The massively overlapping Venn diagram of “folks who love burgers” and “folks who love street food” in Los Angeles means that Burgers Never Say Die is basically for everyone. The small and secretive East Hollywood street food stand pops up on Sundays from an unassuming back yard deep in the neighborhood, packing big flavors worthy of its growing weekend crowds.
Owner Shawn (he requested that Eater not use his full name) has been griddling up burgers from his back yard for a long time now, but took the prodding folks were giving him to widen his scope and got an official propane flattop. That’s all it’s taken to get Burgers Never Say Die off the ground, and word is already spreading on Instagram and among the neighbors. Sure, there’s a tiny little weekend sign on the gate out front announcing the driveway burgers, but you mostly have to be in the know to find out.
The tented operation is a simple one: Shawn gets freshly ground beef from a grocery store butcher nearby, and uses commercial buns and American cheese to round out the truncated menu. This is commodity cooking, to be sure, but with a price tag of $5 for a thin double patty Southern California-style burger, it’s hard to complain. After all, guys like Keith Garrett of All Flavor No Grease keeps costs low by still buying in bulk from the big chains, instead of some one-off cattle farmer raising grass fed bovines from the base of Mt. Shasta.
As for the menu, there’s the double burger for $5 and the Colossal for $8, with smaller items like $1 sodas and a $3 grilled cheese available as well. What exactly is the Colossal? It’s a double-stacked burger with a full grilled cheese tucked into the middle, ensuring maximum beef and carb-iness, and the requirement of about half a roll of paper towels. It’s no top bun that doubles as a pizza, but this is still some decadent eating.
The process is slow and deliberate. Shawn after all is no formal cook (he works in the entertainment industry mostly) and the whole operation isn’t exactly above board, so don’t expect the kind of fluid service you’ll find at other burger joints around town.
That’s part of the fun with Burgers Never Say Die, though; Shawn’s friends — those same ones eating his stuff for free over the years, the ones who convinced him to start this project up — work the place alongside him, taking orders and running plates and cleaning up. Consider this more like the Ragtop Fern’s of the burger kingdom, where the finished product, tasty as it is, might not be entirely the point.
Burgers Never Say Die runs Sundays only for lunch from the back yard of a private home in East Hollywood. It’s cash only so plan accordingly if you’re heading over, and be sure to email the info line for the specific address and timing. This is, after all, an underground operation — but isn’t that what makes it fun?