Meat Me In The OC! Orange county is more than its sunny beaches, buzzing boardwalks, and golden babes. This Southern California county is bringing the beef to haughty epicurean critics and regular burger loving eaters alike.
Cities once hidden and overlooked north of PCH have completely leveled up their gastronomic game and may even outshine many south county favorites. We considered burgers with superlative provisions and obscure ingredients. We discovered talented chefs and many who can keep it simple making it easy to fall in love with the cheeseburger next door.
This list is dedicated to the In-N-Out Burger patrons and fast-food chain acolytes. Our apologies go out to Peter the Polish guy, who sat next to us as we ate burger after burger. Soon after our parade of burgers, he politely asked us what this burger-tasting business is about. He was convinced, unrelenting almost, that no other burger could hold a candle to his double-double. We have all the confidence that after reading our list, all of Orange County and Peter will start to reconsider what they’ve been missing.
Best Burgers In OC
The Chop House Burger
Old Brea Chop House
180 S. Brea Boulevard, Brea
Burger aficionados get ready because the show is about to start. There’s new talent in North Orange County that is being served up at the Old Brea Chop House. Diners are marveled when entering this swanky steak house with an East Coast vibe. It’s easy to recognize the Chicago well heeled atmosphere and catch a classy Rat Pack Manhattan feeling. The Old Chop House had no open reservations on a Wednesday night, so we ate at the brass accented bar. It was delightful as Sammy and Frank favorites keep us company. Without a doubt, The Old Brea Chop House gets their burgers right.
Our standout is the Chop House Cheeseburger. It all starts with Chef Masa Ose cooking to order a half-pound patty blend of grass fed prime and chuck. Topping the patty is perfectly melted premium cheddar cheese. A gourmet mayonnaise blend glazes a brioche bun that is filled with tomatoes, lettuce, crisp dill pickles, and red onions. The ingredient list maybe simple, but this premium cheese burger is the Rolls Royce of cheeseburgers in Northern Orange County.
You’ll be served plenty of matchstick French fries with ketchup or secret mayo sauce. The Old Brea Chop House is unchallenged in service and fare thanks to the owner, Tony. He’s the confident gentleman walking through the dining room checking on you to ensure that you’re having a great meal. There is definitely a new best burger at the Old Brea Chop House.
West Coast Burger
306 Main Street, Seal Beach
In the western most corner of Orange County, Seal Beach has a smart looking Main Street that has a typical, upscale SoCal feeling. The Abbey caters to sun thirsty tourists and neighbors who can just walk in from a few blocks away.
Gastro pubs across Orange County are gaining in popularity and delivering high-quality food for the bon vivant in a more relaxing setting. The vibe at the Abbey is almost like a bustling LA bistro filled with power players and their cell phones, but here you’ll often see ball caps and flip flops from affluent locals who bring their dogs instead.
The standout burger here is the West Coast Burger. It starts with a half-pound premium chuck patty cooked perfectly through, nice and juicy. The West Coast Burger is topped with a large slice of fine cheddar, huge, evenly beer battered onion rings, and two fat strips of premium applewood smoked bacon. All burgers are served with traditional steak French fries with an option to upgrade for onion rings or sweet potato fries.
What makes this West Coast Burger unforgettable is not just the tasty herb mayo dressing or Chef Z’s just right chipotle BBQ sauce, it’s served on the best brioche bun in Orange County! Tom, the owner insists on only using the freshly baked bun from his next door neighbor, renowned La Crema Bakery. Yes, a bun can and does make all the difference here. So, here’s a tip for all you burger entrepreneurs: if you get the bread right, then you’ll definitely be in the dough.
Phat Jack Jalapeno Burger
Heroes Bar and Grill
125 West Santa Fe Avenue, Fullerton
Heroes is one of Downtown Fullerton’s flagship establishments in the SOCO area. Short for south of Commonwealth Avenue, Heroes attracts loyal locals and the college crowd. With bright strings of lights, this americana style eatery is popular for hearty portions and good times.
Our standout is the Phat Jack Jalapeno Burger. If you’re looking for the perfect blend of heat and cheese, then you’ve arrived. It’s a spicy paradise. Everything is happening jalapeno in this burger. It’s piled high with fried jalapeno rings, jalapeno infused mayo, whole jalapeno and the most unique jalapeno bacon. This bacon is infused perfectly with jalapeno juice, you’ll want to order just the bacon to go. The Phat Jack is served with an 8 oz juicy angus patty and Tillamook unpasteurized pepper jack cheese. Lettuce and tomatoes fill a toasted sweet onion bun. Burgers here are served with your choice of curly seasoned fries, steak fries, or cool down with a crispy side salad. Best of all, is the crunchy dill pickle spear served on the side. Heroes in Fullerton is definitely a challenger in the North Orange County gastro pub experience.
Bosscat Burger Chef’s Way
Bosscat Kitchen & Libations
118 Chapman Ave., Orange
4647 MacArthur Blvd., Newport Beach
Bosscat is a modern whiskey-focused eatery with a southern chic flair. If you’re craving comfort food with an edge and wanting to pair it with a whiskey, then this is your spot. Guests often feel like they have just entered a contemporary speakeasy. With a spirited and lively dining room, Bosscat also boasts a unique whiskey room. You definitely can heighten your dinner with a pour from a collection of over 300 varieties of whiskey. If you’re looking for action and esoteric southern inspired eats, Bosscat is Orange County’s Best in Show.
The standout here is the Bosscat Burger Chef’s Way. Wow, what a beautiful bovine Burger! The Bosscat burger is towering and impressive, so guests should consider sharing dessert. Let’s not get it confused with a messy, sloppy burger that just falls apart after you try to take a bite. We can’t say enough about this amazing burger. The Bosscat Burger is a 7-ounce midwestern prime blend cooked just the way you want it. Chef’s Way has smoked center cut thick bacon and cheddar, parmesan and gouda cheese blend. It doesn’t stop there either. Chef’s Way is prepared with red leaf lettuce tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette, house made pickles and a generous amount of delicious onion jam. The Bosscat Burger Chef’s Way is held together by a specialty white bread bun dusted with corn meal from Kraftsman Baking. If you’re still doubtful about this decadent burger, then think of a regular sized horse next to a Clydesdale horse. Now you get the picture.
5051 Orangethorpe Avenue #A, Anaheim
Orange County has a foodie secret hidden in the Anaheim hills area. If you drive along Orangethorpe Avenue’s industrial track, you’ll spot this burger joint. What a hidden gem! It’s the perfect spot when you’re in the mood for an outstanding basic cheeseburger without all the bells and whistles of a high-end restaurant. It’s an iconic place that’s been flipping burgers since the late 1960’s and it really hasn’t changed much. That’s the key to its fame for cooking up a juicy, satisfying grilled burger. Esperanza Burgers is coined after the mascot at Esperanza High School. Walking in you might be hit with memories from the hit tv series Happy Days. It’s a familiar diner where you could imagine seeing Fonzi and Ritchie hanging out in the famed red booths. The owner, Nic, takes orders at the front counter with his Greek accent, asking if your burger is a cheese, no cheese order. Esperanza Burgers is beyond charming. If you peek past the metal ticket spinner, you’ll see Beto working the grill. Beto has been the short order cook for the past 22 years along with Blass. Blass also works the grill and has been cooking for Esperanza just one year less than Beto.
Both cooks are from Mexico, but have mastered the classic American burger. The standout here is the Aztec Burger. The Aztec is just the vanity name of its quarter pound burger. The line is always out the door at this joint for one reason. Esperanza consistently delivers supreme taste and value. For a quick burger to go, this is your place. All Aztec Burgers are quarter-pounder patties, grilled to perfection. Beto says the secret is in his salt seasoning for the all-beef patty. The Aztec Burger is served on a white toasted bun coated with thousand island dressing. Additional ingredients are crisp shredded lettuce, tomatoes, white onions and American cheese. It’s the shredded lettuce that makes this burger killer. Beto agrees about the shredded lettuce and says it’s not used much because it’s time consuming, If you want to substitute the French fries with a half order of breaded onion rings or zucchini you can upgrade. The Esperanza Burger is like a present, folded in white wax paper and gently slipped into a bag. It tastes just as perfect as it looks. Esperanza gets Orange County’s award for “Best Burger for Your Buck”.
601 E. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana
The Benchmark easily makes cut on our list. It offers an upscale casual fare from interpreting market trends and reacting to current kitchen movements. As you enter this boutique sized restaurant, you think you’re entering an upmarket, outdoor Santa Barbara restaurant. There’s a luxe Montecito hospitality feel that escorts you to your outside patio table. At Benchmark you experience a soft, relaxing vibe, where the only thing missing is the view of Orange County’s golden coast. Chef Stefano spearheads the seasonal menus and is in perfect step with local growers and gourmet vendors. This connection enables Benchmark to plate extraordinary, approachable dishes to be shared. Initially I was doubtful this quiet bistro could deliver a bang on burger. We were amazed!
The Standout here is the Benchmark Burger. Starting with a buttery brioche bun layered with garlic aioli and a farm raised beef patty, sets this burger apart from the pack. Loaded with creamy cheddar cheese, spring arugula, marinated tomato and a heaping spread of bacon jam.
Several contemporary eateries offer a similar take on the ubiquitous bacon jam. However, Benchmark offers the best bacon jam across all Orange County. The unmatched flavor is the product of a slow cooked, marbled bacon recipe. This burger isn’t complicated despite its premier ingredients. The Benchmark Burger is a definite crowd pleaser mixing the perfect blend of sweet and sour. Of course, it’s served with straight or parmesan fries. Choose the parmesan fries, yummy!
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