Burgers you can believe in
A review of some of La Verne’s best hamburger joints.
by Dan Sayles
photography by Rhiannon Mim
Thank goodness for local restaurants that serve hamburgers. Real hamburgers, that is, with the pleasing aroma of smoke and meat, and the sizzle of onions being grilled. Burgers at places like these are just simply better tasting, and the atmosphere is usually more relaxed than the average drive-through.
Many local places offer hamburgers for a decent price and can prove much more fulfilling, in terms of quality and service, than your standard chain restaurant. The Habit, a burger grill restaurant that has recently opened on Foothill and Chase, has impressed many with its simple yet broad menu. Choices range from the simple Charburger to the more exotic Teriyaki Burger, with pineapple and teriyaki sauce to titillate the senses. A trio of restaurants on D Street: Angel’s Restaurant, Roberta’s Inn, and T. Phillips, all offer hamburgers in comfortable and relaxed settings. Nestled inside the Brackett Field Airport in La Verne, is Norm’s Hangar, providing terrific cuisine and a rather breathtaking view of the local scenery. An then there’s the place against which all others are often measured: In-N-Out.
For the hamburger connoisseur in the La Verne area, here are a few helpful reviews.
The Habit, located in the newly built shopping plaza at Foothill and Chelsea, is new to La Verne. Customers can dine indoors or out on the patio. The menu selection at the Habit is small, but solid, offering not just hamburgers but salads and sandwiches, which is also a reason to come to this jaunty burger joint for its white albacore tuna filet grilled sandwich. But the Habit has an excellent burger base in its Charburger. Coming with a single or a double patty, the Charburger can be made to your specifications – tomatoes, extra pickles, grilled onions, etc. Instead of an obscenely large amount of lettuce, the Habit uses much more manageable, and possibly fresher, shredded lettuce. The Charburger’s only drawback is that is tastes a bit like In-N-Out burger, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you are a fan of In-N-Out. However, if you’re looking for something different, you may want to try something else. You might consider the Teriyaki Charburger, which provides a much more unique experience with its sweet teriyaki sauce and ring of sliced pineapple.
Roberta’s Village Inn
Roberta‘s Village Inn, located on D Street in downtown La Verne, has changed little over the years, and in some cases, that can be a good thing, with its relaxed atmosphere and friendly waitresses. In stark contrast to The Habit’s more modern, quick and made-to-order delights, Roberta’s instead has a rather fun way to eat a hamburger: make it yourself. No, you don’t actually don an apron and grab a spatula, but you get the hamburger, meat, fries and the toppings on the side. The burger itself rests on an open-faced bun. This eliminates most of the fuss when ordering toppings. Simply put on the ones you want, seal the deal with the other half of the bun, and chow down. It is nothing life-changing, but it is nice. “We’ve been going here for a long time,” says Barbara Shipcott. “It’s all reasonably priced and delicious as well.”
For those who want a burger already made, this may be a bit cumbersome. However, for those who like to sit back and chat with other people or waitresses while they build their burger, it can be a nice change.
Right across the street from Roberta’s Village Inn is Angel’s Place, a Greek and Mediterranean food restaurant. The cheeseburger it offers can be ordered with or without toppings, and it comes with fries. Although a solid hamburger in its own right, it falls prey to the infamous head of lettuce burger trap that plagues some restaurants. Namely: lettuce, and too much of it. Nothing kills a hamburger quicker than thinking you are eating a salad between two pieces of bread. It is all a minor inconvenience in an environment that produces a burger that anyone can enjoy, in their spacious restaurant, with big-screen televisions and amiable hosts. The price is reasonable as well.
Tucked away at Brackett Field, Norm’s Hangar offers diners a unique chance to watch planes and helicopters take off and land right in front of them as they eat. Norm’s offers a variety of burgers that are quite delectable – the ortega burger being one of them. Overall, it was good. However, given the size of the burger and relative tastelessness of the ortega chile, it was rather bland for something that has chile in it. It also had way too much lettuce, which consisted mostly of the spine and the base. The burger was fresh and well-cooked, but the toppings were not outstanding. Thankfully for burgers such as that, there are remedies on hand, such as ketchup or Norm’s own Uncle Kenny’s Fries, which seemed to snatch the spotlight from the hamburger. The Hot Burger, slathered with gravy with a side of mashed potatoes, provides a unique experience, and a delicious one at that, with flavorful gravy and creamy mashed potatoes. Despite the flaws in Norm’s burgers, Norm’s provides many alternatives to suit your tastes and desires, not to mention a really breathtaking view of the runways and of the surrounding mountainside.
T. Phillip’s, in downtown La Verne, offers an alternative to restaurants that offer one large burger that can fall apart. Their burger is on four pairs of buns with four small patties. Easily picked up with two fingers, these burgers come with a large helping of fries and a drink. The mini-burgers can be eaten slowly as you converse with family and friends in the friendly atmosphere – a roomy and cool interior, perfect for get-togethers and gatherings. It is a bit pricey, though, which could put a damper on your plans. But the price is quite worth it if you find yourself wanting a night out in downtown La Verne.
In-N-Out, the Inland Empire’s fast food gem, certainly lives up to its reputation as an inexpensive, tasty and quick food stop. There is an In-N-Out located on the corner of D Street and Foothill Boulevard, with two drive-thru lanes and a small walk-in for those who want to sit down at the benches outside. In-N-Out has a deceptively simple menu: burgers, shakes, and fries. “In-N-Out has the best burgers at a fast food restaurant,” Timothy Hight says. “And great shakes and fries, too.”
The double-double itself was certainly delicious to eat, not too large either, and seems to have forgone the lettuce leaves for shredded lettuce. The burgers are freshly grilled, and can be arranged with whatever you like. In-N-Out is definitely recommended, thanks to the quality and low cost.