Things change. When it came to Pasadena’s Cheeseburger Week, I used to be a cheeseburger snob. That is no longer the case.
In my former opinion, Pie ‘n Burger’s cheeseburger was the local sine qua non of the art form. I thought it the rightful heir to the original, which was unwittingly created, as the legend goes, in 1924 by young fry cook Lionel Sternberger at the Rite Spot on West Colorado Boulevard.
I was also firmly against restaurants owned by chains or well-financed restaurant groups.
“Support the little guy who lives in town,” I would say. Thus, when Granville came up for cheeseburger consideration, I sighed and rolled my eyes, despite the favorable opinions of friends.
As of this week, after dining at Granville, I stand firmly corrected. Their two cheeseburger takes are by turns classically respectful, as well as novel and thoroughly delicious. Beyond that, we found the experience of dining at Granville, from the atmosphere of their enclosed rooftop dining room, to the attentive service, even to the music playlist, to be impressive.
Granville is a sophisticated bistro experience that fits perfectly on its bustling corner at South Lake and East Del Mar Boulevard, ever since it opened here in 2019.
Thus we plotted our cheeseburger strategy for the evening over an initial round of libations, since Granville has full bar service along with a range of ten draft beers on draft. A compact wine list offers options by the glass as well as fairly priced bottles.
A substantial list of premium spirits also runs down the center of the beverage menu. That’s on you.
There are all of three burger choices and only two qualify as cheeseburgers. First, the “Classic Cheeseburger” with a choice of beef or plant-based patties, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion, and a “secret sauce,” served on a sesame seed bun.
The more adventurous option is the “Bacon and Bleu Burger” with bleu cheese, candied bacon, caramelized onions and mushrooms in a port wine reduction, arugula and horseradish aioli on a brioche bun.
The burgers are typically served with housemade potato chips, but one might consider the fries or the highly touted mac and cheese, as accompaniments here.
Our order took a radical twist in ordering the “Classic” with a plant-based patty and topped with vegan American cheese. My dining companion has lately been eschewing animal protein, and plant-based options have been ubiquitous and irresistible to many of us.
Granville’s vegan version of the classic cheeseburger is all but perfectly rendered. Care and attention has been given to the composition. This is not a desultory toss of toppings. As my dining partner simply noted through mid-bite, “They’re concerned that every bite is good.”
I happily concurred, after I grabbed the burger myself and wolfed down half. Their plant-based offering should rank at the top in the vegan category of any cheeseburger challenge.
The Bacon & Bleu burger is a far more complex and nuanced cheeseburger experience that is no less satisfying nor more mindfully composed. The wagyu beef patty was grilled to a well-calibrated medium rare, with a pleasing outer sear masking the juicy pink center. The bleu cheese—which can sometimes overwhelm a burger—politely takes a back seat to the port wine-reduced grilled onions and mushrooms, with the horseradish aioli adding a pleasant and subtle heat. (The bacon is almost a superfluous bonus, but always a delicious bonus.)
Sadly, about halfway through my manic assault on this burger, the brioche bun began to tremble and give way under the intensity of my fervent mastication. Nonetheless, this is a cheeseburger of a highly elevated class that deserves attention by any locals navigating Cheeseburger Week.
Speaking of which, the cheeseburger clock is ticking. Cheeseburger Week extends through this weekend and voting in the Cheeseburger Challenge ends at 11:59 PM Saturday, January 28.
The voting takes place right here, and there is still time to check out Granville, if you haven’t already. Granville’s offerings are sure to win over any local cheeseburger snob.
Granville is at 270 South Lake Avenue, Pasadena, CA.