the burger: 7.5oz bacon cheeseburger with house toppings(lettuce, tomato, thousand island dressing)
the bucks: $6
the coordinates: Pasadena, CA(14 miles northeast of Los Angeles)
Eating alone is a fascinating thing to observe. In the modern era, thanks to smartphones and social media, I suppose we never are really alone. All the Twitter followers and Facebook friends in the world can’t mask that lone diner. The lone diner is certainly more common in certain venues as the likelihood of spotting one dropping $300 on a tasting menu at Alinea seems far less likely than catching one at a roadside stand for a $1 taco. Regardless of a venue’s pomp and price, or a menu crafted from foie gras or frankfurter, watching a diner eat alone is captivating. Captivating because of our own imaginations and the questions that pop in our heads. Who is she? What does he does he do? Does he live alone? One would assume certain professions would embrace eating alone. Spies, Vigilantes, certain Super Heroes. Travis Bickle definitely ate some meals solo. Paul Kersey too. While a mohawked Robert DeNiro would be tough to picture at Super Burger in Pasadena, I could buy a Charles Bronson circa 1974, sitting alone, getting a day’s worth of calories in one sitting, before looking for trouble on a subway platform. After all being a Vigilante means you work ’round the clock and best to get a full belly in one sitting whenever possible. Which brings us to a bacon cheeseburger with the most bacon I have seen on a cheeseburger, or a lumberjack breakfast special for that matter.
Super Burger’s gigantic signage is almost unnecessary as the scent of griddled beef hits you as soon as you put the car in park. The size of the sign does offer a bit of cinematic foreshadowing in regards to the hefty two hander you are about to designate as your lunch. In a word, Super Burger is generous. When one walks up to the archetypal “breakfast, burger and teriyaki stand”, you expect Bang for your Burger Buck. Super Burger is exactly that type of find where a good price is a given, accepting plastic – a bonus, but these giant hand made patties? That’s a God Send of Burger kindness – a Holy hook up for the homeys and that is probably why Super Burger gets love on Chowhound as the affordable burger joint in the ‘Dena, as opposed to the well heralded, oh so beloved stalwart diner of the 626, Pie N Burger. The surprise was how generous they are with the bacon.
Someone should alert Wendy’s that “it’s over”. Super Burger kills it when it comes to Bacon Cheeseburgers. They don’t play. And though this isn’t the Applewood Bacon/Nueske/Did Sean Brock have this commissioned for Husk’s new brunch menu variety, it’s literally a handful and it’s cooked about as well as any breakfast diner pro would, because the man at the helm of Super Burger’s griddle is a breakfast diner pro. A burger insight I have long preached is that good burgers don’t need bacon. It’s overkill if the beef is exceptional. Exceptions arise with exceptional bacon but those burgers often are overachievers that escalate beyond Bang for your Burger Buck’s price point. But there is another critical observation when it comes to dilemna of the “to order or not to order the bacon cheeseburger” and that is this: can the place cook bacon well? The fact is bacon, like chili, and the fried egg, are costly add ons that, nine times out of ten, are prepared as an afterthought and end up performing second fiddle to the burger itself. How do you know if a joint that dwells in Bang for your Burger Buck territory can pull off bacon? Hint: look for a breakfast menu. If the place has a rep for a breakfast burrito than you could have a slam dunk of a bacon cheeseburger on your hands. All of this is what lead me to ordering the bacon cheeseburger at Super Burger. And at $6 pre tax, this almost half pound burger with a fist full o’ bacon is, contrary to what your vegan pilates instructor might suggest, a meal you cannot live without.
A genuine Thickburger
There is a lot to sink your teeth into at Super Burger just when you walk up to the counter for the first time. For starters, the place is a damn deal: a plain jane hamburger runs you $4 and it’s the same patty you are looking at above. At these prices even I could forgive myself for adding bacon and cheese and raising my burger budget by 50%. Second, you really don’t need a double. This conclusion quickly dawns on you when the sight of those massive, fresh ground, hand formed patties sizzling away is in full view. And finally, when the sweet Korean Mom taking your order tells you that Medium Rare is really rare – believe her. My first burger aired on the rare side, with a center that was just too soft to standup to the house toppings of shredded iceberg, tomato, pickle and onion. Burgers are sandwiches at the end of the day and texture is key. And with that my second visit brought the adjustment of ordering medium. Though this time the burger I received bordered a little too close to medium well for my liking.
No Fries Necessary
Overall the burger experience was pretty much how it appears: generous and filling, Fatburger on a budget. I think true Burger Nirvana just slips out of reach at Super Burger due to the fact that there are temperature inconsistencies. But in all fairness, the effort to cook burgers to temp alone, is a win for Bang for your Burger Buck. And we must be reminded of the big picture here. Like Atlas holding the weight of the world on his shoulders, the image above of a beleaguered bottom half of a bun, crushed by the weight of burger and bacon, is in actuality a superb act of generosity carried out by the Korean American family that runs Super Burger. It’s not just the meaty patties or the 5 strips of bacon. It’s the effort that goes into grinding the meat vs ordering preformed patties. It’s about cooking the burgers at the request of their customers as best they can. It’s trying when you aren’t always expected to. In Southern California, the “Breakfast, Burger and Teriyaki stands” are a fixture in our burger culture and the fact that a great many of these restaurants are run by Korean Americans also tells a tale of their journey. The congregating crowds tells a familiar story of the Immigrant American’s work ethic, something both proprietor and customer can take pride in. Super Burger is working class food made by working class folks. These are the places that feed the mechanics day in and day out so that he can rotate your tires so we can get to work, day in and day out. These are the places that, dare I say it, keep America going, for they fuel the 99%. The lone diner in actuality is the working class man and woman, one who has just enough time to spare to fuel up for the rest of a long day. And at the end of the day that mechanic and now you, know that this burger is a full meal. Fit for all type of lone diner, whether he be Vigilante or unsocial Super Hero or even a mechanic from Pep Boys. Watching a lone diner is indeed a fascinating experience, an even better one when with one of these staring up at you:
Now let’s go over to that subway platform and chase that Death Wish.
458 N. Altadena Drive
Pasadena, CA 91107
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