Ian and I consider ourselves burger connoisseurs. By that, I don’t mean that we are burger snobs or anything. We are actually probably the opposite. However, we are constantly on the search for the perfect burger. It has been a goal of ours for years and years. The one problem with that is we typically end up falling in love with most burgers we eat (see our blog on the best burgers in San Diego). There is one place that lives in Ian’s childhood nostalgia that he has been dying to take me to since we started our quest. One burger joint that he thinks would hit all the right marks and fulfill all of my requirements. One burger to rule them all. The legendary spot is none other than Pie ‘n Burger and this past July 4th weekend, we finally got to go check it out!
Pie ‘n Burger has been a staple in Pasadena since it opened in 1963. It has been featured on many lists of best burgers in the LA area. It is a simple, unimposing counter service restaurant. I am guessing it has not changed much since the 1960s (besides the prices). It is still cash only and sports an ancient-looking cash register on the counter. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the decor though. This place is a foodie mecca. Pie ‘n Burger takes comfort food people loves and just does it right. It is a simple menu. Most of the items are right in the name. It is known most famously for its burgers and huge list of various pies, but it also offers fresh ice cream, milkshakes, various sides, and cakes. That being said, you go there for the burgers and the pie!
The burger is simple, effective, and delicious. It has everything you need on a burger and nothing more: a nice sturdy buttered bun, a meaty (yet reasonably sized) patty, melty American cheese, tangy pickles, fresh tomatoes, a beautifully folded bundle of lettuce, and a perfectly balanced burger sauce (thousand island style). You may add grilled or raw onions (or both if you are Ian). That’s it. No fancy aiolis, crazy toppings, bone marrow, or whatever else the hip and the young are doing today. Just the perfect blend of complimenting toppings. It is… the best. A symphony of flavors and tastes in your mouth that does not overwhelm or drown you, but carries you through bite by bite until you are sad it is over. We couldn’t have asked for anything more. We paired ours with an order of the potato salad which is surprisingly delicious and fresh.
I could wax on and on about the burger, but let’s switch to pie mode. Or a la mode. Get it? Anyways, pie is such an underrated dessert. I feel like pie has been slept on in the modern age and it is such a shame. A well-balanced pie is much better than a cake in my humble opinion. The pie list at Pie ‘n Burger is comprehensive and has something for everyone. We were a little overwhelmed but decided to pick one meringue and one fruit pie. We originally ordered the peanut butter meringue, but they were out, so we got a slice of the butterscotch meringue. I was secretly happy because this is what I wanted from the beginning (Ian said he was “uninterested”)! This pie is so unique and interesting. Everyone needs to try it! The butterscotch custard is thick, sweet, and almost has a burnt caramel flavor. It is wonderfully contrasted by the soft, sticky meringue. The crust has a perfect texture and crumble (wouldn’t you know it, Ian changed his tune and asked “where has this been all my life?). No soggy bottoms here! We also got the fresh peach pie with homemade whipped cream (it is extra but you can add either whipped cream or ice cream). I am still thinking about that pie. The peaches are fresh, no fake-tasting canned ones here. They still have a good texture and are not overwhelmingly sweet. The whipped cream is thick and creamy. Honestly, I cannot think of a better pie. I want to eat it every day of my life, but again, my waistline disagrees.
Pie n’ Burger is a slice of history (get it??). It is well worth the trip into Pasadena, regardless of where you live! I cannot wait to go back and try more pies. I think I also want to try a milkshake next time because I am a sucker for that style of old school hand-spun ones! They also have a food truck- so keep your eye out for that!