In the South Bay area of Los Angeles, even those fitness-minded, Whole Foods-shopping beach types cave to a burger craving every now and again. We’re not talking about a trendy, expensive, Kobe beef burger topped with artisanal cheese, either.
In So Cal, the basic burger standard is pretty high, having been set by regional cult favorite In-N-Out Burger. Simply head to your nearest In-N-Out and place your order “Animal Style” (mustard-cooked patty and grilled onions), for a fresh, healthy-tasting burger that will satisfy your craving every time. Beyond In-N-Out, mix up your burger splurges using this list of favorite South Bay burger joints as a starting point.
185 Culver Blvd.
Playa del Rey
Don’t mention a Kobe beef burger here. You’ll risk getting punched by some dude at the bar if you do. The Shack Burger is the best burger you can get just steps from the sand. This is the original location of a laid-back, six-restaurant chain that now has Shacks in the groovy locales of Hawaii, Colorado and Santa Monica, CA. The no-pretense, beach dive vibe on the patio or inside in the bar area can’t be beat. So what exactly is the burger that makes The Shack famous? It’s The Shack Cheeseburger, a juicy, quarter-pound burger that is topped with -get ready – a grilled, spicy, Louisiana hot link or Portuguese sausage, with your choice of cheese and all the usual fixings. Sure, a burger topped by a sausage sounds weird, but it tastes pretty dang good. The Shack’s other burger choices, including the Swiss and ‘Shroom burger, The Guacamole Burger, The Thunder Humper – an open-faced chili burger with cheese and onions – are good too. You can also get a hot dog or sausage without the burger. The Shack Dog is a Louisiana hot link or Portuguese sausage topped with your choice of onions, mustard, relish, chili and cheese. Don’t say no to the curly fries, either.
The Habit Burger Grill
311 No. Sepulveda Blvd.
It’s a hard habit to break, this place. Somehow they’ve managed to trick me into thinking I’m eating healthy when I get a burger here. This is another California beach burger story, since The Habit got its start in Santa Barbara in 1969, selling burgers for 26 cents. Its young owner bought a charbroiler, a piece of equipment that adds a smoky flavor to anything broiled over its open flame. Enter the Habit Charburger: 100 percent lean ground beef, ground daily on site, with mayo, pickle, fresh tomato, hand-sliced lettuce and caramelized onions, on a custom-made, grilled until golden and toasty bun. That’s some pretty great taste for only $2.95. Yum. There’s no Habit “atmosphere” to speak of, though when you eat in, the staff is friendly and helpful when it comes to delivering your food to your table. I will come clean and admit that what I really like here is the veggie burger. Give the onion rings and sweet potato fries a try. You won’t be disappointed.
700-A Allied Way
The Counter is a newer chain slowly branching out from L.A. and moving across the country. It’s a hipster, industrial-modern take on the classic burger joint. The Counter aims for a loud, fun and friendly atmosphere, with trendy music blaring and beer and wine flowing, if you want it. The Culver City, CA-based Counter has a build-your-own burger concept like you’ve never seen. When you arrive, you are given a clipboard and are instructed to follow the listed steps. Step One: Choose a beef, turkey, or veggie burger (chicken sandwiches are available too). For step two you choose a cheese, with selections including horseradish cheddar, brie, feta and Danish Blue Cheese, to name a few. Step Three: Choose from an unusual array of toppings: dried cranberries, coleslaw, spicy peppercorns, grilled pineapple, corn and black bean salsa, hard-boiled eggs, scallions, sprouts, and roasted red peppers, among others. The sauce selections get even more adventurous: apricot sauce, basil pesto, buttermilk ranch and ginger soy glaze are at the more interesting end of the spectrum. Put it all on a bun or English muffin (or have it without the bun in a bowl), open your mouth -wide – and take a bite. If you don’t want to do all of the work, The Counter menu also includes recommendations on house burgers.