Memorial Day kicks off the summer grilling and road tripping seasons. Of course, a staycation soaking up rays in your backyard, drinking homebrew and grilling your own Hamburg steaks is a classic, but it’s always instructive to see what unique creations the experts are proffering from coast to coast. There was a point in time when adding onion dip mix to the ground beef was considered revolutionary, not that there’s any arguing with the ketchup-mustard-pickles methodology. Still, the vaunted hamburger, like our venerable craft beer, need not be mass-produced in an attempt to please one and all.
It’s great that more Angelenos are pairing slow beer with their slow food since everyone’s always in a hurry.
No, the hamburger did not originate in Hamburg, but its exact origin is still disputed. “Hamburger” Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, WI, enjoys notoriety as the inventor in 1885, and there exists a Hamburger Hall of Fame―and an annual Hamburger Festival the first Saturday of August―in this town near Green Bay. That same year, brothers Frank and Charles Menches were said to have constructed the first in Akron, OH, where the Menches family still flips ’em to this day. And in 1891, Oscar Weber Bilby is heralded as the innovator of the hamburger on a bun, putting Tulsa, OK, on the burger map.
Any way you slice it, May is National Hamburger Month. Which is why we’re focusing on destinations where gastronomic playfulness, much like fermenting whimsy, and the superlative camaraderie of burger and beer can be found aplenty.
LOS ANGELES, CA
In the not so distant past, Los Angeles earned its reputation as a craft beer wasteland. After all, a city with a population of almost four million people and not a single craft brewery? (OK, fine, there were a couple in LA county, but then what are two breweries to nearly 10 million people?) Then, as soon as I hightailed it out of my native hamlet only a few years ago, actual beer bars and gastro-taverns sprouted up, taking their cue from the likes of Father’s Office (1018 Montana Ave., fathersoffice.com) in Santa Monica and Lucky Baldwins (17 S. Raymond Ave., luckybaldwins.com) in Pasadena. Incidentally, it was actually the burger that put Father’s Office on the map. It was so popular with the happy hour crowd―what with its dry-aged beef, caramelized onions, bacon compote, gruyere, Maytag Blue cheese and arugula―that you could expect to wait in line for it.
It’s great that more Angelenos are pairing slow beer with their slow food. Since Angelenos are always in a hurry (even though the freeways are always bumper-to-bumper), it’s no coincidence that SoCal is the birthplace of fast food burgers. McDonald’s first opened in San Bernadino in 1940. Eight years later, a superior drive-through was born, In-N-Out, which most visitors to California insist on trying. Better still in my opinion is Fatburger, another decades-old, indigenous chain where the skinny fries are the best. But for the record, as any native Angeleno will tell you―and perhaps only a native would―the best burger in town comes from The Apple Pan (10801 Pico Blvd.), established in 1947 in West LA. Alas, none of these joints serve beer.