Irv’s Burgers is part of the reason that this blog exists, in a weird, convoluted way. This all started with a visit to Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage in Cambridge, where I first heard about Hamburger America. That was a little over nine years ago. Like at Mr. Bartley’s, there was a placard on the counter, just like the one next to cash register in the picture below that read “We’re On the Map”.
That was the first I had heard of a map, or a book, or an app related to the best hamburgers in the country. And so, over nine years, and close to six hundred posts, ago, it began.
Irv’s was originally a roadside stand on Santa Monica Boulevard called Queen’s Burgers, where you sat 10 feet from the road from 1946 until about three years ago.
You can see what it looked like if you have a copy of Linda Ronstadt’s Living In the USA lying around. (Who doesn’t? For those of you who don’t, a photo of the double inside cover to the left). It became the “new” Irv’s when current owner, Sonia Hong, bought it from Irv in 2000. It had been Irv’s from 1978 – 2000. On our trip to Irv’s, we ended up at the “new” “new” Irv’s, as they fought a battle that moved them a few numbers down into the existing store front, with a fifteen year lease, starting in 2014.
We both ordered cheeseburger combos. As the plates came to the table, the first thing I noticed was the paper plate art, courtesy of the owner, Sonia.
I had read about the art in the book and was wondering if it was still going on and what it would be like. We received a matched set of paper plate ware. Sonia’s brother, Sean, took our order and she and Mama (her mom) were working in the back, rolling out fresh balls of ground beef to throw on the grill. It was simple burger, but excellent. The only thing that indicated the owner’s heritage was the bottle of sriracha in addition to the ketchup and mustard bottles on the tables.
I was telling #1 wife as we were walking down the street towards our car that the last bite of that burger was perfect. That moment when all the condiments start to sink into the toasted bun and the melted cheese is the only thing keeping it from falling apart is the epitome of burger umami.