At the intersection of grilled cheese sandwich and cheeseburger sits one of the world’s great meatwiches: the patty melt. The crunch of the toasted buttered (preferably rye) bread giving way to the juiciness of a finely-cooked hamburger patty is one of the finest textural transitions in all of sandwichdom.
Southern California is not only where the cheeseburger as we know it was first made, it is also where the patty melt was born. Thankfully, Los Angeles is still keeping the patty melt torch aloft and burning for those for whom a burger on a bun sometimes just isn’t enough. These are some L.A. patty melts worth plowing your face into ASAP.
Animal’s off-menu special “Boner Burger” is a greasy messy bonkers cheeseburger on toasted marbled rye. Buttery bone marrow is mixed into the ground chuck and short rib to form the burger patty itself, which gets topped with caramelized grilled onions, jack cheese, somewhat spicy poblano peppers, and Animal’s mustardy & secretive “420 sauce.” The juices and sauce running down your face may stain your shirt. So fair warning: Bring an apron. Or at least wear your least favorite shirt.
On a weekend, trying to eat at this downtown café just south of Skid Row, you’ll discover you have to line up outside, until a cashier escorts you inside, one party at a time, to order at the iPad/register. It’s a little maddening, but worth it for the perfect messy patty of grassfed beef between a melted slice of white cheese, and browned onions, and sweet, earthy mushrooms. It’s flavorful, bold, and nearly and as buttery as a Parisian croissant.
The Behemoth Burger at the heavy metal themed Grill ‘Em All isn’t a patty melt exactly. Instead of a bun, the Behemoth Burger arrives between two buttery grilled cheese sandwiches. Heavy metal, indeed. The loosely-packed patty, topped with beer-soaked onions, bacon, pickles and BBQ sauce, is just on the edge of collapsing with every bite. It’s delicious overkill that you’re either going to be very ashamed or incredibly proud to be eating.
Instead of taking out of towners to In-N-Out after an LAX pickup, bring them to this 1950’s diner. The patty melt at Pann’s is massive. It’s not gourmet, artisanal or grassfed, but c’mon, get out of here with that snob noise. Pann’s delicious version is exactly what one expects out of a patty melt and that’s all that matters.
This place just blocks west of Caltech in Pasadena looks like the prototypical old school lunch counter. The menu is simply a couple of painted wooden panels hanging on the wall. The patty melt might seem small and unimpressive, but when you bite into the generously-buttered crunchy toasted rye, you’ll find about as close to a platonic ideal as a patty melt gets. Pie ‘n Burger is a bit run down, but it’s worth coming back time and time again for a patty melt (or a classic, excellent burger) and slice of Ollallieberry pie.
Reopened now for a few months, Cassell’s still can be an annoying dining experience because of the disorganized service. But the slightly-upscale patty melt here is reliably good every time. They can add any of their burger toppings including avocado or a fried egg, but that just complicates things. Keep it simple with cheddar on rye.
Tallyrand is a diner that specializes in turkey, but their “Tally Melt,” is all beef , topped with tomato and raw onion. This patty melt might not be an MVP, but it’s certainly batting well over the Mendoza line. When you’re here, don’t miss out on the lemon bundt cake or the opportunity to drink alongside retired grip/electric crew guys looking to tell stories about the crazy sh*t that happened back in the day when they worked on some of your favorite sitcoms.
Du-Par’s is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, so you can enjoy a superb patty melt with a generous portion of terrific browned onions anytime you crave one. If you’re feeling particularly heroic, you should order a single pancake on the side. Or a slice of their homemade pie. And if you’re in NELA, head for the Pasadena location and enjoy your patty melt in the back room in a red leather-backed chair. Smoking jacket not included.
Langer's704 S. Alvarado St.
Yes, the pastrami’s amazing at Langer’s in all its manifestations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try Langer’s respectable patty melt. Sure, the meat itself can be too small for the bread, or a little dry because of being overly spatula-smashed, but coupled with the melted cheese and grilled onions, it’s a pretty tasty solution to the hunger you’re hoping to placate. It also happens to arrive on Langer’s stellar rye bread, which, when buttered and grilled, is carbohydrate bliss.
Last but not least, The Oinkster. If you order a patty melt at The Oinkster, they will kindly explain that they don’t make patty melts, which is a shame, because this is one of the best patty melts in town. But what if you really want one? You’ve gotta bend the rules for this #DadBod #LifeHack, hatched by our friend Paul.
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Step #1: Order a grilled cheese sandwich. (I’d recommend marbled rye for optimal flavor and American cheese for paramount melting ability).
Step #2: Casually mention you’d like to add a few items to your grilled cheese sandwich. “Like what?” they’ll kindly ask. And you’ll grin slightly and brashly unleash feastman glory: A hamburger patty. Bacon. Tomatoes. Grilled onions. Thousand Island dressing.
Step #3: Handel’s Messiah.