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Dec 19, 2008 03:38 PM

Burgers flat-grilled, not charbroiled

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. "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

      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

        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

          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

            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. 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

        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.

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

      2. 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. 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. 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

              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.