I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Growing up, I always loved this place: incredible weather, incredible sports, incredible people, incredible culture, incredible food. At no point in the first quarter century of my life did I ever seriously consider settling anywhere else.
But weirdly enough, Los Angeles never felt quite as much like home as it did after I left and came back. I spent the last three years at law school in Virginia. It was a tough three years, to be sure. There was a ton of work. There were massive cultural differences. I worried about finding a job here in Los Angeles. There were these strange things called “seasons”. My dating life bordered on tragic (that’s for another blog). I missed my family. I missed my friends. I came to appreciate Los Angeles on another, higher, level.
But in spite of all the cultural, social, intellectual, and romantic challenges, I missed one thing about California more than anything else: In-N-Out (pictured above). I came to realize that nothing – nothing – could fill the hole left by the absence of a Double-Double with fried mustard, grilled onions, and a little extra toast on the bun. I could never have imagined how horrifying it was to live around people who thought “animal style” was some deviant Californian sexual practice.
But it wasn’t just In-N-Out. I craved Umami Burger. Father’s Office. The Bowery. Pie ‘N Burger. I missed them all. I missed the Los Angeles burger scene. I had never really thought or spoke about “the Los Angeles burger scene” before I left. Once I was gone, though, I quickly realized L.A. does have a burger scene, and it’s special.
Los Angeles doesn’t really have the traditional “high food” scene that, say, New York has. We don’t a have Michelin-starred restaurant on every block, and we have way fewer places you’d be likely to see on a culinary tourist’s bucket list than New York. But we have an incredible food scene here. Its nucleus is a generation of insanely talented chefs exposed to a huge variety of cultural and ethnic influences and who aren’t enslaved by “the rules” of haute cuisine.
So Los Angeles has become kind of a culinary laboratory. Experimentation, not convention, is at the heart of our cuisine. Ours a food scene built on fusion; chefs here make the counterintuitive feel familiar. The Gorbals’ irreverent bacon-wrapped matzo balls. Kogi’s Korean GI tract-ravaging kimchee quesadillas. Every little delicious thing at Picca, Ricardo Zarate’s Peruvian-Japanese funhouse. Nowhere is this innovative spirit more apparent than in our hamburgers. We have countless ridiculous people in this town who work miracles between two pieces of bread. And the scene is exploding; every month, a new place opens up featuring a burger.
But anyway, back in Virginia, as I thought longingly about all the incredible burgers I had come to love over my time in Los Angeles, it occurred to me: for every burger I adored, there were a few I had never tried but was dying to. I started reading about the (literally) hundreds of places to get a delicious burger in Los Angeles. The more I read, the more I realized that I had to try them all. I needed to know whether they would live up to the hype. So I started making a list.
Now I’m back, and I have a (still-growing) list of about one hundred restaurants. For as long as it takes, I’ll be trying those restaurants’ best burgers, and writing about them here. I won’t be alone. I have a dedicated group of culinary/burger enthusiasts on hand at every shop I go to. This site, then, will be part-journal and part-reference. I’m not on a quest to find The Best Hamburger. I’m taking a trip through my city, my home, to discover – or, rather, re-discover – why this is the best place on the planet to get a hamburger.
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy.