You Probably Haven't Heard of America's Best Fried Chicken Chain
Eagle Rock and Hollywood
While The Oinkster’s house-cured pastrami and pulled pork are things of beauty, their burgers are also works of delicious, meaty art. While their towering and beloved Royale pushes above the $10 mark, you can score an also-excellent classic burger for $6.50, which features a 1/3lb Angus patty. Seated on a spongy, sesame-seed bun, the burger features dill pickles, lettuce, onions, tomato, and Thousand Island dressing with the option of American or cheddar for 75 cents more or fancy-pants Gruyere for $1.50. There’s also a vegan option for $6.
This classic neighborhood-joint near Watts has been stacking delicious burgers as high as the nearby Watts Towers since 1939. Hawkins’ lengthy menu leaves plenty of room for customizing your perfect burger, but to keep it under $10, you’ll have to hold off on some of their more elaborately loaded combos like the Whipper or the Leaning Tower of Watts. Stretch your dollar (and your waistline, heyo!) with the Fat Bacon Egg and Cheese Burger for $8.99, which features a griddle-cooked 8oz Black Angus-chuck patty topped with thick slices of smoky applewood bacon, American cheese, egg, and the standard toppings of mayo, mustard, pickles, red onions, tomatoes, and leafy green lettuce on a cushy bun. If you’re feeling fancy you can add on grilled mushrooms and onions, BBQ sauce, and jalapeños for no extra charge.
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This cash-only Pasadena institution has been delivering strong on its straightforward name since 1963. Just eight bucks and a nickel scores you their à la carte burger -- a juicy, 1/4lb beef, turkey, or veggie patty, served atop sliced pickles and Thousand Island dressing, and topped with crunchy iceberg lettuce, all served on a fluffy, buttery, toasted bun. For 50 cents more they’ll throw in a slice of American cheese, and a tomato slice for 35 cents more. Fries or any other side will push you past the $10 mark, but if you’re really looking to max out your calorie/dollar count, we highly recommend a slice of their house-made pie.
This West LA classic has steadily maintained a prized spot in the hearts (and stomachs) of inexpensive-burger lovers since opening in 1947, and not much else in the charming joint has changed since. And while you won’t find mid-century prices, $7.10 for a nicely charred, thick patty is still quite the deal. While the OG Steakburger is solid, we suggest opting for the smoky Hickoryburger with its tangy house sauce in addition to the standard crunchy lettuce, pickles, and mayo. Also, we recommend splurging for the Tillamook cheddar for 50 cents more. Also also, save room for the banana cream pie. Also also also, bring cash.
Burbank & other locations
While Dog Haus’ snappy franks and sausages are worth the visit, you shouldn’t hate on their Haus Burgers. Ringing in at $7.99, these beasts deliver a hearty patty made of chuck and brisket served on four conjoined King's Hawaiian buns for a sweet-savory knockout. While they offer a solid lineup of topping options, we’re particular fans of the Little Mule for its SoCal-friendly combo of fried egg, Cotija cheese, white American cheese, avocado, pickled jalapeños, and chipotle aioli.
This classic Venice dive is the spot to hit for a cold pitcher of beer and a solid, inexpensive burger. Rumored to have been a favorite hang of Jim Morrison's, Hinano Cafe has been a port in the storm (or sunshine) since 1962. The well-seasoned and griddle-charred patty is available as a single ($6.50) or a double ($8.50) and is served on a sesame-studded egg bun with standard-issue lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, mustard, relish, and the option of cheddar or Swiss. You can also opt for a veggie or turkey patty. And if you’re willing to push the budget, you can deck that bad boy out with a hot link or bacon for an extra $2 or chili for 50 cents.
This no-frills, strip mall stalwart has been cranking out a reliable, griddle-seared 1/4lb burger for decades, but it’s really the waves of crisp bacon and huge hunks of avocado that make it worth the trip. The signature burger rings in at $5.35, but you should probably hit up Howard’s Special, which nets you the burger, fries, and a soda for $8.29. You can also add bacon, avocado, and chili to nearly everything on the menu -- which includes a taco with a burger patty -- and you probably should.
For over 50 years, Bill Elwell has been flippin’ burgers in his shoebox-sized Van Nuys store. Bring cash, order up a double cheeseburger with the works for just $5.30, and get ready to enjoy a little slice of old-school burger heaven in the Valley. Feel the need to add bacon and grilled onions? Do it.
Burgerlords opened a tiny kitchen in Chinatown late last year, turning out high-quality beef and vegan burgers on the relative cheap. Their streamlined, handwritten menu offers an excellent $5 hamburger, which features a 3oz patty of grass-fed brisket, short rib, and chuck. Add a slice of American for 50 cents, make it a double for $7 or add $3 for a combo with fries and a coke. The $6 veg-option delivers big with a tight, flavorful patty of roasted eggplant, barley, garbanzos, and leeks with optional vegan cheese for 50 more cents. Both include leafy green lettuce, a thick cut of tomato, onions (fried or not), and a house sauce. Now, good luck finding a seat on the crowded picnic tables.
For a bit of retro-diner fun and a solid, old-school burger, Hamburger Habit is your spot. While you could stick to their more straightforward option, The Works is really the way to go. For $6.20, you'll be hooked up with a 1/4lb patty dressed up with a manageable spread of their tangy chili, grated cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and pickles, all on a sesame seed bun with a pickle on the side.
While you wouldn’t be wrong to order up some ribs from JNJ, if you’re in the mood for a hearty burger, look no further than the side window of this smoky shack. While everything on the menu will keep you under the $10 mark, the JNJ Four Finger Burger is the beast you’re looking for. This meat tower comes stacked with two patties, two slices of cheese, two split hot dogs, three slices of bacon, an egg, and all the usual fixings for just $7. Now that’s a deal.
North Hollywood & other locations
Well, duh. While you could push past the $10 mark with your elaborate “secret” menu order (we see you, 4x4 Animal-Style fans) if you’re sticking with the classics, you should have plenty of change left over.
Downtown & other locations
Sustainably sourced meat typically means a heftier price tag, but at Belcampo you can chow down on quality, grass-fed beef for a mere $5 with their drive-through-inspired Fast Burger at their Grand Central Market location. While not as unwieldy as most roadside burgers around town, the 3oz patty -- sourced from their own farms in Shasta Valley -- packs in the flavor in a big way, and is topped with house-made American cheese, butter lettuce, tomato, red onion, and house sauce, all served on a potato bun, and you can make it a double for $8 or save your cash for those killer beef tallow-cooked fries. You can also stay under the $10 mark at their W. Third St location with their BBQ and mutton Fastburgers and at lunch in Santa Monica with a double Fastburger.
Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach
While this South Bay institution may have expanded to a second location from its humble beginnings at the back of a Redondo Beach liquor store, they still turn out a mean burger deal. You could go over budget with some of their elaborate offerings, but most of the classics stay around the $9 mark. For some smoky goodness, check out the Dressed burger, with caramelized onions, bacon, smoked gouda, bleu cheese, tomato jam, a fried egg and their Korean aioli.
Recently saved from near extinction, this vintage Route 66 roadside holdout may have moved from its original shack, but it still serves a mean burger. While the classic double cheeseburger will treat you right, the Simon burger adds pastrami to the mix and clocks in at $5.29 -- plus the burger always features a hand-drawn little bit of art from the owners. Seriously!
Since 1959, this old-school, roadside stand had been busting out their famed “Combo”: six bucks and change gets you a seared patty, topped with American cheese and a split hot dog (because obviously sometimes deciding between a burger and a dog is tough). Pro tip: splurge for the chili and onions -- totally worth the 75 cents. And don’t forget the Orange Bang.
Say what you will about how this East Coast import compares to SoCal classics, it’s hard to argue with the quality burger they turn out at a reasonable price. And if you’re looking for an option that hits close to home, go for their LA-only Roadside Double. A nod to the French Dip, this $8.99 double Swiss cheeseburger comes with Dijon mustard and onions that have simmered in bacon and beer -- which sounds like a pretty good life to us.
This Santa Monica favorite offers a mind-boggling array of choices to customize your burger while still staying just under $10, but the best decision you’ll make is their pretzel bun. From there you can select a sustainably-sourced beef patty (or turkey, veggie, or chicken if you’re feeling it!) and select your toppings to your heart’s content. And while this may look like the nicest “hole-in-the-wall” you’ve seen, they’re still cash-only.
1. Hawkins House of Burgers11603 Slater St, Watts
2. Pie 'n Burger913 E California Blvd, Pasadena
3. The Apple Pan10801 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
4. Dog Haus3335 S Figueroa St Ste D, Los Angeles
5. Hinano Cafe15 Washington Blvd, Venice
6. Bill's Hamburgers14742 Oxnard St,
7. The Oinkster2005 Colorado Blvd, Eagle Rock
8. Burgerlords943 N Broadway, Los Angeles
9. Howard's Famous Bacon & Avocado Burgers11127 Venice Blvd Ste 7, Los Angeles
10. In-N-Out Burger922 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles
11. Hamburger Habit11223 National Blvd, Los Angeles
12. JNJ Burger Shack5754 W Adams Blvd, Los Angeles
13. Belcampo Meat Co.8053 W 3rd St, Los Angeles
14. The Standing Room144 N Catalina Ave, Redondo Beach
15. Irv's Burgers7998 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood
16. Marty's Hamburger Stand10558 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles
17. Shake Shack8520 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles
18. Hole in the Wall Burger Joint2200 Colorado Ave, Los Angeles
This family-owned burger institution in Watts serves up mile-high burgers, like the signature Hawkins Special that piles three beef patties, pastrami, hot links, chili, eggs, and bacon into a very messy sandwich. Even if you keep your order simple with a junior cheeseburger, one bite of the delightfully greasy burger will have you joining Hawkins' cult following.
This old-school Pasadena eatery has been working the griddle since 1963. The all-day diner serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but the specialities are by far the perfectly charred burgers on house-made white bread and the fruit pies. The space is designed like a classic lunch counter with old-fashioned diner decals, and the best seat in the house is a swivel stool at the formica counter.
This West LA diner has been serving burgers, pie, and classic American sandwiches at its U-shaped counter since 1947. Not much has changed about The Apple Pan since it opened: the registers are mechanical, the cooks wear soda jerk paper hats, and the red counter stools are still intact. Thankfully, the menu is pretty much the same too, and the signature Hickoryburger, Steakburger, and banana cream pie are as popular as ever. Fun fact: Diner chain Johnny Rockets is modeled after The Apple Pan.
This fast-casual spot is the place to go for gourmet-level sausages, hot dogs, and burgers. The hot dogs are all-beef, the sausages are hand-crafted, and the burgers are a blend of chuck and brisket. The funky menu dresses each up in bacon-wrapped ways, and if meat isn't your thing, don't worry, veggie versions are available upon request. Just don't forget to order chili cheese tater tots on the side.
Open since 1969, Hinano Cafe was reportedly Jim Morrison's favorite bar in Venice. Claim to fame aside, the uber-casual, beachside mainstay has great beer and an even better burger, served on a sesame-studded egg bun with standard toppings (lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayo, mustard, and relish) and add-ons like cheddar, Swiss, chili, and bacon. The bar slightly resembles a tiki hut from the outside, but the interior is a typical dive scene with a pool table and TVs.
Bill Elwell has been cooking up burgers for 50 years in this unassuming shack, and they're almost good enough to make you forget all about that In-N-Out place. Treat yourself with one of Bill's bacon, pastrami, and four cheese hamburgers, and you'll never look back.
This fast-casual burger joint with locations in Eagle Rock and Hollywood reimagines American classics using high-quality ingredients and pricing everything below $10. The one-third pound hamburger, made with Nebraska Angus beef, is a signature, as are sandwiches like the house-cured pastrami and BBQ pulled pork. The space feels like a retro diner with red vinyl booths and an A-frame roof. If you needed further proof that The Oinkster is above and beyond your standard fast-food restaurant, then consider this: it makes its own ketchup and serves a rotating selection of craft beer.
This tiny Chinatown spot turns out high-quality beef and house-made vegan burgers on the cheap. In the style of In-N-Out, Burgerlords sticks to a few menu items: hamburger (single or double), cheeseburger, vegan burger, vegan cheeseburger, and shoestring fries. You order at a walk-up window, and if you don't take your food to go, eat it at one of the sidewalk picnic tables.
It's pretty clear what the speciality is at Howard's, a Venice stalwart that's been in the same strip mall location for decades. Thin quarter-pound patties are grilled and slapped on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato, giant chunks of avocado, and crispy slabs of bacon to form a wonderfully creamy, salty, and meaty combination. The rest of the menu is tiny, but you can boost your burger with toppings like chili, fried egg, and American cheese.
What is In-N-Out if not the best fast-food chain on the West Coast? The California-based burger, fries, and milkshake purveyor is known for its super-simple menu that features only three burger styles -- hamburger, cheeseburger, and the double-double. It doesn't take much (literally, just ask the person taking your order) to find out the secret menu, which is where you'll find triple and quadruple-stacked patties, grilled cheese, and the trademarked Animal Style burger topped with grilled onions. You'll have to wait a bit longer for your order than you would at say, McDonald's, because the heat lamp-free establishment cooks patties fresh-to-order and slices potatoes in-stores.
Since 1990, Hamburger Habit has been serving its loaded burgers from a 50s-style roadside diner in West LA. The Hamburger Habit experience mixes the Southern California vibe of In-N-Out with the retro decor of Johnny Rockets, but is simpler, cheaper, and greasier. The menu is built around quarter-pound burgers whose toppings range from a pickle to the works, which at Hamburger Habit means chili, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickles. The options aren’t limited to burgers though -- hot dogs, grilled cheese, and hot sandwiches are also on the menu.
Hidden behind awnings and an iron fence, this literal shack in West Adams specializes in burgers and barbecue standbys like pork ribs, beef brisket, and pulled pork. The menu is crowded with meats and sides (collard greens, chili fries, mac & cheese), and you’ll have to make a game time decision between the BBQ combo plate and one of the single or double burgers. Before you make any rash decisions, know that the signature Four Finger Burger -- two patties, two hot dogs, three slices of bacon, and an egg -- is unforgettable. Aside from the kitchen, JNJ is outdoors, but there’s a covered patio with picnic tables.
California-based butcher and cafe chain Belcampo Meat Co. sources all of its grass-fed, organic beef from its own farm. The West Third outpost doesn't have a full-fledged butcher shop like other LA locations; instead, the counter-serve space focuses on quality burgers loaded with toppings like caramelized onions, American cheese, and barbecue sauce. It also serves egg, bacon, and sausage breakfast sandwiches for the morning rush.
Hidden inside Catalina Liquor, The Standing Room is an inconspicuous counter-serve that cooks up incredible burgers in Redondo Beach. The vaguely Asian-American menu has a pretty extensive selection of half-pound burgers and hot sandwiches, plus sides like truffle parmesan fries and shishito peppers. Though The Standing Room is definitely a meat-lover's paradise (burgers are topped with bacon, braised short rib, and Korean-marinated beef), it offers a few vegetarian options like fried tofu and portobello mushroom.
Irv's has been around since 1950, and though it moved from its original Santa Monica Blvd location in 2014 to a newer spot a few blocks away, it still has the casual roadside vibe that makes it a West Hollywood legend. Irv's is known for both its burgers and hot pastrami, so you can imagine that the move is to order the pastrami-topped "Simon" burger. Aside from burger combos and deli sandwiches, the quick-serve spot serves egg-and-bacon centric breakfasts.
Over In-N-Out? Move on over to Marty's. This West Pico roadside stand serves up classic '50s-style burgers, dogs and fries. Top off your meal with an Orange Bang!, the OG orange soda.
The beloved East Coast burger chain's first California location opened up shop in March of 2016 in West Hollywood. All the standbys, like the SmokeShack (cheeseburger with bacon and chopped cherry peppers) and Roadside Double (Swiss cheeseburger, bacon, and caramelized onions), are available, plus the site-specific Concrete, which you should absolutely sample; the Shack Attack, LA Edition is loaded with chocolate custard, fudge sauce, Larder Baking Company salted caramel chocolate brownie, dark chocolate chunks, and, in case you needed more chocolate, chocolate sprinkles.
Hole in the Wall is a cash-only burger joint in Santa Monica that offers a mind-boggling array of choices to customize your burger. The patty options are near endless -- beef, turkey, pastrami, Spam, and spicy chicken are just a few -- and you can get your burger on bread (the pretzel bun is a must) or atop a salad. Seating is available both inside and on the front patio.