After a tiring but exhilarating day today covering the L.A. Auto Show, I wanted to stop for some local quick food. However, it was getting near rush hour, so I decided to leave Downtown and head back to the West Side. On the way, I remembered that I had never been to Hamburger Habit, and, with its location at the intersection of National and Sepulveda Blvds., it was more or less on the way home. A bit of Thomas Guiding later, and I passed under the neon sign and into the red, white, and chrome burger joint about which I had heard good things.
The man who took my order was the owner, Frank Pezeshki. With his mustache, open-necked shirt, and gold Star of David, Frank is a character. He reminds me of character actor Lou Jacobi. However, to make a point, Frank doesn’t raise his low voice. Rather, he reaches across the counter to touch you on the arm. Then, when he sees an extra drop of drink on the outside of your cup, he reaches across the counter again, grabs the cup, and wipes it clean with a cloth. It’s certainly personal, hands-on service.
We had a good conversation, and Frank said the Habit has been in business for over four decades, formerly located on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. When I told him that I might want to hold the sauce on my #3 cheeseburger, he said “if you don’t like it, bring it back.” When I told him I had heard his burgers were really good, he said, “if you don’t like, it bring it back.”
I didn’t bring it back. I took off with the food in my car, and, after sitting behind the wheel of new cars with that new car smell all day, I now had an even more pleasant aroma wafting in the front seat of my not-so-new car. Of course, I ate the fries while driving, with a stick shift (professional driver/closed course/don’t try this at home kids), but waited until I reached a safer destination before unwrapping the burger. The fries were thick, crunchy outside, fluffy inside, old school style, and very tasty.
And the burger? At $ 4.60 for the basic cheeseburger and with a less harried, mom-and-pop atmosphere, Hamburger Habit is not directly comparable to cheaper old standby In-N-Out. It’s more comparable to slightly upscale fast food burger joints like Five Guys, which is one of my favorites. However, the Habit’s burger was different from Five Guys’. It was so soft, so tender, so fresh. It tasted like it had been made with loving care. (According to the Habit’s website, the burgers are made with ground chuck steak, which is delivered fresh daily). It actually tasted better with every bite, which I don’t think I have experienced in a burger before. Perhaps the ultimate compliment is that I finished my burger very, very quickly.
I’m not saying I’m quitting on Five Guys. I still like them very much. But Hamburger Habit is located much closer to me. I drive by there regularly. There’s a good chance that, next time I do so, I’ll get a pleasantly twitchy feeling in my stomach.
Perhaps it should be called Hamburger Jones.