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The Best Burger in LA is at Trader Joe's!

After chasing one midrange bar-burger after another, looking for the best in the $12-$20 range, I just had one that topped them all...and I cooked it. Trader Joe's Steakburgers, grass-fed Angus, $5.79 for four 5 1/4 oz. patties, plus pre-sliced rounds of Pepper Jack and a package of the ciabatta buns. For a total of maybe $4.00 per burger (counting the Whole Foods $$$ heirloom tomato), and a few minutes with the grill pan, I managed to leave Ford's Filling Station, Second City Bistro, and even the Redwood in the dust.

Of course this does not mean that I'll never get another burger at those or other places...but it does mean I might feel a little smug in my evaluation of what I'm eating!

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  1. Second City in El Segundo?? Been to the Monday night wine tastings but never had the burger.. how is it??

    2 Replies
    1. re: Foodandwine

      Better than Julienne's, about the same as Ford's, not so good as Redwood's - all my opinion, of course. Typical of the breed: about a half-pound, flat-grilled (my preference, BTW), with cheese, lettuce, red onion and two slices of variable-quality tomato, for I think around $12. Decent bun that holds up well. Can't remember if there's pickle...anyway, it's a good burger at a good price, and a pleasant place to eat. I sat at a tall table next to the kitchen area, so I got to see it cooked.

      1. re: Will Owen

        Will, thanks for the reply. if you are ever back in the area try the Richmond Bar and Grill. Same street same side just a block south. Blue Cheese Bacon Burger with home made chips. Thin sliced potatoes made like potato chips.. About $6.00 wash it down with one of their micro brew pints. Just a great place and bang for the buck..

    2. TJs actually has some pretty good heirloom tomatoes.

      thanks for the heads up. i'm going to eat that tomorrow.

      4 Replies
      1. re: greengelato

        Would you happen to know what type of heirloom tomatoes they have?

        1. re: raytamsgv

          They're usually packaged in sets of 3 or 4, unlabelled as far as I've ever noticed.

          1. re: jimverbose

            They are from Canada though... I did buy them in a rush and felt HORRIBLE about it afterwards... (But I really neede GOOD tomatoes in a pinch). They were indeed wonderful...


            1. re: Dommy

              Slightly O/T I know.... but what exactly is wrong with our delicious Canadian Heirloom tomatoes?

      2. Thanks for the heads up on TJ.

        I actually like the burgers that Costco has.

        1. wish TJs would start carrying the snake river ranch kobe burgers again. those were the best.

          1 Reply
          1. Try Hawkin's House O Burgers on Fair Oaks in Altadena. Amazingly good burgers. And cheap too, about 4 bucks.

            1. My wife came home one day with a package of TJ's ground beef (80% lean). I made some pan fried burgers, topped with some sliced provolone and sauteed sliced shitaake mushrooms. I was completely blown away by the flavor of that burger. I hadn't tasted ground beef with that much flavor in 20 years.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Westlake Jake

                20% (or higher) fat content make the best burgers. They have enough fat to stay juicy and flavorful after cooking

                1. re: Ernie

                  Ernie has that right. Fat's a major component of the flavor. When you pick out steak you look for marbling. No reason for burger to be different.

                  1. re: Ernie

                    I know that is the CW, but if I eat a burger with that much fat I feel so heavy and out of it always. Grandma always used lean ground round - still the best burgers I ever had, and I know they were less than 20% fat

                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                      Maybe. But depending on when she was cooking them lean probably did mean 20%. 10-15 regular ground beef was closer to 25% fat. The new lean (i.e. 17%) is pretty modern.

                      It may be that your digestion has changed.

                      I like a big fatty/juicy burger. I just eat half!

                2. I love Trader Joe's, but I have difficulty trusting prepackaged ground meat and especially preformed into patties. I always get a USDA choice chuck steak or roast, usually at Ralph's, have them grind it (single-grind only) and then make the burgers that night or the next day. Very fresh, meaty-tasting burgers, and always less expensive than the comparable packaged ground beef.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: nosh

                    Yes, I used to do the very same thing... but recently have been really impressed by the quality of TJ's ground beef and it's price... Ralphs meats (especially the one near me) haven't nearly impressed me much lately. :( If I go the butcher route again for burgers, I think I'll try Nancy's Mix from Marcona...


                    1. re: Dommy

                      Dommy, I seem to recall that it was Huntington who had Nancy's mix...though lord knows I love Marconda!

                      I've liked most of the burger I've gotten from TJ, but those Steakburgers are super special. They don't look particularly good out of the package - kind of a uniform pinkish-brown color, not at all like normal ground beef - but I went ahead and patted them dry and pre-seasoned them, and they cooked into something wonderful. Threw off an amazing amount of fat, too, which made me glad I'd decided to use the grill pan - they'd have overflowed the gas grill's drip pan!

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Will you are absolutely right... It is Huntington... I got confused because both are at the FM...


                      2. re: Dommy

                        Nancy's blend disappointed me the last time I had it--on Father's Day. It tasted like any other pre-ground beef. Dead tasting and left me the aftertaste I get from burgers that aren't made from ground to order beef.

                        I recently had grilled burgers made with patties from Manhattan Meats in Manhattan Beach. You pre-order patties and they grind and form them for you. In these particular patties, they ground in bacon and the results were sublime. The best backyard burger I've ever had. Added a slice of Tilamook cheddar and it needed nothing more. Juice from the burgers was dripping out with every beefy bite, with hints of smoky bacon stroking my palate.

                        1. re: Wolfgang

                          Thanks! I'm going to experiment with mixing my own then!


                    2. I like TJ's 15% fat ground beef - makes great burgers, too. I usually just slice them "as-is" without forming them into patties. They end up being big, rectangular burgers, but this maxes out the air space in the meat to trap the juice during cooking. Salt, pepper and grill.

                      If you want something less traditional, wrap one with your favorite toppings in some lightly toasted lavosh flat bread (also from TJ's, of course).

                      1. Try Lucky Devil's in Hollywood. Surprisingly good burgers there.

                        1. Thanks for the tip!!

                          Fat Face Fenners Fishack
                          53 Pier Avenue, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
                          One of the best burgers I have had in LA.

                          While not "in LA", I have to say that Omaha Steaks' burgers are fantastic. I ordered a sampler of steaks, and there were burgers in there as well. Was pleasantly surprised by the quality.

                          1. Thanks; I hate making burgers because you always overbuy the buns, but 4 pack sounds great

                            1. I couldn't agree more that TJ's aged steakburgers are the best. These are *nothing like* ground meat at other supermarkets. Nothing like it at all.

                              Just don't take a gander at the fat content on the back of the package!

                              1. Thanks Will, I hope to try them soon. We just returned from the Huntington Drive location -- sold out. They told me as for now the warehouse is sold out also. These must be good! Wonder what the fat% is? Anyway, no trip to Trader Joe's is a waist of time -- plenty other good things to get.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JeetJet

                                  Didn't look to see what the fat content was, but it's gotta be 'way up there, judging from how much cooked out. I remember reading or hearing many years ago that you're actually better off buying higher fat content ground beef because the fat mostly melts and goes away, if you're using a grill or grill pan, and then AFTER the fat's gone, it starts losing moisture...whereas if you start with lean meat you're losing moisture from the beginning.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    they say 20% fat content GROUND CHUCK makes a tasty burger.. I normally buy the 80/20 ground at Vons and I charcoal cook them and like them allot.. I have this small 18 thermos BBQ on my patio I bought at Target with allot of Kingsford. Just works for me very jucy, smokey and flavorfull

                                2. Just had these recently, again, and I totally agree. The meat is just so much better than other preformed patties. Rumor has it they are selling out everywhere, probably because of this board!!! Anyway, thanks for reintroducing me to them!

                                  1. I just tried these yesterday and I'm at a loss as to what makes these so good. Maybe I didn't get the same ones? I got the 4 sealed pack ones in the meat section, 2 per pack in a vacu seal container. I thought there was something simliar in the frozen section but I couldn't find those.

                                    Anyway I found these burgers very greasy and fairly tasteless. I ate my 2nd one today to give it another shot but my last few bites had something funky in the meat like cartilidige or something funky.

                                    I will still prefer eating at Counter any day of the week over these. Though I will be leaving LA and moving to a place that doesn't have counter i will have to find an alternative. I have always like the Omaha steak burgers. So that's where i will have to get my gourmet burger fix as these didn't work out. Thanks for letting me know about them though. =) Maybe I really got the wrong ones. I will check the freezer section at a different TJ's to see if those show up.

                                    9 Replies
                                    1. re: starqrtrs

                                      If they were labelled "Angus Steakburgers" you got the right ones. Could be a matter of taste, could be how they're cooked. I got my iron grill pan almost hot enough to start glowing, plus I salted and peppered the patties almost an hour before I cooked them. As I said, if I'd cooked them on a flat-bottom pan they'd have been really fatty, unless I'd poured the grease off a couple of times during the cooking.

                                      They are not in the frozen section.

                                      1. re: Will Owen

                                        If they're 20% fat, they have to be allowed to drip during cooking - on a grill or in a grill pan. This way the grease drips out while leaving its flavor in the meat.

                                        Frying them in their own fat would be... hmm.... less than aesthetic?

                                        1. re: salutlemonde

                                          I don't know.. I mean a burger at some of my favorite places are greasy but they are also flavorful and these weren't flavorful at all, and whatever hard piece of resdue was in my burger just made me ill to the point that I couldnt' even finish it, much less look at what it was. lol

                                          I'll keep looking but those might be it for me. Maybe I still got the wrong ones. I could have sworn they said something like Montana Legend Angus Steak Burgers. Are those the ones?

                                          1. re: starqrtrs

                                            I don't believe these are the same. I actually went to the South Pas one recently and these were the only ones they had (the Montana ones), as the others were out of stock... They simply were not as good and had no flavor. Very greasy and I felt gross putting cheese on them. The ones that I liked are the Trader Joes Grass Fed brand. They have kind of a non-circular shape (somewhat jagged edges). The label had some green on it and it was NOT vac packed, and not frozen. Maybe Will can verify that these are the ones he was referring to as well. It is confusing, indeed. Pre-peppering is a must, no matter what, I think.

                                            Incidentally, I also decided to try the frozen buffalo patties. These are unbelievably good as well (medium rare). And I tried the TJs heirloom tomatoes which were awesomely flavorful too.

                                            1. re: azibo

                                              Yeah the grass fed ones are the ones to get but they changed the supplier.

                                            2. re: starqrtrs

                                              I had some less than stellar ground beef last time, and I thought it was the right one. I'll try the grass fed stuff next time, or read the label more carefully.

                                              Anyone know if TJ's changes suppliers for meat wrapped under their own label? In other words, could someone buy the same package twice and get two different sources of ground beef, both meeting the package criteria but of varying quality.

                                        2. re: starqrtrs

                                          I have looked for them three times over the last week at the Monrovia / Arcadia locatrion on Huntington and they have not been in stock. Please, When did you buy them and at which location?

                                          1. re: JeetJet

                                            They had them on Saturday at the Eagle Rock TJs.

                                            1. re: WildSwede

                                              Shoot, I was at Hastings TJ yesterday, and I thought they had them, but I mighta been dreaming!
                                              Has anyone had the angus frozen burgers from Whole Foods, and know how these compare? I thought the Whole Foods ones were pretty good . . . just wondering if someone has tried both! Thanks.

                                        3. It's almost grilling season and so I bring this thread back to life with my take on TJ's and Nancy Silverton's Burger Mixes!