Burger Reporter Skip checks in: “You can’t leave Pasadena,” said father-in-law Mike, “without visiting Hamburger Hamlet at least once. It will give you a good reason to return.” Mike and I hit the highlights of Pasadena cuisine, limiting ourselves to the best bangs for our buck. The Acapulco Restaurant, for example, does huge, delicious combination plates for under $7 during happy hour. Other eateries gave big returns for reasonable prices and that was what held us back from going to Hamburger Hamlet before now. This was no bargain paradise. The food is first-rate, the furnishings likewise and the upscale establishment’s quality is reflected in their upscale prices.
Mike’s favorite dish: The blue burger. “They don’t list it on the menu like that. It’s a hickory-smoked cheeseburger, but if you order it or any of their burgers ‘blue,’ they’ll put it on the grill only long enough to sear the sides — just a few seconds — and the inside of the burger will be raw.” I know that restaurants aren’t allowed to serve raw hamburger because of health reasons. What’s different about Hamburger Hamlet? The difference is that HH uses only prime steak in their hamburgers and the steak is ground daily.
And what a difference! Mike’s blue hickory burger was delicious! It’s the best beef burger I’ve tasted — thanks to Mike for giving me a sample — in recent memory. The odd thing about that particular burger was that it was only half-blue. Mike ate the raw half and it was apparent that the remainder of the burger was just rare. The server stopped by to ask about our meal and Mike started to tell her about his burger but the server could already see what was wrong. “How annoying,” she exclaimed. “That makes me angry. May I please take it back to the kitchen and bring you another?” A few minutes later, our server put a fresh, whole burger in front of Mike and that one was blue through and through.
My intention was to try one of the HH standards, but my eyes and my belly couldn’t let go of the Mediterranean Lamb Burger on the seasonal menu that came with hummus and roasted peppers. Yummy! I had to try it. In fact, the Lamb Burger turned out to be even more delicious than I’d imagined. The Moroccan-spiced glaze was perfect for the meat and the butter-toasted bun completed it. Who knew that lamb would make a terrific burger? I didn’t, but I do now.
The meals set us back $11.95 each. Mike confessed, “I thought their prices were quite a bit higher than this. I’ll come back next week and bring a few of my buddies from the Pasadena Radio Club.”