It’s an underrated element of dining but without customer service even good food could potentially be tarnished. A minute transaction between patron and staff, depending on the establishment, passes hopefully, without a snag, bearing considerably on the outcome of the meal. Hospitality can’t help rescue terrible fare but it can make it go down a touch easier. In order for me to return, it isn’t enough for the place to understand the basics of friendly interactions, but to have some of their own flair and delicious grub. My latest burger spot—one of the few places I’ve frequented many times in Los Angeles—has both in spades.
Across the street from Hamburger Mary’s on the incessantly busy Santa Monica Boulevard, a unique and comfortably worn-in burger joint proudly cranks out sandwiches with personality. Irv’s Burgers is an unforgettable experience. Warm, friendly and consistent down to the last fry.
Setting foot in the shaded veranda, eyeing the menu, I was, as I had been in the past, greeted instantly. Accompanied by my neighbor who would not be eating (a vegetarian and she had already eaten) but wanted to ride shotgun on one of my burger outings. She found an open table as I planned my lunch. After a quick once-over, I elected to keep it simple (as is my nature), ordering the #1 combo. That combination included a cheeseburger (I ordered it sans fromage-an uncheeseburger), drink and fries, which would be plenty to tie over my empty stomach. I was asked if I wanted to buy something for my honey, blushing at the question, I told them that she wouldn’t be eating and that she was there for moral support.
I joined my neighbor at the table and we discussed music like the band that was on my blue shirt and the reasons I was so keen on Irv’s Burgers. I averred that the experience here was second to none. At my absolute favorite burger joint—Brea’s Best—I was lucky to have a personable interaction so long as one of the owners (they’re brothers) was in attendance, but otherwise I was mostly there for one of the finest sandwiches in the country. Irv’s keeps it familiar, and in a big city that hometown-esque feel is charming.
As I waxed on about the plusses of Irv’s my combo was brought to the table. I took out the camera, snapping a few shots of the paper plate that was adorned with their own personalized signature for each guest. My paper plate read “Just For Me All For Me” with my little blue shirt Crayolaed in. The burger was steaming, tucked in tightly to its white parchment. Exposed were the edges of a hand-formed patty, coarsely chopped raw white onions, a couple of condiments and shredded lettuce. The bun had been perfectly toasted and gave a surprising resistance to my grip. I dug in excitedly. Seasoned perfectly, that sandwich was just as I remembered—perfect! In balance, even my least favorite element—mustard, a condiment I feel should be exclusively reserved for hot dogs—added the necessary accent to the flavors. Harmonious. The texture of the soft and well-seasoned patty against the slight crunch of the toasted bun was delightful. I shared the fries with my neighbor, as she finished her iced coffee. It was consistent with the other times I had been there, but secretly, I knew it wouldn’t disappoint.
Irv’s Burgers may not have the glitz like Umami or some of the other gourmet burgers spots in town that have sprouted recently but what it does have, it has in abundance—heart. Something a shiny veneer and new architecture cannot provide, a genuine personality that starts with the people serving the food, nailing the basics and keeping it true. I cannot understand why Irv’s Burgers cannot routinely be found on the shortlist for best burger in LA. It boggles my mind. For this burger enthusiast it is hands down the best burger joint purveyor in the sprawling Los Angeles County! Customer service is textbook and the food is enough to bull over the staunch burger snob. Are you still reading this? Go there… Now!