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LA’s Oldest Burger Man Is Trying to Sell His Van Nuys Roadside Stand

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Owner Bill Elwell, now well into his 90s, is staying safe during the ongoing pandemic, but isn’t saying what the future holds

Bill Elwell, owner of Bill’s Burgers in Los Angeles manning the grill wearing a black hat.
Bill Elwell, owner of Bill’s Burgers in Los Angeles in 2013
Matthew Kang

Is Los Angeles burger legend Bill Elwell finally packing it in? The 90-something Van Nuys cook and restaurant owner of Bill’s Burgers is still working hard, flipping every patty himself on his one-of-a-kind griddle from 1965 — but he isn’t saying much of anything about the future of the business, or about the pair of For Sale signs that have gone up at his eponymous Valley restaurant.

Fans of the decades-old Bill’s Burgers have become increasingly nervous about the future of the roadside stand, in part because of Elwell’s advanced age and the uncertain circumstances of the moment. More recently a Reddit thread popped up asking questions about the newly-installed signs, and up until today, Yelp had been listing the business as closed.

But the place is still very much open as of yesterday. The cashier taking orders at the stand refused to explain the signs, or say whether any sale was really forthcoming, adding only that “Bill will do what he wants.” Behind the cashier stood Elwell, flipping patties slowly while donning a coronavirus-mandated black mask; he certainly didn’t have anything to say himself about the For Sale signs.

Long conversations have never been a strong suit for Elwell, the sometimes ornery nonagenarian with a reputation for grousing at customers and cracking jokes with longtime diners. More recently the roadside stand’s stools have been removed and all but one of the windows is actually open at Bill’s Burgers, an attempt at social distancing and safety during the pandemic. Fans are still coming, queuing up in the newly redone parking area behind the building as they wait for burgers. In 2013, Elwell told Eater he had purchased the building in 1965 but only held a ground lease on the property. He’s been running it for nearly 55 years.

So is Elwell really selling? “Who knows,” says the cashier. “The signs go up, the signs come down.” For now they’re up, with a handwritten phone number all the detail provided. No one answered when trying the number yesterday.

Still, Elwell won’t go on flipping burgers forever. After a similar scare last year, Elwell told fans who flocked to the restaurant that he simply didn’t have anything else going on, and that he’d like to cook as long as he could. “I think he’ll live to 100,” says the cashier yesterday. Longtime Bill’s Burgers fans certainly hope so.

A handheld burger with lots of cheese from Bill’s Burgers in the San Fernando Valley.
Cheeseburger from Bill’s Burgers
Farley Elliott
Fans mingle in masks outside of a standalone burger building in a parking lot, under the sun.
Bill’s Burgers
Farley Elliott
A for sale sign sits inside the window of an aging burger stand.
One of the for sale signs at Bill’s Burgers
Farley Elliott

Bill's Burgers

14742 Oxnard Street, , CA 91411 (818) 785-4086 Visit Website

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