Hooked on seriously good burgers

The term “bistro” has become one of the most overworked terms in the restaurant business. When dining at one of these quaint establishments, one expects a dimly lit room with an old-world vibe, exotic ambience and homey dishes. That’s exactly why you may be a bit confused when you enter the Hook Burger Bistro. The joint is noisy and bright, and is located in the food court area of the outdoor Empire Center in Burbank.

But don’t let the lack of ambience scare you away from some seriously good burgers. True, there are only four of them, but they are moderately priced and delicious. Created by the owners of the Habit Burger Grill chain, burger-lovers wouldn’t expect any less.

The most generic offering, the Prime Burger, is five ounces of prime chuck and comes with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and a honey Dijon mayo. It came exactly as ordered — a bloody-on-the-inside medium rare. Many restaurants either won’t show any pink in their meat or don’t know how to do it right, so this was a pleasant surprise.

The Sweet Baby Ray’s burger lives up to its promise, too. It’s sweet and savory, but without the intense char you’d find in a more robust burger.

Perhaps the Hook’s best offering, though, is the Bistro Burger, a California-inspired rendition topped with roasted red pepper, grilled onions, jack cheese and avocado. It’s as fresh as it is satisfying.

All of the burgers are messy, but this one required two hands and eight napkins. It fell apart as soon as I picked it up, but that didn’t deter from the enjoyment of picking up every last meaty morsel with a fork.

The final offering is the Maui Burger, which is served with a rather bland pineapple salsa, teriyaki, tomato and mayo. You wouldn’t be remiss to pass on this one.

Hook Burger Bistro also offers a barbecue chicken sandwich, with the aforementioned Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce, and the Bistro Club Sandwich, which is a combination of roasted chicken, bacon, cheddar, and avocado served on grilled sourdough bread. You can also get an ahi tuna or steak sandwich.

The menu also includes four salads: Caesar, chopped BBQ, Cobb or the chopped bistro salad, which throws together mixed greens, tomato, avocado, cucumber, goat cheese, glazed pecans and croutons topped with a citrus balsamic vinaigrette.

Now, about the sides: The sweet potato fries were great — sweet, of course, but also perfectly fried with just the right amount of crispiness. The classic French fries were fine, but try the onion rings instead. They were huge, but somehow stayed warm throughout the meal. Unless you are a big eater, order just one side and share.

One might think that a place with the word “bistro” in its name ought to have waiter service, but this place doesn’t. You order at the front counter, take a number, and they deliver to your table. However, the service was good, with friendly young people ready to answer questions.

There’s a full complement of beer by the bottle or in draft form, as well as a good selection of wines, soft drinks and milk shakes. All-in-all, the Hook Burger Bistro is a worthy addition to Burbank’s culinary offerings.


Where: The Empire Center, 1731 N. Victory Pl., Burbank

Contact: (818) 847-2100; www.hookburger.com

Entrees: $4.95-$9.95

Salads: $5.25-$7.95

Sides: $1.5-$2.95

Kid’s meals: $4.50-$4.95

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