Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In search of great burgers

My name might as well be Wimpy. I love me a good burger. And they’re healthy too! (They have lettuce in them, right?) So today I thought I’d survey some burger places. The opinions expressed are my own and you might disagree. Feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments section.

Getting it out of the way right off the bat, McDonalds’ burgers are awful. Unless you have kids and you’re trying to get them toys from Happy Meals there’s no reason to ever go to McDonalds.

Maybe you have to be from the east coast to appreciate them, but I also think White Castle is disgusting. I need a shower just walking in there.

Burger King to me is airport food court fare. Not terrible and you can customize.  I wouldn't bring one on a plane and eat it four hours later though.

Carl’s Jr./Hardees and Wendy’s are for when you’re on a cross-country driving trip, you’re hungry, and it’s the last rest stop before New Mexico.

Of the more upscale fast-food burgers, there’s much debate on the west coast between Five Guys and In ‘N Out. I like ‘em both. In N’ Out used to be more of a treat when there were fewer of them. But they’re always made to order, the burger is hot and the lettuce and tomatoes are fresh and crispy cold. The fries are meh.

I think I prefer Five Guys. I like when you order a bacon burger the bacon is broken up so you get bacon in every bite. People rave about their fries. I’ve never tried them. They offer free peanuts so I eat those.

In LA we also have Fat Burger and they have their fans. My daughter Annie has a rule: Never eat in an establishment where the consequences are right in the title. So that would disqualify Fat Burger, In N’ Out, and probably Tombstone Pizza. Fat Burger is not as greasy as it sounds. Just order the burger broiled and you’re good to go.

Fuddruckers has two things going for it. Big buns (easy to eat) and a condiment aisle so you can customize it yourself. Last time I was there Jay Leno was right in front of me. So it’s the place to go to see stars.

Do you have The Counter where you live? Might just be a west coast thing. Partially owned by Jon Favreau I’m told, but very good quality beef, lots of condiment options, and somehow they always cook it just right. You order medium rare it comes out medium rare.

We’re now starting to get Shake Shacks out here. I must say the very first time I had a Shake Shack burger I was knocked out by it. Each subsequent time I’ve liked it a little less. Not sure why. Nice soft buns and the fries are tasty. Am I spitting on the cross not saying these are the greatest burgers ever?

Umami Burgers are popular out west. I had one I quite enjoyed and one that was so bad I returned it and got my money back. I’m not hipster enough to appreciate Umami Burgers.

Tommy’s at Beverly & Rampart in LA has yummy chiliburgers, but only if you’re young or have a cast-iron stomach. And whatever you do, don’t eat one in your car. You will NEVER get rid of that chili smell.

Moving up to sit down restaurants, there once was a chain called Hamburger Hamlet. Mostly LA but sprinkled throughout Chicago, Washington DC, and a few other eastern haunts. Their burgers were a cut above and their #11, their “greatest burger” with cheese, bacon, etc. and thousand island dressing was pretty great. The chain went out of business but in LA the one in Van Nuys has re-opened under new management and although they’ve done an okay job of recreating the old menu, their #11 is not even “the goodest.”

A delicious burger can be found at the Apple Pan in West Los Angeles. Only problem there is it’s one horseshoe counter with people standing behind you waiting to take your seat. To me that’s unnerving and I always feel compelled to just shovel down my food.. But if you go off-hours things are more relaxed. The service is spectacular. These waiters have been there for forty years. I once saw Warren Beatty munching at the counter. Not as big a star as Jay Leno but still considered a celebrity I suppose.

I’m told the Burger joint at the Parker-Meridian is supposed to be spectacular. I’m flying to New York today so plan to check it out this trip.

Speaking of New York, I haven’t been there in ages, but I remember a place called Jackson Hole. Their burger was so huge you couldn’t eat it. They must grind an entire cow for every patty. Too big. If I can’t get my mouth around a burger it loses points.

Boll Weevil hamburgers in San Diego were half-pound, real cheap, and surprisingly good.

Call me sentimental, but I still love Bob’s Big Boy in Toluca Lake. Bob’s was the originator of the double deck hamburger and I enjoy it as much now as I did when I was nine. Some nights they still have car service.

Mel’s Drive-In is another ‘50s throwback diner. Remember them from AMERICAN GRAFFITTI? Decent burgers and more big Hollywood stars. I saw Andy Kindler once in Mel’s.

And finally, my all-time favorite burger place has re-opened but don’t be fooled. Cassell’s now sucks. This breaks my heart. Cassell’s used to be in a corner dumpy spot in the Wilshire district. The grill was on a slant so the grease rolled off. The buns were large, and they had a condiment bar that included homemade potato salad that was out of this world. Now it’s re-opened down the block in a Hotel on Normandy and the condiment bar is gone, the potato salad isn’t nearly as good and it’s no longer free, the buns are different, and it seems to me the quality of the meat has gone downhill. A great burger is more than just a name.

Depending on where you live I’m sure there are awesome burger places I have no knowledge of. If the TRAVEL CHANNEL would let me do a show where I go around the country sampling them, I would be more than happy to give yours a try.

As Wimpy used to say, “I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Wait a minute. It IS Tuesday. Never mind.

Note:  Since I will airborne most of the day and I moderate the comments there may be a lag before yours is posted.  But I will get to it.  So comment away.

79 comments :

cleek said...

Freddy's burgers are great - skinny crispy little things.

Matt said...

There is a local chain in OKC called Johnny’s that I love.

Peter said...

I think I prefer Five Guys. I like when you order a bacon burger the bacon is broken up so you get bacon in every bite.

Does your rabbi know about this?!

Five Guys has come to the UK and I'm sorry but their prices are not justified. Nice burgers but not at the stupid prices they sell them.

No mention of Johnny Rockets? I loved their burgers when I visited LA.

Which reminds me - the last two times I mentioned Johnny Rockets, someone, I can't remember who, posted an angry response about how they hate the owner of Johnny Rockets for some reason to do with football or something. This is a polite request that I heard you the first two times, so there's no need to say it a third.

Mike said...

No mention of Wimpy's very own chain, Wimpy, still operating in the UK. I used to drop by every Saturday for the full English breakfast, available all day.

Chester said...

If you are ever up in the Toronto area, check out Burger Priest.
https://www.theburgerspriest.com/

Alan C said...

I'll throw in some local institutions from the Northwest: Seattle area - Dick's. It is a big event when they open a new location. In our family it's a rule to stop at Dick's on the way home from the airport. Portland area - Mike's and Burgerville.

BD Johnson said...

In order of preference:
- Apple Pan (also because of the apple pie and ice cream)
- In and Out
- Hook Burgers
- Dog Haus

David G. Whitham said...

If you're going to NY, check out Burgers & Cupcakes on Ninth Ave (a couple of blocks from the Javits Center) Best burger I've had.

As for chains, if you see a Smash Burger, try it. They are very good - a step above Shake shack, IMHO.

David G. Whitham said...

Oh, and I forgot about Louis' Lunch on Crown Street in New Haven.

Serves its burger on toast, with no ketchup - only cheese, tomatoes, and onions. They claim to have invented the hamburger sandwich in the late 19th century.

Mike McCann said...

Next time you visit New York, try any Irish pub that's been in business for a decade or more. Odds are they'll make (to order) a better and fresher burger than a chain eatery. Here in our little corner of suburban Connecticut, we have a terrific brewpub -- http://craft260.com/ -- whose burger rivals the ones in Manhattan.

Fred Vogel said...

Up here in Portland, OR, we have Killer Burger (probably not something Ken's daughter would like) that are tasty. I miss The Habit and char-grilled burgers from Fatburger. There was a burger stand near NBC in Burbank called Juicy Harv's way back when that had great burgers. For nostalgia, nothing beat a Bob's Big Boy combo w/ blue cheese for the fries (and an orange donut for dessert). The little league team I played on in Universal City in the early '60s was sponsored by Bob's (we were actually named the Big Boys, much to the delight of our friends on the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Giants), so all the players received a coupon for a combo at year's end. The team sucked, but the combo was great.

Mike Barer said...

The Red Mill in Seattle.

Tim B. said...

Culver's (I think only in the Midwest) is good for upscale fast food. And the custard is tasty, too.

Kopp's is legendary around Milwaukee.

Glenn said...

Maybe you guys on the west coast have discovered the secret to Five Guys, but here in Boston, the burgers taste awful. We have a place here called Wild Willy’s. Burgers are nice and thick, and about as delicious as they come. I was a big fan of In n' Out last time I was in LA.

Jon Freestone said...

If you are ever in Newport News, VA check out Viking Burger. Best burger in town and can never decide if I want the fries or tater tots, often I get both.

Pat Reeder said...

Here in Dallas, we have a very good burger chain called Liberty Burger that lets you pick all sorts of unusual variations for how you want it cooked and prepared. Check out their menu online. We also have a couple of local joints in Arlington that I really like: Texas Style Burgers & Wings and Mixed-Up Burgers. And there's actually a place called Wimpy's in west Dallas that's been there forever (the copyright-defying Popeye characters look like they were painted on the walls in the 1940s), but I've never tried it. I'll have to do that now.

I'm with you on White Castle. Those things are nasty. Also tried Steak and Shake once and wasn't impressed at all. Maybe I just got there on a bad day.

Here's something out of left field: someone has allegedly created a plant-based meat substitute that looks, feels and tastes so much like real hamburger that you can't tell the difference. I've heard that one before, but I'd still like to try it just for curiosity's sake: https://reason.com/blog/2017/11/17/finally-fake-meat-that-tastes-deliciousl


kent said...

They're overpriced but I like the hula burger at Islands.

Rashad Khan said...

Whataburger. I'm just saying.

Roseann said...

Sorry to say I believe Jackson Hole is long gone. Unless it's come back but I don't think so. Enjoy NYC.

Roseann said...

David G Whitham Yes!!!!! Louie's Lunch in New Haven. The absolute best. Thanks for reminding me.

Bryan said...

Chain restaurants ruined hamburgers.

David Schwartz said...

If you're in the San Fernando Valley, check out "The Stand." They have two locations, in Encino and Woodland Hills. Wonderful burgers and fries. They also have a full menu of items and while most of the time I just get the burger, their chicken sandwich is great, too.

Eduardo Jencarelli said...

I find Shake Shack to be a tad overrated. I felt stuffed last time I tried it, and not in a good way. Too much grease and fat, not enough taste. Maybe it's just me, but I've tasted better ones.

In Rio, we have a place called Hell's Burger. Easily one of the top 5 best anywhere on the planet. Fantastic meat, plus the best spicy sauces ever made.

And Burger Joint is truly spectacular. It's the real deal, and definitely a top 5 contender. If you haven't tried it, do it ASAP! Worth spending a full 40-50 minutes waiting in line inside the hotel.

Earl Boebert said...

"when you’re on a cross-country driving trip, you’re hungry, and it’s the last rest stop before New Mexico."

Big, big mistake to eat a chain burger before entering the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico is the home of the pinnacle of hamburgerdom, the green chile cheeseburger. For a chain version stop at any Blake's Whataburger. For the original, hit the Owl Cafe in San Antonio or Albuquerque. Or just about any brew pub or hole in the wall beer joint.

Mork said...

If you east and west coasters ever find your plane grounded here in fly-over country, hit up the Cottage Bar in Grand Rapids.

BTW, my quick story about Fuddruckers: we had one open here years ago. Mom, brother and I were out doing some Christmas shopping one afternoon and Mom suggested we stop somewhere for lunch. My 11-year old brother suggested trying the new place, which he called "Futhermuckers". (Fortunately Mom found it funny...)

Mork said...

If you east and west coasters ever find your plane grounded here in fly-over country, hit up the Cottage Bar in Grand Rapids.

BTW, my quick story about Fuddruckers: we had one open here years ago. Mom, brother and I were out doing some Christmas shopping one afternoon and Mom suggested we stop somewhere for lunch. My 11-year old brother suggested trying the new place, which he called "Futhermuckers". (Fortunately Mom found it funny...)

Unknown said...

There is a very good reason to go to McDonalds. When you're traveling in a foreign country you always know McDonald's bathrooms will be clean. You can't say that about any other place.

Curt Alliaume said...

My experience is local places are much better than chains for burgers (for example, Redamak's, in New Buffalo, MI, is amazing and beats any chain burger hands down - too bad it's only open half the year). However, I'll go along with the positive reviews above for Culver's, and Portillo's, a small chain in the Chicagoland area, flame-broils their burgers, which I heartily endorse (they're better known for their Italian beef sandwiches).

ODJennings said...

The best hamburger I've eaten was from a regional chain called KINGS. They're long gone, but they were in IA, KS, NE, states where they know their beef. The chain was run by two brothers who had been frying hamburgers since the early 30's, and I got to know them towards the end. The were very much like the McDonalds brothers as portrayed in The Founder movie about Ray Kroc--they would obsess about things like pickle placement and the number of sesame seeds on their buns.

Their secrets to a grilled hamburger were 1. High heat to sear the burger. Once the outside is seared, leave it alone. 2. Never use more than 80% lean beef (coarse ground) because the fat is what gives it flavor, and (most importantly) 3. Use popcorn salt. Regular table salt is too coarse and it falls off the burger so all you're doing is seasoning your grill. Popcorn salt sticks to the meat and quickly dissolves into the meat (this is equally important for French fries). You also use less salt because there's no waste.

Pick up a shaker of popcorn salt next time you're cooking hamburgers and think kindly of me (and the long dead Price Brothers) next time you're cooking hamburgers.

Someone mention Culver's. They feature something called a "butter burger" that really does taste like butter, and I suspect the secret might be butter flavored popcorn salt. I haven't tried it yet, but if you're in the mood to experiment you might be richly rewarded.

Dr Loser said...

So, you have a problem with the consequences of "In N' Out?" Are you completely sure that you've thought this thing through?

I'd object to the egregiously misplaced apostrophe, if anything, but it still stands up as a West Coast burger joint of distinction. And this is important. Many eateries in California close early -- ie before midnite -- but you can pretty much depend upon an I&O.

And if that isn't enough to recommend the place, what would your preference be? I mean, you don't seem to like "Out," so I presume there's a palatable and hygienic alternative.

VP81955 said...

Glad for the semi-compliment about Original Tommy's. Used to live near 3rd & Rampart and regularly visited it for chiliburgers.

Ken, if you still have any Central NY friends from your time broadcasting the Chiefs in Syracuse, ask them about Carrols, a popular (and deservedly so) regional burger chain along the lines of McDonald's in the '60s and '70s. Eventually, the company converted them into Burger King restaurants.

Rod said...

C'mon Ken, you worked in Seattle for all those years and no honorable mention for Red Robin?

Peter said...

Unknown:
McDonald's bathrooms are always clean? Are there tickets available to visit your alternate reality?

On a different note, just heard that Charlie Rose has been fired. Next stop: Burger joint team leader!

tb said...

I haven't been, but a friend tried Wahlburgers in Vegas and said it was great. In N' Out is okay but in my town you gotta wait for a freakin hour, so I don't go, I mean, it's not THAT good.

Johnny Hy said...

East Coast here so In and Out is still a treat when out there and to me the best hamburger. I actually found a website that had reversed engineered one and it was pretty good. Next time you are in Atlanta, you need to get in line for the Ghetto Burger at Ann's Snack Bar. People line up to get the limited seating for the lunch. Here'sa link on them http://www.atlantamagazine.com/dining-news/the-future-of-the-world-famous-ghetto-burger/

The Holman and Finch burger here is excellent as well but they only serve 24 during lunch hours and 24 during dinner hours

iain said...

If you find yourself in Greater Cleveland, I would recommend Bearden's. Get the platter. & the onion rings. & a malt.

Jake said...

In NY, the burger at JG Melon on the Upper East site comes close to its hype.

Kosmo13 said...

I agree with those who find "5 Guys" overrated. I go there a few times a year for the novelty of it, but the food isn't worth the high price.

Same thing with Smashburger: good for a change of pace, but nothing special. Their new Smash Tots are pretty good.

Anonymous said...

When I was living in LA, I was--and this is a common story--"host" to relatives and friends of relatives and just about anyone that could wrangle some plausible connection to my family, Midwestern home town, county, etc.

And they always wanted to see stars. It's like, "Get tickets to a taping. Or go pick up my shirts at the cleaners. Saw Louie Anderson there once."

Then a friend suggested sending them to a hamburger place near Sunset and Doheny on a Sunday night for a long, slow meal. (I think it may have been Hamburger Hamlet.) Anyway, the help was off on Sunday so there were usually celebs whipping in from the adjacent residential neighborhoods to pick up food. It actually usually worked, but the stars skewed into the older demographic. Multiple Jerry Lewis sightings reported.

Keith

BADuBois said...

Michael Jordan's at Grand Central Terminal in NYC makes *great* cheeseburgers....

Brian said...

The Cookout and Steak and Shake aren't bad. At the cookout, a side can be a corn dog or quesadilla.

JoeyH said...

Steak and Shake is my usual. But for a really great burger go to a top shelf steakhouse. The Palm, Del Frisco, Smith and Wollensky, Capital Grill, etc. all have really great burgers made from prime cuts.

estiv said...

A second vote for Whataburger. Sure, it's a regional chain, which sometimes means food that's not worth it's lower price, but for some reason the quality is reliably good. Mustard instead of sauce, and a cheeseburger with sliced jalapenos will have the perfect blend of flavors.

JR said...

@Roseann, I always see a Jackson Hole on the side of the Grand Central Parkway near LaGuardia. Never been to that one.

Joseph Aubele said...

- Five Guys: Burgers are good, hate the fries!
- Bob's Big Boy: My wife and I ate at the one across from Garry Marshall Theater, before seeing "A or B," and the burger I had was amazing, as were the french fries.
- The Habit is very good.
- In 'N Out: Considering how popular every freakin' location is I am always impressed the food is as good as it is, and that the staff manages to get people through as quickly as they do (have them take over the airports from TSA?).

Tom Galloway said...

If you really want bacon with your burger, I recommend Slaters 50/50, where the 50/50 refers to their patties of 50% ground beef, 50% ground bacon. Which are excellent. Locations in LA area down to San Diego, with one outlier in Dallas.

I'll Nth the recommendation for Louis' Lunch in New Haven; the burgers are cooked in the same machinery from circa 1900 (although if you're in New Haven and only have one meal, hit Wooster Street for either Sally's or Pepe's apizza (not a typo).

In the Boston area, Bartley's Burger Cottage in Cambridge, on Mass Av. right across from the greatest university in Harvard Square, is a classic college dive with great burgers and a large number of different topping combos. Also one of the few places you can still get a straight up lime rickey without raspberry flavor added.

You forgot to mention Fatburger's fries. The Fat Fries are one of the few steak fry style you can find in fast food restaurants and are excellent.

Cookout in the area of the South around North Carolina does decent grilled burgers and has a really good shake selection.

Jed said...

Fat, Fat, Fat, Burger! A bit pricey, but what isn't? A medium Fatburger (5 oz), a great big soda and Fat fries, 10.86 w/Sr. Discount. Once a month. Usually very good. In fact, it's about that time!

Darryl Musick said...

Eureka! now makes my favorite burger in Southern California. Nice, sit down atmosphere and not too spendy either. There are locations in Hawthorne, Woodland Hills, Huntington Beach, Claremont, Redlands and Santa Barbara around here. http://eurekarestaurantgroup.com/

Kendall said...

I may be biased since I worked at both places as a youngling, but I'm gonna throw Chili's and Applebee's into the mix. I'd give Chili's a slight edge, but either are better than 5 Guys.

ADmin said...

Oooh - you opened a can, didn't you?

Here are a few thoughts from my nickel seat:

-In Texas, (not sure about elsewhere) there's a place called MooYah. Pretty solid.
-Someone told me you can get a fantastic burger at lunch at Steve Field's and it's not too
$$$. (though you might have to tip the Maitre'd)
-The Twisted Root serves a really good 'un. And they have great bacon.
-The Angry Dog has a burger just a skosh better than Fudd's. If you're ever in Dallas, give it a try.
-Agree on Fuddrucker's though - pretty good.
-A&W Teenburger, anyone? (with an extra patty = Papa Teen) ...anyone?
-Smashburger is okay - but maybe not for everyone
-There's a BB-Q chain called Red, Hot & Blues - the burger there is a secret winner.
-This is just me - but I love a patty melt done the traditional way - and Friendly's (Yup, the ice cream place) in Cambridge, MA is a beauty.

Now I'm hungry.

ADmin said...

Oh yeah - and I second the guy who mentioned Red Robin... Yum!

Jeff Maxwell said...

Perfectly cooked cheeseburgers are the center of all life. They must be medium rare, juicy, decorated with cheddar cheese, thinly sliced tomato, a brush of mayo and mustard, a bit of lettuce, thin slices of avocado and framed with slightly grilled buns.

After too many disappointing outings to various burger joints, I spent months learning how to make the perfect burger. If you all have nothing to do after Thanksgiving, come over, and I'll show you what a cheeseburger is supposed to taste like.

If I have to, I will occasionally eat one at Houston's. Yes, I know, it's a chain in California but they do a good job adhering to my medium rare requests. Most eateries won't for fear of poisoning their customers with underdone meat.

Fun fact: Gwen Farrell who was seen on MASH as Nurse Able or 'Gwen" for eleven years is the daughter of Lovie Yancey, the creator of Fatburger. The first location was on Western Avenue in South Los Angeles and a second on La Cienega and San Vicente. I loved the originals.

Paul said...

Apple Pan, so good. Not just great burgers and pie but fantastic tuna sandwiches as well. I once ran into one of the Apple Pan servers at the Vons on Pico and Fairfax and he was mobbed as if he were a celebrity. Which I guess he was.

Kevin Johnston said...

People tend to have really strong opinions om just what is and is not a good hamburger. For me, there are a few simple rules.

Rule #1 is never get a burger from an upscale restaurant. There's a steakhouse near me whose cheapest burger is $12.95. No way, man, no way. Rule #2 is never let yourself be talked into someone's weird idea of making one at home. Lipton onion soup mix as a dry seasoning is a bad idea. Rule #3 is never get a burger between the hours of 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. because even the best place has its weak spots.

The best burger I've ever had was from a little place up in Toronto. Freshly baked bun, meat that was ground earlier that day and really good cheeese combined to make a winner.

The best in this area, I think, is from a drive-in named Lupo's, which is in Endwell, New York. Do not, I repeat, do not waste your time and money eating at the sit-down restaurant in Binghamton; the two stores were opened decades ago by two cousins, competing with each other. The one in Endwell char broils the meat and the burger is very simple. Ketchup and mustard if desired, cheese if desired, and shredded lettuce if desired. Back in the late 1980s, they were open till something like 1 or 2 in the morning on weekends and I ate there a lot, as I lived about five minutes away.

Kevin Johnston said...

Wow, I totally forgot about Carroll's, which did have locations throughout Central New York. They had really good food at great prices but sadly, did throw in the towel, as it were, and did indeed convert their stores to Burger King franchises.

Mitchell Hundred said...

The name "Fuddrucker's" makes it sound like the owners wanted to trick people into swearing whenever they mentioned the restaurant.

Johnny Walker said...

“ I must say the very first time I had a Shake Shack burger I was knocked out by it.” Same here.

In London we have Patty&Bun (can be great, can be meh), as well as Five Guys. Outside of Shake Shack my favourite here is a French chain called BIG FERNAND. Soft and juicy, with amazing bespoke condiments to go with their delicious fries.

Highly recommend if you’re ever in London.

Jon88 said...

I don't want to oversell it, but the off-menu bacon cheeseburger at the Union Square Café in NYC (lunch only) is worth its excessive price.

Johnny Walker said...

Re: Charlie Rose. As an outsider I never got the big deal about this guy. He looked almost purposely disheveled and was a pretty lousy interviewer. I do love long form interviews, but his were always lacking in substance for me, with pseudo insightful comments and zero connection with the interviewee. Like Larry King, another American mystery, I just didn’t get it.

Cap'n Bob said...

No mention of Jack-in-the-Box? A couple of their specialty burgers are pretty good. I also like Burger King.

The best burger I had was circa 1978 in Campbell, California, at a Der Weinershnitzel (sp?)after they'd expanded their menu beyond hot dogs and Polish sausage. It was run by Middle Eastern people and they added spices that transformed the lowly burger to a culinary triumph.

VP81955 said...

Jack-in-the-Box has arguably the widest selection of items of any fast-food chain, which may explain why their burgers often are overlooked. Another thing in its favor, from someone who was homeless for a year and a half: Most of their locations accept EBT. (And their advertising campaigns are usually clever.)

I also have liked Wendy's burgers for many years; they're always reliable. (Little-known fact: The chain once held a Dave Thomas lookalike contest, and former Phillies president Bill Giles placed second.)

Doug said...

Boil Weevil is still around in San Diego County, but in out of the way locations if you're a tourist. Haven't been to one in years, but I agree that they were very good.

They're down to two locations in Orange County, CA; but Knowlwood usually turns out a superior product.

Farmerboys is very good and has somehow held on to quality as they've grown from a couple in out of the way corners in Southern California to a regional chain.

Baker's, a chain mostly in Southern California's Inland Empire has a fast food burger that I think gives In-n-Out a run for it's money, with fries that are actually good.

I always prefered the late Flakey Jake's over Fuddrucker's. Fuddrucker's house mustard had the edge over Flakey Jake's

Farrel's had a great burger. Which was surprising since people usually went there for the ice cream and actual food was an afterthought.

Portillo's has been mentioned. I've never had a burger there, but there are at least two outside the Chicagoland area. One in Buena Park, CA. At the Buena Park Mall, a few blocks east of Knott's Berry Farm. And one in Moreno Valley, CA. That one is about five minutes off I-60 if you're travelling between Riverside and Palm Springs

I have a question: Does anyone remember eating at the Oscar's Drive-In (later coffee shop) chain? They were almost all in the San Diego area and closed in the early 70s. My Grandfather owned the one in National City, but the chain closed not long before I was born and I never met anyone who had eaten at one who wasn't a relative or friend of his. I'm curious to hear an unbiased opinion of the food

Bob K said...

Re: White Castle.
There’s a reason we called ‘em Ratburgers, Ken.
One time, I walked in and said, quite loudly, “Two rats, clip the tails!” I may or may not have been sober.

Matthew said...

In local burger joints not mentioned...

Hamburger Habit (at National and the 405, in a little strip mall where the parking is problematic, at best) does a good double burger. Do not bother with the single..

Hopdoddy in Newport Beach, Play Vista and El Segundo has a very fine burger. Comparable to The Counter, but better.

Muldoon's Irish pub in Newport Beach has excellent burgers...

Mick's Karma Bar is good if you are in Irvine

PJ said...

A story about the meatless burger Pat Reeder mentioned above--
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/gene-weingarten-vs-the-meatless-impossible-burger-will-he-taste-victory/2017/11/10/489c5f3a-bda3-11e7-8444-a0d4f04b89eb_story.html

in college I was a waitress at Big Boy. Maybe it was just our store but the food there was awful and we didn't get much business. Frat boys were always trying to steal the Big Boy statue though, so that gave us something to do. And sometimes people would ask if they could buy our uniform shirts with Big Boy all over them. I'm still mad that I didn't just go back in the storage room and sell a couple of those suckers for quick cash. Especially since the owner was embezzling money and they closed the restaurant without warning.

I'm not a big burger fan but I like Shake Shack.

tavm said...

When I lived in Jacksonville, FL, during the '80s-'90s, I often went to a Chicago-based chain called The Loop in which you got a gourmet burger with the choice of whether or not to put the veg toppings in it or whether you wanted ketchup or A.I. steak sauce on it. I always put A.I. because of that spokesman from the '80s TV commercials always recommended it...

Todd said...

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor is my all-time fave.

Pete Grossman said...

Check out the organic eats at Bareburger at 3 locations in Manhattan:

https://goo.gl/E8NGzN

Robert Forman said...

Hey, this was fun. For your next food blog post how about “ In search of great pizza”?

Ralph C. said...

I like eating burgers and fries at a place called Mama Boyz in Accord, NY.

https://www.facebook.com/mamaboyz1/

benson said...

No wonder this country is so screwed up. How can you not love White Castles? Sliders are a gift from God. The jalapeno cheese ones are an even better gift.

@Curt Alliaume

Thanks for the tip on Redamak's. I'm only a little over an hour from them. But that's an important point. Any good bar burger will put the chains to shame.

I'm sure Portillo's burgers are good, but I'd never order anything but an Italian Beef. (I gotta a guy here who does the best Italian Beefs anywhere, and home made fried like Mom used to make.)

The key to 5 Guys is ordering the kids' size burger. Cheaper and you won't explode.

Leticia Austria said...

Another vote for Whataburger from a native Texan. Also in south central Texas, Frontier Burger and Jim's.

Anonymous said...

I had to do a little reconnaissance today purely as a self-sacrificing gesture so I wouldn't disseminate misinformation to my fellow Ken Levine blog readers. The hamburger steak at Dustin's Barb-B-Q is the tastiest burger, especially with A-1 sauce added. It comes with a side, two pieces of garlic toast and a salad bar. All for about the same price as you would waste on a 5 Guys hamburger meal.

Anonymous said...

Ken.

My list in LA:

- Stout Burger - on Selma & Cahuenga though I think there's one in Studio City now. Nice crisp fries as well.

- Astro - on Gower & Melrose - nothing fancy but you can customize (some people I know get pastrami on it), the fries are thick and good, and the shakes are wonderful. Very nice staff as well and outdoor seating.

- Habit - nothing crazy but just good burger and fries in a clean restaurant with nice staff.

Dayhew said...

In N' Out. The burger has it's own flavor, not just a mix of the ingredients flavors. 5 guys has no blend, just separate flavors and a very expensive burger. The Habit is pretty good, and from Ventura/Santa Barbara. Not sure if they are expanding to L.A. or beyond. Culvers is good, I hear they are in AZ now. their butter burger reminds me of Smashburger, one of my faves.

Doug said...

@dayhew The Habit has expanded into Orange and Riverside Counties. I think they are going into San Diego too, which would give that market In-n-Out, Five Guys, Smash Burger, Shake Shack and the home grown Hodad's.

5w30 said...

Yes, sadly Jackson Hole is gone in Manhattan. As is Burger Heaven on West 49th Street within lunching distance of NBC and that large seasonal conifer. But the Jackson Hole name is still attached to a few diners in Queens, including the Air Line Diner in Elmhurst right by La Guardia Airport, where the an early truck hijacking scene in GOODFELLAS was shot. The huge burgers live there.

Mike Moody said...

In the growing-like-a-weed Nashville, TN, Gabby's Burgers and Fries. Located in a somewhat forgotten part of town -- right next to the now closed Greer Stadium -- it is the absolute best hamburger's I've had in my life. Fresh beef, fantastic seasoning, outstanding condiments -- the chili especially (which also goes on their "Secret Menu" Big Chili Cheese Dog -- great fries, fresh squeezed Lemonade. It's only open for lunch but absolutely worth a stop if you're in town.

Brother Herbert said...

I've said here before that In-n-Out's burgers are good and the fries are meh, and Five Guys has good fries but the burgers are meh, so a combination of the two would be ideal.

Fuddrucker's also has all the serve-yourself hot cheese sauce you could ever hope to want, which is one of my main reasons for going. Some locations also have free peanuts. Their non-beef burgers are good too - I like the elk and ostrich burgers whenever they have them.

Umami Burger was good the first couple times but I stopped going when I realized how inconsistent they can be. The house standard is medium-rare and the last couple times the burgers were barely pink and I got barely any queso on my Queso Fundido burger.