As is true of ice cream, beer, and potato chips, this nation’s hamburgers have gotten better over the last several decades. There are very good ones, plain and fancy, nearly everywhere. In Los Angeles, which once had the reputation as source of the best, one place remains a beacon of burger goodness, open since 1947: the Apple Pan.
What has earned Apple Pan burgers legendary status? No one thing in particular. They are not outlandish, huge, or fancy. In fact, they are modest-sized, cooked through but still very juicy with good if not aristocratic ground-chuck flavor. They come beautifully and bountifully dressed with crisp, fresh lettuce, pickles, cheese (optional) and a choice of house-made sauces. Like the burger, the sauces in and of themselves are not stellar. There is chili sauce on the hickory burger (the meat of which gets smoky seasoning) and a barely sweet relish on the steak burger. No one element of these packages is sensational, but the combo is transcendent.
Hamburgers are enough to put the Apple Pan on the Roadfood map, but the even more outstanding item on the menu is pie. Here you find jim-dandy pies daily made on savory crusts – a double cruster in the case of apple, which is oh-so-good a la mode, and a single, supporting crust underneath the marvelous cream pies, which include coconut, spangled all over with toasty brown shreds, and banana cream, made with thick, ripe slices of banana, from-scratch custard, and buttery whipped cream.
It’s a tiny, adorable place where a mere 26 people can eat at one time, all at counter stools that face a central grill where hamburgers sizzle.