The Westside’s answer to Pasadena’s hallowed Pie ‘n Burger, The Apple Pan is a revered Los Angeles institution. An ancient edifice by the Angeleno perception of history, the Apple Pan (est. 1947) is a free-standing little house on Pico Boulevard. You’ll walk through the spring-loaded doors and see customers seated at the U-Shaped counter wrapped around the brick-walled grill and fryers. A stack of Tillamook cheddar slices stands about three feet high next to the grill, waiting to find a melted home atop a burger, an order of cheese fries, or even a piece of apple pie.
When it’s crowded, there’s a charged chaos to the place. You’ll be waiting for a seat, hovering behind folks delightfully wolfing down cheeseburgers and pie while a fury surges within you like you’re caught in a traffic jam because you agreed to give your coworker a lift to LAX at 5pm on a Tuesday. “Eat faster!” you want to scream. “How many f*cking times do you need to chew that mouthful?”
If you’re in a rush, skip the hassle and order your burgers to go. We can attest that they taste just as good when you’re eating them out of a paper bag inside your parked car at 10 p.m. listening to conspiracy theory talk radio (shout-out to Coast to Coast on AM 640) and whether or not the Reptilian Illuminati is real.
If the unrelenting march of time and progress pisses you off, if you’re irked by every grassfed burger that lands in front of you ensconced in a damn brioche bun, or if you think there’s more to eating then what’s hashtag-worthy, The Apple Pan will likely suit your appetite just fine. The sign out front promises “Quality Forever.” And we’d wholly agree, this place is quality indeed. The Apple Pan might not griddle up the best burger in Los Angeles, but it just might be the best place in Los Angeles to eat one.
This Southern California prototypical lunch counter burger has been made the same way at The Apple Pan since before rock and roll was invented. Nothing revelatory, but still plenty enjoyable, with or without cheese. The sauce deployment is like thousand island dressing deconstructed: there’s a blanket of a tomato and pickle relish sprawled atop the patty with a generous layer of mayo beneath. If you want to slay a slightly more indulgent beast, just let the counterman know that you want double cheese, and you’ll be all the better for it.
The bright hickory sauce slathered atop the patty is, to our best guess, composed of Heinz Chili Sauce and liquid smoke. This is the burger to get if you’re coming here for the first time, as its smokiness makes it more flavorful and memorable than the Steakburger.
This overfilled sandwich lands on the counter with a thud, and all haters of mayo and hardboiled eggs cower in fear. Their loss. It’s a no-frills egg salad and lettuce behemoth that is superior to most others of its kind. There are no freshly chopped herbs or diced cornichons at play here, no celery even, and we’re fine with that, because simple simply works.
Skip the admittedly good tuna sandwich and ask instead for the off-menu tuna melt. While The Apple Pan messes up patty melts half the time we order them, they crank out a tuna melt that is better than nearly any diner’s we’ve ever encountered.
With a flick of the wrist, the gruff waitstaff will pour your fry-dipping ketchup for you with a brutality and rage more commonly seen in street brawls and pre-Lionheart Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. Ask for your fries extra crispy to avoid mushy disappointment.
Whether a la mode, topped with whipped cream, or full-on Travis Bickle blanketed by a slice of yellow cheese, the apple pie here is a good selection.
The crust is forgettable, but this is still a quality slice of pie, made with banana chunks that are ripe enough to be bursting with sweetness, but not so ripe as to be complete mush. Wash it down with a cup of buttermilk.
When The Apple Pan has their boysenberry pie (they have it a few days a week including Saturdays), it’s worth getting for the trumpet blasts of tartness.