As part of "The Great Burger Quest", my dining group's next visit took us to Pete's Café for the Hellman Burger, named after the founder of a historic building across the street from Pete's. The month before we took a bite out of the Office Burger at Father's Office and I think for many of us, it was a bite worthy of many return visits.
Having never been to Pete's Café before, I was really excited to having a new restaurant experience. Walking in, I immediately took a liking to the high ceilings as well as the photographs of old downtown LA that were hung throughout the restaurant. With it being a Saturday and close to noon, we were presented with the brunch menu.
When placing our orders, the majority of us ordered the Hellman Burger, while others opted for the Bacon Cheddar Mushroom Burger instead. But what really enthralled us were the various French fry options that we could choose to come with our burgers or order a la carte. There were three different kinds to choose from: chipotle French fries, garlic and basil French fries and bleu cheese French cries. The fries were so irresistible; we actually ordered all three of them as appetizers.
Before the fries arrived, my Spinach and Pear Salad was placed before me. The ingredients consisted of baby spinach, Bartlett pears, Maytag blue cheese, candied walnuts, dried cherries with basil balsamic vinaigrette. Having previously worked for a salad company, I'm really picky about my salads and I have to say this one was a great balance of pungent, nutty, sweet and tart flavors. My only complaint was I would have preferred the pears diced for easier eating.
Soon, the fries came our way and we dove in. Light and crispy, I liked how they were cooked. Cheese head that I am, surprisingly, my favorite was the chipotle fries. The sauce had a real nice smokiness to it, with just the right amount of heat. Of course, the blue cheese fries came a very close second. As for the garlic and basil fries, they were a bit disappointing. The strong, pungent flavors I was expecting just wasn't there.
After all the fry eating, you'd think we wouldn't have room for our burgers once they hit the table, but somehow we managed. When I took my first look at the Hellman Burger I ordered, I initially was pleased. With the burger being a 1/2 pound, it looked substantial. I liked that my bun was toasted or maybe grilled. The veggies were fresh and I was happy to see red onions, instead of white onions. Then I put it all together, cut it in half and took a bite and it was just okay.
There wasn't anything wrong with it, but when you pay $11 for a hamburger, you expect more of a "Wow!" which was missing. The burger meat itself was fine, but it wasn't as juicy as I would have liked. A Fontina cheese was used, but didn't contribute much in terms of flavor. Also, while part of the ingredients was supposed to include smoked tomato aioli, either they didn't add enough or didn't add any at all, because I certainly don't remember that sauce hitting any part of my taste buds.
Would I pay $11 for the Hellman Burger again? No. Would I pay $12 for the Bacon Cheddar Mushroom Burger that a couple of other people in our group ordered? Actually, I just might, especially after hearing the on the spot rave reviews, but then, the maxim that everything tastes good with bacon could also apply to this case as well.
Overall, for this "Great Burger Quest", the Office Burger still reigns supreme, but who knows? There still may be burger greatness that's still untapped.
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400 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
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