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Dec 5, 2007 09:30 PM

REVIEW w/ pics: Hellman Burger at Pete's Cafe

As part of "The Great Burger Quest", my dining group's next visit took us to Pete's Café for the Hellman Burger, named after the founder of a historic building across the street from Pete's. The month before we took a bite out of the Office Burger at Father's Office and I think for many of us, it was a bite worthy of many return visits.

Having never been to Pete's Café before, I was really excited to having a new restaurant experience. Walking in, I immediately took a liking to the high ceilings as well as the photographs of old downtown LA that were hung throughout the restaurant. With it being a Saturday and close to noon, we were presented with the brunch menu.

When placing our orders, the majority of us ordered the Hellman Burger, while others opted for the Bacon Cheddar Mushroom Burger instead. But what really enthralled us were the various French fry options that we could choose to come with our burgers or order a la carte. There were three different kinds to choose from: chipotle French fries, garlic and basil French fries and bleu cheese French cries. The fries were so irresistible; we actually ordered all three of them as appetizers.

Before the fries arrived, my Spinach and Pear Salad was placed before me. The ingredients consisted of baby spinach, Bartlett pears, Maytag blue cheese, candied walnuts, dried cherries with basil balsamic vinaigrette. Having previously worked for a salad company, I'm really picky about my salads and I have to say this one was a great balance of pungent, nutty, sweet and tart flavors. My only complaint was I would have preferred the pears diced for easier eating.

Soon, the fries came our way and we dove in. Light and crispy, I liked how they were cooked. Cheese head that I am, surprisingly, my favorite was the chipotle fries. The sauce had a real nice smokiness to it, with just the right amount of heat. Of course, the blue cheese fries came a very close second. As for the garlic and basil fries, they were a bit disappointing. The strong, pungent flavors I was expecting just wasn't there.

After all the fry eating, you'd think we wouldn't have room for our burgers once they hit the table, but somehow we managed. When I took my first look at the Hellman Burger I ordered, I initially was pleased. With the burger being a 1/2 pound, it looked substantial. I liked that my bun was toasted or maybe grilled. The veggies were fresh and I was happy to see red onions, instead of white onions. Then I put it all together, cut it in half and took a bite and it was just okay.

There wasn't anything wrong with it, but when you pay $11 for a hamburger, you expect more of a "Wow!" which was missing. The burger meat itself was fine, but it wasn't as juicy as I would have liked. A Fontina cheese was used, but didn't contribute much in terms of flavor. Also, while part of the ingredients was supposed to include smoked tomato aioli, either they didn't add enough or didn't add any at all, because I certainly don't remember that sauce hitting any part of my taste buds.

Would I pay $11 for the Hellman Burger again? No. Would I pay $12 for the Bacon Cheddar Mushroom Burger that a couple of other people in our group ordered? Actually, I just might, especially after hearing the on the spot rave reviews, but then, the maxim that everything tastes good with bacon could also apply to this case as well.

Overall, for this "Great Burger Quest", the Office Burger still reigns supreme, but who knows? There still may be burger greatness that's still untapped.

To see pics, go to:

Pete's Café
400 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 617-1000


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  1. Abby, I notice that while you have photos of the mac & cheese you don't mention it in your review. Was it not worth mentioning or didn't you get to try it?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      The mac and cheese looks amazing in that picture but my own experiences with it have been that it's on the dry side. But maybe it's better now if that picture is any indication...

      1. re: Servorg

        I did get a little taste and thought it was quite tasty, cheesy and not dry as was mentioned in an earlier post.

      2. I don't get the commotion over the Hellman Burger at all. To me, it's nothing more than a Hotel Room Service Burger from a better quality Hyatt or Westin. It's absolutely nothing remarkable, not a destination dish and certainly not a burger to rival Lucky Devils, The Hungry Cat, Bowery, or 25 Degrees (when they had their act together). The vaunted blue cheese fries I'd had were a soggy pile of grease, starch, and tons of salt. Gross.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Woolsey

          hmm, perhaps it was an off day for the bleu cheese fries? everytime i've had them 14+ times, the fries were hot and crisp. however, they do get soggy after sitting around for a while; so it is best to eat them fast. =)

          1. re: wilafur

            One of Pete's chefs lives in my building, and I spoke to him about the mediocre fries. He told me he wasn't cooking that day and was concerned about the overall poor quality of my dining experience there. It did take forever for my food to arrive, so the plate may have sat around, but the cheese also struck me as rather cheap, one-dimensional blue cheese one gets from the dairy case at Ralph's, all salt and oil and pungency with no nuance.

            1. re: Woolsey

              goes well with the PBR though. lols.

        2. I took one look at the pics and came to the conlusion that it is yet another attempt to make a simple cheap food more expensive and complicated than it needs to be. I especially don't think that a burger that arrives at your table should be so big that you have to smash it down thinning the bottom bun in which the pattie lies into the pattie's ultra thin doughie grease pit. YUCK! It's enough to make this chowhounder, excuse the expression, loose his lunch.

          1. I too was excited to try the Hellmans burger, a while back, and was disappointed -- maybe I expected too much? It was ok, but I didn't find the meat special, delicious, or particuarly beefy. Other burgers I've really enjoyed are from Fathers Office, and the Counter.

            Now, if you're willing to pay $11, plus fries -- please don't forget to include Morton's Downtown in your quest. It's $14 (includes fries), during lunch, and weekdays only. I can't sing the praise of this burger enough. It's prime and aged, and has all the delicious beefyness you could ask for in a burger. I could be wrong, but it might be the only burger that I've encountered on CH to get nothing but positive posts. It's sooo worth it. Enjoy!

            1. The Hellman burger at Pete's used to be soooo juicy that you needed several stacks of napkins just to get through it without looking like an accident victim. However, those days have passed. I had it in late October and am sad to report that according to the chef via the waitress, they changed meat suppliers and are using a different ("better") cut of meat. "Better" means leaner and that means less flavor. I'm sad for you that you didn't get to try it in the glory days, it was a thing of beauty.

              If you're still looking for the ultimate juicy burger, be sure to check out the Hungry Cat Pug burger and the Kobe burger at Dusty's, both are contenders in my burger book.

              1 Reply
              1. re: wendysland

                Pug at Hungry Cat is number one in my book, had it recently and it had improved since a year ago. Better bacon. An absolutely genius burger.