There was a time when burger fashion swung toward the baroque: patties as thick as hockey pucks heaped with fistfuls of arugula, malodorous cheeses, and a broad array of aiolis and compotes. But in 2019 burger minimalism has arrived. Nodding to the aesthetic of classic roadside diners and stands—revered institutions like Bill’s Burgers in Van Nuys or Yuca’s in Los Feliz—the burgers in the city’s new wave often feature slender seared patties and a slice of orange-yellow cheese.
Santa Monica’s HiHo Cheeseburger, where you’ll find double-stacked, mustard-grilled patties made from grass-fed Wagyu; Highland Park’s Burgerlords; and Arts District favorite Everson Royce Bar, which serves a well-seasoned cheeseburger on a squishy bun with a brush of dijonnaise, were all early pioneers of the thin-patty trend over the past few years.
Last summer the backyard-pop-up-turned-Silver-Lake-brick-and-mortar Burgers Never Say Die helped popularize the smashburger, a variant that involves vigorously smashing the patty against a sizzling griddle until it’s thin as a pancake, in the process achieving a lacy crispness around its edges. Whatever you call them—classic burgers, diner burgers, smashburgers—the popularity of these unfussy creations, many of which resemble vastly improved versions of what you might have grown up with at McDonald’s, doesn’t show any signs of fading soon. Here are some of the newest and most exciting additions to L.A.’s burger canon.
Fresh off gangbuster success at Coachella, this upstart pop-up from Beer Belly owner Jimmy Han, chef Aaron Lopez, and Koreatown Run Club founder Michael Pak has already gained a sizable following among L.A. burgerheads. The concept is simple: single, double, or triple smashburgers given a hearty squish on the flat-top griddle so that they develop a ridiculously flavorful crust. Each burger comes crowned with cheese, thinly sliced pickles, and onions both griddled and raw. Don’t miss out on the seasoned fries, which come in flavors like BBQ, sour cream and onion, and salt and vinegar. Love Hour can usually be found next-door to Beer Belly, but follow it on Instagram for more info: @lovehourlosangeles.
Ernesto Uchimura might be best known as the guy who invented “ketchup leather” during his stint at Plan Check, but now the accomplished burger chef is putting his skills to good use at Hollywood’s steampunk-ish gastropub Electric Owl. Proving he knows how to keep up on the latest burger trends, Uchimura offers not one smashburger but two: One is made with a blend of Wagyu and dry-aged beef, and the other involves adding Impossible Foods plant-based burger meat that boasts half the cholesterol (if you’re watching that kind of thing). Both nicely charred options come garnished with pickles, aioli, griddled shallots, and Uchimura’s house-made American cheese (the man is a magician). 1451 N. Gardner St., Hollywood.
Because most of us appreciate a place to grab a patty melt after a few pints, the crew behind downtown beer bar Bernadette’s recently opened a retro-inspired diner called Buddy’s next-door. Among drunk-food favorites like fried pickles and oatmeal cream pies, you’ll find the house burger, a beautifully uncomplicated take dressed with red onion, butter lettuce, tomato, and a smear of mustard. The juicy American-cheese-topped patty on a soft bun recalls what you’d find at Shake Shack or Belcampo, but here you can tack on an order of loaded waffle fries and a slice of pecan pie. 363 S. Broadway, downtown.
Restaurateur Michael Cardenas’s Studio City hot spot gives off serious Mid-Century Modern vibes, so it makes sense that the restaurant’s newly revamped burger (available at brunch, lunch, and dinner) evokes what you might find at a classic drive-in somewhere between Palm Springs and Vegas. Mister O’s cheeseburger starts with two smashed patties on a pillowy potato bun, but what makes it special, you ask? A gussied-up set of toppings that include pickled Fresno chiles, grilled green onions, and a potent garlic aioli. 11838 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.
Venice’s long-awaited American Beauty steak house (from Pitfire Pizza founder Paul Hibler) might not be open yet, but the tiny takeout window is up and running. Stop by for what might be the best bargain burger on the Westside: a $4 smooshed patty and frizzled onion situation that’s slightly bigger than a slider and comes on a soft Martin’s potato roll. Six bucks will get you a double, which is definitely an upgrade worth making. You’ll have to make do with a handful of plastic stools that serve as seating, but at this price who can complain? 425 Rose Ave., Venice.
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.