Los Angeles: A Fast Food Find at Patra's Burgers
2319 North San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, CA 90065 (map); 323-225-9944; patrasburgers2.com
Cooking Method: Charbroiled
Short Order: A small time fast food joint delivers big time burgers without breaking the bank
Want Fries with That? Sure; satisfying, medium-cut spuds deliver a nice crispness
Prices: Single cheeseburger, $3.49, double cheeseburger, $4.09
It's rare that I enjoy a fast food burger. The imperatives of the burger chain seem, in most cases, out of sync with demands of proper burger cookery. There are the exceptions: In-N-Out is worth an occasional lunch and Shake Shack is genuinely great. That said, most of the time the big chain burger is a wan, gray hockey puck of a patty set between equally sickly toppings.
Patra's Burgers has all the trappings of a fast food joint: a drive through, blindingly fast service, and a dining room that doesn't encourage lingering. Thankfully, that's where the similarity to the big chain burger ends. We've already discussed the Jamie Oliver menu-makeover at Patra's, but I gave limited time to the genuine article. I realized that I needed to go back and give their classic burgers a bigger spotlight.
The first thing I noticed about my single cheeseburger was the crisp and char on what looked to be my kind of appropriately greasy burger patty. Once I halved the burger it looked like a vegetable garden was assaulting my burger. Veggies are a nice complement to a burger, but there seemed little chance of finding any beef flavor from such a thin, quarter-pound patty amid a vegetable onslaught, not to mention a hefty-looking commercial bun.
I dived into the burger and was pleasantly surprised to find real balance between all of the flavors. The lettuce tasted fresh but not overpowering, and the tomato was juicy. The chopped onions were tangy and, along with the sliced pickles, brought up the rear with that good salty finish that is indicative of a solid fast food-style burger. My patty even had a slightly pink tint to it. Considering the place claims their beef is grass-fed Angus, this is less of a health concern than it would be in a traditional fast food joint. Add to this the good amount of char and you've got a really solid burger, especially considering the price point.
The patty was seasoned nicely with what felt like more salt than pepper, and their version of Thousand Island didn't overpower with sweetness. The classic commercial bun held together quite well.
The double cheeseburger was all of the above, but with a decidedly juicier and meatier profile. It is, as you'd guess, my preference. Doubtless any Double-Double devotees would feel the same.
The french fries, while thicker than I usually prefer, were light and crispy. Someone is either changing the oil in the deep fryers judiciously, keeping the temperature hot enough, or both.
When I went back for the last few fries at the end of the meal, I was surprised that they held up rather well cold. I did get the slightest hint of that frozen flavor, though—and just then I looked up to see the line cook dumping a fresh batch into the fryer from a nondescript brown paper freezer bag. That explained it. Of course, as I've mentioned many times in the past, frozen fries can still be very tasty.
All in all, Patra's Burgers delivers on what fast food used to be: fast, quality food at an affordable price. Once upon a time, this is what most fast food joints used to be like. A burger joint serving up some affordable, high-quality, charbroiled goodness. I wish more were like Patra's and kept the tradition alive.
About the author: Damon is one of our roving burger reporters and food writers. When he's not eating more than is warranted or healthful (and then writing about it) he can be found writing and producing for television and film. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.