10801 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Phone: (310) 475-3585
The Los Angeles Foodie Rating:
The Apple Pan has not just the best hamburger in Los Angeles, but I say it’s the best in the entire country (that I’ve tried so far). From soda or buttermilk in a paper cone cup to a hamburger tightly wrapped in wax paper and thunked down in front of you on its edge, The Apple Pan is one of the few remaining authentic southern California hamburger stands. By the way, it’s not “do you want fries?” It’s “how many fries?”
The Apple Pan is an anachronistic shack huddled literally in the shadow of the behemoth and disgusting Westside Pavillion mall that looms right across the street. It opened its doors in 1947, and it is still owned by the same family. There is room for little more than the griddle and the u-shaped counter that is rimmed by 26 red stools. The counter is divided into two halves, each with its own cash register, coffee pot and drink service. According to a great review in the LA Times, some regulars have become so accustomed to one side or the other that they will forgo an open stool on the wrong side for a slightly longer wait. It gets crowded at lunch time and again late at night. Rather than forming a line, diners crowd into the corners, politely yielding open stools to those who arrived first. Despite the sometimes-heavy crowds, you’ll find yourself sitting down and ordering something to eat faster than you had probably imagined. Even though the turnover is quick, there is a Zen-like calm inside the restaurant. Perhaps the the intoxicating smell of frying meat and toasted buns has a Soma effect. Who knows. There are about six parking spaces behind the restaurant, and street parking is also typically available. It’s a little more fun if you approach from the rear of the building because there is a beautiful flower garden that lines the walkway along one side of the restaurant.
Los Angeles is a burger town. In fact, there is a nice little documentary called BurgerTown that I recommend. The film traces the roots of southern California’s obsession with hamburgers, and The Apple Pan is featured prominently. The food is simple and the menu is short. Bottom line: get a steak burger. There are other things on the menu like swiss cheese sandwiches and tuna melts [which I hear are outstanding, but I can never bring myself to order anything other than a burger], but the steak burger with Tillamook cheddar is the star. The Apple Pan is Los Angeles Foodie’s favorite hamburger in America. The sandwiches themselves are just the right amount of unique without straying too far (I’m looking in your direction, The Counter). You get a sesame seed-free, griddle-toasted bun, anointed with a moderately thick patty (their own grind of chuck and other secret cuts), fried perfectly medium-rare. The sandwich is rounded out with mayo, pickle chips, a wallet-sized slab of iceberg lettuce, cheese, and of course The Apple Pan’s relish. To paraphrase Los Angeles Foodie friend Frank, “The secret ingredient in Apple Pan hamburgers is not in fact Apples, but rather relish. Lots and lots of relish” As you can probably surmise from Frank’s comment, this burger isn’t for everybody. The relish, a sweet pickle and ketchup-heavy concoction, is off-putting to plenty of people I have spoken to. Personally, I think it’s terrific, and so do the throngs of people that crowd the counter at midday and late at night. The menu also offers a hickory burger that swaps out the relish for a sweet, smoky barbecue sauce, but I think it’s too much. Steer clear of the extra sauce and go for Old Reliable instead. The pies are baked fresh every day and crammed full of an impossible amount of apples. Order a slice a-la-mode and lose yourself in a melting puddle of vanilla decadence that enrobes each bite of warm pie.
For some weird reason, people like to extol grumpy service. I’ll never understand it, but I suspect it’s this attitude that has lead many reviewers to tag The Apple Pan as being famous for gruff counter men. But it is simply not true. If you consider the small number of stools and the large crowd of hungry, waiting people, it’s obvious that efficiency is a priority. But don’t confuse curt with rude. The two counter men on duty have learned to move quickly, so you had better know what you want by the time you sit down. By the way, I have never seen such expert ketchup pouring in my life. Fries and drinks come out first, and your sandwich hits the counter as soon as it comes off the griddle. When you’re finished, leave your tip on the counter and stand up and walk to the register to pay for your meal.