8 oz. Burger Bar
As you might expect from a chef like Govind Armstrong, 8 oz. Burger Bar—his shakes and burgers (and beer) joint that’s replaced his much fancier Table 8—pays close attention to toppings (the onion is shredded, a nice touch), but the meat is king. A blend of sirloin, tri-tip, short rib, and chuck, it is sweet, juicy, and superbly salted. » 7661 Melrose Ave., L.A., 323-852-0008.
Pie ’n Burger
When everything’s right—when all those piled-up ingredients are playing off one another—the hamburger may be the only true vertical food. Pie ’n Burger has been getting it right since 1963. The bun is toasted, the Thousand Island dressing oozes, the onion provides astringent bite, and then there’s the thin meat patty redolent of grill juices the way good Texas barbecue is infused with century-old smoke. » 913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, 626-795-1123.
The gourmet burger has always struck us as a contradiction in terms. But Umami, the brainchild of Adam Fleischman (BottleRock, Vinoteque), has us questioning our assumptions. Every ingredient is calibrated, like the caramelized onions and blue cheese of the Port & Stilton Burger. The SoCal Burger is a near-genius reconception of the California classic—oven-dried tomato spread subs for Thousand Island dressing, and even the processed cheese is homemade (OK, maybe that is a contradiction in terms). » 850 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323-931-3000.