10 Underrated Burgers in Orange County for National Hamburger Day
The Hub's OLD-SKOOL approach
Between the big chains (In-n-Out), the LA chains (Umami Burger), regional chains (TK's Burgers, Slater's 50/50), the standards (Memphis Cafe), the gourmet (Mick's Karma Bar) and all the other usual suspects (Rider's Club, Playground, Haven, Burger Parlor, Peter's Gourmade Grill, ARC, etc.), Orange County is one of the best places in America for hamburgers. You can probably eat a steamed ham a day for a month, and not find a single dud in your choices.
But with National Hamburger Day on May 28—a far-more legitimate holiday than Cinco de Drinko, IMHO—let us not tell you about the most famous burgers in OC but rather the most underrated. These are the choices that are absolutely delicious but can never crack Top 10 lists because they're not as hip, as accessible, don't have as savvy a social-media team as the big boys—but can stand proudly against them. And on any given National Hamburger Day, they're perfect.
Gotta love it all!
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TAPS Burger at TAPS Fish House and Brewery
TAPS is underrated as any restaurant in general—its cocktail program is always strong, their chefs always create new and interesting entrees, and the Irvine location has a secret room that plays like a sportsman's lodge, all wood and TVs and desmadre. Maybe because its sister restaurant the Catch has that crazy 25-pound burger, but the namesake TAPS Burger never gets any love even though it's big, tasty, and nearly perfect: Sharp AF cheddar, raw red onion, a juicy tomato and luscious chuck. I just wish it was also available for dinner, because sometimes you'd rather want three big burgers instead of one porterhouse, you know? Find your nearest TAPS at www.tapsfishhouse.com
Leblanc: A mensch of a man
Photo by Todd Barnes
The Sputnik at Rick's Atomic Cafe
Yes, it's vegan; no, we're not insane; yes, we know what we're talking about; no, you can't have our job. Better yet, let's both shut up and visit one of OC's ultimate underground gems, a place Rick LeBlanc has operated out of a Costa Mesa industrial park for years with little press besides ours. His vegan burger's patty is lentils, cashews, and leeks, and is as savory as a cow and far healthier. If you can't go complete vegan, he'll top you off with cheese of your choice, but go vegan—where do you think you are? Amarillo? 3100 Airway Ave., Costa Mesa, (714) 825-0570; ricksatomiccafe.com
Fresno Fig Burger at Eureka!
Let our former clubs editor, Kristine Hoang, regale you:
A burger with fig marmalade? La di daah (pinky's up, my friends). The most impressive thing about the fresno fig burger is its cohesive marriage of different flavors: tangy goat cheese and mustard, sweet fig marmalade, and savory beef and bacon. From afar the whole burger looks like some avant-garde experiment gone wrong, but its ability to elicit surprise in each bite is what gets it 10+ points from us.
The Hub's OLD-SKOOL approach
Classic HUBurger at The Hub Costa Mesa
It's easy to ignore the Hub as you get stuck in traffic on Newport Boulevard on the way to the beach, but the Hub brings it: They won our Bloody Mary contest, and their food is more than just feedbag cuisine. Consider the Classic HUBurger: Much like TK's, it's a seemingly simple thing enlivened by a secret sauce that's somewhere between Thousand Island and ranch and all-awesome. Hell, I'm surprised the Pink Kitty hasn't licensed it yet for one of their sexytime classes...HA! 1749 Newport Blvd., Costa Mesa, (949) 356-5544; www.thehubcm.com
If coastal OC has TK's, South County has A's Burgers. This two-post chain is ballsy enough to operate right around the corner from In-n-Out in San Juan Capistrano, and its Dana Point place has fueled many a surfer before they head down to San Clemente. Classic diner burger: fast, sumptuous, slightly over-charred but nevertheless an obsession. 34344 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, (949) 496-4460; 28698 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 364-2099; www.asburgersrestaurant.comNext Page
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