What's our fascination with meat sandwiched between carbs? Hot dogs, tacos, gyros. . .the list can go on. Yet the food we'll always find at a picnic or amusement park that speaks to us the most is the humble burger. And there are enough joints in OC that produce a quality meal that we're assembling our favorite local brands.
Burger Parlor - Fullerton and Orange
From Beverly Hills chef to Fullerton pop-up to brick-and-mortar, Joseph Mahon started a little backwards to create his concept. Yet he saw his dream to fruition and became a neighborhood favorite in two classic downtowns in the process. We thank him for diversifying his beer selection to include more local taps to pair with those tasty meals. www.burgerparlor.com
G Burger - La Habra, Fountain Valley, Irvine
If creative burger mastery could have levels, George Makri (the 'G' in G Burger) is at Expert. His signature burger manages to put the weight of all its available ingredients in perfect alignment. At least, that's what our reviewer thinks,
"The final product arrived with a steak knife through the top like Excalibur. The char-grilled, hand-formed patty, nearly three times the thickness of In-N-Out's, extends past the perimeter of the bun, blotting out the greens piled underneath and forming a sturdy foundation for the rest. But despite the creation being taller than it was wide, everything stayed in place. The toppings seemed to have molecularly bonded either aided by the melting cheese or perhaps thanks to the friction of crispy bacon or the black-edged pastrami. Everything remained under a puffy high-rise bun, itself accounting for half the height."
Grinderz - Huntington Beach
This local find holds a greasy place in Josh Chesler's heart, starting his description with the bun,
" . . . .it maintains the structural integrity of the burger, not falling apart when the grease and sauces seep through. The patty itself is a solid mix of the greasy mess from your favorite diner and a well-seasoned version of a classic fast-food burger. It's reminiscent of a burger from a summer cookout on the Peninsula, except the staff is way nicer than the people you're forced to live next to."
Hopdoddy - Newport Beach and Tustin
Seated at the right angle, and you'll actually watch someone grinding beef and/or removing fresh baked buns out of the oven. That's the kind of transparency Hopdoddy isn't afraid to show. We are always down for their Goodnight/Good Cause burger, which donates $1 to a local charity that changes monthly. Complete your meal with some green chile queso fries and something hoppy. www.hopdoddy.com
In-N-Out - everywhere
Do we even need to explain ourselves? Drive-thrus that wrap around the building. The reason to stay up past midnight on any given day. A secret menu nobody tires of. Hell, even gnawing on the cheese paper (the melty bits that cling to your wrapper) gets us excited. Simplicity is their secret, as their few ingredients are of the utmost freshness. And quality eats never go out of style. www.in-n-out.com
Slater's 50/50 - Anaheim and Huntington Beach
Hawking some of most
unusual creative meat-and-bun combos around (bulgogi, buffalo or kangaroo, anyone?), we'll always know them as the pioneers of their bacon/beef patty blend. And if you find yourself at the Huntington spot, you can count on an endless inventory of beers. Here's to an Orange County original. www.slaters5050.com.
The Habit Burger Grill - all over the place
With 10 locations in OC and counting, this little chain that could is secretly planning world domination. Offering a menu that is diverse, but not too diverse, we're giddy about their Santa Barbara-style of grilled sourdough, cheese and avocado. Bonus points for being able to call ahead your order and pre-pay to avoid a longer wait. www.habitburger.com
The Counter - Irvine and Newport Beach
The OGs of customization, look no further than this Bay Area chain to accommodate your every modification with a nod and a smile. We were on a bison kick for a while, but are now rediscovering their signature burger options. With dual locations in Irvine, we know where the hangry folks are parking. www.thecounterburger.com
TK Burgers - Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, Santa Ana
Dave Mau waxes poetic on his fascination with this laid back chain simply known as TK,
"Maybe what makes TK burger so good is its spiritus, its anime, maybe even mojo....but whatever it is, I'll take it. It's the gut feeling you get when you walk in with the janky menu board and stickers everywhere that tells you these guys aren't trying to be something they are not and don't have anything to prove except they make a solid, solid burger."
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Umami Burger - Costa Mesa, Anaheim, Irvine
A Los Angeles chain that literally brands their luxe burgers, Umami likes partnering up with celebs (think Alton Brown and Cindy Crawford) on meaty collaborations. While their creations are definitely a mouthful, those previously off-menu tots are worth the visit alone. The Manly is a favorite, but don't dismiss their non-beef specialties. www.umamiburger.com