The singularity holding the universe of craft beer together is personal preference, and it is important to know your own tastes so you can work to refine or expand them. The Favorite-Five series of posts highlights the Beer of Tomorrow writer’s favorite things.
I love love love a good cheeseburger. There are countless variations on the American classic, from the no-frills epitome of the fast food burger from In-N-Out to the elevated gastropub masterpiece that is Sang Yoon’s Father’s Office Burger, and in my mind, the only thing that goes better than fries with a juicy burger is a craft beer. In Los Angeles, we are spoiled with an ever growing number of eateries offering excellent burgers and a compelling craft beer list to get your burger+beer fix.
After extensive, ahem, research these are my top five places to get the best burgers and the best beers.
Fathers Office – Culver City & Santa Monica
Lets get this out of the way first: the Father’s Office Burger is iconic, oft-imitated, and unmatched. Don’t like caramelized onion, Gruyere, Maytag blue cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and/or arugula on your burger? Tough shit; there are no substitutions at this groundbreaking LA gastropub. And you know what? There doesn’t need to be. The burger, featuring dry-aged beef on a soft french roll, is my favorite burger on the planet. Just the thought of the perfectly balanced burger sets my mouth to watering. I could go on and on about Sang Yoon’s enduring masterpiece, which is in my mind, the very pinnacle of the cheeseburger. (The ultra-thin fries are also some of the best in LA.)
I most often forgo the original Father’s Office location in Santa Monica for the comparatively sprawling venue in the Helms Bakery complex in Culver City. FO was one of LA’s first super-burgers, and an early bastion of craft beer, and the tap lists at both location are always fantastic. Finding a beer to pair with the complex and intense FO burger is always fun exercise, and the servers, while at times brusk, always have good suggestions for pairings.
Blue Palms Brewhouse – Hollywood
It is no surprise when Blue Palms ends up on another one of my lists. I may be a fanboy for one of LA’s very best beer destinations, but my adoration is well deserved, especially when it comes to their burger. But I’m not talking about the popular and decadent Truffle Burger; my pick is the even more decadent Imperial Burger #2 that features a generous pile of short ribs on top of the kobe beef patty. Add gruyere, caramelized onions, and porcini mushrooms and you’ve got a hearty burger that can stand up to big IPAs, roasty stouts, or potent Belgian ales.
I could go on, but you’ve heard me laud Blue Palms plenty in the past.
Stout Burger – Hollywood, Studio City, Santa Monica
I can’t always make it out to Culver City when I get a craving for the FO Burger, but Stout’s signature Stout Burger hits many of the same notes (roasted tomatoes instead of arugula and a brioche bun are the obvious departures). Honestly, it’s a pretty pale imitation, but sometimes it’s enough to get the FO monkey off my back.
On there own merits, the burgers at Stout are pretty damn good with around a half-dozen different options available. They are also pretty big, and the fries are necessarily excellent.
I’ve yet to visit the Studio City outpost, or the new location in Santa Monica that opened recently, I’m sure they will be quite popular as the Hollywood location gets unpleasantly jam-packed. While I’ve also had some less than wonderful interactions with the staff in the past, the tap list is always well put together and offers lots of pairing options, and the burgers are good enough to out-weigh the negatives and keep me coming back (though it helps that it is four blocks from BoT HQ and I never have to deal with parking.)
Grill ‘Em All – Alhambra
Full disclosure: I’ve shamefully not yet been to the new Alhambra brick and mortar restaurant, but I was a big fan of their truck-based burgers that always seemed to roll-up at Eagle Rock Brewery or Verdugo Bar. These metal-heads serve up ridiculous(ly delicious) “burgs” that draw inspiration from the very depths of hell. Or at least heavy metal music – same difference, right?
The ultimate expression of rock and roll excess in burger-form is the Behemoth. That’s a juicy GEA patty with all the trimmings sandwiched between sandwiches – grilled cheese sandwiches. Yes, instead of a bun, the Behemoth comes on two grilled cheese sandwiches, and here’s the thing: it is really, really good. No mere stunt-burg that the Man Vs Food guy can brag about taking down, the Behemoth is unsettlingly delicious. But do your stomach (and heart) a favor and split it with a friend.
Grill ‘Em All’s beer selection is not expansive, but there’s always an Eagle Rock Brewery and an Ohana beer on tap (specific brews rotate regularly), as well as a small selection of craft cans.
Another LA original that shouldn’t be missed.
In-N-Out – Everywhere
Okay, I’m cheating here as you obviously can’t get a craft beer with your Double Double at In-N-Out, but you know what all In-N-Outs have (or, at least nearly all)? A drive-through.
A Double Double Animal Style fresh off the griddle into the red plastic baskets and eaten outside is tough to beat for sheer SoCal-ness, but there’s something special about In-N-Out burgers to go too. It’s the only fast food that I even eat anymore, and In-N-Out deserves a place on any list talking about LA’s best burgers.
Taking down the greasy-pleasure at home with a cold pale ale (Pale 31, 1500, or SNPA of course) is probably my second favorite burger-eating experience.
So Many Burgers, So Little Time
That’s my list, I wanna hear about yours! I know that I’m missing a good many great burger/beer joins (like the Oinkster, but I’ve honestly never had a burger there. I simply can’t not order the Oinkster Pastrami every time I go.)
A few other spots that I like a lot for burgers-and-beers and that are worth checking out are: Lucky’s Tavern (another local spot that I can walk to with a good beer program), Haven Gastrobup/Brewpub (great burger, great taps, great house beers), and 38 Degrees (so many better choices on that menu though).
So, what is your favorite place for a juicy burger and a craft beer?