L.A. isn’t just a burger town—it’s the burger town. Our collective food history is steeped in ground meat discs in a bun, from the 50’s era roadside stands, to the genesis of fast-food chains, to the gourmet gastropub movement and everywhere in between. These are the city’s 50 best, in no particular order:
If you see a giant sign on the side of the road that says “Famous Bacon and Avocado Burgers” you should always stop. And go inside. And eat bacon and avocado and ground beef on a bun, whether it’s really famous or not. Old-school, griddled, greasy, salty, and stacked two high—everything an L.A. burger should be.
Chef Samuel Monsour wrote the book on burgers. No, literally, he’s the author of American Burger Revival, and the pimento cheese-slathered version at Preux & Proper is the melty, meaty canvas for his expertise. That fantastically yellow cheese spread is pure lush goo, the grass-fed burger is well-seasoned, and it all gets set off with chunky bacon ends, pickles, and spicy Creole mayo.
An Angus patty is topped with rich, spicy, slow-cooked Japanese curry, a fried egg and some jalapeno yuzu slaw to slice right through all that fatty mouth traffic. This Japanese stoner food paradise has some crazy creations—if you’ve never had a katsu-fried hot dog, you’re missing out—but none is more tasty than the funk-tastic Kare Baga.
Brioche bun, Dijonnaise, a single slice of Tillamook yellow cheddar, and a quarter pound, griddled burger patty. That’s it. By ingredients alone, this burger has no business being as good as it is. But it’s the hard toast on the bun, the garlic in the Dijonnaise, and an attention to consistency and detail that make the burger more than the sum of its parts.
Ever wonder what an In-N-Out burger would taste like if it was made with grass-fed steak trimmings? This. While thinking about a way to describe the salty metallic twang, my mouth literally started watering.
So there’s this burger chain that started in Baldwin Park called In-N-Out. You heard of it? Double-Double whole-grilled with chopped chilies all day.
It’s one of the old-school char-broiled spots that launched the Carl’s Jr. ethos of burgers: thin patties, lots of crispy bits, tastes like a campfire but in a great way. The King’s Special, topped with a mound of pastrami, American cheese, and all the standard veggies, is the move. Bonus point if you get a spicy tuna roll from the sushi counter for dessert.
The Cannibal is all about meat (nonhuman meat, as far as we know) and their burger shows it. The well-salted, dry aged brisket patty cooked more rare than medium-rare is intensely flavorful, and there’s not much on the burger to distract from it. Razor-thin slices of raw onion, a pleasantly mild onion soubise, and a slice of provolone cheese just enhances the beefiness.
Gotta show love for the veggie burgers. The vegan Big Mac tastes more like a Big Mac than an actual Big Mac, thanks to science. Thin, snappy, chewy soy patties have enough MSG in them to give you that (I hate this word so much but I have to use it) umami flavor, and the nutritional yeast in the nut-based, violently yellow, velvety cheese spread makes it taste like pure essence of cheddar. For a vegan burger, this thing is frighteningly satisfying. It’s not on the official menu, but just ask for the Big Mac and they’ll know what you’re talking about.
Cassell’s is the best and most pure example of new-wave simple burgers that pay homage to the past. It’s a ⅓ lb smashburger made from ground Colorado Angus chuck and brisket topped with cheddar and served on a Parker House bun. It comes with vegetables on the side, which is cool, because that means it comes with a side salad. Chef Christian Page is so puristic about preserving the flavor of beef fat that he doesn’t even toast his buns in butter.
I will defend Umami Burger to the death. Sure, they went corporate and started expanding really fast and their vibe kind of turned into Denny’s-for-would-be-fancy-people, but they were only able to do that because their burgers are so damn good. The Throwback is the best of the bunch. Two almost-quarter-lb patties are hard-seared so they still have some pink in the middle and they get blanketed in white cheddar cheese, miso mustard, umami ketchup, and soy pickles. It all sits on that pillowy, Portuguese bun.
We owe so much to chef Sang Yoon and the Office Burger. It almost single-handedly kicked off the upscale gastropub burger trend, and we’ve been eating its successors and imitators ever since. The dry-aged patty gets charbroiled to a perfect medium-rare then topped with bleu cheese and gruyere—a hell of a one-two combo as far as cheeses go—bacon onion compote, and arugula. I don’t know if I’ll ever quite agree with the oblong bun, but that’s completely beside the point. This burger is so timeless and influential that it’s beyond reproach.
Plan Check was one of the first champions of burger modernism—they took the fancy burger trend started by Father’s Office and Umami and made it chef-y and cool but still very understandable. Their OG burger, the PCB, has a wagyu patty, kombu pickles, dehydrated ketchup leather, house-made Americanized cheese, and schmaltz onions on a white bun where tempura crumbs mimic sesame seeds. It’s like a futurists’s McDouble.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience the pure virtue of a smashed burger—where ground beef is forced into the surface of the griddle to create more almost-burnt crusty bits—go here. The patty is almost crispy with char and all you need to set it off is some American cheese, raw onion, a block of iceberg lettuce that you think is going to be too much but isn’t, and Thousand Island.
This thing, man. It’s a messy, drippy, indulgent, absolutely monstrous flavor bomb. Two coarse-ground seared burger patties with yellow American, garlic aioli, and a heavily reduced bordelaise sauce spiked with foie gras. It’s a smart and tightly edited burger that will still make you feel like you need to scrub yourself down in the shower afterwards.
There is going to be a lot of (fantastic) seafood distracting you. Ignore it all (probably get some oysters though) and eat the Hook Burger. Aged beef, Hook aged cheddar—all aged everything. With pickles, lettuce, and Thousand Island, it’s a relatively simple burger, but it’s cooked with precision from a chef who runs an incredibly consistent kitchen.
Cured tomato, frisee, porcini mushrooms, fancy Italian truffle cheese, and fat wedges of foie gras terrine on a beef patty that’s stuffed with black truffle butter. This stupid-decadent burger was modeled after the classic French dish Tournedos Rossini. Because of course it was.
It’s a legend for a reason. The Tillamook cheddar, the tangy hickory sauce, the massive crunch of cold iceberg and raw onion, the soda in a paper cup, the comically large slices of banana cream pie—it all adds up to create a time capsule of a restaurant, and a well-balanced burger.
It might be L.A.’s quintessential burger-stand-style burger. When you stack the patties and cheese two-high, it makes for an absurdly juicy, pleasantly greasy experience. Get the chili cheese fries too. They’re served in a giant box. Which is the appropriate vessel for chili cheese fries.
You can’t even see the beef patty under the blanket of Fiscalini Farms cheddar (if the farm is name-dropped in the cheese, you know it’s going to be good) until you take the first bite and realize, “Damn, that really is some medium-rare beef.” This has been one of the best burgers in L.A. ever since The Golden State opened up in 2009. Bacon, arugula, ketchup, aioli, and a brioche bun so shiny you can see your reflection make for a damn tasty sandwich.
This is easily the most flavorful burger in L.A., and that’s due to the massive amounts of ginger, garlic, cumin and other spices in the ground lamb. And also the pure badass chef-ness coming from the kitchen of Pawan Mahendro and sons. The super fragrant patty gets smashes into a bun from Breadbar, tomato, onion, cilantro, and a spicy mayo.
You can’t throw a rock at The Oinkster’s menu without hitting a tasty burger, but if you want something super interesting, hit up the Filipino-inflected Pork Adobo Burger. A ground pork patty gets topped with a mound of adobo—soy and vinegar-braised pork—and then it’s hit with aioli and pico de gallo and put on a Pan de Sal bun. It’s funky, spicy, juicy, and something you won’t find anywhere else.
This burger has become a Michael Fiorelli signature—it followed him from his old gig at Mar’sel all the way to Love & Salt. And we’re all grateful for it. With its two wagyu patties, fontina cheese, tomato aioli, caramelized onions, and brioche, it has the best combo of upscale ingredients and pure greasy double cheeseburger satisfaction.
If you’ve never eaten a chili cheeseburger from Tommy’s on the hood of your car at 2 a.m., you’ve been missing out on a key formative L.A. experience. The chili is just so, so, so rich with animal fat, but it all gets helped out with a thick slice of tomato and some raw onion. Don’t even bother with napkins. Just bring a bath towel.
It has the same spirit of every Roy Choi dish—L.A. tradition spun through the lens of his own personal experience. You have the classic, thin-pattied, cheddar-cheesed L.A. double cheeseburger, but then it gets hit upside the head with sesame mayo, sesame leaf, roasted tomato, Maui onion, and butter lettuce. It’s classic and new and trippy and undeniably tasty.
This is a no-frills, no tricks, no fancy ingredients, just straight-up tasty bar burger. It’s been a Venice Beach haunt for chefs like Josiah Citrin for forever, and it’s easy to see why: Everyone needs a go-to for cold beer and a tasty burger sans pretension.
It’s another restaurant that comes from the Umami school of burger thought—relatively upscale ingredients, unique combos, and somewhere in that $13 price range. And they do it well. Like, really well. The Stout burger comes with roasted tomato, horseradish cream, caramelized onions, gruyere, bleu cheese, and rosemary bacon. This is a very good combination of foods.
Sometimes you just need one of those burgers that makes you hate yourself. The Whipper Burger is one of those. Two beef patties, two slices of cheese, a hot link, and pastrami, topped ceremoniously with just enough vegetables to let you know they’re there. Hawkins also makes fantastic regular burgers, but there’s a reason The Whipper has become the standout.
This tiny Playa Del Rey gastropub owned by Brooke Williamson—of Top Chef fame (and also of lesser MTV’s House of Food Fame)—has a laundry list of good burgers on the menu. But the top spot goes to the rib-eye burger. Aged beef, slaw, and cheddar on a very pretzel-y pretzel bun. It’s super simple but everything is on point.
Biting into a burger to have a deluge of cream cheese flow into your mouth from a carapace of crunch is a religious experience. Maybe a Satanic experience considering the heavy metal influence at Grill ‘Em All. The Napalm Death Burger—named after a British grindcore band—has jalapeno poppers, habanero aioli, pepperjack, cream cheese, and pickled jalapenos on a half-pound beef patty. It’s as aggressive as you’d expect
This burger stand in Van Nuys is as old-school as it gets—owner Bill Elwell has grilling up the burgers himself for more than 50 years—and also as tasty as it gets. The thin patties are well-seasoned and have a fantastic crust on them while still having a tinge of pink in the middle. They get topped with mayo, ketchup, mustard, and all your usual vegetable suspects.
The original Seoul Sausage mobile operation will undoubtedly be inducted into the L.A. food truck hall of fame for their fried rice balls and sausages, but the burgers they’ve added at their brick and mortar Downtown hold their own. Spicy and sweet from the marinade, crunchy and sour from the pickles, and it all comes together with that pop of yolk.
They made the transition from truck to building last year and that came with a hefty menu expansion. But it’s still the classic that makes this Boyle Heights spot one of the best—the Vaka. In an homage to the Carl’s Jr. Bacon Western Cheeseburger, it has battered onion rings, provolone, bacon jam, and smokey BBQ sauce. Sweet, spicy, fried things—all the best flavor profiles are checked off the list.
Long Beach where you at!!! At Dave’s Burgers, probably. It’s another in the long list of L.A.-area burger stands that do right by burgers by not dicking around with them. But the move here is the Double Patty Melt—everything you love about beef juice interacting with easy-melting American cheese plus grilled onions and some lightly toasted rye bread. It’s even better when swiped in ketchup.
The Habit is easily the most underrated SoCal regional burger chain. It started in Santa Barbara in 1969 and it’s been slowly expanding down to L.A. and beyond, flame broiling up smokey Charburgers and topping them with bacon and avocado. Every location has hundreds of plastic cups filled with ranch dressing ready to be doled out into paper bags, and I strongly suggest applying some to each bite.
Because every craft cocktail should be chased with an indulgent-albeit-understated burger. The upscale Pasadena bar tops their patty with house-made American cheese, bourbon caramelized onions, bacon, and dill pickle remoulade. It’s one of those burgers that doesn’t have any textural contrast to it, and you don’t want it too. It’s all beefiness set off by a flood of intensely flavorful melts, mushes, and goos.
Just like every neighborhood needs a good Italian restaurant, every neighborhood needs a good double cheeseburger spot. If you’re in West Hollywood, that spot is Irv’s. Two irregularly shaped griddle-smashed patties—perfectly round burgers are overrated—along with American cheese, some shredded iceberg, tomato, and onion on a squishy white bun. They do the classics at Irv’s and they do them well.
Critics would say that this is stupid. That if you want a hot dog, you should eat a hot dog, and if you want a hamburger, you should eat a hamburger. Critics are wrong. Marty’s on Pico made the original cronut (hamdog?) and they deserve to get credit for it. Go eat one tonight.
The fancy steakhouse burger seems more of a New York than an L.A. phenomenon, but, screw it, anything they can do we can do better (or at least somewhere in the ballpark of “as good”). At Baltaire, coarse-ground prime chuck, short rib, and brisket are char-grilled and then topped lovingly with gribiche, aka fancy egg salad puree.
It pains me to include Shake Shack because it’s from New York and I enjoy arbitrary bicoastal rivalries. But good burgers are better than vitriolic rivalries. And the Shack even made a signature burger to introduce itself to L.A., the Roadside Double. It’s an homage to the French Dip that has two patties, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard, and long-simmered onions with bacon and beer. It’s sweet and meaty and the chewy, sweet Martin’s potato roll is the perfect capstone to it.
There is as much attention paid to the burger at Eggslut as there is to the egg sandwiches. It comes with a ⅓ lb Snake River Farms beef patty, avocado, caramelized onions, bread and butter pickles, cheddar cheese, dijonnaise, and a cage-free over medium egg, because this is Eggslut, and there’s not not going to be an egg on there. Otherwise it’d be called Eggprude. This burger is no afterthought.
It all starts with organic Eel River Farms beef that’s been grilled over oak fire to get that charred smoky goodness. It all ends with a nest of razor-thin, deep fried sweet potato strings, chimichurri, chorizo, and organic avocado. Everything at Pono Burger is organic and market driven and grilled over live flame which makes it a very of-the-moment L.A. joint.
This is a sloppy, messy, meaty, crispy, greasy, fantastic experience of a hamburger. Double bacon, double meat, double cheese, and I would strongly encourage you to throw some chili on there as well. If you’re going to get wet you might as well go swimming. Speaking of which, eat some rib tips for dessert.
Finally Orange County brings something good into our lives other than Sidecar Doughnuts and Real Housewives. Michael Scheper’s opened up Mick’s Karma Bar in Irvine to much OC acclaim, and he moved the concept up to Silver Lake and gave it a refreshed name and look. But the signature Karma Burger lives on—a relatively simple but well-executed combo of ground sirloin, American cheese, their version of Thousand Island, lettuce, and tomato.
It has all the classic flavor elements that you associate with In-N-Out—yellow cheese, caramelized onions, Thousand Island, pickles—but it’s served in the big, beefy, medium-rare gastropub-y format, playing nostalgia against your most base carnivorous instincts. It’s good. Like, really good.
(THE WORD “BONER” IN THIS CONTEXT REFERS TO BONE MARROW, NOT AN ERECTION). Ok, cool, glad we got that out of the way. Jon and Vinny’s first ever burger started as an off-menu special before working its way into brunch. It’s a monstrous short rib, chuck, and bone marrow patty (which is going to drip so much juice that every single garment you have on will be ruined for life) topped with jack cheese, poblano chili, caramelized onions, and some sort of tangy mayonnaise blend called 420 sauce. Should’ve been called the Stoner Boner Burger. Ha.
Of all the burgers that have been influenced by Carl’s Jr.’s paradigmatic Western Bacon, The Standing Room’s Cash Burger is the most well-traveled. Bacon, shishito peppers, crispy onions, hoisin BBQ sauce, and Korean aioli sit atop a half-pound patty bringing all kinds of sugar, spice, and funk.
There’s an abundance of cheffy burgers in LA. So when those softball-sized wagyu patties and cheeses sourced from farms start to feel oppressive, hop on the 710 towards the Long Beach Café. Their patty is wide and flat and griddled to a perfect crust. The cheese is American, the lettuce is iceberg, and the special sauce comes in a little paper cup. It’s the ultimate low-rent diner burger, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want.
Oh don’t make that face. Don’t act like you’re too good for Jack in the Box. In-N-Out’s a fast-food chain too, you know. I can say without a doubt—and I’m confident a city-side blind taste test would confirm this—that the Buttery Jack is one of the fifty best burgers in the city. The brioche-style bun has the ridges and sheen of my bubby’s challah, the provolone lends sharpness to counter the sweetness of the tomato aioli, and the 1/4 lb patty is bathed in fragrant herb butter which bursts through the ground meat pores on every bite. This is a burger that deserves your respect.
This list may not be ranked, but I believe this is the single best burger in Los Angeles. Pickled chilies, bonito mayo, katsu sauce, two char-grilled patties, sharp white cheddar, and a honey potato bun combine in some sort of alchemistic way to form pure burger magic. It’s only available during happy hour at the bar, but the exclusivity makes it that much tastier.