From vintage burger shacks to fine dining, from taverns to turnkeys, from all beef to 50/50, or from turkey to vegetarian—and everything in between—cheeseburger lovers will be able to vote for their favorites in a number of categories from now until Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 during this week’s Cheeseburger Week and the Cheeseburger Challenge for 2018.
The week-long event was created by the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce to a celebrate the cheeseburger, a culinary legacy in the city that lays claim as the mother location of its invention.
Although it’s a toss-up as to who created the very first burger—and there has been some recent debate as to where the cheese should be placed on a fake cheeseburger—it is Lionel Sternberger who is credited with inventing the first real cheeseburger back in 1922, where it is said that The Rite Spot of Pasadena was the home of Sternburger’s happy accident. And as cheesy as it sounds, it appears that while attempting to use cheese to cover up an over-cooked burger patty in order to save his proverbial bacon from the restaurant’s owner, his father, he invented a classic.
And thus, the now ubiquitous American Cheeseburger was born.
However, the annual debate over who makes the “best” cheeseburger, especially in Pasadena, is still left open to debate via the available and willing public palate. This week’s city-wide and self-guided event* is to serve as fuel to that debate, promoting over 35 participating restaurants who’ve stepped up to that challenge for your tasting and voting pleasure.
For those of you who just can’t get your fill in one sitting, there are recommended Cheeseburger Crawls or, like your burger, you can build your own. Although yours truly prefers a cheeseburger with a slice (or two) of ultra sharp real cheddar cheese, many cheeseburger purists prefer that high-gloss, pale orange slice of flavored processed food—an affront to the word “cheese”—American.
But thankfully, many other choices abound where creative cheeseburger counters and chefs offer other palate-teasing lactose alternatives such as gorgonzola, pepper jack, smoked gouda or feta, so here’s an alternative crawl of sorts:
The bluRoom at the dusitD2 Hotel Constance offers a ground beef and pork patty with tarragon and shallots on sourdough bread, Forme ‘d Ambert Blue, arugula greens, and caramelized onion jam with a suggested pairing of their signature Bourbon Manhattan.
The Central Park Park serves up The Park Burger, a 1/2 pound Ground Sirloin with Gorgonzola cheese, arugula, crispy onion strings, topped with a red wine reduction on a Brioche Bun and served with Garlic Fries. All of their burgers for this Thursday during the event are $9.95.
Especially for Cheeseburger Week, the El Portal returns with their Zacatecas Burger, a blend of Yucatan pork, smothered with cheese, on a grilled roll.
Pie ‘n Burger is local-famous for its traditional burgers, including the tried-and-true American Cheeseburger. The modest restaurant, a Pasadena landmark, serves up a variety of Americana comfort food, table and counter-served since 1963, where the restaurant still uses a vintage working cash register. But if you find yourself looking into the savory pie on the menu, just trust me and skip the Chicken Pot Pie this time. For the 2018 Cheeseburger Week special meal—a cheeseburger, fries and a soft drink—is $13, and you can download the coupon here.
At Slater’s 50/50, you can get The Original 50/50, which is their 50/50 blend of beef and bacon, pepper jack cheese, a sunny side up egg, avocado mash, topped with Chipotle Adobo Mayo on a brioche roll.
Twohey’s Tavern, of Twohey’s Alhambra Stinko Burger fame, serves up a traditional American as well as their own famous Chili Dip burger made with house chili, Grafton cheddar, onion sprouts, crème fraîche and a side of those crispy house fries, as well as their Stinko 2.0.
At White Horse in their Happy Hour menu, the Arroyo Burger is topped with cheddar, their Smoked Tomato Garlic Aioli, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, bacon, egg, and avocado. For the week, they offer up the Apple Pie Bacon Cheeseburger, a 1/2 lb chuck brisket beef patty with aged cheddar cheese, applewood smoked bacon, apple cinnamon chutney (apple pie filling), and red onion jalapeño marmalade on a toasted sweet bun for your voting consideration.
* Writer recommends it’s always best to contact restaurants in advance for updates on offers, menu item changes, or any specials offered during this week-long event, especially for vegan and vegetarian menu items listed.