Since I have eaten several hundred cheeseburgers in Pasadena, I thought I would give you a rundown of my ten favorite.
I have only two rules. 1) It has to be a regular-size burger with cheese. So something like the duck sliders at Kings Row don't make the cut, even though they are being featured by the restaurant as part of Pasadena Cheeseburger Week. Whatever, it's my blog so these are my rules. (Also my beloved turkey burger from Fatburger can't be included, as it doesn't come with cheese.) And 2) It has to be in Pasadena. Even a city as close by as South Pasadena doesn't count.
10) The Charburger at The Habit Burger Grill
I like to order my Tommy's burger with extra chili and extra pickles. It is messy - the messiest chili burger I have ever had. But it's so good I don't mind.
8) Bobby's Place
For my whole life, until last summer, Bobby's Place was known as Rick's. But that's the only thing that has changed. It was bought by some of the employees so all the same people work there and they still serve the same food for the same reasonable prices. And hell, everyone I know still refers to it as Rick's.
The burger at Rick's is a classic greasy fast-food burger. The total here is greater than the sum of its parts: the meat is fresh - Rick's is usually busy so you don't have to worry about them not turning over their ingredients - and the lettuce, pickles and cheese all work together perfectly. (By the way, I just realized I wrote those last two sentences still calling the place Rick's. I thought about changing them but decided that proves my point about everyone still calling it Rick's.) The $5.95 burger, fries and drink combo remains one of the better deals in town.
I don't get the burger here anywhere near as much as I used to (well, I don't eat here nearly as much as I used to, and their tacos are my standard order these days) but every once in a while I grab one and I remember how much I enjoy it.
7) Dry Aged Burger at King's Row Gastropub
King's Row serves a ribeye burger, thick and almost always cooked the way I order it (medium-rare) on a fresh bun that is one of my favorite buns in the city. The meat is topped with St. Agur blue cheese and Tillamook extra sharp cheddar. King's Row has changed their prices - in the 9 months they've been open - more frequently than any restaurant I have ever seen, so I can't be completely sure what it costs now, but on my last visit it was still less than ten bucks during happy hour.
6) Kobe Bistro Burger at Original Tops
Original Tops is a fast food joint but their Kobe burger is the equal of most restaurants in town and only costs half as much. It's a 1/2 pound of American Kobe beef with smoked mozzarella, caramelized onions, tomato, mixed greens and herb mayonnaise. I try to order it without the mayo, which overpowers the taste of the beef and onions, but even when I forget it's still delicious.
5) Holy Aioli at Dog Haus Biergarten
The original Dog Haus has been open on Hill for more than a year but in all of my trips there I never tried anything but the hot dogs. They're that good. But when they opened their Old Town location - the Biergarten - I tried a burger for the first time. It was magnificent: in addition to the patty there is melted, gooey American cheese, crisp bacon, caramelized onions and aioli. I gave Elizabeth a bite of my burger on this occasion and now that's all she gets at Dog Haus.
4) Pie n Burger
There are plenty of pretentious places in town where you can get 14-dollar burgers and the servers will pretend like it's fine dining. That is not what Pie n Burger is. It is a lunch counter with curt service and a simple burger, a little sloppy and deliciously juicy.
3) Sirloin Swiss Burger at Jack in the Box
Nah, I'm just fucking with you.
3) Double-Double Animal Style at In-N-Out
There is no burger on the list - including the two choices ranked higher - which I have eaten more than this. If you're interested enough in burgers to read the post down to this point, I seriously doubt I can tell you anything about a Double-Double that you don't already know.
2) The G.S.T. Burger at Green Street Tavern
Green Street Tavern is the restaurant in town that makes a burger closest to the idealized "perfect burger" that I am always trying to make at home. To start, they use a telera roll, my favorite burger bun. They use ground Black Angus beef, homemade bacon, aioli, arugula, and a Roquefort-gruyere fondue, more than is probably necessary. I have had this burger many times over the years and not once has it been anything but fantastic.