the burger: “the blue chip” – a double cheeseburger served up club style with three bun slices, american cheese, house made special sauce, mayonnaise, shredded lettuce, sliced onion and tomato
the other burger: 4 oz chargrilled patty with avocado, bacon, shredded lettuce, pickle and house made thousand island
the bucks: $3.92, $6.54 respectively
the coordinates: Los Angeles, CA
Maybe you have heard of Blue Chip Stocks. If you haven’t, allow me to give you a quick wiki economics 101: Blue Chip stocks represent the companies that are considered to be the most dependable and steadily profitable, they are the ones that keep the ship steady in good times and not so good times. They become the indicators of how the market itself is performing. If they go down, then the whole system is in serious trouble. These companies are often followed as a group, which is called the Dow Jones Industrial Average. If ever there was a burger joint that deserved to be on the Dow Jones Index, well how appropriate that the burger joint should happened to be named “Pete’s Blue Chip.”
But enough with some word play about a name that may have more to do with Poker than the Stock Market. What really drew me to Pete’s is why you are going to run vs walk there: a flattering Big Mac impersonation that, not surprisingly, easily surpasses the original. I guess you could call me a Big Mac guy. Back in the day, when weekly pilgrimages to McDonald’s were as predictable as Monday’s, I would always pick Big Mac over Quarter Pounder, McDLT(bonus points if you remember that abomination) and even the og seasonal menu offering- the McRib. I just think that it’s one hell of a burger concept. Visually impressive thanks to the towering effect brought on by three slices of bread, the burger emphasizes toppings and texture. By design, the ratio of beef to bun is diminished, yet the burger delivers a satisfying meal, a unique rendition that stands toe to toe with more beefier options like the Whopper and holds its ground as a more apples to orange comparison.
When considering the accepted performance levels of a titan fast food restaurant, there is certainly room for improvement, especially from the perspective of the hungry and thrifty customer. And with that meet Pete’s Blue Chip – a Big Mac Impersonator whose attention to detail and commitment to delivering a competitively priced product, gives everybody in McDonaldland a run for their Monopoly money.
When you take your first bite, you will be internalizing a double take as you realize that you are eating a Big Mac, but better, much better. And a little different too. The Blue Chip’s secret sauce, like McDonald’s, is also a secret, but from what I can tell, the ratio favors ketchup over mayonnaise and there was not a hint of sweet pickle relish. A decent slice of tomato makes an appearance as well, also furthering this rendition from the Big Mac. The addition of this ingredient also indicates that Pete’s can pull off good produce at reasonable prices; something that the Golden Arches cannot. Not that this tomato is of the heirloom pedigree either, but fresh it is. Heads of Iceberg are shredded daily along side the slicing of onions, that tomato just mentioned, and pretty much any other produce that comes through Pete’s door. For a single vendor to successfully source not just the 2oz beef patties that arrive fresh daily, but the bun that measures out to the same circumference almost perfectly, is an accomplishment. The food at Pete’s is priced and presented like Fast Food, but it is also made with a whole lotta love.
Of course some of you may say “better than McDonald’s isn’t saying much” and to the organic only omnivore who occasionally indulges in the flesh of cows that graze grass, perhaps the Blue Chip is not for you. Then again, maybe any burger under $5 is not for you. But if your weekly lunch budgets dwell in this price point, you probably have not only the appreciative palate, but a straight up longing for a fast food burger, done right. You recognize that despite all of the progress, nay, the evolution that has come to the world of burgers, you just can’t let go of that simple taste seared into your childhood. Your heart and stomach long for the amalgamation of simple ingredients with enlightened and exemplary kitchen competence. All you want is a good man(or woman) at that griddle, serving up edible magic at a median price point of $5. The heart of why Pete’s rocks is that they take their food seriously, putting in the thought into exactly what really makes a $5 burger zing and stepping up the ingredients as much as possible, without breaking your bank. You see it not only in the burgers but on the faces of the people taking your order: quarter smiles with a dash of pride, totally convinced in the quality of the food you are about to eat. But before you think I’ve just gotten completely caught up in my own swoon, feast your eyes on this: a bonus burger served up to me straight omakase style(yup, this burger joint did the ordering for me).
Left onto my own devices, I would have never ordered this burger. Given that Pete’s has a sterling reputation for breakfast, I would have made moves for the Patty Melt and taken advantage of the rye bread turn over, or filled my belly with a 1/2lb double cheeseburger for well under $5. But, as we have learned dining in those traditional grand eating establishments, the chef knows best, and before I could churn out a third “no”, Effie Vlahos, Proprietor of Pete’s, presented me with a burger creation of her own.
What may seem to be standard issue on paper, also becomes gospel for Pete’s stellar attention to details: a house made thousand island good enough to be smeared on $10 gourmet sandwiches, Kruse Applewood smoked bacon, and enough avocado to cover all the dragon rolls being slung on Ventura Blvd on a Saturday night. The most important detail was perhaps the simplest one: grilled onions. As that plastic plate landed with a click on the formica covered table, Effie dropped knowledge that the addition of grilled onions “make it bomb”. From my point of view it reinforced the savoriness of the beef that was being joyfully inundated with rich avocado, creamy thousand island and cured fat from the bacon. Oh and the thing was f’ing huge:
At Pete’s and at Bang for your Burger Buck, it is that bottom line that speaks the loudest: $3.92 for the Blue Chip, $6.54 for the Bacon Avocado cheeseburger. Prices like that turn first timers like myself to repeat customers within a week, a cautionary tale about a habit you might want to keep in check. This gem of a burger stop has history too, literally seen on the walls, and these images speak to a promise made by post World War II America, a promise that insured sustenance coupled with convenience. Some will say that the aftermath of that promise has spurned a health epidemic and the corporate peddlers of high caloric food should be made culpable. I say, look to a burger gem like Pete’s, taste the love, honor the food you crave from your childhood and remember that indulgences are best enjoyed with ample time in between, to savor the moment. Especially when said indulgence has a freakin’ drive thru. Yes, Pete’s Blue Chip has a Drive Thru, marking a true first for Bang for your Burger Buck, Bang on wheels. The menu gets deep at Pete’s, Pork Chop dinner plates for under $10, celebrated breakfast burritos and even a full Mexican menu, with rice and beans prepared daily, naturally. But for me, it all starts and ends with that Big Mac Impersonator, as approachable as the original was in the days of my youth and just as affordable – a tasty edible memory that sets the Bang for your Burger Buck scale to priceless and timeless.
Pete’s Blue Chip
1701 E. Colorado Blvd
Los Angeles, CA