The L.A. Taco Guide To the Family-Run ‘Hood Burgers of Los Angeles Barrios
1:27 PM PST on January 26, 2021
[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n the land of the never-ending debate between In N’ Out vs. Shake Shack and the oldest McDonald’s in the country, ‘hood burgers just hit differently.
What’s a ‘hood burger? All the Jims, Patras, Tom’s, Arry’s, Tommy’s, and any other old-timey name that illuminates all those famous corners in our respective neighborhoods.
There’s something special about driving through streets that are heavily filled with the aromatic scent of quarter-pound charbroiled cheeseburgers and freshly salted, golden, crispy, unapologetically thick-cut steak fries. That primal scent has a way of setting off the most vivid sense of voracious hunger as you drive, walk, skate, or jog by these places.
If you grew up in Los Angeles, you undoubtedly have a soft spot for these delicious community beacons of salt and fat: chili cheese fries, a watery fountain Coke, and greasy empty packets of ketchup. If you recently moved here, you’ve probably walked by to check it out, and hopefully, you tried a burger that genuinely represents Los Angeles food culture.
It’s important to remember that these are the places that have fed many inner-city families. When many classified parts of Los Angeles as “food deserts,” those $19.99 family value packs of burgers and fries fed many mouths.
L.A. TACO created this list of 11 beloved ‘hood burger joints that can start you on your journey to familiarize yourself with L.A.’s ‘hood burger way of life. It is by no means meant to be L.A.’s complete list, so rep your local burger hustler in the comment section if we missed them!
1st Street Burgers ~ East Los Angeles
3737 E 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90063
1st Street Burger has been serving the East Los Angeles community for decades since the 1970s, to be exact. In the mid-90s, their family value packs, complete with four ¼- pound charbroiled burgers, four orders of french fries, and four cokes, were my family’s weekend go-to meal after a long day of yardwork or hosting a yard sale. Pre-pandemic on weekdays, the establishment’s most loyal patrons were community elders, getting together during the early morning to enjoy their affordable pancake breakfasts, black coffee, and a good card game.
Owner “Andy,” an immigrant from Greece and an East L.A. resident for 40 years, shared that they have not been negatively affected by the pandemic. Community support continues to keep the business running.
...if you order the special, you’ll learn they are always in a giving mood when it comes to piping-hot french fries.
Though their menu offers various delicious options, the most popular item has and continues to be the hamburger special. The owner Andy, shared, “People come to us and share that our hamburgers are the best, and I know it’s because of the quality of our ingredients, we keep everything fresh!” Andy is correct. 1st Street Burgers provides that perfect bite of crispy lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles, charbroiled beef patty, and tasty sauce, and if you order the special, you’ll learn they are always in a giving mood when it comes to piping-hot french fries.
SO-CAL Burgers ~ East Los Angeles
203 S Mednik Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Tony Gomez, a lifetime resident of East Los Angeles, opened up SoCal Burgers more than nine years ago. East L.A. locals call the place “the hood’s In N’ Out,” which is fitting because the location is accessible and the food is deliciously fresh. Employees at the burger shop shared that Tony prides himself in making unique burgers that leave customers wanting more.
At the first bite, you’ll experience a meaty mouthful with a burst of chile intensity.
One of the most popular items on the menu is Tony’s award-winning Chipotle Aioli burger. A 1/2-pound juicy beef patty, topped with Pepper Jack cheese and grilled jalapeños, served on a toasty and buttery brioche bun slathered in chipotle aioli, made in-house daily. At the first bite, you’ll experience a meaty mouthful with a burst of chile intensity.
Located a block away from the beloved Belvedere Park Lake (and yeah, East L.A.'s courthouse), Tony’s love for his community becomes immediately apparent with the burger shop’s decor. The walls are filled with popular East L.A. street signs like “Whittier Blvd” and “Brooklyn Ave,” a nod to the original East L.A. street we now know as Avenida Cesar Chavez.
Aside from the decor, Tony participates heavily in community philanthropy. Pre-pandemic, Tony often hosted community fundraisers, car nights, and celebrations for El Día de Los Muertos. He has hosted holiday toy drives and donated food to essential medical workers from local hospitals during the pandemic. The memorabilia and community involvement makes eating a juicy burger at SoCal Burgers feel all the more special.
Super Burger ~ Pasadena
458 N Altadena Dr, Pasadena, CA 91107
Many folks argue over what makes a burger great. Some believe the magic is in the fresh quality of toppings. Others care solely about the quality of the beef patty, and some even go as far as to say the sauce is where it’s at. If you’re looking for a place that hits the spot in all three categories, you have to visit Super Burger in Pasadena. When eating the burger, I had an epiphany; the perfect burger patty does exist. It's grilled perfectly on both sides, giving it a crispy outer layer, and at first bite, you’ll experience a juicy and tender explosion.
A Korean family owns this particular burger joint. A mom-and-pop team who immigrated to the U.S. with hopes to be successful in the restaurant business and their son, Kevin Khe, who fell into the business after graduating high school. Super Burger opened in 2009, after the big financial recession of 2008, which caused the Khe couple to lose a diner business they previously owned in Century City. At the beginning of their journey with their burger joint, Kevin shares, “Business was slow, we were making maybe, on a good week, $500 a day, and that would be like, ‘OMG THANK GOD!’ which is absolutely nothing now.”
People continue to visit because the Khe family believes in keeping their burgers big and prices small.
He tells L.A. Taco that he started helping his parents to support them in their time of struggle. In the beginning, he didn’t take his burger hustler role in the ‘Dena seriously until his dad fell ill from stress. Since then, he stepped his game up and began to slowly commit to Super Burger by promoting the business on social media and meeting his dad in the kitchen during early mornings to handcraft 6.5-ounce burger patties for countless hours.
Fast forward ten years, and the community support for the joint is unmatched. Though the family is taking a risk in staying open and serving their community, they enjoy doing it and have taken all COVID-19 regulations seriously. People continue to visit because the Khe family believes in keeping their burgers big and prices small. This family operated burger joint is the definition of burger love, and the proof is nestled within two toasty burger buns.
Louis Burger II ~ Compton
1501 Rosecrans Ave, Compton, CA 90221
Consistency has always been key for George Kotrotsos, owner of the beloved Louis Burger II in Compton. The establishment has been in business since 1984, providing the local community with an impeccably clean restaurant and guaranteed fresh food.
Irene, an employee of almost 20 years, shares, “the owner and manager keep this place ridiculously clean. Anytime you come here, you’re getting the best of the best when it comes to food quality. That’s why people keep coming back. Everyone wants a Louis Burger.”
The french fries’ quality is critical because cooks change the frying oil two to three times daily.
One of the most popular items on the menu is a significantly large order of their chili cheese fries. The 9x9 Styrofoam clamshell container is filled with a hefty pile of crispy french fries, topped with Louis Burger chili, which is made in-house daily, and an abundant amount of cheddar cheese.
The french fries’ quality is critical because cooks change the frying oil two to three times daily. A kitchen practice that is a rarity in ‘hood burger spots because it is more cost-effective to reuse the same oil for fries. Loyal patrons shared that they visit weekly to get their hands on their favorite fries. They usually pair them with Louis Burger’s juicy turkey burger, a packed tuna salad sandwich, or of course, their original Louis cheeseburger.
Patras Burger #2 ~ Glassell Park
2319 N San Fernando Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90065
Located in an industrial area just a taco’s throw away from an OG NELA tortilleria, a couple of auto body shops, and a carwash, Patras Burger #2, serves the community their staple burger stand foods with a hefty offering of Mexican dishes as well. The place is a staple in Glassell Park, and in 2011, it caught the attention of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who hosted the short-lived TV show Food Revolution. Oliver visited the burger joint in an attempt to “revolutionize” their menu. What did he really do? Added a couple of healthy options that the community accepted but didn’t necessarily rush to order.
The community was torn after Oliver's visit. Many did not take too well to the revamping of the establishment and menu, but a few were glad to know they had the new options to choose from that came with earthy tasting wheat hamburger buns, a lower-calorie dressing, and a more giant 1/3 beef patty.
Aside from the swanky celebrity reveal, customers have since returned to ordering their usual cheeseburger specials and steak dinners, consisting of two ribeye steaks, rice, beans, french fries, and tortillas.
Since then, a longtime Patra’s cashier shared, “Support definitely increased when he [Jamie Oliver] visited. It was a big deal, and there were major celebrations.” Still, aside from the swanky celebrity reveal, customers have since returned to ordering their usual cheeseburger specials and steak dinners, consisting of two ribeye steaks, rice, beans, french fries, and tortillas.
Employees at Patras #2 do their best to ensure that customers enjoy any meal they order. Though Oliver influenced the team with healthy options, they curated some of their twists on what many of us would consider fundamental orders. The “Happy Cow,” their veggie burger, isn't just your run of the mill veggie patty with usual toppings. The team at Patras hooks you up with guacamole and chipotle salsa to add some richness. Next time you’re in Glassell Park or on your way to nearby Super King, stop by.
Arry’s Super Burger ~ Montebello
1015 W Whittier Blvd, Montebello, CA 90640
If you ask anybody who resides in Montebello or East L.A. about the best pastrami, you’ll overwhelmingly be pointed to Arry's Super Burger. Arry’s has been serving the Montebello community since the 1960s, providing the staple cheeseburger specials and more. This burger shop especially stands out to many because it brings upon nostalgia for customers who have frequented the space since their young adulthood, after hitting the bars or house parties.
Because of the pandemic, Arry’s is only serving patrons via drive-thru or phone orders. Drive by the corner of Whittier Boulevard and Greenwood Avenue during almost any time of day on any given day of the week. You’ll see a long line of loyal fans waiting patiently to get their hands on a pastrami sandwich that can easily feed a family of four if deconstructed.
Upon tearing the yellow burger wrapping paper that tightly holds the pastrami sandwich together, glorious mounds of perfectly grilled and seasoned pastrami will fall out and instantly cause you to drool.
Upon tearing the yellow burger wrapping paper that tightly holds the pastrami sandwich together, glorious mounds of perfectly grilled and seasoned pastrami will fall out and instantly cause you to drool. If you are looking for a massive and tasty bite, you won’t regret stopping by and picking up a pastrami special.
George’s Burger Stand ~Boyle Heights
2311 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90033
Since 1967, Georges Burger Stand has been located in the bustling community of Boyle Heights on the famous Cesar Chavez Avenue. In 2018, the place was in jeopardy of going out of business, but Robert McCord and Armando De La Torre, a pair of buddies whose families have deep roots in the community, decided to purchase the business and give it some TLC.
Previous to their revamping of the location, McCord shared that the food quality had decreased, with most menu options being frozen and lacking quality taste. When McCord and De La Torre stepped into their roles, their goal was to provide the community with premium flavor. The menu switched up from offering paper-thin beef patties and American cheese sliced cheeseburgers to hand-shaped, thick Angus beef patties with shredded Longhorn cheddar cheese. The only items the pair keeps in their freezer are hash browns made in-house and stored, ice cream, and french fries. You can guarantee your order will be fresh whenever you visit them.
The burger speaks for itself, you immediately taste the quality of the meat, and although the thinly sliced pastrami from most other burger joints is tasty, the one at George’s makes you feel like you’re enjoying a burger made by a BBQ master himself.
The upgrade to premium quality foods meant that prices for the food increased. Though McCord and De La Torre were met with accusations of gentrification and folks sharing angry “This isn't George’s!” feedback, most community members were receptive and open to the changes.
All in all, the pair wanted to keep the integrity of the space. They wanted to revamp the menu, but the order window’s benches remained in their original state, and they kept the graffiti scratched windows. McCord shared, “We wanted to keep it as ‘Georges’ and just move towards providing people quality food.”
The most popular item on the menu at Georges is the pastrami burger, made up of a certified Angus beef patty, grilled onions, Longhorn Cheddar cheese, and Dijonae, their award-winning sauce, and thick cuts of “New York black rub” pastrami. The burger speaks for itself, you immediately taste the quality of the meat, and although the thinly sliced pastrami from most other burger joints is tasty, the one at George’s makes you feel like you’re enjoying a burger made by a BBQ master himself.
If you’re in the mood for quality burgers and you’re on La Cesar Chavez, stop by and visit this renewed burger joint. We hear their award-winning bean and cheese burritos are worth a try, too.
Norm's Famous Charbroiled Burgers ~ Whittier
14244 Whittier Blvd, Whittier, CA 90605
Norm's Famous Charbroiled Burgers, not to be confused with the Norms Restaurant chain, has been in business since 1984, serving the local Whittier community. Aside from cooking up burgers with the perfect balance of char and succulence, patrons enjoy visiting the space because of the excellent customer service. When visiting Norms Hamburger, the employees will greet you as if you’re family, and they’ll remember your name if you’re a frequent visitor.
The quality of beef is a factor many folks look for in a good burger. At Norm’s, a fresh shipment of beef patties arrives five days a week from a butcher in Fullerton, the team in the kitchen refuses to serve frozen patties.
The quality of beef is a factor many folks look for in a good burger. At Norm’s, a fresh shipment of beef patties arrives five days a week from a butcher in Fullerton, the team in the kitchen refuses to serve frozen patties. Pair the fresh beef patty with the crispy lettuce, onions, pickles, and tomatoes, and it’s no surprise the most popular item on the menu is the staple “Norms Hamburger Special,” complete with fries and a soft drink.
If you’re not in the mood for a fresh burger, Norm’s has you covered with their menu offering tasty and fresh Mediterranean-influenced chicken and gyro pitas, quesadillas, burritos, taco plates, fish and chips, and more. This burger joint can be your go-to when you’re craving anything.
Basket Burger Cafe ~ East Los Angeles
1264 S Atlantic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Basket Burger Cafe has been operating since 1982. When entering the space, one can immediately feel the mom & pop, family-owned vibe. Pre-pandemic, the space could cater to a total of 20 people at most, with a quaint but inviting diner-style counter and a couple of tables throughout.
The owner is an Asian matriarch who has since retired, leaving the establishment to be operated by her children. Unlike most popular burger places, Basket burger is highly praised for their breakfast plates. When I asked the busy cashier and cooks about their most popular item on the menu, they briefly yelled, “EVERYTHING IS GOOD!” while continuing to fry mounds of crispy home fries and flip and butter fluffy pancakes.
Garfield High School students and East L.A. local community members know that Basket Burger Cafe is the go-to spot for the tastiest chorizo, papa, and egg burritos, and breakfast plates aside from the delicious burger options.
Garfield High School students and East L.A. local community members know that Basket Burger Cafe is the go-to spot for the tastiest chorizo, papa, and egg burritos, and breakfast plates aside from the delicious burger options. Want the best of both worlds? Order their popular hamburger patty breakfast plate. The juicy chuck steak patty is cooked on a flat top grill and infused with onions that caramelize perfectly. The dish is paired with eggs cooked to your liking and your choice of crispy hash browns or home fries. Add some pancakes and be ready to not be hungry until significantly later in the day.
Bobo’s Burgers ~ Pacoima
13433 Van Nuys Blvd, Pacoima, CA 91331
When you’re in the Pacoima ‘hood, it is without a doubt that you have to hit up the family-owned Bobo’s Burgers for any of your burger needs. On a Saturday morning visit, the drive-thru line was already busy, and the staff was working hard to cook up pancakes for some and burgers and french fries for others. At Bobo's, patrons can’t decide about their favorite meal on the menu because they frequent the space for many options. Whether it’s a regular (but large low-key order) of crispy french fries, a selection of one of their eight salads, or a choice between their list of 30 sandwiches and burgers, Bobo’s never disappoints when it comes to taste or quality.
Massive is an understatement, and they do not mess around when it comes to the quality of toppings. The avocado tastes as if the employees sliced it open at its peak ripeness...
The sandwich we recommend for you is Bobo’s avocado bacon burger with cheese. Massive is an understatement, and they do not mess around when it comes to the quality of toppings. The avocado tastes as if the employees sliced it open at its peak ripeness, and the bacon is cooked perfectly to add the crispy- crunch and depth to your bite.
During the middle of 2020, the owners of Bobo’s decided to give the location a much-needed spruce, despite challenges with the pandemic. When they reopened in October, the decor was more modern, but nothing about the food changed. Though the coronavirus has affected many businesses, employees share that local Pacoima residents keep the place running and thriving, and Bobo’s, in return, keeps customers’ bellies and hearts happy.
Chronis Famous Sandwich Shop ~ East Los Angeles
5825 Whittier Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90022
Chronis Famous Sandwich Shop opened its doors in 1945. The genius Chronis family made up of Greek American L.A. residents, changed history forever when they began providing joy in the real Eastside via chili dogs, chili burgers, and chili cheese fries to the community 76 years ago! Almost eight decades later and nothing about the secret recipe has changed, and support remains overwhelmingly high.
Loyal customers share that the best item on the menu is the special Chronis Chili Cheese dog. An all-beef Hoffy-brand frank, topped with a slice of American cheese, mustard, onions, and a heap of house-made chili.
It’s almost as if the cooks want it to drip off the bun onto your fingers, instantly causing anger because the novel coronavirus pandemic has robbed you of the once familiar joy of licking food off your fingers.
My first experience biting into a Chronis chili dog felt like a top-five life moment. The hotdog snaps into your mouth perfectly with the delectable union of the toppings bursting with flavor. The amount of chili atop the bun is generous. It’s almost as if the cooks want it to drip off the bun onto your fingers, instantly causing anger because the novel coronavirus pandemic has robbed you of the once familiar joy of licking food off your fingers. In short, a Chronis chili dog provides a transformative experience for your taste buds.
William Lancaster, a nephew to the founder, shared, “I think what makes the chili special is the amount of love that goes into making it.” Lancaster takes pride that the chili is always fresh and made daily.
Though the local community takes the most advantage of the tasty bites, Chronis is esteemed nationwide and globally, with patrons visiting from Canada, the UK, and beyond. Next time you’re in the mood for some chili, cruise down Whittier Boulevard, and your appetite will be satisfied.
This list of 11 places is not exhaustive by any means, we all love the Jim’s, John’s, Tam’s, and Troy’s, but we at L.A. TACO encourage you to visit these hood places beyond your scope, you may discover some new favorites.
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