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The L.A. Taco Guide to 12 Perfect L.A. Cheeseburgers to Eat and Live By

8:00 AM PDT on October 9, 2019

    Photo by Erick Galindo

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap] perfect cheeseburger makes your hands look beautiful, like they’re Rita Hayworth in Life Magazine. It’s simple, bright, resplendent—clean almost but bursting with messy greatness that comes to gooey life with each bite. And those bites are an effortless tearing of what must be your own flesh coming back to you to make you whole.

    Is that too dramatic for food? Nah, dude. This is Los Angeles. And food, especially that which tastes better in your car, is a lifestyle. You can plan your whole day around food, base your meal breaks around where you are going to be at a certain time or on a certain day. But a burger rolls with you.

    It’s in your left hand as you gangster lean that turn off Slauson and Soto. It’s sitting with you at the counter listening to Sinatra after you’ve just had a good meeting in West Hollywood. It’s hanging around on your wedding night, after everyone else has gone home and it’s just you, your closest friends, and the smell of grilled onions. And it’s got your back when you finally feel right enough to celebrate the divorce at your favorite burger bar just a few yards away from where you asked her to marry you. 

    Tacos in Los Angeles may be everything, but cheeseburgers—synonymous with L.A. car culture—are a very specific thing that holds steady in its soul and ours who share one with the City of Angels. Here are 12 essential L.A. cheeseburgers for any occasion. 

    Stout - Stout Burger

    The Best Burger to Eat After Catching a Flick at the ArcLight 

    Blue cheese, Emmi Gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, horseradish cream

    [dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]tout’s namesake cheeseburger is my favorite burger experience because it almost always follows a trip to the ArcLight Hollywood. That particular ArcLight, and the iconic Cinerama Dome it’s attached to, is church for me. I don’t pray there but I feel my soul is refreshed there. Yet, I am incomplete—feel like a heathen even—if I don’t have a Stout Burger and some onion rings.

    Stout makes their own beef blend for the patties and they melt away in your mouth. But all the fancy shit that usually kills a burger is what really makes it a golden burger. In this case – maybe it’s because you're sitting in a beer and burger bar in the heart of Hollywood – everything that’s in the burger truly makes it hold together until you tear into that bad boy. 

    For best results, eat the burger over some onion rings so that all the fancy cheeseburger gravy falls on them. They are the final reward as you have a pint, eat some gold, and dream of the day your first feature premieres at the ArcLight. 

    Petit Trois –  Big Mec 

    The Best Burger to Celebrate a Win

    Cheese, Bordelaise Sauce, which is made from a veal infused red wine stock reduction 

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]his is a decadent cheeseburger but it’s also so very simple. It’s just high quality American cheese smothering a pair of fat beef patties drowned in a red wine and veal reduction which serves to enhance the meaty taste of it. If I were a vampire, I think I’d still prefer this burger. My eyes would at least. The fact that you can find Ludo Lefebvre’s decadent Big Mec in a Melrose strip mall French Bistro only adds to the juxtaposition of American and French culture.

    Make no mistake, this cheeseburger is a treat-yo-self moment. I recommend smoking a fatty and having it with a side of French onion soup and a Mexican coke. And make sure you save some of the table bread and butter to mix in with the leftover burger gravy. The burger is big, so you might want to split it with someone––ideally with someone you love, like Beyonce. 

    Father’s Office – The Office Burger

    The Best Burger to Impress Your In-Laws

    Caramelized onion, bacon, Gruyere, Maytag Blue, arugula 

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he Office Burger is essentially one of the best sandwiches in L.A.  People like to get into arguments about whether it's even a burger because it’s not served on a bun but on a roll. Those types of people are also the kind of people that would love Sang Yoon’s tapas bar-inspired Father's Office. Let’s say those are some grown ass folks who have actually been to Spain and aren’t going to be impressed by In-N-Out’s secret menu. 

    Father’s Office is, like it sounds, kind of a serious but warm place. And the menu looks like my dad designed it. No chingaderas. It’s just a briefcase looking cover, and inside a list with the message at the bottom being: “No substitutions, modifications, alterations, or deletions. Yes, really.” They don’t even have ketchup on the premises. But it’s a damn fine cheeseburger—perfectly charred on the outside and bloody red on the inside—that portends perhaps a serious life commitment of sorts.

    Tam’s – Double Bacon Cheeseburger

    The Best Weekend Burger

    Shredded lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, onions, Thousand Islands 

    [dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]am’s double bacon cheeseburger is a MF! It will sit on your tongue, your stomach, your life if you let it. But once a week, ideally early Sunday evening with some HBOGo, you owe it to yourself to order this with chili cheese fries, a large drink, and a handful of cascabella peppers on the side. The Tam’s burger – and the hundreds of Tam’s-like places—is a Southeast L.A. institution, like the Huntington Park water tower or Patty Rodriguez. The shredded lettuce stuffed into that sesame seed bun is how you know you’re in the hood living large (or at least getting large) like Biggie in that Juicy video. But this ain’t Brooklyn, this is HP, Paramount, Norwalk, South Gate, Lynwood, et all. And it’s all good. 

    Fatburger – The King Burger

    The Best Pregame Burger

    Shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, pickles, mayo, mustard

    [dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]atbuger’s King Burger is another iconic hood delicacy, immortalized by one of L.A.’s favorite sons, Ice Cube, in the equally iconic It Was a Good Day. The lauded franchise, like McDonald’s before it, was born here and is now a publicly traded corporation. It was founded by Lovie Yancey in 1947. She started her first Fatburger as a burger shack in Exposition Park and quickly became almost a party spot thanks to the likes of Ray Charles and other famous folks. Some of the company’s franchisees are famous too. Kanye owns one, for example. 

    The King Burger itself, is a party in your mouth, especially if you order it with The Works, which is all the things. The combination of relish and pickles dances around in the mayo mustard mixture to compliment the extra crispy all-beef patty. Fatburger uses the same buns as In-N-Out but uses the shredded lettuce that distinguishes L.A. burgers in my book. And the steak fries murder the raggedy paper mache In-N-Out serves. Party metaphor aside, the spot is usually happening, especially right around 9 or 10 PM on the weekends. Probably because the burger serves as a good base for whatever drinking you might do, and it’s also nice and bright up in there. 

    Pro tip: When you give your name don’t try using Rosalino Sanchez because they won’t say it outloud. They’ll just walk over to you, tap you on the shoulder, and give you a head shake of este guey.

    Hawkins House of Burger – Double Burger

    The Best Comfort Food Burger

    Lettuce, tomato, red onions, pickles, mustard and mayo

    [dropcap size=big]H[/dropcap]awkins is all about the bacon. The whole block reeks of it. Hakwins is also the closest thing to having a backyard burger, especially if you have one made by my mom who always likes to add mayo to her burger. I can’t think of any other way to describe the taste other than home. And biting into a Hawkins double is a crunch that must reverberate throughout the known universe. 

    RELATED: Restaurant Guide: Hawkins House of Burgers

    Egg Slut – Cheeseburger

    The Best Hangover Cure Burger

    Ground angus, cage-free over medium egg, caramelized onions, bread and butter pickles, cheddar cheese, and dijonnaise in a warm brioche bun

    [dropcap size=big]O[/dropcap]h, man. There was a time in L.A. not to long ago when Egg Slut was so happening and impossible to happen at the same time. Getting one was a Sisyphean task of rolling my hungover ass up hills, down stairs, and through crowded corridors, just to stand in an ungodly long line to get this delicious handful of warm protein and eat it with a Mexican coke and some Mexican ass fools sitting on Broadway rehashing our dubious choices. And I would do it all over again the next day and the next and so on. Those days are long gone for me and also there are many more Egg Slut locations today so the lines don’t go on forever like those Bunker Hill stairs.

    Cassell’s – The Patty Melt

    The Best Burger to Have for a Late Night Chat with Cesar Hernandez

    Cheddar or swiss & grilled onions. Served on toasted rye.

    [dropcap size=big]C[/dropcap]assell's patty melt is another damn fine sandwich that regular L.A. Taco contributor and our Slack's Hater-in-Chief Cesar Hernandez calls his favorite L.A. Burger. “It’s a patty melt, tho,” you’ll find yourself saying to him before arguing all night about all matter of things. But no matter how wrong Cesar will be all meal long, the chuck and brisket ground patty is so right. Who cares that it’s a MF patty melt. It’s good, better than most burgers even. The caramelized meaty taste will stay with you long after you have forgotten that Cesar casually misquotes Stalin and mistakenly thinks Vice Principals was canceled.

    McDonald’s – Double Cheeseburger 

    The Best Drive-Thru Burger 

    Cheese, pickles, onions, mustard, ketchup

    [dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]irst of all, shut up! I’m not being defensive, you are! No you stop adopting this childish writing style! OK, now… McDonald’s double cheeseburger is the absolute best burger to eat in your car and arguably the best burger ever made. Is it chemically enhanced based on rigorous scientific study so that your sense of smell fools your taste buds into thinking you just ate a slice of heaven? Don’t know. Don’t care. McDonald’s says the patty is 100 percent ground beef with no fillers or additives. And it’s a 100 percent perfect burger that always leaves me wanting another burger. It’s also a burger that hasn’t changed a ton since 1948 when the McDonald’s brothers perfected the Speedee Service System after eight years of trying to master fast food in San Bernardino. It’s not fancy but it wins in its simplicity where the meat and cheese roll in your mouth as you tear into it and the sweetness of the bun and ketchup punch it just right.

    Nexx Burger – Impossible Burger

    The Best Vegan Burger

    Lettuce, tomatoes, onions, avocado spread

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]’m not a vegan, obviously. But that’s why Nexx Burger’s take on the Impossible burger is my favorite vegan burger in the city. It tastes just like their delicious cheeseburgers but with the added bonus of a lightly spiced avocado spread. Much like the veal and wine reduction at Petit Trois turbocharges the meat flavors, the avocado spread actually enhances the crisp veggies. In that way it makes each individual part of the burger have some stage time while also helping to hold the whole thing together. And the plant-based patty is packed full of flavor and so perfectly charred, that it’s nearly impossible to tell it’s not meat.

    In-N-Out – Double Double 

    The Best Burger to Eat After a Long Trip Away from L.A. 

    Cheese, grilled onions, spread 

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]rguably, In-N-Out's Double-Double is the most L.A. of all cheeseburgers. It’s certainly the most mainstream, known the world over and hyped to almost impossible levels. It’s a good little burger especially if you have mastered your particular order. Mine is to order it with no veggies except for whole grilled onions. But it’s greatest when you have been away from Los Angeles for an ungodly amount of time. Even if you are away at food meccas like Mexico City or New Orleans, when you get off the plane or pull of I-10, this iconic cheeseburger is where you want to be. It’s probably the only time it lives up to the hype. And that’s because nothing fills an In-N-Out shaped nostalgia hole in your soul like In-N-Out.

    Tripp Burgers – Double Cheeseburger

    The Best Burger of Them All

    Cheese, mustard and pickles on a Martin's potato roll

    [dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]mash burgers, burgers that are crushed under a customized metal spatula and often sold from street carts like tacos, are the best hamburgers in L.A. right now. And Tripp Burgers is the best of those. It recently won a massive burger contest held by Food & Wine Magazine. The patty is a blend of chuck, top sirloin, and bacon that owner and chef Mark Tripp perfected for more than a decade before hitting the streets of L.A. with his cart and Smashula. This cheeseburger is like if a McDonald’s cheeseburger went to Harvard. Tripp takes the brilliance of that simplicity and elevates it to Ivy League levels. The meat rolls in your mouth as you chew and you almost feel like only Homer Simpson and Wimpy are ever as satisfied as you are while eating this burger on the streets of L.A.

    RELATED: Fighting Words: Nexx Burger in Downey, Finally a Drive-Thru Burger Joint Better Than In-N-Out

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