BURGERS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
(10) RANKING (in order by city)
(10) FRICKLE BURGER in Cathedral City, CA
Small place, big burgers and flavors. It was a good sign that while waiting for our burgers the worker who took the order was having a discussion with customers about burger joints and the quality of various burgers. We had the Mother Frickle ($7.99) with cheddar, slaw, fries and onion rings, and a Frickleburger ($6.99) with American cheese, slaw, fresh and grilled onions, ketchup and an onion ring. The self-designed Frickleburger was outstanding. The meat has Eastern European seasonings that give it a great flavor and despite being cooked to medium was incredibly juicy. The cheese and toppings combine to make this hearty burger one of the best we have had. The Mother Frickle was very good but the fries may have prevented some of the other toppings from making the burger reach its full potential. This little burger joint is world class.
(RIP Frickleburgers – they went out of business.)
(10) FUKU BURGER in Hollywood, CA
A great name, but a smallish burger menu – five burgers – but burgers are clearly their focus. The service at this place is great and our server suggested the Tamago Burger (egg, onion strings, teriyaki and wasabi mayo among other toppings) and the Buta Burger (bacon, cheese, pickled onions and ginger, and a Japanese BBQ sauce plus wasabi mayo). Both burgers came out cooked medium rare – as recommended by our server and preferred by us. Despite several toppings, the burgers were constructed beautifully and were held together by a bun just solid enough to absorb all the juicy flavors. Both burgers were outstanding, but we give the slight edge to the Tamago. These are incredible, savory and fulfilling burgers.
(10) DOG HAUS in Pasadena, CA
The perfect hamburger bun (Hawaiian rolls) with juicy, flavorful meat, great cheese and flavors that go together wonderfully. Their Holy Aioli with caramelized onions was a cheesy, sweet and savory delight. The Freiburger was a crazy mix of burger, fries and egg with a runny yolk soaking into the bread and potatoes. By far the best burger in its price range. If their burgers are 10s, we hate to think how good their hot dogs might be.
(10) UMAMI BURGER
Umami burger brings a wonderful mix of flavors and their unique burger belongs in this elite group of the best of the best.
(9) RANKING (in order by city)
(9) NESSY BURGERS in Fallbrook, CA The best “fast food” burger we have tried. We don’t know what they feed their cows in Fallbrook but the meat just tastes better. A great burger from an unexpected little burger stand.
(9) Go Burger in Hollywood, CA:
No burger joint does more burgers better. They have a wide variety of burgers and keep experimenting, but most of their experiments are exceptional. The Ultimelt is a burger between two grilled cheese sandwiches, the Lambeau Burger has a fried mac&cheese patty on top of the burgers. Stop by for your low-cal burger. We have tried an Ultimelt ($14), Smashed Burger ($10), and the Lambeau Leap Burger ($15).
(RIP Go Burger – they went out of business early October 2013.)
(9) LUCKY DEVILS in Hollywood, CA
Great meat and a great bun make their burgers outstanding.
We tried a Lucky Burger with Kobe ($11.50) and The Cheeseburger ($10).
(9) WOODSPOON in Los Angeles, CA
This Pork Burger is a savory delight – perhaps to the point of questioning whether it is really a burger. The ground pork is loaded with spices bringing out incredible flavors. The patty is enormous – it must be at least 10 ounces. The cooked cabbage goes wonderfully with the burger. The bun is not substantial enough to allow this beast to be easily held, but any bun that was would not fit in a normal human’s mouth. This is an outstanding burger, however this Brazilian restaurant also serves the best chicken pot pie on the planet, so choose wisely.
(9) BARE BACK GRILL in San Diego, CA
This place is working some magic with its creative burgers. Beets, egg and edam cheese – amazing. Bacon, grilled pineapple and edam cheese – even better. The foccacia bun and each topping in perfect amounts makes for incredible burgers.
(9) NICKY ROTTENS in San Diego, CA
A surprisingly good burger at a nice price and great location in the Gaslamp District. Classic fixin’s, just done a bit better than most.
TRAVELLER’S CAFE in Temecula, CA
Some of the best burger meat we have tasted. A great little restaurant is delivering spectacular, home-style food and shows a genuine concern for quality and the customer in the way they interact. The patty is “50/50 ground beef and ground brisket” and when ordered medium rare was incredibly pink with juices flowing and packing flavor. We opted for the stuffed burger filled with havarti cheese. It was our preferred burger and was a delight. The havarti cheese is just strong enough to hold up to the other flavors without overpowering any element. A great blend of meat and cheese with a good, soft bun. Burger No. 2 was the Billy’s Best Burger featuring a perfectly prepared patty topped with mushrooms, jack cheese and bacon. Another burger deserving of the very high score here. We tried the excellent french fries and the enormous onion rings, which absorb a bit too much oil and as a result were a bit heavy for our taste. They had some great sounding appetizers on their menu and I am still not sure how we did not add the corn fritters with bacon, chives, and jalapeno jelly to our order.
Traveller’s Cafe is located at 26485 Ynez Rd., Suite N, Temecula, California.
(8) Slater’s 50/50 in Anaheim Hills:
This place has to be high on the list of anyone searching for a great burger. The 50/50 refers to the meat combination that is 50% beef and 50% bacon ($9.95). Genius. They also have traditional beef burgers, but we did prefer the 50/50. It is cooked well, but remains juicy and is an excellent patty, and was the best of the burgers we tried. Despite the great meat, the buns were a bit too dense and despite the combination of great ingredients, they made an outstanding burger but not quite to the level we had anticipated. The Old Timey is another good classic burger. The Peanut Butter and Jellousy (yep, just what you think it is) was quite different, but lacked enough jelly to balance it all out. The Thanksgiving Burger just left us wishing we would be driving past a Capriottis on the way home (best sandwich chain on the planet). In addition to their very creative combos, you can build your own.
(8) Burger Boss in Riverside, CA:
Just a couple weeks after opening, we stopped in and were impressed. Good meat grilled perfectly, a choice of sauce, cheese and toppings on the made-to-order burger. (Surprisingly, relish is not among a list of toppings that includes grilled jalapeno and mushroom option.) The bun also was a nice complement. With the right combination, this place may earn a high rating.
(8) Hole in the Wall Burger Joint in Santa Monica, CA:
The appropriately named burger house takes its burgers seriously and delivers an excellent product. The burgers are juicy and flavorful. The toppings are simple but well done and the bread choices are outstanding. The first burger was with cranberry mayo, mustard relish, lettuce, tomato and onion on a pretzel bread bun. The pretzel bun was one of the best of any kind we have tried on a burger. It was softer than expected and did not fight with the burger, but was great at absorbing all the juices. The mustard relish was also an outstanding addition. We also tried a burger-of-the-week which is a regular patty that is specially seasoned, in this case with cumin and some other Middle Eastern spices. It was quite good, but perhaps paying the bit extra was not worth it as the regular burger is so good it left little room for improvement. The basic build-it-yourself burger is $8.95 and the Burger of the Week was about $1.50 more. This restaurant is cash only – and is getting ready to change locations, so check before you go.
(7) Get the Burger in Big Bear Lake, CA:
A fun place with good burgers in this mountain resort town. Grilled onions and burgers made fresh to order help this joint pull off a very tasty hamburger. The burger we ordered was the Leading Man Burger ($5.30), which is the burger in the photo below.
(7) The Bucket in Eagle Rock, CA:
This place is a tacky dive – and it is wonderful. Not sure if it is a bar or food joint, but it doesn’t matter. They have plenty of beer and a smallish menu, but they do know how to make a good burger. We went with the Mild Cardiac and the Western Burger. The Mild Cardiac with a mere 1/2 pound of meat (the Cardiac Burger has 1 pound) is joined with grilled ham and a couple slices of cheese. The mushrooms and onions that finish it off are grilled to order and the lettuce and tomato are fresh. The juicy, dripping beef patty makes quite a mess, but nothing a few extra napkins couldn’t help clean up. The Western Burger with its onion ring and barbecue sauce is an equally good burger.
(7) Bergie’s Pub in San Diego, CA:
Bergies makes a serious burger that is simple and flavorful. Their burger is all about the meat – the bun is overwhelmed by the tasty patties. They offer their burgers in singles, doubles and triples. We went with the double, but we’d suggest just going with the 1/3 pound single for plenty of food and a better balance for all the flavors. The burger comes with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on the side and ketchup, mustard, relish and Tobasco on the tables. The guys running the bar do a nice job of service and providing good quality eats.
(7) Crazee Burger in San Diego, CA:
This guy is nuts. Crazy people should open more burger stands because even though the meat and bun were not exceptional, the creative burger toppings made this a tasty and memorable stop.
(7) Hodad’s in San Diego, CA:
A burger joint that just does burgers very well. Greasy and tasty burgers come flying out of this popular beach dive.
(6) Juicy Burger in Hollywood, CA:
We want to love this burger, but the meat just lacks the flavor and texture (despite the name, it’s not all that juicy). You can pick your toppings and bun, but it just never seems to be on par with a couple of the great hamburger joints within a half mile of here.
(6) MVP’s Grill & Patio in Long Beach, CA:
Hole in the wall with great, wallet-friendly mom-and-pop burgers. Nice 1/3 pound burgers – all named after George Foreman – made to order pack plenty of flavor, especially if you remember to request the fresh and/or grilled onions. They also serve up over-sized portions of cajun fries.
MVP’s Grill located at 3701 E. 4th Street, Long Beach, California
(6) Zorba’s Burgers in Riverside, CA:
The mom-and-pop type burger joint with a standard, unexceptional beef patty, but fresh thin sliced lettuce, tomato and thousand island. When they add pastrami to the burger (the Zorba’s Burger), you have one heck of a tasty sandwich. The pastrami is proportioned right and brings a great flavor to the burger.
Zorba’s located at 450 Iowa Avenue, Riverside, California
(6) Hosie’s Pacific Pub in Oceanside, CA:
A “pub” is a generous term for this beach-side dive bar, but they do make a surprisingly good hamburger. Nothing complicated, but all fresh and done well.
(6) Kings Row Gastropub in Pasadena, CA:
A simple burger that lets the meat speak for itself. Problem is, the meat didn’t have much to say. Good quality burger, just not bringing a ton of flavor. The thick focacia buns are good for sopping up the juices without falling apart. Overall a well done burger, just not a great one.
(6) Gaslamp Tavern in San Diego, CA:
A bar that makes a nice burger. Surprisingly, their barbecue burger with a crisp onion ring might have been even better than their bacon cheeseburger.
(6) Randy Jones All American Sports Grill in San Diego, CA:
The Cy Young winning pitcher makes a pretty good burger. Choice meat and fresh toppings. However, despite the excellent ingredients, the flavors just don’t meld together to make the burger great.
(6) Rocky’s Crown Pub in San Diego, CA:
This great corner bar has earned a great reputation for its burgers. We think perhaps the beer goggles have led some people to think this 6 is really a 10. The burger is very simply made with fresh ingredients and is a good burger. Burgers come in 1/3 and 1/2 pound ($5-$6.25). Good, flavorful meat cooked nicely with a basic bun, lettuce, tomato and onion.
(6) Rick’s Drive In & Out in Whittier, CA:
Maybe it’s the nostalgia because it is the burger John grew up with and it still tastes like it did 35 years ago. Your classic mom-and-pop burger joint hamburger, but the lettuce, onions and sauce always seem to be just a bit better here. We ordered a Cheeseburger ($3.83).
Rick’s Drive In & Out is located at 7254 Greenleaf Avenue, Whittier, California.
(5) Apple Pan in Los Angeles, CA:
A good fast food burger in a legendary setting. (We would have preferred a legendary burger in a good setting). We ordered a Hickoryburger ($5.00)
(5) Big League Burger & Grill in Moreno Valley, CA:
Newly opened burger joint hidden in the back corner of a large strip mall. Burger selection is pretty limited, but they’ve got the basics. The burger is a slightly elevated mom-and-pop style sandwich. The meat itself is nothing special, but they do a nice job of giving it some flavor when grilling. It comes with a nice lettuce leaf and substantial tomato slice – both very fresh – to go with the thousand island. All this is on a fairly hearty and good quality bun. While it isn’t anything special, it is better than quick-stop burger joints. Plus, they make a nice basket of onion rings.
Located at 24907 Sunnymead Blvd, Ste. 1, Moreno Valley, CA
(5) Burger Zone in Ontario, CA:
Very easy on the pocket book, but this mom-and-pop style burger joint steps it up a bit. In addition to your fresh lettuce, tomato, chopped onions and thousand island dressing, you can choose a regular or wheat bun. The seasoned fries were a nice touch as well.
(5) Harry’s Cafe in Perris, CA:
Cheap mom-and-pop burger does well as it is made to order and a good mixture of onions, lettuce, tomato and sauce. In addition to making a very nice, inexpensive burger, this is about as friendly of a place as you will find.
(5) Riverwalk Burgers in Riverside, CA:
Riverwalk Burgers got off to a rough start when we were told the burger with the great looking onion bun on their menu and advertising doesn’t really exist, and the mom-and-pop restaurant is clearly no premium burger outlet. However, one thing this place does have going for it is the Riverwalk Burger. This burger features a rather standard beef patty, some tasty bacon, mushrooms, Swiss cheese and – the part that makes it really work – cheesy, toasted sourdough bread for a bun. The only downside is that the bread is regular thickness and doesn’t hold up very well to the juices, making the burger rather sloppy but distinctly tasty. We also tried the cheeseburger, which was a good basic burger (it would have rated a 4). Friendly servers and some pretty good onion rings can also be expected here.
Riverwalk Burger is located at 3812 Pierce Street, Riverside, California.
(5) Harry’s Pacific Grill in Temecula, CA:
Very simple burger that relies on an excellent juicy hamburger patty to carry the day and it does not disappoint. We ordered a Custom Burger ($12 includes fries).
(5) Irv’s Burgers in West Hollywood, CA:
Burger 5, service 10. This hole-in-the-wall across the street from Hamburger Mary’s in WeHo is awesome. I doubt you will find friendlier service anywhere in the country. The burger is your nice, basic burger with a tangy sauce made as you order. A great place for a bargain priced meal where you can “Enjoy the view and the ocean breeze.”
Irv’s Burger is located at 8289 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, California.
(4) Steve’s Burger in Hemet, CA:
Good local eats at this mom-and-pop joint, but nothing special to help it stand out from the crowd.
We ordered a Cheeseburger and Avocado Bacon Burger.
Steve’s Burger is located at 905 E Florida Avenue, Hemet, California.
(4) Susan Feniger’s Street in Los Angeles, CA:
Celebrity chef’s restaurant brings together a lot of interesting ingredients and flavors from around the world and dishes are mostly tapas style. However, the Street Burger ($12) is different on both counts: it is a full-size burger and it isn’t very interesting. The biggest disappointment was that the meat is overpowered by the bread and yuzo kosho mayonnaise. It was almost like having a salad sandwich. With the high-quality ingredients and uncomplicated burger, we were surprised this one sizzled out. It is the only truly disappointing item we have had on the menu.
(4) Richie’s Burger in Moreno Valley, CA:
A fast food burger but lacks the freshness that some of the better fast food stops have.
We ordered a Cheeseburger ($3.75). Richie’s Burger is located at 22380 Cactus Avenue, Moreno Valley, California.
NOTE: No longer in business
(4) Enzo’s BBQ in Oceanside, CA:
Great barbecue, but just a decent burger. The quality meat makes this burger slightly above average, but if you are here, stick to the Q and you will get a great meal.
(4) Famous Betty’s in Redlands, CA:
A great ’50s setting, good service and low prices, but a mediocre burger. The burger is fairly basic and the meat is nothing special.
Famous Betty’s is located at 26 E State St, Redlands, California.
(4) George’s Drive In in Riverside, CA:
A good value (think large portions) and some of the best onion rings we’ve ever had, but the burger is just your good standard burger.
We ordered the Cheeseburger ($3.60) (or the “Burger Special” with fries and a 32oz. drink for $5.20).
(4) Jersey Burger in Riverside, CA:
New kid in town uses fresh toppings and makes a good hamburger.
We ordered the Cheeseburger ($3.47). Jersey Burger is located at 3940 University Avenue, Riverside, California.
(4) Johnny’s Burgers in Riverside, CA:
This place has its fans and their burger is good. However, with In-n-Out 300 feet away, we are unlikely to return.
We ordered the Cheeseburger (TBA). Johnny’s Burgers is located at 3394 Madison Street, Riverside, California.
(4) Lucky Greek in Riverside, CA:
Fast food burger from a local dive that churns out a tasty, basic burger.
We ordered a Cheeseburger ($2.99). Lucky Greek is located at 2770 University Avenue, Riverside, California.
(4) MGM Burgers in Riverside, CA:
A fast food burger delivers as expected, but nothing exceptional.
We ordered the Cheeseburger ($3.50). MGM Burgers is located at 1691 Main Street, Riverside, California.
(4) Salted Pig in Riverside, CA:
A big mouthful of disappointment from a great local gastropub. The thing wasn’t horrible, but despite quality ingredients the flavor was just a bit salty and unimpressive.
We ordered the Really Good Burger ($15 includes fries).
(4) Mad Madeline’s Grill in Temecula, CA:
They crank out a lot of burgers in a good setting in Old Town Temecula, but their larger burger made for a nice meal, but we were not impressed. We ordered the CheeseBurger ($7.54).
(4) Astro Burger in West Hollywood, CA:
Again with the mom-and-pop burger, but done well. The Ortega Burger with a chili and barbecue sauce was also done well. A nice place for a cheap meal. We ordered the Cheeseburger ($3.39) and Ortega Burger ($4.09).
Astro Burger is located at 7475 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, California.
(3) Storytellers Cafe in Anaheim, CA:
For a restaurant that puts on a fun-filled and tasty breakfast, the burger from the lunch menu proved to be a big disappointment. The “charbroiled” meat not only lacked flavor but was burned. In addition, the Harvest bun took away from the burger experience – it was not stale, but it certainly was tough. Steer clear of this burger.
(3) Mombasa Island Cooker in Escondido, CA:
This restaurant caters to a captive audience inside the San Diego Wild Animal Park. The restaurant has a handful of menu items that includes a cheeseburger and a Western burger. We opted to try the Western burger, which comes with grilled onions, bacon, cheese and barbecue sauce. The burger is about a quarter pound of unimpressive, likely frozen and preformed beef. The saving grace for the burger is a good, soft bun and good toppings. Opt for the pulled pork and you will get a better sandwich.
(3) Peggy Sue’s’ ’50s Diner in Yermo, CA:
The ’50s were about music, great cars, movie stars and friends, but apparently not much for burgers. Great kitschy joint packed with fun memorabilia, “diner-saurs” and a gift shop, but eat something other than their hamburger.
(3) P & G Burgers in Moreno Valley, CA:
Just a notch below the other fast food burgers, but once we are in the 3′s, we won’t be coming back.
We ordered a Cheeseburger ($3.39). P & G Burgers is located at 24992 Alessandro Blvd., Moreno Valley, California.
None so far in Southern California.
None so far in Southern California.