Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Habit Burger Grill

With the exception of the fried food at the Pasadena Fish Market, I don't like any of the seafood options in Pasadena. There is no reliable barbecue; Robin's is sometimes awesome but more frequently it resembles the sloppy, sauce-drenched sandwiches of Denny's. 95% of the pizza joints are just average. (Though I admit that average pizza is still better than almost any other food.)

But when it comes to burgers I have always felt very lucky growing up in this town. There is In-N-Out Burger, of course - the oldest existing In-N-Out Burger, actually, is the Pasadena unit. For the last year there has been a Fatburger. There is Hutch's, my favorite burger in the world, and there is Green Street Tavern, whose burger I admit is superior to Hutch's, even if I don't love it as much. There are the gloriously simple, course-ground burgers at Pie 'n Burger and the easily-customizable burgers at Wolfe Burgers, where you can sit on the patio on a warm winter afternoon and down a cold Pacifico with your burger. The Kobe Bistro burger at Tops, the chili burger at Original Tommy's, the patty melt at Wonder Burgers, the Kobe burger topped with prosciutto at Cafe 140 South (née Crocodile Cafe), the Holy Aioli at Dog Haus.... I have known and loved them all.  

And now there is a Habit Burger.

I've written about The Habit a couple of times: once in the fall of 2010 and once in the summer of 2009. Both times I wrote that if a Habit Burger opened in Pasadena I would gladly add it to my burger rotation. Well, a few weeks ago I learned that a Habit would be opening soon in Pasadena, taking over the space occupied by a closed Boston Market in Hastings Ranch.

I had planned to go for a soft opening fundraiser they were having. I ducked into Supercuts next door to get a haircut, but by the time I was finished (in grand Supercuts tradition the wait was twice as long as I'd been told) I was running late and did not have time. (This was the day Elizabeth's parents came into town and I was running errands from 7 AM until the time we picked them up at 10 PM.)

Last Thursday, after the epic windstorms had taken out the power at my parents' house and Elizabeth and I had driven over to rescue some items from the freezer, I suggested the two of us stop by The Habit. What I didn't realize at the time was the extent of the blackouts in that area. Apparently a lot of people had the same idea of going out for dinner that night. The line was out the door, maybe 50 people deep. We picked up sandwiches at the store on the way home.

So the other day I found myself in that part of town - I was taking out all of my parents' trash cans for them; there are at least a dozen all filled with yard debris - and stopped by for a burger. I had planned to eat it there but there was literally not a single available seat, so I opted for takeout (my parents live less than one mile away). As has happened on other occasions at The Habit, the lines moved quickly and the service was extremely friendly. I don't know how The Habit trains their staff, but pretty much every fast food company - even In-N-Out - can learn something from them.

There were several people ahead of me in line but I had my burger and fries within five minutes.

I opted for a Double Charburger and fries. (I could have made it a combo and gotten a drink for less than a buck extra, but since I'd decided to go to my parents', I figured I'd just drink iced tea there.)

This is only the fourth or maybe fifth Habit burger I have had, but just like all the rest it was great. The term "Charburger" is perfect: there is a taste of smoky char, and a surprising amount of juiciness considering how thin the patties are. (Although when you use fresh ground beef and cook it over an open flame, you're going to be pretty far ahead of the game when it comes to fast food.)

The Habit Burger's fries are fine. These were kind of limp but that is 100% my fault: when you put fries in a to-go bag - even if it's just for a 90 second drive - you steam them and their quality suffers. When The Habit's fries are eaten fresh they are hot and crispy, but, in my opinion, kind of boring. I can't help think how much better crinkle-cut or waffle fries would be with these burgers. But The Habit has a condiment bar with A.1. Sauce and Worcestershire, and plenty of lemon wedges, so I'm always able to mix up a tasty dipping sauce or two.

You know, I just realized something: in that sampling of burgers I listed in the second paragraph, only one of them is on the east side of Pasadena. All the rest are in (or closer to) the west side of town. The Habit Burger is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. I've now been by it three times, and each time it was packed. As long as their quality remains, I'm sure it will be be busy for a long time.


ben wideman said...

First Congregation Ale House, and now a new burger place?? You're killing me from a distance, Justin!!!

JustinM said...

Wait til I write about a new restaurant I visited in your old neighborhood. Maybe tomorrow but it might not be til next week.

Fritos and Foie Gras said...

Sauteed onions are the best burger topping on the face of the planet. That burger looks great!

Matt T said...

So glad The Habit has come to Pasadena.

#1 Charburger combo with cheese, bacon, and a order of frings please!

Nosh Gnostic said...

The fries pic looks kinda like an M. C. Escher drawing - unsettling. But the burger, uh, yes please! It reminds me of an In-N-out burger with really fresh ingredients, for which In-N-Out is noted. This just looks better...I'm in.
Oh, and it seems you left the tomatoes in. There is hope.

JP said...

Their fries suck.

Get an order of rings with a side of ranch.

JustinM said...

Yeah, I think I'm going to order onion rings there from now on.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me Tops, In-N-Out, Dog Haus, and now the Habit are on the eastern half of Pasadena.

Didn't this used to be a Boston Mkt? I like the prices of their burgers, unlike overpriced joints like Wolfe and Pie Burger! I def need to ck this new burger place out.

JustinM said...

I always get a kick out of people calling Wolfe Burger and Pie n Burger overpriced. And if they're fans of Euro Pane, it makes it so much funnier.