Beefy competition among burgers

There's something unseemly and a little gluttonous about driving from hamburger stand to hamburger stand, tasting the charbroiled sandwiches, then piling up the beefy booty and wheeling across town to do it all over again.

Not to mention, each grease-splotched paper bag plopped into my front seat served as a reminder to get my lipids checked.

“Next time, I swear, it'll be salads,” I told my burgeoning image in the visor mirror.

But, in the name of journalism, I forwent worrying about triglycerides, and forged on to find the best hamburger stand from the Burbank-Glendale-La Crescenta area. The contenders: Senior Nacho, the Great White Hut and Steve's Burgers.

Hamburger stands are as ubiquitous in Southern California as peace stickers on VW buses. With walk-up windows, many stands offer only outside seating, such as stools and benches. And after biting into three different burgers, Thousand Island dressing dripping from my chin, it's clear that these smothered patties aren't meant to be eaten while driving.

Senior Nacho

It's a good thing owner Sam Joo Cho kept “Char-Burger” on the sign or I would've thought Senior Nacho was only a Mexican food stand. His business card identifies the joint as a “Mexican-American” restaurant, and his menu offers burritos, tacos and teriyaki, but his mostordered dish is the hamburger.

“Everybody loves hamburgers,” he said, noting Crescenta Valley High School students line the 2800 block of Foothill Boulevard during their lunch to gobble his goods. There usually isn't any ruckus, he said, because, “Everybody's happy when they're eating my hamburgers.”

I certainly was. It was the thickest burger-stand patty I'd ever had. Just enough Thousand Island to moisten the toasty bun, without drowning the lettuce. I paid $6.10 for a hamburger, fries and a soda. The fries I left unscathed in the bag, I had more eating to do.

The Great White Hut

At California Avenue and Orange Street in Glendale, sits a hamburger stand whose name belies its size. With room for only a fry cook and cashier, the Great White Hut serves hot dogs, chili dogs, pastrami sandwiches and, of course, their traditional “Hut Burger.”

I ordered the traditional and enjoyed the few nibbles I took, sitting at a plastic table under the awning shade of adjacent Zinke's Repairs. Like its Senior Nacho opponent, the Hut burger featured Thousand Island, lettuce, tomato and grilled onions. I dropped $5.25 for the combo, wrapped the rest of what I didn't eat, and slid it back into its lunch-size paper sack.

Steve's Burgers

Stand signage is a curious thing. “Char-Broiled Burgers” towered over the other offerings: “Oriental” and “pastrami, tacos and burritos.” Yet, only after plucking a menu from behind the screened walk-up window at the corner of Brighton Street and Victory Boulevard in Burbank, did I discover the stand is actually called “Steve's Burgers.” The place offers everything from traditional American burgers to quesadillas and burritos, chicken teriyaki and shrimp chow mein.

Perhaps Steve's prodigious selection is the problem: The burger tasted like a Burger King Whopper. You know that char-broiled taste that is a little too charred? Not to mention the lettuce flopped like wet paper. In fairness to the food fight, I ate three bites before dumping it into its grease-specked sack. My bill for the combo was $6.10.

The Winner

Driving home with three partly-eaten burgers stuffed into sacks on my front seat, I should've been full. My doctor and gym trainer would have demanded it. But the smell got to me and, miles from my front door and a suitable place to relax, I fumbled past the Hut burger bag and beyond Steve's. I shrugged at the lack of napkins and pulled out the juicy remnants of Senior Nacho's patty and chomped it down. The taste was worth the stain.

Food Fight Winner: Senior Nacho, Mexican Restaurant/hamburger stand at 2864 Foothill Blvd. La Crescenta, CA 91214.

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