More often than not, burger chefs seem to operate on a kind of “more is better” logic, cramming their buns full of meat, cheese, and whatever novelty items they can find to give them an edge. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
But a burger doesn’t have to be bigger to be better. Greatness is often achieved by paying attention to the little things: the quality of the meat, the special sauce, or avoiding the temptation to add blue cheese.
With so many great burgers in Los Angeles, it’s hard to narrow it down to just 10—but we’ve done it anyway. Here are the 10 best burgers in Los Angeles.
Perhaps it’s sacrilege to bump In N Out for Shake Shack on a West Coast burger list, but c’mon—you’ve done In N Out a million times. The chain’s flagship Shackburger is definitely worth a momentary lapse of loyalty. On paper, it’s a simple proposition: a grass-fed beef patty, cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a deliciously soft potato roll with a little “secret” Shack Sauce (basically a mayo and mustard mix with a few spices), but there’s something about the combo that makes it more than the sum of its parts. Add the old-school crinkle-cut fries and you’ve got yourself a worthy contender.
Perched inconspicuously on the corner of Hillhurst Avenue and Los Feliz Boulevard, Mess Hall seems to fly under the radar of a lot of burger lists. Perhaps it’s better known for its cheap oysters and breakfast menu. But take a seat by the fire pit and order a Mess Burger with a side of fries—you won’t be disappointed. This deliciously moist burger is smothered in a smoky sauce which perfectly complements the pickles, cheddar, slow-cooked onions, and soft brioche bun.
The real draw-card at Haché is the deliciously beefy patties, which give the burgers a real home-made flavor. There are many contenders on the menu, but the habanero burger is definitely a winner, with a slow-building heat that features the light citrus flavor of the peppers, and only really hits on your last bite of the burger. Combined with the queso fresco and garlic mayo, it’s pretty damn tasty.
The quality of the meat really can make or break a burger. If you’re the type of person that rolls your eyes when you see words like “organic” or “grass-fed” on the menu, then it might be worth a trip to Belcampo, where you really can taste the difference. A bargain at $4.99, this classic burger is all about the quality ingredients, and features a thin beef patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a delicious ketchup/mayo-based house sauce.
6. Pie N Burger
Like The Apple Pan and In N Out, Pie N Burger is a Californian landmark. Even though the price has steadily increased over the years, you’d have to say that this is still one of LA’s best. The Hamburger is a classic LA burger with Thousand Island dressing, kind of like a super-sized In N Out burger.
I’ll admit that when you first see it, it may not look that impressive, but this super minimal cheeseburger is somehow unbelievably delicious. There’s no lettuce, tomato, onion, or bacon—just a simple beef patty, cheese, and mayo sauce with a little zing. Combined with a cold beer, it’s definitely a ticket to satisfaction.
“The Burger” has been a staple of the LA burger canon since the restaurant opened around 10 years ago. Using high-quality local produce, including Harris Ranch beef and Fiscalini Farms cheddar, smoked bacon, arugula, aioli, and ketchup, this burger is simple yet incredibly satisfying. As a bonus, a side of fries is included in the price—you can go for regular fries or the more popular sweet potato wedges with garlic aioli.
Mo Better Burgers is an unassuming joint tucked away in a strip mall in Mid Wilshire, but don’t underestimate the power of their burger. They only do one beef burger here, and the choice is really how big you want it: 3 ounces or 5 ounces. In terms of ingredients, it’s pretty simple, with lettuce, pickles, mustard, mayo, tomato, and onions, but there’s something about the home-cooked flavor of the burger that kicks it up to the next level.
WEST LOS ANGELES
I know they’re on every list, but the Apple Pan’s classic and deliciously simple burgers are like the archetype for great LA burgers. If you’ve been doing something for the better part of a century and haven’t needed to change it that much, it must be pretty good, right? There are only two burgers on the menu, the Steakburger and the Hickory Burger, the difference being the delicious homemade BBQ sauce on the Hickory burger. Other than that, it’s a pretty simple affair, with lettuce, pickles, and onions on a soft bun, but it’s a time warp back to a pre-Ray Kroc era of burgers.
Full disclosure: I’m probably biased as The Oinkster is tied up with all kinds of nostalgia for lazy Friday night burger runs for me, but honestly it’s hard to argue that their classic burger is not one of the best in LA. The quality Nebraska Angus beef combined with the Thousand Island-style sauce in a moist, compact burger will definitely leave you wanting more. Add a little gruyere for 75 cents and fries with their incredible garlic sauce, and it’s definitely the winning combination.