Embrace the Elements With Fire & Smoke Burgers
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.
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.