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I rarely visit my brother—he lives far enough away that it is a hassle to get there—but when I do make it through hours of traffic (seemingly endless in Los Angeles), we always make up for the long gaps between hang outs. This particular event was bereft of wine but jam-packed with meat. We were going to two different restaurants to get two perspectives on the American classic.

The last time we had hung out, it was the Burger Bonanza, where we hit the streets of LA to find three unique styles of burgers and pair them with wine. We tried to replicate the fun of that night by creating the Baby Bonanza spontaneously and found two house burgers executed entirely different, yet in two neighboring cities.

On that Friday’s menu were: Imperial Char Broil Burgers (Imperial’s) and Frisco’s Car Hop of City of Industry. The burger at Imperial’s was first, a traditionalist approach—in price too, costing roughly two to three dollars/ burger—with hamburgers and cheeseburgers arriving cloaked in different colors of paper. Once we unsheathed the meals, we exposed dense and sloppy burgers; we were disappointed with the careless presentation (did they not see I was carrying a camera?). The cheeseburger was a little better in presentation but the hamburger was coated with copious amounts of thousand-island sauce and possessed a cloying look. Both burgers were crammed with iceberg lettuce, tomato (beefsteak), ¼ pound charred patty and pickles all smashed together in a bun. Despite it’s disheveled appearance, it was decent. Not too bland because of the char on the patty but nothing more than average.

Frisco’s offered a refreshing change, women clad in skates and mini-skirts presenting diner fare. Whizzing by and then escorting us to the seats and benches that were old converted Cadillac’s and other vehicles. Kitsch. The walls were heavy with pictures of all the famous patrons who had dined there—the weight of notoriety was immense; I could feel how hard the place was trying to impress its eaters. I was being lulled into a false sense of security because Frisco’s shimmered with the veneer of a legend.

My brother and I elected to share the signature burger at eight dollars since our stomachs were still coping with the mountainous sides at Imperials. We deftly threw in a side of chicken tenders to maintain the manliness and to not raise questions (why are two men sharing a burger?).

When the Frisco’s Original made the table we encountered the completely opposite phenomena. It came via cute waitress on skates, it was impeccable, the plate was clean and the sandwich/burger was in thirds with toothpicks holding it firmly in place. Golden thin cut fries were delicately filling the plate while sourdough toast framed a thick patty of meat, some tomato and lettuce. Truly picturesque. The presentation is where the beauty ended or more famously we learned: “all that glitters is not gold.”

Upon first bite my brother and I traded glances—acknowledging that we had been boondoggled—our teeth were fighting the gritty texture of the meat. The patty was bland and might have been the worst meat I have ever eaten. The tart dressing that coated the romaine lettuce made the hamburger hard to finish—we didn’t. We were able to track down our roller waitress and immediately ask for the check.

While the burgers were less than par, the night was amazing, cruising with my brother through the streets and sharing our latest music trends and thoughts on life—just catching up—made the less-than-stellar-food quickly slip our minds and disappear into the ether. We also know well that when you are craving a burger, do not think about Frisco’s.

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