6720 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91201 (map); 818-291-0015;
Short Order: A low-quality, under-seasoned patty undermines what could have otherwise been a great burger.
Want Fries with That? No thanks. Not terrible, but not standouts either.
Prices: Beef Burger, $9.95
Notes: You'll have better luck finding with the Persian food at its sister restaurant Nersess down the street.
The name Corner Bistro has been mentioned in almost every entry of the long list of New York City burger short lists. If the "best burger" discussion comes up, it is at the very least, part of the conversation. Our very own Adam Kuban summed up this phenomenon is his positive (though, not adoring) review of the place. All the attention has meant that the once very tasty burger and dive-bar-hideout has become a reason to open a gift shop.
Perhaps it was a youthful fascination with the rap group Public Enemy, but in my adult life I've become disinclined to believe the hype. Unfortunately, in this case, I am part of it. When I was first Grilled here on AHT I mentioned Corner Bistro as the site of one of my favorite childhood burger memories. As a boy I loved the Corner Bistro burger, but now I can't imagine sending someone there with hopes of a great burger. I'd like to claim that it's the declining quality of their food, but I think it's more likely that I've developed a more discerning taste in burgers. That is to say, I've changed more than it has.
These days I like my burgers the way I like my weather: Southern California-style. When I do return home to (what for me will always be) "The City," Corner Bistro is one of those restaurants I walk by and think of all the memories it holds of my past, not of the meals it might feed me in the future. Of course, the true power of memory is how it shapes our present. When I happened upon a new restaurant in Glendale that boasts the same name as my childhood's favorite, nostalgia took hold of the steering wheel and I found myself having a different Corner Bistro burger.
The Los Angeles "Corner Bistro" is located on a lonely, industrial strip of San Fernando Boulevard in Glendale. The space was once a beautiful Mid-Century modern diner that has long since had its insides (and any aesthetic value) rent from its (still pleasing) modernist skin. It was, for a brief stint, a restaurant called Patrick's that failed to find a foothold, and thus proffered an opportunity to the opportunistic. The folks behind the solid Persian café Nersess Vanak just down the road have taken their chances on an American Bistro. I took mine on their cheeseburger.
You order at the counter at Corner Bistro, but instead of older guys dressed in white (kitchen gear), the servers are young woman in all black. The order and take-a-number set up is an odd choice considering the place feels like a table service environment. Certainly they have the staff for it. (At one point I was asked if I wanted more soda by three different people within ninety seconds.) I ordered the beef burger (other patty options are available) and opted for American and grilled onions.
The burger arrived looking rather appealing with a commercial, seeded bun, and the grilled, red onions showing just the right amount of brown. The patty hovered around the 6-ounce size and was formed to a thin round. The cheese was showing just that hint of limpness that suggests a good melt.
The first bite was a satisfying mouthful. The bun, while not superior, was a serviceable commercial choice that had the sponginess that contained the burger. It also had a little grilling on it to add that extra layer of texture. The cheese was melted beautifully so as to provide smoothness without turning into a fondue. The onions were near perfection, as they had been grilled just into caramelization without losing their pleasing bite.
Alas, all was right in my burger world until I caught the taste, or lack thereof, of the patty. The nicely formed round lacked any hint of seasoning, and while grilled, didn't show off any crust to speak of. This weakest aspect of my burger was its undoing. I kept finding myself fighting the reality that this burger that looked so good was undermined by its ordinary patty.
It was interesting to think about the differences between the two Corner Bistros that sit on opposite ends of this vast American burgerscape. For me, the New York original has become a simulation of itself. The hulking mass of meat that is served up often seems inconsistent and the crowd feels out of touch with its past. The Los Angeles version is all shiny newness, but lacks the substance at its core that is necessary for greatness. They make for easy metaphor, but both are harder to recommend than I'd like them to be.
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.