There's a a competitor at Club 26 on Washington Boulevard. Took my oldest daughter to lunch yesterday at Club 26 -- took along a copy of the Steve Perry novel I've been reading -- she took that as a challenge and was relentlessly witty and charming throughout lunch, so I never got to the Perry.
They have a variety of burgers at Club 26, including an obscene 5x5 patty plus cheese stack that no one over the age of 25 should even be in the same room with -- regular cheeseburgers are bad enough for you. This is the 3rd time I've eaten at Club 26, and both previous occasions I had the Old Fashioned -- medium rare burger, shredded lettuce, tomato, mustard, relish, wheat bun, cheddar. They grind their own meat at Club 26 and you can taste it. Twice previously I've rated this burger a 9 -- meat a little cold once, lettuce and tomato a little warm another time. Yesterday it was perfect -- burger doesn't make it into the Top 3 because of past inconsistency, but if I get another 10 out of them, I'll add it. (One of the 3 burgers in the Top 3 is the Pie'N'Burger in Pasadena -- which I've only had once, so it hasn't had a chance to exhibit inconsistency.)
It's a charming little restaurant, too, beyond the first-rate burgers. The beef chili nachos my daughter ordered were very good, and we split a lemon bar Sunday that was superb. It verges on romantic, as far as mood and setting, while being reasonably priced.
Elsewhere and on other websites I've rated the burger at Marie Callendar's a 7. Had it again since the last time I blogged the Best Cheeseburger, and it's still a 7. Competent, fresh ingredients, nicely prepared. I like the pickles and thousand island a lot -- mostly I don't like thousand on burgers, but Marie Callendar's has the world's best thousand island, and it takes a burger that would be a 5 and makes it a 7, all by itself.
There's a particular class of burger, the Plain Hamburger -- ketchup, mustard, pickles, burger, bun -- that very few places make well. Burger King's burger is a 4, for example, and the only Plain Burger that rates a 5 was at Mi Taco in Upland, California -- until recently. The Sunrise , fast-food joint on Venice Boulevard near where I live, about a mile west of the 405 on the north side of the street, produces a Kid's Hamburger on a toasted bun that's a 7. Burger goodness distilled to its essence. They also have a plain burger -- same thing with more bread around it -- a 5. Crispy toasted bread, hot from the toaster, good meat, good pickles, ketchup and mustard. I could eat that burger every day and weigh 300 pounds.
About 2 in the morning some Fridays back I pulled through a 24-hour McDonald's and ordered the 2-cheeseburger meal. These aren't very good burgers, but you can improve them immensely by ordering them off-standard -- that way you don't get one of the pre-made burgers they stick under the lamps. I order mine without onions. Fresh and without onions, a 3. It's the only McDonald's burger that ranks that high -- the Quarter Pounder is a 1 and the Big Mac a zero. They now have adult burgers with lettuce and tomato, but I haven't tried them, and probably won't.