Oh sunny Southern California, you’ve got a piece of my heart. Maybe it is because I was born there but I always have a fantastic time when I visit the LA area. The notoriously bad traffic can’t even get me down when I’ve got the sun shining down on me and a burger in my hand.
If I haven’t already recommended the book Hamburger America by George Motz to you already, then let me do so now. This book is a state by state guide to some of the best burgers in the country. Whenever I travel somewhere I always page through it to see what burger joints I should check out. I haven’t been disappointed by any of Motz’s recommendations yet. Don’t forget to follow his blog as well. He’s working on an update to Hamburger America so he’s been eating a lot of delicious burgers.
One eatery mentioned in the book that I have been dying to try is Irv’s Burgers, located in West Hollywood, CA. The story of this Route 66 staple gets me every time. As Motz tells it, it was owned by Irvin Gendis from 1978-2000 and then bought by Sonia Hong in 200o, who still runs it today. Even before it was Irv’s, it was a popular burger stand on Route 66. When Peet’s Coffee threatened to take over this choice real estate spot in 2005 the neighborhood rallied around this little burger stand and it was declared a cultural landmark. The mutual love and respect between Sonia and neighborhood was clear the moment I visited Irv’s. Everyone seems to be a regular at Irv’s.
I immediately felt like a regular at Irv’s. Sonia gave me a warm welcome the minute I stepped up to give my order. As I ordered my single cheeseburger with fries, she kindly suggested I have it with a little bit of mayo, some ketchup, mustard, raw onion, lettuce and tomato. How could I argue with that? While I waited for my burger, at one of the outside tables, Sonia came over to chat with me. I somehow mentioned that I was from Philadelphia and she brought over a picture of herself with Daryl Hall! She told me he was a regular.
The classic burger wrapped in wax paper, a Southern California staple. Irv’s burgers are just that. Hands down this is my favorite style of burger and also the least popular style in my current home of Philly. This style of burger is why I must visit LA at least one a year. It’s like my Burger Mecca. Toasted squishy white bun, thin patty topped with American cheese with a little lettuce, tomato and onion. The burger had a nice crust to it that I can only imagine comes from a grill that has been cooking up burgers for as long as it has.
Another special touch that you get at Irv’s, that makes the overall experience even more awesome, is that Sonia draws a picture, for each customer, on the plate the burger is served on. I totally brought this back to Philly with me and it’s currently on my fridge. I smile every time I pass by it.
As I was getting ready to leave, Sonia made sure she said goodbye and hoped I would visit again if I found myself in West Hollywood again. The smile I had on my face, as I was leaving Irv’s, tells me I will definitely be coming back. Burger spots like this make me yearn to sling burgers for a living so I can make people as happy as Sonia made me. It’s cheesy but it’s true.