Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

4 unique fast food restaurants to try when visiting Los Angeles

in-n-out-burgers

Los Angeles has a very peculiar food culture, with a wide variety of amazing white table cloth restaurants, as well as thousands of drive-through fast food joints that might expect in a place that more or less invented the modern-day car culture.

You’ll find plenty of McDonald’s and Taco Bells, both of which got their starts in Southern California, but you’ll also find a number of lesser-known fast food restaurants that are beloved to those of us who grew up in the area. These places haven’t spread themselves all over the globe, so they are worth a try when you are in Los Angeles.

In-N-Out Burger

in-n-out-sign

Now boasting around 250 locations, this Los Angeles classic has made it into a few states outside of California, but locals still think of it as their hometown burger joint. The menu is so simple that it only lists a handful of items, with hamburgers and cheeseburgers accounting for nearly all the sales.

Strangely, In-N-Out’s burgers don’t have anything dramatically different about them, except perhaps the option of grilled onions (get them!), yet it would be nearly impossible to find a local Angeleno who doesn’t adore the place.

Everything is made freshly, reminding you of good backyard BBQ burgers more than of, say, a Big Mac, and the shakes are made partly of real ice cream while the fries are cut from potatoes at each location. If you like hamburgers at all, you owe it to yourself to see what the fuss is about.

Pink’s Hot Dogs

pinks-hot-dogs

Some say this tiny hot dog place is overrated, and it certainly does seem to get more than its fair share of publicity, but the reason it’s always so crowded is that the hot dogs are the best in the area.

Athough a plain dog on a bun here is good, it’s the creative toppings and combinations that really steal the show. Chili, bacon, and sour cream are among the more conventional options, and most of the choices are named after celebrities to add a bit more fun.

The original location of Pink’s Hot Dogs on La Brea Avenue near Melrose in Hollywood is the one to go to, and in spite of the long lines of tourists, there are still a number of celebrities who stop by regularly.

Original Tommy’s Hamburgers

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This is a small chain that, unlike In-N-Out, divides Los Angeles residents. The key is that Tommy’s mostly makes chili burgers, made with a strong and spicy chili that isn’t for everyone. Original Tommy’s began in 1946 near downtown Los Angeles, and that original location is still the best, featuring two seperate small restaurants sharing one parking lot.

The menu here is very short and simple as well, and the service is usually so fast that it seems suspicious, but everything is made freshly on a very efficient assembly line right in front of you. If the idea of a chili burger sounds good then you have to try this place, but be warned that no amount of napkins will completely rid you of its essence, so this might not be ideal for those going out on a date soon.

El Pollo Loco

el-pollo-loco

This chain of casual chicken restaurants actually started in northern Mexico in the mid 1970s, but once it made it’s US debut in Los Angeles in 1980, it was adopted as a local, especially by the area’s enormous Latin American community.

The chicken is expertly flame-cooked on an open grill, and basted with Mexican-influenced spices, served alongside a large selection of interesting side dishes. It’s the anti-KFC for those who like a bit of kick along with their “crazy chicken.”

There are locations all over Los Angeles, and even a few in neighboring states, so finding an El Pollo Loco shouldn’t be difficult. Occasionally you’ll see someone dancing in a chicken suit out front to draw customers in, and it’s worth noting that this was Brad Pitt’s first job as an entertainer when he worked for the Sunset Blvd. location in Hollywood.

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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