Monday, March 31, 2008

Burger Blowout!

by Xani

If I blogged about everything I ever ate, all I would ever do is eat and blog. OK, that actually doesn't sound so bad. But in real life I have other demands on my time: work, travel, house-hunting (eek!) and sometimes I even try to have a social life! So oftentimes I will take pictures and fully intend to blog about a meal, but never actually get around to doing it. And that was exactly the case this weekend, as I was sifting through old pictures and realized that I had been to four different burger places and not blogged about any of them. And so here we are, the perfect storm of lots of mouth-watering burger pictures and a few precious minutes of free time... let's have a burger blowout!

Burger #1: Fatburger, Los Angeles, CA

I ate this burger over a month ago! On my way from San Pedro to Santa Monica, co-worker AJ and I stopped off at Fatburger, a California institution that I'd been hoping to try on one of my trips out there. Fatburger's whole deal seems to be that everything is made to order, and that you can customize your burger by adding bacon, cheese, chili or even a fried egg! They also have two types of fries (skinny and fat), shakes, and a jukebox that was playing WAY TOO LOUD when we were there (or I'm getting old).

Fatburger with Cheese

This burger was tasty, juicy and messy! I appreciated that it was made to order (although we were sitting for quite a while, listening to too-loud music, while they cooked it-- not exactly "fast" food) and it tasted fresh. The fries were decent; I preferred the skinny over the fat fries. The chocolate shake I got was also really yummy, but sadly they didn't have malts, which I prefer.

Skinny vs. Fat fry comparison shot

Malt-free shake

Overall I give Fatburger a 6.5 on a 10 burger scale. Most disturbing (other than the music) was the price. I think my Fatburger meal was almost $12! Seems a little steep for something I could probably get for half that price at In-N-Out (Mmm.... In-N-Out)!

Burger #2: Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Baltimore, MD

This rapidly expanding chain has recently opened numerous locations in Baltimore and the surrounding areas. Five Guys Burgers and Fries has a simple philosophy: to sell the best quality burgers possible. In my opinion, they come damn close to that goal. On a recent sunny day, EP, co-worker Mike and I took advantage of the nice weather to walk to the Inner Harbor location. I ordered the little cheeseburger (little in name only-- the regular burger is a double!) with lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, and pickle (you can also get jalapeno, relish, green peppers, and a variety of other toppings, all at no charge) and some of their famous fries. As anyone who has been to Five Guys will tell you, the fries ROCK. They are boardwalk-style, and no matter what size you order, when you open your grease-stained paper bag, you see this:

Fries! As far as the eye can see!

They not only fill up your little fry cup, they mound additional fries into the bag. I know people say less is more (who are these people?? I am now thinking of Tim Gunn telling the cooks at Five Guys to look at the fries with "an editorial eye") but with these fries, more is definitely more-- more delicious-ness!

Onto the burger: definitely high-quality, made to order (quickly) and very tasty. Five Guys also provides free shell-on peanuts to nibble on during your short wait.

No shakes are available (BOO!) but free refills on sodas makes Five Guys a very tasty and affordable lunch (I'm sure my total was under $9). I give them 8.5 out of 10 burgers!

Burger #3 Keller's Drive-in, Dallas, TX

I first read about Keller's (no website, but there's a link to the Chowhounders raving about it) on this list, which I've been slowly but surely making my way through. When work brought me to Dallas a couple weeks ago, I knew I had to hit the drive-in! And first things first, as they serve beer there, I got a cold one:

Apparently in TX, this is normal.

A friendly waitress came to our car (we were the only car in a sea of pick-up trucks and SUVs, and a crappy rental car at that!) and took our orders. Co-worker Mike and I each got a Keller burger (the waitress explained it as "like a Big Mac," with special sauce, etc), Mike got fries and I ordered tots. A brief wait, and out she came with the food.

Keller burger wrapped in grease-soaked paper

Hot, crispy tots

Keller Burger unwrapped

This burger was definitely decent, but honestly I'm not one for gloppy Russian-dressing-esque sauces drowning my burger. And while I was initially impressed with their unusual choice of a poppy-seed bun, I was soon digging poppy seeds out of each and every tooth! Also, I'm not sure I loved the experience of eating and drinking in the car. It was sortof cramped and messy (not that it mattered that much, in a rental). I think I prefer a table. Overall I give Keller's 7 burgers out of 10. I love that they serve beer and tots, and the novelty of a drive-in is compelling, but the gloppy burger lost them points. If I ever go back (could happen) I would get a regular burger, no sauce. Also, I hear that this place is a real scene on the weekends, especially for car and motorcycle enthusiasts. Wear your cowboy boots and show your ink!

Burger #4: The Apple Pan, West Lost Angeles, CA

I hit up The Apple Pan just last week when I found myself in SoCal yet again. A West LA landmark, The Apple Pan has been open since 1947 and is full old old-timey goodness. Diners sit at a large, U-shaped bar and often tolerate long waits for the privilege to be served by notoriously grumpy waiters. Luckily, I rolled in with cousins Ann and Steven at 3pm on a Thursday, and we found seats right away. Then, a very pleasant, if quiet, waiter took our orders: three steak-burgers with cheese, a couple orders of fries, a couple root beers and a Coke for me. Apple Pan has interesting serving methods... first came the drinks in these unusual receptacles:

Next came the fries. This fries before burger process reminded me of my journey to the Shady Glen Dairy Store (even the little plate they arrived on was the same!), which some of my loyal readers might remember is also super old-timey. These Apple Pan fries were hot and crispy, and really hit the spot before the main event.

Then out came the burgers! They were not served on plates, but instead wrapped, like tiny presents, in white paper. Each one was smothered in Tillamook cheddar cheese, and bolstered by a thick layer of crunchy iceberg lettuce. The buns were toasted and soft.

I love presents!


High lettuce to burger ratio

These burgers were great! Absolutely flavorful and juicy. The lettuce added lots of crunch but not that much flavor, the cheese was melt-y and gooey, and the paper wrapper helped hold it all together. A great burger with a cute story behind it. The Apple Pan has been owned and operated by the same family for over 50 years. And the apple pie is based on an old family recipe, so OF COURSE we had to try it!

Not exactly a milkshake, but at least there was ice cream involved!

Overall I give The Apple Pan 8 burgers out of 10! Very high quality burgers and fries, old-timey cuteness and PIE!

So there's the burger run-down for now... more coming soon!



  1. My mouth is watering. Let's go to Five Guys RIGHT NOW! Love the old-timey shoppe in LA - we'll have to go there next time. And I'm with you on the malts - it's like a chocolate that is FIERCE!

    ps. LOVE the Tim Gunn reference, especially because it was related to fries.

  2. Love the burger pix! We did a brief LA burger tour when we were out there a year or so ago. Wasn't crazy about Tommy's Original but In-N-Out lived up to my expectations.

    My brother and his wife were in Denver for a visit recently and raved about Fatburger. I don't think we have any around these parts.

    But now you've got me jonesing to try Five Brothers! I've heard good things about them so I think I might have to pack the girls up one day and head down there.

  3. I think one burger every couple years or so is as much as I can handle. The pictures are as close as I prefer to get inbetween!

  4. The fries pics alone were enough for my non-burger eating self. Mmmmm fries.....

  5. FYI - and I know how important this is to you....but CLEVELAND has Five at least there is that.

  6. Fantastic photos and write-up!

    I loved Keller's Drive-In!

  7. If you need your ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to come crawling back to you on their knees (even if they're dating somebody else now) you must watch this video
    right away...

    (VIDEO) Get your ex CRAWLING back to you...?


Blog Archive