THE HAMBURGER HAMLET
AN OLD FAVORITE ON THE RISE AGAIN
Los Angelenos of a certain age can always wax fantastic about their favorite eateries growing up. There were institutions we all loved that have long since passed. One such beloved L.A. hotspot was The Hamburger Hamlet, which first opened in 1950 on Sunset Boulevard. Immediately it became a Hollywood landmark giving way to locations all over town and eventually the country. Founded by Harry and Marilyn Lewis who also opened Kate Mantillini, which sadly closed in 2014, The Hamburger Hamlet was a celebrity hangout in its heydays and a great place for hearty comfort food before its last location in Pasadena also closed in 2014.
The one remaining Hamburger Hamlet is now in Sherman Oaks and it is owned and operated by Kevin Michaels and Brett Doherty of the Killer Shrimp franchise. It’s still a locals’ favorite although it’s no longer the thriving scene it once was. But it surprisingly serves spot on handcrafted cocktails and still delivers the hearty comfort food it was always known for.
The Killer Shrimp folks plan to open more Hamburger Hamlets but for now, the Sherman Oaks location is a throwback to a time where diners could relax in a comfy setting and enjoy quality cocktails and fine filling fare.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with cocktails, which were extremely satisfying. You may not think that a family style restaurant in the San Fernando Valley would serve killer drinks but you’d be wrong as Marcos Tello, the bar brainchild to many of the city’s best bar programs, oversees all things cocktails here.
The Daiquiri here is simple and is made with Selvarey Rum, simple syrup and fresh lime juice was is nice and tasted exactly like what a classic Daiquiri should taste like. Often times Daiquiris are too sweet or too tropical and a far cry from the original libation, but this three-ingredient drink delivers.
Likewise, the Tom Collins, another classic cocktail, also hit the mark. Made with Plymouth Gin, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and soda water there’s nothing fancy here—instead it’s just a good, refined drink. The same can be said for the Moscow Mule made with Beluga Vodka, ginger syrup, fresh lime juice and soda water. It’s refreshing and very satisfying.
A great sharable appetizer is the zucchini Zircles, yes “Zircles”, made with fresh zucchini, hand-cut and golden fried in Italian bread crumbs served with apricot sauce and ranch dressing. It’s fried goodness and a popular menu item as is the Spicy Mac N’ Cheese Balls—think rich and creamy mac n’ cheese coated in panko bread crumbs and served with a chipotle ketchup. It’s a diet-busting good, hearty appetizer.
Besides cocktails, another thing that The Hamburger Hamlet gets rights are hearty soups. I’m nothing talking about simple chicken noodle soup, no, these are rich and extremely flavor soups that help define comfort food. I’m talking about their Onion Soup Fondue, a wonderfully dark onion soup with melted Swiss cheese across the top. And I don’t mean just a little cheese on top. This bad boy French soup is layered with rich cheese that creates a decadent delight. Likewise, the Lobster Bisque featuring a medley of crab and lobster and a little extra sherry is extremely rich and tasty. You’ll be hard pressed to find better soups.
For entrees, the Roasted Prime Rib of Beef served with au jus and creamed horseradish, mashed potatoes and vegetable medley is great. It’s an institution on the menu. This plate really satisfies.
Burger lovers have always enjoyed time spent at The Hamburger Hamlet and we were big fans of the Slow Braised Short Rib Burger with slow braised angus beef short rib served over 7oz burger with house made barbeque sauce, little fried onions, cheddar cheese and bread and butter pickles. It was absolutely delicious! The Sautéed Mushroom Burger with Jack and muenster cheese, chopped scallions and sour cream topped off with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese is considered a Hamlet classic for good reason as it floored us.
Growing up in L.A., dessert at The Hamburger Hamlet was something we all looked forward to and the The Ultimate Hot Fudge Layer Cake—a triple layer chocolate cake with Vanilla Håagen Dazs ice cream topped with hot fudge and whipped fresh whipped cream—was a welcome throwback to days when calories didn’t matter and chocolate overload was as good as it got. I couldn’t help but utter “Oh yeah!” as I dived into the decadent dessert.
Dining at The Hamburger Hamlet brought back some good memories, which is often what a meal with friends will do. Certain dishes are engrained in our DNA and will take us back to days we hold fondly. This dinner at the Hamlet was relaxing and filled with good drinks and food alongside stellar company. What more can you ask for?
The Hamburger Hamlet is located at 4419 Van Nuys Blvd in Sherman Oaks. Open daily. Call 818-784-1183.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy Of: The Hamburger Hamlet