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Elmer Dill's Hamburger Guide

In the 1980's  Elmer Dills,  a famous Southern California food and travel reporter for Channel 7, released this well made hamburger guide.  I ordered one and drove many a mile with friends discovering new burger joints across the Southland.  Here's to the days before the $10 burger.  If you want to check them out, be sure to call first, some of them may have moved on!

Elmer Dills' Burger Guide
        What's the most popular American fast food? Why the hamburger, of course. It's been estimated that in Southern California alone we put away 30 pounds of hamburger meat for each of the 12 million persons in our area. That's a lot of hamburger.
        And if you travel to Hong Kong, Paris, Stockholm, Mexico City and Berlin you'll find the hamburger stand with familiar American names lining the streets. On a recent trip to Berlin there was a very popular Burger King right across from my hotel on the stylish KUrfurstendamm.
        Which only shows how the cycle goes. According to most sources, the hamburger as we know it started on the ships of the Hamburk-Amerika Line which brought immigrants to America in the 1850s. This was the famous hamburger beef which was salted and smoked to preserve it on the long trips. Since it was a bit hard, it was soaked in water to soften it up and sometimes stretched with breadcrumbs and onions. The immigrants continued to make Hamburger steaks, as the meat was called, with fresh meat after settling in the USA. There are other stories but this one seems to be the most believable.
        The hamburger as we know it today was first served at Louis Lunch Restaurant in New Haven around 1900. It was originally served on bread. The roll was introduced in the early 1900s and has been part of the hamburger ever since.
        What's the best way to prepare the hamburger patty? On a grill? Over charcoal? Those who espouse the cause of the grill claim that there's nothing like the taste that the fat from the meat gives the burger when cooked on the grill. Nonsense, say those who vote for the charcoal method. Who wants a fatty burger, they say. And, they add, that charcoal flavor is what gives the burger its own taste and flavor. Well, you can have it either way here in Southern California. In fact, one place you saw on the report, Big Buns in Encino, does it both ways for the same patty.
        I went to 70 different hamburger places from Santa Barbara to San Diego. In the interest of fairness I always ordered my burger the same way. Medium rare with tomato and lettuce only.  No French or other goopy dressings to hide the flavor of the patty, no melted exotic cheeses or whatevers. After all, it would hardly be fair to judge place Xs burger with avocados, cheese and bacon against place Y's burger with chili, green peppers and fried mushrooms. And while I know I missed sampling some very fine and exotic burgers, I felt that this was the only way to be fair.
        I also ordered French fries and onion rings wherever possible, since these go with burgers. I looked for places that made their own from scratch instead of opening a restaurant pack of frozen fries or rings. It wasn't easy to find burger stands doing this, but they do exist. Just as I found places that grind their own meat — some even butcher their own. One place goes so far as to bake their own buns while you watch.
        To help with the comparison, I established a rating system on the old A-B-C-D scale I remember from my school days.
                                    A — Outstanding
                                    B — Excellent — Definitely above average
                                    C — Average
                                    D — Failing
        Most of the places getting a C rating used the frozen hamburger patty, the frozen French fries and the frozen onion rings bought from a commercial source. But to get a C rating, they had to prepare the burger, fries and rings with reasonable care. That was the average. Anything over this got a higher rating and under this got the failing grade.
        I'm sure I didn't get to all of your favorite burgers. But with 70 places under my belt, if you'll pardon the pun, I did cover a good cross section. Probably the most complete and exhaustive hamburger survey ever done in Southern California. And, you know, despite this, I'm still fond of hamburgers.
        Prices, where given, may have changed by the time you make your visit. Be aware of this.
Elmer Dills' Signature
Dave's Burger StandGood HamburgerAngels Hamburgers  



SAN FERNANDO VALLEY


ARA'S ARMENIAN BURGERS — 5961 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys 994-8342 • Take out or eat here in tiny booths or on stools. Ara Seaman is a classical musician. Be sure to pick up one of the fact sheets about him that are scattered about. He's led a fantastic life. Try his Armenian burger with seven herbs and spices in the patty. Skip the fries. RATING:
BURGER = B BIG BUNS — 16501 Ventura Blvd., Encino • 990-BUNS •
Small, patio with tiny dining room planned. Gene Kaplan and Marcia Hirsch run a tight little ship. Grind their own meat, cook patties on both grill and over charcoal. Three different kind of buns. Make their own onion rings and fries.
RATING: BURGER = B+, FRIES = B+, ONION RINGS = B+
BUCKET — 4541 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock •
A real hole-inthe-wall. Take out or eat here sitting on one of half a dozen stools. Also picnic benches in back. Owner Julio Maeso is a true character and known for his steady stream of insults to his guests. The burger he makes looks like the Empire State Building when finished and his "special secret sauce" will be all over you by the time you finish. And be sure to try his special fried potatoes with or without his secret sauce.
RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = B+
BURGER GARDEN — 3601 North Verdugo, Montrose • 957-4046
Take out and patio. Nice folks in charge. Modest prices. RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = C
DON'S PLACE — 1400 West Olive, Burbank • 846-6262 • A long time Burbank tradition, Beer by the pitcher and a burger on the patio. RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C
FAT JACK'S — Ventura Blvd., Corner Tujunga, Studio City • 985.8752 • Take out or outdoor patio dining.
RATING: BURGER = C–, FRIES = C–
GOLDEN ANCHOR — 14441 Roscoe Blvd. (Corner Van Nuys), Panorama City • 893-5118 • A pleasant suburban restaurant serving a pleasant suburban hamburger.
RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = D, ONION RINGS = C HAMPTON'S KITCHEN — 4301 Riverside Drive, Burbank • 845-3009 • An offshoot of the original Hollywood Hampton's and every bit as good. A wide assortment of hamburgers and although expensive, I think they are worth it.  RATING: BURGER = B
MOM'S — Corner Sherman Way and Van Nuys (behind Arble's), Van Nuys • Take out or eat here on small outdoor patio. RATING: BURGER = C/C+
OODLS BURGERS — Market at Broadway, Montrose • 249-0752 
Take out or eat here. Coffee shop atmosphere. Pleasantly average. RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C
TOMMY'S WORLD FAMOUS HAMBURGERS — 14601 Victory Blvd. (at Vesper), Van Nuys • 901-8260
.Fast food. Eat here or take out. Ordered first burger medium rare and came well done. Tried again and came out super rare. On following day ordered medium rare and again arrived well done.
RATING: BURGER= C-, FRIES= C
WEST CASTLE — 6833 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys • 786-4572 • Also in Woodland Hills at Winnetka and Ventura. A take off on White Castle from back east. Tiny little burger patties cooked over chopped onions and served in a square steamed bun. RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C
ZIG'S CREATIVE CULINARY CONCOCTIONS — 21300 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills • 884-5340 • A full service restaurant. Variety of burgers. Order Beggar Burger without dressing. Not inexpensive but worth it.
RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C

LOS ANGELES and WEST LOS ANGELES

APPLE PAN — 10801 West Pico, West LA • 476-3585 •
Take out or eat here at counter. Basic burger menu. No frills atmosphere. Great pies.
RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = C+
BEE JAY'S — Corner Prospect and Vermont, Hollywood • A former Orange Julius near a car wash. Fast Mexican food and "old fashioned hamburgers.'"
RATING: BURGER = C, ONION RINGS = C
CASSELL'S — 3300 West Sixth, Los Angeles • 480.8668 • Mention hamburgers and Cassell's name will be sure to come up. It's still good but it used to be a lot better. Homemade lemonade, their own mayonnaise, lots of extra touches. Burgers cooked in an oven to seal in the flavors. Again, one of the best in the city but not as good as before.
RATING: BURGER = B+

HIGH SPOT — Corner Pontius and Santa Monica, West Los Angeles • A tiny little place I stopped in only because I was passing by and saw their sign. Nothing to write home about. RATING: BURGER = C
HAMBURGER HABIT — 8954 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood • 652.0230 • A local landmark. Take out or eat here. And play the video games. Pleasant patio. Freshly squeezed orange juice.
RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = C+
GINGERMAN — 369 North Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills • 273.7585 • One of Beverly Hills' "in" spots. Don't hold it against them. They serve a very fine quality hamburger. And you'll pay top price for it. RATING: BURGER = B+
HAMBURGER CITY — 2045 La Cienega, Los Angeles • Grubby atmosphere. Sign out front proclaims "One of best hamburgers in city:' Inside they claim to grind their own meat and make own patties. RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = C
HAMBURGER CITY — Villa Marina Shopping Center (next to Von's), Marina Del Rey • 823-8703 • No connection with the La Cienega Hamburger City. Small, sparkling clean and pleasant place. Friendly staff. Make own potato salad. Grind own beef using center cut chuck steak. No salt or seasoning used.
RATING: BURGER = B+, POTATO SALAD = B+.
HAMBURGER HENRY'S — 3001 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica
828-3000 • Bright, clean, cheerful establishment. On-thestaff. Forty different hamburger possibilities. Twice I ordered Coke and got a glass of ice and a little bit of Coke. RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = B+
HOWARD'S — 11127 Venice Blvd., West Los Angeles • 838-9111
Take out or eat here. Small, clean and well run. Specialty of the house is the bacon and avocado burger.
RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C
JAY'S BURGERS — Corner Virgil and Santa Monica, Hollywood
666-5204 • A small place. Take out or eat on their little patio. Fresh lemonade. RATING: BURGER = C
MARTY'S — 10558 Pico (Corner Prosser), West Los Angeles. Take out or eat at small counter. No fries, no onion rings, just a basic burger. RATING: BURGER = C
MEATTY MEAT BURGER — 5855 West Pico (Corner Fairfax), Los Angeles • 931.0191 • Small corner burger stand. Four stools and a few tables on their tiny patio. Perhaps the best fries in town.
RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = A
MELTING POT — CORNER Melrose and La Cienega, West Los Angeles • 652-8030 • Sidewalk cafe and indoor dining room. The lettuce was wilted, the tomato tired, the home fries soggy, the burger fair. RATING: BURGER = C
NUCLEUS NUANCE — 7267 Melrose, Los Angeles • 939-8666  I tried their evolution burger at this very chic restaurant. It was $6.95, made from beef they grind themselves and mixed with a bit of veal. The burger was juicy but for me overpriced. RATING: BURGER = C+
OUR PLACE HAMBURGERS — 2056 Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles • Take out or eat here at the counter with six stools. Another place I stopped in to try just because I happened to be driving by. Satisfactory.
RATING: BURGER = C
PETE'S GRANDBURGER 1065 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
482-1844 • On the sign it says "too big to ah eat:' And big it is. And good it is. Tomatoes sliced just before being applied to burger. Try the Grandburger. But come hungry.  RATING: BURGER = B
STEAK BAR — 6751 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles • 462-8653
Owner Abe Pulde is the first to admit his hamburgers are, well, ordinary. And he's right. But he does do a steak or steak and cheese sandwich that makes up for it.  RATING: BURGER = C, STEAK SANDWICH = B+
SUNSET GRILL — 7439 Sunset, West Hollywood • 876-3073 • Someone, I forget who, recommended this place. They said it was better than average. And it is. Barely.  RATING: BURGER = C+

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY AND EASTWARD

BURGER CONTINENTAL — 535 South Lake, Pasadena • 792.6634 •
Take out or eat in front or rear patio. Butcher own meat and grind for the patties. The houseburger is one half pound of quality meat for under $3. Ask them to take the two patties they use to make burger and combine in one large patty. And to cook medium rare. RATING: BURGER = B+

taste HamburgerMcDonaldsBob's Bigboy 



FLAKEY JAKE'S — 1029 South Glendora Ave., West Covina • 960-6609 • Take out or eat in this very large barnlike place. They have their own butcher shop where you can watch the meat being cut and ground. They even have their own bakery for making their buns. A large condiment bar with fresh goodies to put on your burger plus two kinds of melted cheese and a container of sauerkraut. The price is $3.55.
RATING: BURGER = B+, FRIES = C
KNOWLWOOD — 'Temescal Canyon Road, Glen Ivy area (outside of Corona) • Their motto is "World's Best Hamburger." Actually the hamburger is better than average. No more/no less. But they offer a pondside setting to eat your burgers that is very, unusual and attractive.
RATING: BURGER = C+, ONION RINGS = C, FRIES = C
ORANGE DELITE — Arroyo Parkway and California, Pasadena
792-1740 • I stopped at this little take out and restaurant because their sign said they made their own patties. Once there I found they also serve Chinese fast food in what used to be an Orange Julius.
RATING: BURGERS = C, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C
P & G SUPER BURGERS AND DRIVE THRU — 1009 North Citrus Ave., Covina • 967-6846 • Drive through or eat here. Typical all- purpose stand with large fast food menu. They do make their own onion rings and fries which are the heroes here.
RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = B, ONION RINGS = B
PAPA JAC'S — 3544 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena • 795-8208
A shopping center fast food operation. Fries and onion rings frozen. Hamburger average.
RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C
PIE 'N' BURGER — 913 East California Blvd., Pasadena • 795-1123
Chili, homemade pies and burgers are the specialties here. Burgers grilled. Soft buns. Fresh crisp lettuce, no tomatoes. Ask for yours without the sloppy dressing. RATING: BURGER = C+
SALT SHAKER — 240 South Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena • 449-4499 • A pleasant coffee shop. Excellent pastries, pies but the standard burger.
RATING: BURGER = C
TOPS DRIVE-IN — 3838 East Colorado Blvd., Pasadena • 449-4412 • Take out, drive through and eat here. Hectic, fast, noisy. Orders being shouted. Excellent burgers and above average fries and onion rings.
RATING: BURGER B, FRIES = C+, ONION RINGS = C+
WOLFE BURGERS — 46 North Lake, Pasadena • 792-4292 • Take out or eat here in spotlessly clean surroundings. Patio. Burger lean and served as ordered, medium rare. Fries good but onion rings greasy and off flavor.
RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = C+, ONION RINGS = D

BEACHES AND SOUTH BAY

FAT FACE FENNER'S FALLOON — 837 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach • 376-0996 • Typical friendly beach saloon. Always an interesting crowd at the bar. Noise, casual and relaxed. Burger thick, juicy, served with sliced fruit. No fries or onion rings here since nothing deep fried. RATING: BURGER = B
HAMBURGER HENRY'S — 4700 East 2nd Street, Belmont Shores • 433-7010 • The original Henry's. Where it all started. Like the Santa Monica operation, good burgers and great onion rings here. Ordinary fries..
RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = B
THE HAYLOFT — 2711 Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance • 530-1381
The only place I know of where you can get a good hamburger and be serenaded by a live barbershop quartet (Sundays). Try the big half pound Haymaker. Anchor beer.
RATING: BURGER = B
JOHN'S — Corner Juniper° and Spring Streets, Signal Hill • Basic corner burger stand.
RATING: BURGER = C—, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = B
LOOSEY'S CHILI PARLOR AND SALOON — 22252 Palos Verdes Blvd., Torrance • 540-9799 • A real fun place. The waitresses wear cowgirl clothes, or almost wear clothes. A huge burger and good. And try the curly fries. Good chili, Nightly entertainment. RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = B
RUSSELL'S, 4306 Atlantic Avenue, Long Beach • 427-6869 • Also at 5854 East Naples Plaza, Long Beach. A small neighborhood coffee shop with some super great pies. Burgers, though, average. RATING: BURGER = C, HOME FRIES = C


MALIBU

CHRIS' KITCHEN — 18763 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu • remember this place when Chris was still here. It was great. Its still good but definitely not the same. RATING: BURGER = 0+
COUNTRY KITCHEN — 21239 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu • Take out and a few tables out front patio style. RATING: BURGER = C
MALIBU FROST — Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu • Typical fast food operation. I tried the hickory burger and it was just O.K. RATING: BURGER = C

SANTA BARBARA AREA

CHAR WEST — Stearns Wharf — Also 3771 State St., Santa Barbara • Take out or eat inside. Also picnic tables on wharf with great view of sea and Santa Barbara shoreline. RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C—
THE NUGGET — Summeriand (Hwy. 101) • A small coffee shop/hamburger stand. Basic pre-formed burgers. Best part about The Nugget is they serve Dom Perignon by the $75 bottle. RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = C
PALMS — Linden Ave., Carpinteria • A restaurant with pleasant service. Their burger is served on an onion roll. One third pounder. RATING: BURGER = 0+
THE SPOT — 389 Linden Ave., Carpinteria • The LA Times says this is the best burger in California. Judge for yourself. RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = D

SAN DIEGO

FOGGY'S NOTION — 3655 Sports Arena Blvd., San Diego • (619) 222-2791 • A bar cluttered from wall to ceiling with a bit of everything. Video games galore. Burgers huge and very inexpensive. But undistinguished, RATING: BURGER = C, FRIES = C—

ORANGE COUNTY

KNOWLWOOD — Woodridge Village Center, Irvine • (714) 552-0795 • A pleasant enough little spot. But I would disagree with their statement that they are the "Home of the World's Best Hamburger." RATING: BURGER = C+
NEWPORT PATIO CAFE — 1900 West Balboa Avenue, Balboa Peninsula • (714)673-1401 • Take out or eat here. Nice patio plus inside dining. Friendly and very accommodating staff. Burger patties handmade.
RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES = C, ONION RINGS = C
T. K. BURGERS — 2119 West Balboa Blvd., Balboa Peninsula • (714) 675-5904 • Take out or eat here. Named as best burger in Southern California by local radio station. Sorry but I can't agree. RATING: BURGER = C
RUBY'S — End of Balboa Pier, Balboa Peninsula • 675-RUBY
Take out or eat here. Great setting at end of pier. Watch the fisherman catch (or not catch) fish, watch the sun set. Relax. Good clam chowder. Great cherry Coke. A return to the '40s and '50s. Burger patties handmade.
RATING: BURGER = B+, FRIES = C

MULTI-OPERATIONS

IN-N-OUT BURGERS — A first-class fast burger operation. And the prices are more than fair. They do for 95 cents what others do for twice as much. Crisp lettuce, firm tomatoes, fast service. RATING: BURGER = B, FRIES C+
FARRELL'S ICE CREAM PARLORS — They have a special hand formed patty burger that's excellent. RATING: BURGER = B
MARIE CALLENDER — Pleasant surroundings, helpful and friendly staff, good wines by the glass. Their basic burger is a one-third pounder. Mine was juicy, nicely rounded, good flavor, lettuce crispy. Excellent steak fries.
RATING: BURGER = 8, FRIES = B
HAMBURGER HAMLETS — When I first came west I fell in love with the Hamlets. Now there is a problem with consistency, probably because there are so many Hamlets around. I tried three different Hamlets for this rating and overall the hamburgers were good but expensive when compared to other good ones.  And two out of three times the fries were soggy.
RATING: BURGER = C+, FRIES = C











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