Let’s get one thing out of the way before launching into this review. Hole in the Wall Burger Joint is not on Santa Monica Blvd. Google, Yelp, and all the other maps will say that it is at 11058 Santa Monica Blvd in West LA, which turns out to be total and utter fiction. It is in fact around the corner on S. Bentley Ave tucked behind a Winchell Donuts and unless you have X-ray vision there is absolutely no chance you will see it from Santa Monica Blvd. You have been warned.
That being said, this place is totally worth finding. The Hole in the Wall Burger Joint (or as it will be known from here on out as the Joint because my fingers are lazy) is my favorite kind of burger place: unpretentious, no frills, cheap and gourmet. The restaurant itself looks like the kind of place you could catch a disease just by sitting down. Tiny metal chairs are sprawled under tarps in the parking lot which counts as their patio and the inside is bright orange and filled with uncomfortable chairs. Does it matter? Not one bit. Because the money they saved on décor, they passed on to you. They don’t call themselves “The Working Man’s Gourmet Burger” for nothing.
The Joint is the kind of place where you can design your own burger. For $8.95 you get a giant list of toppings, homemade sauces, and cheese. Unlike their expensive competition (cough, the Counter) they actually pay attention to the burger. They use grass-fed Angus beef without antibiotics or hormones. The burger is thick and juicy and grease will run down your chin. It is rich and satisfying and never overcooked. Don’t eat beef? No worries. They’ve got spicy chicken, homemade veggie, and turkey. Allergic to gluten? No problem, they also do burgers in a bowl. Don’t want to make a decision? That’s cool, they’ve always got a special burger of the day. And all of it can be ordered online before you even get there and it’ll be ready in 10 minutes. All ready to go wrapped lovingly in wax paper and a brown paper bag. It is one of those shining fast food lights in the shadowy world of strip mall burger joints.
I often sneak over there for lunch, and yesterday I got a beef burger on fresh pretzel bread with onion jam, cheddar, red onions (you can never have too many onions), sautéed mushrooms, and lettuce (You know, for health. Hi, Mom.) The man who took my order at the counter was a tall, sweaty behemoth of goodwill. His burgers are good and he is tremendously proud of them. Calling me darling, he told me to check out the sauces. The sauce counter is probably the only snobby part of the Joint, but it’s also my favorite. They have three options labeled: Their Ketchup, Our Ketchup, and Our Ranch. Below each title is a list of ingredients, including all of the chemicals included in Their Ketchup. Both Our Ketchup and Our Ranch contain the ingredient Love. Consequently, Their Ketchup contains “No Love.” It makes me wonder if anyone has ever chosen Their Ketchup and if so, how old the ketchup in that bottle is. These are not healthy things to wonder.
It’s hard not to like a place that focuses all of its energy on making good affordable food and doesn’t much care about anything else. The only real downside is that they’re cash only, so come prepared.
– Molly Bergen