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Burger Continental in Pasadena---What's the deal?

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A friend and I finally went to Burger Continental Thursday and what a disappointment. First off, I had probably the worst burger I've ever had. The name of this place is very misleading. Second, the server never refilled drinks, asked how things were or came back period till it was time to leave the check. Probably most disturbing was the general condition of the place. It was filthy. Ketchup stained and sticky menus, chipped plates, glasses with other restaurant names on them, a manager walking around wearing a filthy apron. It went on and on. They win the dirtiest restaurant award. Why is this place so well known and popular. It's a dump. We should of went to Pie & burger across the street.

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  1. Well, don't bash the place too hard.

    It's a good local hangout for grad students and undergrads from Cal Tech ... you know, cheap, easy and accessible comestibles for the student on a budget. The lunch buffets (around 10 buckaroos) is the epitome of cheap, non-offensive, starchy food for those times when a young aspiring physicist needs to work out the wrinkles in the laws of dark matter or GUT.

    It also has lively sunday brunches (esp. during Mother's Day), belly dancers, and so the atmosphere is always lively (if not a bit tacky). Once the servers recognize you (or get to know you), service improves by leaps and bounds. Rumor has it that it also offers up karaoke ...

    And, yeah, burgers are not its specialty. Faux Greek food (think chewy, non-imaginative kebabs and skewers and gyros more akin to Cal-Mex burritos than any Greek pita sandwich) are par for the course. It's sort of like people who think Yang Chow is not only real good Chinese food, but just real good food, period.

    To each it's own, I suppose ...

    13 Replies
    1. re: ipse dixit

      The last time I went to Burger Continental was about 7 years ago, I think. It was very disappointing. You can get much better kebabs and pita sandwiches just up the street at the Mediterranean Cafe. It has no atmosphere or lively belly dancers but the food is good and inexpensive. I used to like Burger Continental but I noticed each time I went, it got worse and worse. Finally I gave up. I've never been disappointed by Mediterranean Cafe, though - simple and good.

      1. re: monkuboy

        I guess I'm lucky that I've never gone to BC for the food, or on a weekday, or had a hamburger or seen it during the light of day, or sat in that awful front room. BUT It's just great on a Saturday nite with the entertainment and that outdoor brick area and the lively crowd and (if you go a few times) the waitresses start treating you much better... it's a lively, fun place and the food is perfectly passable..

        1. re: nix

          You are lucky you didn't eat at BC. Try Pie & burger across the street or Hamburger Hamlet north on Lake.

          1. re: nix

            BC used to be much better. It's been on a steady decline for decades now.

            1. re: nix

              If you do go there, which I don't know why, whatever yuou do, don't sit in the back of the back patio. The odor will knock you out. Stinks back there.

              1. re: Jaymes

                One wonders if Burger Continental is paying off the Health Dept & restaurant critics. It's amazing that it's stay so busy with such a bad reputation for cleanliness.

            2. re: monkuboy

              I concur that Mediterranean Cafe is one of Pasadena's best.

              I went to BC once and it's never occured to me to go back.

              1. re: Key Lime Guy

                I also highly recommend Lebanese Kitchen on Washington near Hill. Their food is damn good. A bit farther away though.

                1. re: bruthafez
                  k
                  kimpossible1138

                  I agree! Lebanese Kitchen is consistently good. No atmosphere to speak of, but brilliant stuffed grape leaves.
                  Lebanese Kitchen
                  1384 Washington Blvd.
                  Pasadena, CA 91104
                  (626) 296-9010

                  1. re: kimpossible1138

                    True, good food, but I grew old waiting for it. I have *never* had such slow terrible service when in a restaurant with only one other occupied table. I think take out is the only way to go... because it isn't *that* hard to fill the water glasses at one table when you fill them at the other.

                    1. re: MsAC
                      k
                      kimpossible1138

                      Hee. I think take out is a great idea...I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me! I'm sure we can muster a nicer atmosphere at home, complete with music and beverages of choice.

                2. re: monkuboy

                  Last time I was at BC was about 9 years ago and it was OK. I went back there last week and boy I was disappointed. The food was horrible, cold and wow the cheap pastry was a big shock. They have lost their originality, except the dancers, everything else is bad. The service is horrible, No service at all. The owner is losing it he is in his 60s and wearing a drop down baggy jeans. I could not believe my eyes. The place looks like is having money problems. Dirt was all over. I will never ever go back there.

              2. I don't understand it either. KABC-TV has featured them quite a few times on the tube. Too bad they didn't film the kitchen for their viewers. I don't know how they pass a health dept. inspection. The Sahara Cafe on Colorado Blvd. has some pretty good middle east food. At least you don't have to wipe off your feet before leaving.

                1. I have not eaten there in quite a while, but I have eaten at BC-catered parties, and the food is actually fine.

                  Someone I know who boycotts BC mentioned to me that the owners of BC are also landlords of properties, which to put it mildly, are not in the best-kept condition. It sounds like they have the same attitude toward their restaurant.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bruthafez
                    k
                    kimpossible1138

                    I'm another person who boycotts BC. They have been dirty my ENTIRE life in Pasadena. I have an early memory of my mother taking me by the hand as we walked behind BC to get to the Pantry Supermarket, and her pointing out a pool of filthy, stinky water dripping into their back patio from some drainage pipe and her making me promise never to eat there.
                    Years later, I had no choice as they were doing the food service at Caltech. Yikes. They did have good baklava, but they were ridiculously overpriced. Then, when they lost the contract, they started bringing restaurant leftovers for dinner in takeout boxes. Oh my GOD, will people please stop supporting this crazy place.

                  2. One reason that people I know eat there, especially Caltech students, is the $2 burger + soda happy hour on Mondays and Tuesdays. For this price, they do win against McDonald's and such for quality. They also have $2 cocktails during the day and afternoon that I've known people to be enthusiastic about. I agree heartily with what's written here that I wouldn't pay full price for their food.

                    They do occasionally have entertaining zydeco bands and such if you like that sort of thing. But I would stick to the drinks.

                    1. Have never been there because I heard it was the dirtiest restaurant in L.A. After reading all of this I'm glad I never ate there. It's amazing that almost everyone I know that mentions BC says it's dirty.

                      1. Back in the 80's - college years - we thought this place was so great. We got the "Oxy 10 percent discount," the guys seemed so friendly, the portions were huge, and the food seemed kind of exotic to those of us raised on blander east coast food. I remember the huge lines, the "mediterranean feast" and how impossible it was to park. The burger with the bleu cheese was pretty good, as were the thick fries, the free chips, and the salad bar. At least I thought so at the time. It was probably the first place I had hummous, gyro-type stuff, etc.

                        About 4 years ago I went back and was pretty surprised at how dirty and funky it seemed. I wasn't sure if it had gone downhill, or if I had become more discriminating. Then I remembered all those upset stomachs after visits to BC's, which at the time I attributed to over consumption, but which now seem to be to have been food poisoning.

                        PS - If you want refills there, you just walk up to the little window where they have the soda fountain and hand them your cup. At least that's how it was back then...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Scooty

                          Yeah, I think that it is memories of how it used to be - even as recent as the mid-to late '90's that people remember. I still remember how much I enjoyed the food back then. Now, I never go, for the reasons already stated.
                          That said, I understand that there is a pretty good Caribbean restaurant almost directly across the street.

                          1. re: Scooty

                            I have boycotted the place for 5 years. I have a friend who used to go for the happy hour drinks. He stopped going when he came across a moldy tortilla chip. The place is just disgusting - convenience to Caltech or no. And why go considering PresidentTwo, Zankou Chicken, Mediterranean Cafe, and Europane are all easy walking distance?

                          2. yup. tried this place last night because we were hungry. (wish i had checked here first.) stale chips and salsa (why?), lousy salad bar, dirty patio, weak service, so-so shawarma and burgers. and the live music so horrendously loud and awful it was KILLING me. stay away!

                            i strongly agree with others here that Mediterranean Cafe up the street is really wonderful. too bad that they close at 7pm.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: italianstallion

                              Like someone else posted, this place used to be the place to be in the 80's when middle eastern food was still exotic. Now, so many other restaurants have passed BC up that they know they can't stay in that kind of race anymore. I think some of the customers, like me go back for nostalgia's sake, but I agree, everything has sank for years.

                            2. This place is awful!! It was dirty when I was there and the food was sub-par. Maybe the family should learn what the word clean and sanitary is -- in fact - is the City of Pasadena Health Department aware of the condition of this retaurant? It's amazing anyone would patronize this establishment.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: chowchi1

                                Wow! Hostile! I was just trying to say something positive.

                                1. re: Spiff

                                  I will say that a friend of mine highly recommended BC. I still haven't been there, yet.

                                  1. re: katkoupai

                                    I honestly wouldn't go there katkoupai, but thanks for the show of support :)

                                    1. re: Spiff

                                      You're welcome. I'll take the warning.

                                      I'm a bit surprised though, because it always seems busy when I walk by.

                                      1. re: katkoupai

                                        It is always busy...they owners have a huge extended family and given what some people have said here about the CalTech crowd, it makes sense.

                                        I do know that a lot of families go there for the BBQ chicken pizza, although I've never had it.

                                        Maybe try it sometime...but go in with low expectations. Maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised??

                                        1. re: Spiff

                                          Thanks. I just imagine that with all the customer traffic, it can't be that bad. I will try it sometime. :)

                                          1. re: katkoupai

                                            I lived in Pasadena about 10 years ago and used to like the kefta burger at BC. I remember the large menu was very hit-and-miss but this burger was quite good. It was a large pita sandwich stuffed with a big charbroiled patty, Greek cheese, and served with fries.

                                            1. re: Ernie

                                              Thanks for the input, Ernie. You rock, as always. :)

                                              1. re: katkoupai

                                                One tip - when you go, sit away from the walls if the music is playing. Your ears will ring for days afterward with the music banging off all the walls and right into your eardrums!

                              2. The first and last time that I went there it was in 1995 and it was disgusting even then. I still think of it as the worst restaurant in LA County (actually one of the worst that I've ever been in anywhere). The food was gross, I couldn't even eat what I ordered, and the restaurant was beyond filthy.

                                http://myculinaryadventures.blogspot.com

                                1 Reply
                                1. Like someone else already said, the $2 for a burger, fries and soda is hard to pass up sometimes! That's the only reason i've ever gone there, and only reason I will!

                                  1. Frankly, I always wondered if this place was some sort of money laundering operation.

                                    I went to Caltech, and my friends and I would very rarely go there, and only because it was very cheap. It is an experience, though, especially if you go during blaring-loud-music-and-belly-dancer night.

                                    1. I had the unfortunate opportunity to eat at BC a few years ago and found the place so dirty that I actually lost my appetite after sitting down. Also, I live a block away and have to listen to their LOUD music all the time. It's awful trying to fall asleep at 11pm during the week with the sounds of high pitched music and a man's screaming/singing coming through my window!!

                                      1. The food and service at BC has been abysmal for at least 10 years now. FOr the life of me I can't understand why people go here.

                                        -----
                                        Burger Continental
                                        535 S Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: Kevitivity

                                          Burger Continental used to be an institution in Pasadena. I'd say it's been a good 15 years since it was any good. I guess it's been riding on its past reputation for a long, long time. But it was good for a long time as well. Just go to Pie N Burger.

                                          -----
                                          Burger Continental
                                          535 S Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

                                          1. re: Ogawak

                                            When we lived in Tennessee and visited Pasadena every other year or so, BC was one of those places we HAD to go, just because Mrs. O had fond childhood memories (except for that stinky back-of-the-patio). Shortly after we moved here we dropped in one evening when it wasn't busy at all, just a couple of lingering patrons, and a small group of people with whom the waitress was conversing. And conversing, and conversing... so, after a good twenty minutes of this, I went over and inquired politely about getting some service, and she glared at me and said, "We're TALKING here, can't you SEE?" We left, and have stayed gone for ten years and counting.

                                            That Mediterranean place across the street lasted hardly any time at all, which was really a shame. The owner was apparently a bit of a flake, with more ideas than money, but the food was really very good, and quite cheap.

                                            1. re: Ogawak

                                              I left Pasadena in '92 and is was not any good then either. We would go occasionally on the weekend because it was cheap and close, and they actually were the food service provider for the dorms at Caltech in the late 80's (better than the company they beat, but far from actually good).

                                              For decent low cost food back in the day, there was MaƱana's for the awesome taco bar and fishbowl margarita, Scarantino's for all you could eat Italian, and the Salt Shaker for late night chili and eggs. Then Old Town started to get redone and we had the Rose City Diner. In 8 years living in and around Pasadena, I doubt I ate at BC as many as a dozen times.

                                              -----
                                              Scarantino's
                                              2055 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA

                                              1. re: ocshooter

                                                They were the food service providers at Caltech while I was a student there in the early 90s, and it was *shameful* how lousy the food was. Very poor quality, everything overcooked yet always served just lukewarm, and weird. FINALLY Caltech came to their senses and went with another provider. When BC lost the contract, things really went downhill for that last month or so. They started bringing in leftovers from the restaurant.
                                                I regularly went hungry.
                                                I ate a LOT of cereal those days.

                                                Anyway, as I commented above, I never, ever, EVER eat at BC. Life is too short for that kind of crap. Now that I have some say in what I eat, I choose wisely.

                                              2. re: Ogawak

                                                I hadn't been in about 15 years or so and went not too long ago to see if it was as bad as all the posters said. This used to be a great hangout in my college years. BC is a flacid, sickly, and weak shadow of its former self. I won't be back.

                                                1. re: heckonwheels

                                                  Burger Continental is the coolest, hippest restuarnat in the world. The food is outstanding in quality and quantity, with low prices. The owners are wonderful. Everything about it is great!

                                                  -----
                                                  Burger Continental
                                                  535 S Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

                                                  1. re: scotsman

                                                    I couldn't disagree with scotsman more.

                                                    1. re: Peripatetic

                                                      Agreed. Seemed okay when I moved to the area 15 years ago, but really started going downhill in the years after that. I have not been there in about 8 years now and it never crosses my mind when I am deciding where to go eat.

                                                      1. re: WildSwede

                                                        Fifteen years ago it was grubby, and the back end of the patio always reeked of garbage, but it had CHARACTER, y'know? Now it's just a tired pit.

                                                    2. re: scotsman

                                                      LOL....there are several adjectives that describe BC, but cool and hip are certainly not on the list. Try gross, nasty, awful. My brother dragged me there one time before a Laker game, I almost disowned him after. ;-)

                                              3. It was such a great place during the 80s: cute little Middle Eastern waitresses, cheap food, plates of pita and hummus appearing when you sat down.
                                                Now? It's so sad. They can't even make a margarita, and I KNOW they use a commercial mix for them. I would go back for the Alamo Burger with fries well-done, but that's the ONLY thing I've seen then not screw up.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: flowerofhighrank

                                                  I think even their belly dancers are old and tired-looking now.