broken clouds


Laguna Beach

 Volume 12, Issue 44  |  June 2, 2020

The Best of Laguna Beach Banner2

Best Burgers in Laguna Beach, 2020

By Diane Armitage

Just because our world is topsy-turvy and my favorite Memorial Day Pancake Breakfast has been canceled does not mean that all traditions for the first true weekend of summer should be kicked to the curb. 

We still have our burgers. And when you have great burgers, you’ve got the world by the tail. 

Of the eight burgers I’m mentioning here, all but one are available now for takeout or delivery. 

Of course, a handful of our great chefs in town think an “old-fashioned burger” should be more of a decadent celebration, too. So, I’m updating my list of Best Hamburgers in Laguna Beach this week just in case you, dear reader, feel the tug of a summery-minded culinary venture this weekend and beyond. 

An Editorial Note: 

Permit a few caveats before we begin this slippery slope of a review: 

--I wasn’t able to try every hamburger in town. In fact, I mention two at the end of this article that came highly recommended by readers, but there just wasn’t enough time to digest eight burgers this week. 

--The burgers in this column are considered gourmet burgers from dining establishments that are well known for other foodie fare too.

--The list below is ranked alphabetically, period. 

--You might have a favorite burger in one of our fine dining establishments that’s not mentioned here. I welcome your vote and commentary on this terribly serious subject at either my BestofLagunaBeach Instagram page or Facebook page. 

Towering Edifices of Wonder

Even as Laguna Beach sports a number of great burger-centric restaurants, the chefs at our finer dining restaurants bow to the burger, too.

However, these chefs don’t make normal food, and they certainly don’t make normal hamburgers. I discovered towering edifices of wonder with unique combinations of ingredients and detailed preparation steps that would leave the ordinary backyard grill guy agog. 

Grab your dinner napkins and let’s get started.

The AhbA Burger 

AhbA is back! Chef/Owner Nick Bennett and uber-talented Chef Jayro Martinez quietly reopened for takeout and curbside pickup last week. Unassuming return and unassuming little café is where that word stops. The food at this place is some of the most memorable Laguna Beach has ever seen. Leave it to Jayro to make a burger equal to all the rest of their great menu items. 

Best burger AhbA

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

The AhbA Burger packs a crazy punch with caramelized onions and pickled Fresno peppers   

Creation Date: August 2019

What makes the AhbA Burger memorable: Chef starts with two prime beef patties smothered in cheese. He adds a hefty dollop of caramelized sweet onions, which prove a perfect balance to the spicy surprise of sliced, pickled Fresno pepper rings and a scant slather of secret sauce aioli that warms you all the way to your toes.   

AhbA Secrets: It’s all in the sauce, and Chef Jayro is not talking. You’re going to have to pry that one out of him yourself. 

GG’s Bistro Angus Burger

Better known for its popular Bistro Burger, GG’s was inspired in this COVID haze to add a winning newbie to its list. 

Best burger GG

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

The new Angus Burger at GG’s Bistro with all its optional add-ins

Creation Date: May 2019

What makes the GG’s Angus Burger memorable: Personally, you can do no wrong with anything that resides inside a freshly baked Brioche bun. The bun could be heavenly just on its own.

This burger, though, holds up to the task with its “basics” being fresh Angus patty, lettuce, tomato, perky slices of red onion, and yet another slather of secret sauce that no chef seems to want to share. 

GG’s Secrets: Avocado slices, crispy bacon, and sautéed mushrooms are offered as extras. I’d suggest getting them all. (It’s a holiday after all).   

Lumberyard Beyond Burger

At first, I was a Doubting Thomas, I’ve got to admit. Lumberyard’s Beyond Burger is a non-meat gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO solution that ranks in equal calories to a burger patty but provides as much protein and iron with less fat and saturated fat.

More important to me (the Foodie Queen) is that this burger looks, smells, and tastes like a true-blue grilled hamburger.

Best burger Lumberyard

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

Lumberyard’s Beyond Burger looks, eats, and smells like a grilled burger, but it’s pea protein all the way

Creation Date: Summer 2019

What makes the Lumberyard Beyond Burger memorable: When Owner Cary Redfearn predicted supply chain issues in the future, neither of us figured those chains would already be in trouble less than six months later. It’s part of the reason for his decision to carry the Beyond burger. 

On the chew factor, it’s a little denser than your common burger patty. It’s more like biting into a ground sirloin burger. Its taste, though, is so closely matched to a backyard grill burger that you can’t even discern where the scientists at Beyond Burger tried to get it right. (I would have loved to have been a fly on that wall.) 

Lumberyard’s Secrets: The Lumberyard serves it with a slather of tomato marmalade to keep the patty juicy, but I don’t detect the normal patty dryness that I’ve tasted in other “almost-beef” products. It even looks like a medium rare burger, compliments of a dash of beet juice in the manufacture.

Reunion Kitchen Classic Cheeseburger

Probably the highest tower of them all, Scott McIntosh’s Classic Cheeseburger is more like a national monument. Add optional avocado, bacon, or fried egg, and you have a replica of The Leaning Tower of Pisa on your hands. 

Best burger Reunion

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

Probably the tallest to-go burger, the Reunion Kitchen Cheeseburger

Creation Date: At his first Reunion Kitchen in Anaheim, December 2013

What makes the Reunion Classic Cheeseburger memorable: A half-pound patty of ground chuck serves as the base to sliced tomato, thick house-made pickle slices, crisp lettuce, melted cheese (type of cheese is your option), and crispy fried onion strips with house sauce (a house-made, spicier version of Thousand Island dressing with the restaurant’s own secret pickle relish combo), slathered on both halves of the potato bun. Avocado, fried egg, and bacon are optional add-ons (two of the three are pictured in my photo). 

Scott McIntosh’s Secrets: After selling many burgers at many different restaurants over the years, McIntosh learned a “French technique” while working with Restaurateur David Wilhelm at French 75. 

“We served a ‘Butter Burger’ at French 75, which was actually stuffed with about a tablespoon of butter,” says McIntosh. “I carried that idea over with about a half tablespoon in our Reunion burger. It’s just enough that, when the patty hits the grill, the butter bubbles out and over and gives it that rich flavor. 

Skyloft Cheeseburger

This popular burger harkens back to that nostalgic taste of In-N-Out. Sometimes you just want a classic burger that’s just messy enough but can still be held in your hand without falling apart everywhere. Chef says he created this burger for people who have that “‘classic burger’ heart.”

Best burgers Skyloft

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of Skyloft

Skyloft’s Cheeseburger pays tribute to In-N-Out

Creation Date: May 2016

What makes the Skyloft Cheeseburger memorable: Two tenderized four-ounce patties hard-seared on the griddle, two “just melty” slices of white American cheese, a rabble of small-diced fresh tomato, red onion, pickles, and crisp iceberg lettuce. It’s finished with a healthy slather of top-secret black peppercorn aioli on a cushy bun. 

Additional Burger Recommendations

My social platforms had plenty of great opinions on this matter, too, so I’m giving these burgers a shout-out. 

The Best of Laguna Beach Banner2

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Diane Armitage

Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill’s phenomenal burger deserves a place on this list, but Chef Maro Molteni isn’t currently serving it as a to-go item

Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill’s burger is fantastic, ranking somewhere at the top of my list. It’s wood-grilled to perfection, then topped with complimentary love (and even an optional pineapple). I begged Chef Maro to put the burger back on his list for the Memorial Weekend, but he’s too busy cooking up all the other goodness you people keep ordering. 

The Oak Laguna Burger is one I’ve tried, but many moons ago. As I recall, it was a keeper. Fashioned with Wagyu beef, it boasts Jack cheese, fresh tomato, pickled onions, and house-made thousand island slather.

The new Sapphire.Cellar.Craft.Cook Pantry has been offering up an “homage” to Chef Azmin’s famous Wagyu burger since its opening day a month ago. Owner Russ Bendel tells me it’s their best-selling item, but I haven’t yet tried it personally. Their American Wagyu Beef Burger is crowned with lettuce, house-made pickles, shaved onion, hothouse tomato, Spanish cheddar cheese, and that ever-present Chef’s secret sauce. 

And, Selanne Steak Tavern’s “Flash” burger is next on my list. Also fashioned of Wagyu beef, it features arugula, tomato, white Tillamook cheddar cheese, a slather of “baconaise” and what Chef refers to as “angry onions.” 

Send Me Your Favorites!

By all means, continue to shout out your favorite burgers in Laguna Beach on either of my social platforms at BestofLagunaBeach. Feel free to DM me with photos of your favs, too, as the Memorial Holiday weekend is all about making memories happen!

Let’s get out and support our Laguna Beach restaurants and keep this community of amazing restaurateurs and chefs alive.    

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach™, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events, and lifestyle. Check out chef interviews, retail and restaurant news, and favorite events at and follow on Instagram @BestofLagunaBeach (look for Diane’s smiling face).


Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster & Designer.

Mary Hurlbut is our Chief Photographer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists. Scott Brashier is our photographer.

Stacia Stabler is our Social Media Manager & Writer.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: [email protected] for questions about advertising


Email: [email protected] with news releases, letters, etc.


© 2020 Stu News Laguna - All Rights Reserved.