Get Your Cheese On, Pasadena, There Are a Lot of Great Burgers to Try

Here’s what we’re eating so far as Cheeseburger Week rolls on in Pasadena

Published : Thursday, January 11, 2018 | 6:39 AM

By now every red-blooded Pasadenan knows the legend – in 1924, a teenaged Lionel Sternberger, in a moment of inspiration, plopped a slice of cheese onto a customer’s sizzling burger patty, and created the “Aristocrat Burger,” which became simply known as the “cheeseburger.” Culinary history was made. (The other legend is that the burger was burnt and the wily Lionel dropped that cheese slice onto the patty to hide the damage.  We like both stories.)

Now that moment is celebrated every January by scores of restaurants all over Pasadena from West Colorado to East Colorado, and all juicy, sizzling points in between. It’s on right now, in fact, and a number of local burger joints, upscale and otherwise, are creating specials just for the week.

We’ve been doing the hard work here over the last week, and here’s what we’re enjoying so far. Remember, we’re not rating anything. That’s your job (  We’re simply featuring some highlights of what’s available out there, and there’s a lot.

Let’s eat.

Dog Haus

Dog Haus

Though known (and named) for its hot dogs, Dog Haus also rocks a mean cheeseburger. The open secret here is its use of King’s Hawaiian Bread for its buns.  The sweet-flavored bread is almost cheating.

Here you get a very juicy cheeseburger packed with every topping you can imagine, and don’t worry, it’s not you. It’s a mess to eat. (Although, you know, it might be you.)

In any case, one of our favorite things about cheeseburger-ing at the Dog Haus are the Tater Tots. Who doesn’t love Tater Tots? The Dog Haus offers theirs as an alternative to the usual fries, and they’ll take you back to school yard lunches in a good way.  There is also a small assortment of sauces—ranches, chipotle, aoli, and the like—to bathe the tots in. We took one of each, because that’s how we roll.

The cheeseburger itself is fun and flavorful with big tomatoes and kosher pickles, but eat it fast, before it becomes a soggy, delicious mess in your hands.


Dog Haus Biergarten Old Pasadena, 93 E Green St. (626) 683-0808. • Dog Haus Pasadena, 105 N Hill Ave. (626) 577-4287.


The Counter

The Counter

Steve Martin once sang, “It’s impossible, to stick a Cadillac up your nose, it’s just impossible.” And as far as I know, that’s true. However, I would have said the same thing about the “Impossible Burger” that I had tonight at the Counter in Pasadena. No, not that I couldn’t stick it up my nose—that would be uncomfortable, but not impossible. What’s impossible is how insanely close in color, flavor, and texture this veggie patty is to the real thing.

So real in fact, that The Counter offers “well done” and “medium rare” options! It is indeed a head scratcher. So much so that for the next two weeks the place won’t even let this unicorn onto the “Create your own burger” section of the menu. They want to show you how it’s done first. Their solid suggested build consists of the burger topped with a thick crown of herbed goat cheese and chunky strands of grilled red onion. Under the patty you’ll find mixed greens and a thin tomato slice. Yes, greens UNDER the patty like the recently maligned Google emoji. Well, perhaps they were onto something.

But I digress and we’re far from done.

An English muffin serves as the bun. The top muffin is slathered with a sweet and spicy tomato jam which plays well against the natural tartness of the goat cheese. The bottom muffin is drizzled with a dijon balsamic dressing that provides an acidic freshness that balances the tart and the sweet. Vegetarians and Vegans beware! Even though this carnal conjuring is only cow-jecture, it will bring your mind and tongue too close to the dark side for comfort. This plant postulation is meant to satisfy the carnivore who for whatever reason needs some meat mediation.

It is truly a job well done. In fact, one could easily say that it’s the Cadillac of meat masquerades.

The Counter, 40 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena, CA . (626) 440-1008.

—Dave Auslender

Edwin Mills

Edwin Mills by Equator

This unique location on Mills Place, off Edwin Alley in Old Pasadena, was built in 1894, and has housed among other things, a marketplace, a stable, a mechanic shop, a storage area, and numerous cafes and coffee spots over the years.

These days it’s a hip-ish “New American” gastropub with exposed brick walls, occasional jazz music, and old movies projected on the walls.

And terrific cheeseburgers. The beef is freshly hand-ground and served on perfectly toasted and buttered Brioche-style buns.  We tried the bleu cheese burger, as well as a traditional cheeseburger with cheddar cheese, and well, they were magnificent.

Both were flavorful, and the accompanying fries were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, like bad sitcom villains. And that worked for us.

It’s a great cheeseburger in a cool location. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Edwin Mills, 22 Mills Place, Pasadena 91105. 626.564.8656.


Kings Row

King’s Row Gastropub

We can’t visit every participating restaurant during Cheeseburger Week, but some places, for various reasons, just lend themselves to our coverage. There are a lot of reasons to like King’s Row in Old Pasadena, from the terrific bar to the varied and creative menu to the live music on the weekends.

But they also make a great cheeseburger. Executive Chef Sunny Vohra takes them pretty seriously. We stood in his kitchen as he made ours, actually.

The fresh ground beef sizzled on the griddle as he dropped on the cheese, toasted the large sesame seed-dotted Brioche-style buns, drizzled on the ketchup and mayonnaise, and happily scraped off the onions for us. The result was a simple and elegant and delicious cheeseburger, easily one of the best in Pasadena.

Vohran also threw in a chicken cheeseburger, so meaty and flavorful and juicy, it might fool you in a blindfold test. We devoured them both.

Really hungry? We suggest you do the same. You’re welcome.

King’s Row Gastropub, 20 E Colorado Blvd, Pasadena.  (626) 793-3010.


Clearman’s Galley

Clearman’s Galley

Okay, we know it’s a little confusing. There are several Northwoods Inns in Southern California. If you’ve ever passed one, you know it. Low, slung erzatz mountain cabins with snow on the roof? Yes, those.

Clearman’s Galley, with its nautical motif, in nearby Rosemead,  is just part of the family. It’s a Saturday night kind of place, great for families and for watching the game. Or the other game. They’re both on.

It’s a noisy, fun place where you order at the counter, find a spot in the crowded dining room, and wait for your order, delivered on a cart.

We ordered our cheeseburger with a serving of thick-cut loaded steak fries drizzled with a cheese sauce and bacon bits. It’s that kind of place. Have a salad tomorrow, know what we mean?

The cheeseburger is meaty and flavorful, and frankly, just tastes like Saturday night. Which is a good thing.

Take the kids. Take your friend’s kids. Take your friends and their friends, and have a cheeseburger. Life is a blink. Order the loaded fries.

Clearman’s Galley, 7215 Rosemead Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91775. (626) 286-3075


By the way, gentle readers, we have more cheeseburger reviews coming up later this week. Let us know what your favorites are on Facebook!