.”
Beefy and Cheesy
Though he spends his days dishing out impeccable Japanese plates such as shabu shabu and sushi at Osawa in Pasadena, Calif., Chef Shigefumi Tachibe can’t resist the siren call of a greasy, fast-food burger when his shift is over. “I have been working in the restaurant industry for over 30-plus years, and at the end of a long day in the kitchen, sometimes a burger is exactly what you need,” Tachibe says. “Throughout the years, without question, In-N-Out has remained the easiest and most-consistent place for me to get a burger, no matter what time of day, especially late night.” Tachibe even has his order down to a science after all these years. “The 4 x 4 burger with four beef patties, fresh lettuce, tomato and four slices of American cheese, served animal style, is my ‘go to’ favorite LA burger, and I always order extra pickles.”
Bacon and Beyond
Another Pasadena pro who is similarly effusive when it comes to food-coma-inducing burgers is Executive Chef Tim Guiltinan, who helms the kitchen at The Raymond 1886. “My favorite LA Burger is the Avocado Bacon Cheeseburger from Super Burger,” says the chef. “This place is an absolutely incredible little hole-in-the-wall, greasy-spoon burger joint.” It may seem like an unexpected pick for a chef known for plating refined European-inspired fare, but Super Burger gets Guiltinan where it really counts: his appetite. “[It’s] a real mom-and-pop place that knows exactly how I like my burgers: big, fresh, cheap and delicious! They also have some really good chili cheese fries, and one of their huge burgers can keep you going all night or put you right to sleep.”
Photos courtesy of Badmaash, Ace Hotel, Everson Royce Bar and Natalie Compton