There’s no quicker way to start an argument these days than to talk burgers. Although L.A. has always been a burger town, the roots of the modern renaissance can be traced back a few years to Father’s Office, whose game-changing “No Substitutions” Burger set the town abuzz and sparked a revolution in quality and innovation. Today Angelenos argue over hamburgers the way New Yorkers argue over pizza, with upstarts like The Counter and Umami often mentioned alongside classic joints In-N-Out and The Apple Pan in the raging debate over the “best” burger in town.
Tucked behind the Winchell’s on the corner of Santa Monica and Sepulveda, Hole in the Wall Burger Joint has quietly entered the conversation. True to its name, it’s a tiny spot, with very limited indoor seating and a patio that’s none too spacious. A quick glance at the menu instantly reflects its foodie cred, with the requisite artisan bread, sweet potato fries and ketchup made in-house. But the real star of the show is the hamburger, and I’m talking about the patty here – which is nothing short of superb. To me, you can put all the gruyere and arugula you want on a burger, but if the patty doesn’t cut the mustard – literally – you’re wasting my time.
I chose a classic burger on a plain bun (they were out of ciabatta) with pickles, lettuce, and red onion. My friend tried the much-ballyhooed pretzel bun and added grilled onions. One look at the two finished burgers and I knew I had chosen wisely. The pretzel bun was cumbersome and the grilled onions were dripping in enough oil to make the final composition a bit of an unwieldy mess. My burger, on the other hand, was perfect. I had skipped such enhancements as cheese and bacon in a deliberate attempt to fully experience the quality of the beef, and it delivered in spades. The Angus patty was as juicy as they come and bursting with flavor. My lone extravagance, chipotle mayo, was subtle yet effective.
We also skipped the sweet potato fries – I’m just kinda over it at this point, to tell you the truth – and the house-made ketchup is terrible. (Haven’t the owners read their Gladwell?) But the burger is the real deal. I’m looking forward to loading up on premium accoutrements (applewood-smoked bacon, fried egg) the next time around. Definitely worth a special trip for any burger fan or foodie-at-large. I’m not quite ready to hand Hole In The Wall the crown, but it certainly merits consideration.
Hole In The Wall Burger Joint, 11058 Santa Monica Blvd., 90025. 11am-9pm M-S. Closed Sun. Cash Only.