People feel strongly about their favorite hamburgers. Just ask anyone who's ever taken part in the In-N-Out versus Shake Shack debate. But when it comes to restaurant burgers, things get really heated, especially in this town, where we happen to be home to some really great options. Here are three burgers worth trying — maybe go right now, as it's a holiday.
This Pasadena steakhouse, with locations in Cupertino, San Francisco and Taipei, is where you'll find a $175 tasting menu, a $325, 2-pound washugyu wagyu tomahawk, and a great $16 burger. It's more expensive than your average burger, but it should be. Chef Matt Bata takes all the trimmings from the wagyu steaks that were cut that day for the restaurant, grinds them, and turns them into a burger.
Just think of it as the most luscious, tender burger meat you can imagine. It's topped with ragu, tomato, red onion, mayonnaise made from bone marrow and both Camembert and cheddar cheese, all on a house-made Dutch crunch bun. The meat is incredibly juicy, and the burger toppings, along with a side of fried marble potatoes, are just as decadent. If someone suggests sharing, shake your head, order your own, then order a cocktail. The burger is only available for $16 during social hour, Monday to Friday, from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the lounge. During regular dinner service, the burger is priced at $26. 111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, (626) 486-1111, www.alexanderssteakhouse.com/pasadena.
Chef Neal Fraser is known for his Fritzi dogs, otherwise known as the souped-up hot dogs he serves in front of Vibiana, just around the corner from Fraser's restaurant Redbird. But Fraser has decided to create a tricked-out burger at Fritzi, the new restaurant attached to the Arts District Brewing Company on nearby Traction Avenue. First, choose between a bacon and beef blend patty, a beef patty or a turkey patty.
Get the beef if you like your burger cooked to medium, bacon and beef if you're looking for something rich but more well done — and turkey if you're into that sort of thing. The 4-ounce patties are topped with gooey fontina cheese fondue, a spicy Calabrese relish with just the right amount of zing and creamy thousand island dressing. It is ridiculously messy — the paper it's wrapped in will soak through by bite two, and the dressing will drip down your wristwatch at bite four. It's so worth the mess. And because the city is currently in a state of waffle mania, you can get your burger with a potato waffle, fries or tots. 814 Traction Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 537-0340, www.fritzidtla.com.
Everson Royce Bar
You would not do a double take at the burger from Everson Royce Bar, the newish restaurant and bar in the downtown Arts District by Randy Clement of Silver Lake Wine and Matt Molina, former chef at Osteria Mozza. The meat does not peek out beyond the flattened bun, the cheese does not ooze, there is no bacon glistening over the patty. It comes on a plate, bare except for a couple of pickle spears.
But this is one of the best burgers in the entire city, and for good reason, starting with the meat. Molina is using the Nancy Silverton burger blend from Huntington Meats, which he says is an 80/20 ratio of prime chuck meat to fat. It's seasoned well, then cooked until it's just medium in the middle, with a nice meat crust around the edges. It gets topped with American cheese and dijonnaise, and that's it: No tomato. No lettuce. Because when you have meat this good, cooked this well, it doesn't need much else. 1936 E. 7th St., Los Angeles, (213) 335-6166, www.erbla.com.
I don't mind getting messy for the right burger. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Jenn_Harris_