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Burgers flat-grilled, not charbroiled

Will Owen Dec 19, 2008 03:38 PM

Unlike so many burger freaks who consider flame-broiling to be the ne plus ultra of burgerdom, I find most of those so cooked to be less than wonderful. Granted, it's one way to add interest to an otherwise insipid patty, but I'd prefer to start with good beef, well-seasoned and then dropped onto a blazing-hot iron or steel surface. There used to be two related places up north, one on University Avenue in Palo Alto called Kirk's and the other in Los Gatos, name not recalled, that used a wire-mesh grilling screen over open flame that rendered a fine burger, but aside from some decent back-yard grilled products that's been about it. In fact, the burger I had Saturday at Mike and Anne's in South Pas would have been one of the best ever, had it not worn a coating of bitter char.

So am I alone here? Of all the burgers encountered in my on-and-off quest, the best have all been cooked on a big flat scrape-it-off closed grill. It all has to do with that magic that happens when the meat's juices, trapped under the patty, sizzle and congeal in the heat and turn into beefy goodness. I've been to Ford's, Central Park and l'Orange, Second City Bistro, Harry's, Pann's, The Redwood, Pie'n'Burger, and the Busy Bee in Ventura. Taylor's, too, though that was neither particularly good nor cheap. I have not yet gotten the burger at Oinkster, but that's on my list. How about some other suggestions? For the sake of relative brevity, let's do stick to LA County, or at least close by.

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  1. Joe Blowe RE: Will Owen Dec 19, 2008 03:45 PM

    "Burgers flat-grilled, not charbroiled" -- you mean cooked on a griddle, right?

    I hear Fatburger will cook your burger on a griddle, if requested. I haven't had one though, as I'm not a big Fatburger fan. (In N Out and McDonald's are griddlers, also.)

    I'm guessing that any L.A. restaurant that happens to be running a griddle in addition to a grill would be happy to accommodate you...

    4 Replies
    1. re: Joe Blowe
      a_and_w RE: Joe Blowe Dec 20, 2008 09:34 AM

      Fatburger cooks on a flat top by default -- you have to order it charbroiled if that's how you want it.

      Will, you should definitely check out Hole in the Wall Burger Joint on Bentley at Santa Monica Blvd. Their burgers are well seasoned and they get a lovely salty crust from being cooked on a flat top. Just be sure to specify if you want them cooked something other than medium. I also love their turkey burgers, which I think are even better than the beef. Make sure to try their home-made pickled zucchini.

      1. re: a_and_w
        nosh RE: a_and_w Dec 21, 2008 07:08 PM

        a and w -- I liked my very juicy burger at Hole in the Wall as well, or make that medium rare. I agree with you about the seasoning, which isn't bashful. I got the beef burger, and the meat was properly cooked, and it was indeed prepared on a flattop. Did you find that their pickled zucchini tasted heavily of mustard, or could that have been my taste or that particular batch? Have you tried other bun options besides the pretzel, which was interesting to me but too slick and slidy?

        1. re: nosh
          Servorg RE: nosh Dec 22, 2008 06:45 AM

          I like their regular white bun a lot. The only issue is that it's a little big vs the patty size. But it holds up, its moist and tasty. The problem that H in the W Burgers is going to have is with bad weather taking their outside patio away as a viable dining option.

          1. re: Servorg
            a_and_w RE: Servorg Dec 22, 2008 07:56 AM

            I would echo Servorg's rec of the regular bun, which is also less brittle than the pretzel. I haven't noticed a mustard taste to the zucchini pickles but will examine them more closely on my next visit. For those unfamiliar, all burgers are cooked to order, so I like to order ahead on-line:


    2. u
      umich RE: Will Owen Dec 19, 2008 04:12 PM

      The best was a place called Red's, a little shack in downtown LA. They were amazing. Does anyone remember then and I wonder where they went if anywhere?

      2 Replies
      1. re: umich
        Sam D. RE: umich Dec 20, 2008 05:48 AM

        Red's burgers were very simple but they were the absolute best and I've never had burgers like that since Red's closed. The meat, which was ground fresh each morning before they opened, tasted like good quality steak. I'd really like to find a comparable burger if it exists.

        Red and his wife Edna who worked there together had a string of other lucrative businesses and real estate holdings. When Spring St. changed and deteriorated in the '70s they closed the burger stand and moved on.

        1. re: Sam D.
          umich RE: Sam D. Dec 20, 2008 09:59 AM

          thanks. The were so good and so simple. Remember how he would bounce as his cooked

      2. b
        BHAppeal RE: Will Owen Dec 19, 2008 04:44 PM

        Morel's Bistro at the Grove has an excellent burger -- USDA prime beef, perfectly cooked to order (medium rare for me please) plenty juicy and as I recall not charbroiled. (At least I've never discerned it if it is, and like you I don't generally like the bitter char aspect of some burgers.) Can't recommend anything else there, save for a pretty good wine list, and it is a zoo right now with the holidays, so you may have to wait a couple of weeks to try it unless you want to brave the crowds. Do try it though -- I think it flies under the radar because the Grove itself (and indeed Morel's itself) isn't known for terrific food. (Outside of nexdoor Farmers Market of course).

        1. b
          Briggs RE: Will Owen Dec 19, 2008 07:28 PM

          I feel quite the opposite re flame vs flat-grilled. HOWEVER...

          The burger at The Fix in Silverlake wasn't too bad and was flat grilled I've always thought Fatburger was one of the better tasting choices for your style, although I always had mine chargrilled anyway.

          1. j
            Jack Flash RE: Will Owen Dec 19, 2008 10:12 PM

            Have you ever been to Cassell's on 6th street in Los Angeles? They have a unique contraption in which they cook their burgers - a combo griddle/broiler, but not a char broiler. Thus, the entire patty is sitting on a hot metal surface, sizzling away, creating that extra caramelization which you so enjoy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jack Flash
              Briggs RE: Jack Flash Dec 19, 2008 11:01 PM

              I only went to their experiment in the Carthay Circle area way back when and was unimpressed. I realize it might be apples & oranges - or the 2 different Dino's chickens - but I never had the urge to try the 6th St location afterwards.

            2. a
              Adsvino RE: Will Owen Dec 20, 2008 06:34 AM

              Pie n Burger
              Fred 62

              4 Replies
              1. re: Adsvino
                Will Owen RE: Adsvino Dec 21, 2008 03:03 PM

                P'n'B is an ongoing fave, and Oinkster is next on my list. I'm a little wary of anything from Fred, just from what I've read here, but if I'm in the vicinity might give it a try.

                I do keep forgetting to target Cassell's.

                1. re: Will Owen
                  Adsvino RE: Will Owen Dec 23, 2008 08:08 PM

                  Cassells sucks--no love there. Fred is very good.

                  1. re: Adsvino
                    Burger Boy RE: Adsvino Dec 31, 2008 08:46 AM

                    Fred who? Flintstone! Cassell's is good for what it is the meat and how they cook it. Done! Happy New Year!

                2. re: Adsvino
                  HerbyN RE: Adsvino Dec 22, 2008 07:53 PM

                  Fred 62 burgers.... i'm not a fan. it chafes my hide that they not only have an overrated and underf-lavored burger, but they have the nerve to call it a jucy lucy when it is really a traditional cheeseburger and not the version from the upper-midwest that is a true jucy lucy.

                3. Foodandwine RE: Will Owen Dec 20, 2008 10:01 AM

                  B and R Burger on Rosecrans has a very good rendition in my eyes and taste buds. Sort of a hood burger ( noticed some people use this term ) I actually like them and they even have some giant ones too..

                  B & R's Old Fashion Burgers
                  3512 W Rosecrans Ave, Hawthorne, CA 90250

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Foodandwine
                    Burger Boy RE: Foodandwine Dec 20, 2008 11:05 AM

                    Try a HAWKINS Burger, I do no think there is a "Hood" burger that is bigger!

                    Check it out! http://chowhound.chow.com/photos/41903

                    Hawkins House of Burgers
                    2664 Fair Oaks Ave, Altadena, CA 91001

                    Hawkins House of Burgers
                    11603 Slater St, Los Angeles, CA 90059

                    1. re: Burger Boy
                      martyR RE: Burger Boy Dec 20, 2008 04:31 PM

                      Hawkins' rules.

                  2. p
                    Piggyinthemiddle RE: Will Owen Dec 21, 2008 05:46 PM

                    If you want a classic grilled burger, at the proletarian price a burger should be, go straight to Hinano's Bar, just off the beach, in Venice. The hamburger/cheeseburger is $6.00 - with added bacon $6.50 - and a double burger/cheeseburger $8.00. The single patty version is thick and juicy, adorned with onion, a hefty slice of tomato, and lettuce on a soft but sturdy bun. The double version demands one huge mouth. Condiments are mustard and ketchup, self-applied. There are no fries - bags of fritos or potato chips are thrown in free. The Hinano burger puts most of its self-important upmarket competitors to shame. It is a true hamburger lover's hamburger.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Piggyinthemiddle
                      Grillz RE: Piggyinthemiddle Dec 22, 2008 08:20 AM

                      I second the burger at Hinano. Everything about it is fairly standard, but somehow it all comes together and tastes amazing. Plus, you can get a pitcher with frosty mugs.

                      1. re: Grillz
                        nosh RE: Grillz Dec 22, 2008 12:08 PM

                        I have wanted to try Hinano for a long time; ever since I started reading about the burger on this board. But where the heck do you park? The few spaces with meters in front or across the street are hit and almost always miss, and I don't want to spend more to park at a beach lot that I pay for a burger. I have approached, circled around, become frustrated, and given up several times... Any hints are appreciated -- reply to my email, and I won't give up any secrets.

                        1. re: nosh
                          Servorg RE: nosh Dec 22, 2008 12:51 PM

                          If you have a flexible lunch hour which allows you to eat either early or late, and it is winter time then you should be able to find street parking, if not actually on Washington west of Pacific in the little block before the Venice Pier parking lot then at least along Pacific on the north side and in the event of extreme circumstances back east on Washington a ways. Also, the city was giving a deal on the beach parking lot in the winter before so you might just check and find out it is not a deal breaker to park there.

                          1. re: nosh
                            Grillz RE: nosh Dec 23, 2008 08:33 AM

                            I usually try and park south of Washington on the street that runs parallel to the canal right near the cantina. You have to walk a little ways, but I usually take ease of parking over proximity.

                            1. re: Grillz
                              Will Owen RE: Grillz Dec 23, 2008 09:32 AM

                              Yeah, I think expecting "Doris Day parking" in any of those beach areas is just silly. Whenever I have to shoot down there I always assume I'm going to be walking a lot, and am seldom disappointed... The upside is that they're good places to walk.

                              So exactly where is Hinano? I can definitely stand to add another place to my rather paltry Venice list.

                              1. re: Will Owen
                                Servorg RE: Will Owen Dec 23, 2008 09:35 AM

                                On the North side of Washington Blvd. right where it runs into the beach - which keeps the Pacific Ocean from making Marina Del Rey into our very own version of St. Marks Square at high tide.

                      2. n
                        nrique RE: Will Owen Dec 21, 2008 06:34 PM

                        Well I got two good places for you...

                        First- The Burger Basket in East Los Angeles. Whittier Blvd. just south of Olympic right next door the the Midas Muffler shop. They make a home style burger cooked on a griddle with onions pressed in by the cooks own hand. The buns are a little soft and might break up on you. But it's cooked to order!

                        Second is Big Mikes in Bellflower. Clark st. and Rose just south of Artesia Blvd. Yes this is the hood, North Long Beach is a few blocks away. The place is owned by a guy named BIG MIKE, 6 ft 2 or 3 inches and a master cook. The BIG MIKE burger is a half pound patty hand formed and cooked on a griddle to order. Included in the BIG MIKE is a Louisianan Sausage link or Bacon (if you prefer) lettuce, onions and tomato. He also sells a Little Mike burger that is a quarter pound hand formed patty if a HALF POUND is out of your league.

                        I recommend a visit to both places just remember BIG MIKES is in a league of HIS own.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: nrique
                          JAB RE: nrique Dec 22, 2008 08:21 AM

                          Burger Basket Cafe on Atlantic South of Olympic?

                          1. re: JAB
                            nrique RE: JAB Dec 23, 2008 07:57 PM

                            Oops... got my streets mixed up. On Atlantic Blvd. just South of Olympic right next door to the Midas muffler shop. Run by a lovely Korean family for the past 20 or so years.

                        2. ipsedixit RE: Will Owen Dec 21, 2008 08:08 PM

                          How about Yuca's?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            ronsilverado RE: ipsedixit Dec 22, 2008 12:14 PM

                            agreed, my favorite item on their menu. sort of picks up the essence of the asada and other stuff they cook on their griddle.

                          2. a
                            awinner RE: Will Owen Dec 30, 2008 10:11 PM

                            APPLE PAN....nuff said!!!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: awinner
                              Adsvino RE: awinner Dec 31, 2008 07:39 AM

                              I can't even eat there anymore after tasting Oinkster's burger....

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