Bang for your Burger Buck: The Habit Burger Grill

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The burger is indeed an American icon. While I might have a bone to pick about whether frying, or as it is known in more positive circles of discourse, griddling, is something that would constitute burger sacrilege, I like a place that extols burger values, even if a few of theirs violate one or two of mine.

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Bang for your Burger Buck (With a Side of Taco) at The Great White Hut ~ Glendale, CA

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In this town, notable burgers are being slung in shacks, dives and stands but few are as eye catching as the Great White Hut in Glendale. You cannot roll east down California Ave towards Brand and not gaze at this hole in a parking lot and wonder how it has stood the test of time. Especially recent times with the closures of Irv’s in WeHo or Molly’s on Vine thanks to the real estate powers that be. But lucky for you, my burger minded brood, The Great White Hut has stayed the course for the last 67 years and their work warrants your hard earned Burger Buck.

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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ B-Man’s Teriyaki & Burgers in the SGV

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The search for Bang for your Burger Buck will take you to Gourmet steals, old school diner throwbacks, and those dives that keep you coming back with the simple notion that burgers are fun food, meant to be toyed with or served with toys, for lunch, brunch, dinner or that after school treat around 3pm. B-Man’s Teriyaki & Burgers slides into the latter category, but the stand out teriyaki employed in the sandwich is far from child’s play, and it is not mere coincidence that their locations lie close to the SGV.

B-Man’s is the after school special burger you would have grown up with if you grew up in the massive Asian American enclave that is the San Gabriel Valley. Their menu boasts Burgers, Rice Bowls, Teriyaki plates, Chicken Katsu, and for the high roller crowd there is the Mahi Mahi plate, tipping the Bang scales at just over $11. Egg Rolls and gyoza and chili may scream unauthentic unless you are part of the tribe, an Asian-American reared amongst an array of fellow Asian Americans, embracing each other’s national dishes and recognizing a culinary bond that is larger than any one tradition. I would go so far as to say that if you have grown up as an Asian American in Los Angeles, your palate is at home when dining from nearly every corner of the Asian contient. And since we’re in America, let’s throw in some chili fries while we’re at it.

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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ The King Burger @ Burger Plaza Grill

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Sometimes you have to ask yourself this: What would Elvis do?

I’ll grant you it would be difficult to imagine the King of Rock n Roll at a food court in South Los Angeles, but then again Mercado Paloma is not your average food court. Home to Yucatanean specialist Chichen Itza, an Oaxacan fusion restaurant, a vegan Ethiopian eatery, not to mention being the first location for Modern Peruvian pioneer Ricardo Zarate’s Mo Chica, in a way Burger Plaza Grill looks so . . . average, really almost passable compared to the exotic fair that surrounds it. But I imagine Elvis, definitely Fat Elvis, was a burger man of the highest order and you know he could never pass up a Burger that was called King, and frankly if you are looking for some Bang for your Burger Buck, you shouldn’t either.

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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ Fat Sal’s

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“Our burger is a sleeper on the menu”

Not for long. Welcome to Fat Sal’s, the end result of a California dream three longtime pals from the NYC had about bringing the quintessential college kid sandwich, the Rutgers Grease truck hero, to Los Angeles. Three locations and two cites later (now open in Austin and San Diego), Fat Sal’s could challenge Subway’s rebranding of the submarine sandwich from “healthy fast food alternative” to “make your life an alternative to Man v. Food”. But we are here to talk about burgers that have bang, and at $5.75 for a 1/2lb double cheeseburger, you know yours truly needed to come in for a visit.

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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ The Park Restaurant of Echo Park

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When you think about it, “restaurant” is kind of a fancy word.

And when you think about burgers back in the day, a “fancy” burger always meant a restaurant burger.

And then along came Father’s Office. And later a recession. Now gastropubs and chef driven burgers are as commonplace as Starbucks and Chipotle. So when I visited The Park for their bargain buster build-a-burger night (starting at $5 with a side), I never thought I would be in for a bit of a burger throwback. The sandwich was presented open faced with every topping on the side; like what you would expect from a lunch meeting with a junior agent at Kate Mantilini circa 1999 or room service later that day at Chateau Marmont. In this day and age of tricked out burgers, plain old gourmet seems almost pedestrian, but with a baseline of $5 a pop, this is definite bang for your burger buck and the burger concept, which may not scream “chef-driven”, is a subtle reminder that bucking current culinary trends, however delicious and effective they might be, can also mean keeping it real – and that’s what Bang is truly all about.

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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ the In-N-Out edition

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The question is not “should I go to In-N-Out, the question is, when I do go, what should I order? If you want to maximize the bang for your burger buck, Ali Khan is your man. The latest edition of BfyBB tackles what is perhaps SoCal’s greatest contribution to burgerdom…

Sometimes Capitalism gets it right.

In-N-Out: The burger institution of So Cal, bearer of prodigious accolades by legions of loyal fans, a chain that defies the very term. There are also the naysayers, the detractors, those who call it an overhyped, West Coast cult thang. I was once one of them. Coming from a Midwest stacked burger background that peaked with the chain diner Steak N Shake and dipped into the late night dregs with White Castle, my In N Out visits often ended with a false sense of burger fulfillment. Not as cheap as the sliders from the Castle and outclassed in the patty department by Steak N Shake, I wrote In N Out off as a decent but not special chain burger. Then I learned about the secret menu. And then I dined on a double double in a car halfway to San Francisco, in what would become the single greatest road trip meal I have ever had without stepping out of the vehicle. Gradually, my In N Out enlightenment began; by embracing two basic principles that are essential to this burger experience:

1: you must eat it right away

2: you should order it exactly the way you like by taking full advantage of the secret menu

Principle One is fairly obvious. Like McCauley says in Heat: do not hesitate, not for a second. Take that first bite as soon as possible. Why make burgers to order if the customer is gonna let it sit in a bag? If they ask if you will be eating in the car, respond with a hearty “Hell Yes“. If you are dining in house, stake your claim to that table as soon as you get your change. Some meals move like symphonies, In N Out is not one of them.
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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ Patra Burgers on Sunset

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It is the last month of Summer. Your Los Angeles Dodgers have set a franchise record 15 game win streak on the road. You shall revel their return, in person, to Chavez Ravine this Friday. There will be beers. There will be pre/post game burgers. Considering a draft lager is running you $10 a pop, you are in dire need for some Bang for your Burger Buck. It is high time you met Patra Burgers on Sunset.

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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ Marty’s on Pico

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“Back in the day, when I was a teenager, before I had status, and before I had a pager . . . ”

It’s 1996. A Tribe called Quest is blaring out the car window. I just wrapped up an Apple Pan run soon to be followed by a screening of Rumble in the Bronx and some mall loitering at the Westside Pavilion. $11 lighter after leaving Apple Pan, I only wish knew then what I know now: Marty’s on Pico is West LA’s answer for Bang for your Burger Buck.

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Bang for your Burger Buck ~ Yuca’s Los Feliz Hillhurst

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Because somedays you just say “Fuck it. Give me a double chili cheeseburger.”

For the record I am not a chili cheeseburger kinda guy. I like chili on occasion. I like cheeseburgers very often. But I don’t need them at the same time. Much like the argument with bacon, good beef patties don’t need friends from the meat department. But we are at the original Yuca’s on Hillhurst; a venerable, James Beard award winning taco stand, where Cochinita Pibil is simmering away in a corner burner, skirt steaks are getting a serious char on the griddle and the cashier is practically giving away double chili cheeseburgers at a price of $5 with tax – I think you realize why I had to go for it.
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Bang for your Burger Buck – Uncle John’s DTLA

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Because Burgers and Rice are as American as apple pie.

There is something about the Asian American Sensibility that sits so perfectly well with Bang for your Burger Buck. Their reputation for hard work and business savvy came after a long road paved by manual labor and unjust exclusion from mainstream society. Being a child of immigrants from a Third world country, I would occasionally get the “remember where you came from” speech and as a result, some lessons from the old country prevail. Lucky for you, value is one of them, and that pretty much sums up Uncle John’s to a T.

A standard visit to Uncle John’s is incomplete without trying the Spicy Fried Pork Chops and Eggs. Chinese food for breakfast? No Brainer. Add eggs? That pretty much sums up the culinary trend of the last 10 years. Just remember to get fried rice on the side. Avoid the tubers, as they just are not up to snuff. Besides you really are missing the point: rice is the starch of choice for the Asian continent, and when in Rome . . . .

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