Irv’s Burgers vs. Hamburger Mary’s (L.A.)

The Winning Burger!

Irv’s Burgers and Hamburger Mary’s are located directly across the street from one another, but are worlds apart when it comes to burgers, price, and atmosphere.

Since 1950, Irv’s Burgers – a stand, essentially – with aluminum tables under canvas umbrellas, has been serving up delicious, mouthwatering burgers. I stumbled upon it by first spotting the neon lights of Mary’s across the street. However, I wanted to dine at the unassuming, seedy-looking, makeshift burger factory as opposed to the casual sit-down restaurant.

The double cheeseburger ($4.55) was ordered with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup. No mustard, mayo. Ohhhhhh myyyyyy gooooooodness, it is such an incredible thing to behold. Heaven between two buns.

In a move that was either an isolated instance of suggestive gang-related innuendo or an interesting show of customer appreciation, the words “just for you” appeared on my plate – written in magic marker – beside a scribbled vato. I loved it!

Irv’s has super polite staff. They even made lunch for an eccentric, young homeless man, who appreciated their gesture immensely.

Another look at Irv’s Burgers’ burger.

Hamburger Mary’s is touted as a bar for open-minded people. Well, when they feature the likes of burlesque and drag shows, I can see why grandma isn’t coming here to celebrate her 80th. It smells like a raunchy bar with beer-stained floors and sticky tabletops. Crusty things – attracting hair and other fibers – can be found atop the condiment bottles.

A sign hangs on the wall, advising guests that “due to the high number of walk-outs, we now require a credit card to sit on the patio.” The question I pondered was, “why so many walk-outs?” How about bad service? It took nearly ten minutes before the patio server visited my table with a menu. I didn’t leave – even though I saw many happy people eating at Irv’s across the street – because I was determined to give Hamburger Mary’s a fair shot and wanted to compare the two.

Mary’s has a three-step process to order a freakin’ burger: 1) Pick your meat. 2) Pick your style. 3) Pick your side. My choices: Ground chuck ($9.99); “Mary Burger” with 1000 island dressing, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and I added cheddar ($1.25); french fries. It was just a half-pound of ground sirloin that didn’t do much for me. Nothing special. Overpriced. Soggy fries with seasoning.

I envied the folks at Irv’s Burgers and wished I left Hamburger Mary’s when I had the chance.

My uninspired photo of the burger at Hamburger Mary’s.

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