Six Best Non-Chain Burger Places in Orange County

Some say “baseball is America’s pastime,” but I would argue that burgers are America’s pastime. While there is an unsettled dispute about who exactly in America invented the hamburger, most agree that the dish was invented around the late 1800s.

Burgers have obviously evolved from that time, but most keep the sandwich close to the original with a patty, among other ingredients, placed between two buns. The most iconic American food is the center for many restaurant empires such as McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr., and the west-coast favorite In-N-Out. However, all of those restaurants have one thing in common — they are chain fast-food restaurants.

What about the lesser-known, non-chain burger places? I made it a mission to find the best non-chain burger joints in Orange County. To do so, I formed a team of fellow burger connoisseurs. Tanner Dice, 21 of Corona, Dylan Nevell, 21 of Newport Beach, and Will Glenn, 21 of Brea, joined my quest in finding the best non-chain burger restaurants in Orange County. After our burger renaissance, here are the six best spots we found:

6.) Hopdoddy Burger Bar

The inside of Hopdoddy Burger Bar in Tustin.

3030 El Camino Real Tustin, CA 92782 (714) 505–2337

Price of Burger = $7

The Classic Burger at Hopdoddy Burger Bar.

This suave burger joint is the only one on the list that is on the border of non-chain and chain, but they deserve a spot on the list. With 4 locations spread out over California, Hopdoddy is a spot every burger lover should try. The burgers are more of a gourmet-style but also have the simple familiarity of a traditional-style burger. The hefty, seasoned patty explodes with flavor with every bite and the remaining ingredients continue to get the job done. Since Hopdoddy is a burger bar, the ambiance is great in this restaurant. The dim lighting, along with the classy décor gives a rich experience to the customer.

“The inside of the place is as good as the burger that you get,” said Dice.

Something Extra: When going to Hopdoddy, if one is of age, try the beer. Hopdoddy offers a list of craft beers that are available. I can say with confidence that the coconut stout is worth buying again, and again.

5.) Brea’s Best

The iconic sign outside of Brea’s Best in Brea.

707 S Brea Blvd Brea, CA 92821 (714) 990–2615

Price of Burger = $4

This classic burger place is the home of a solid, traditional-style burger. The inside of the restaurant is filled with black and white checkered tile and a vintage feel that brings one back to the good, old days of classic diners. Brea’s Best’s burger has a smaller patty but packs a big taste. The burger works well as a whole with fresh tomato, onion, lettuce, and pickle filling the sandwich. The simple sandwich is what an ideal, classic burger should taste like.

“I’ve been coming here since I was nine,” says Glenn. “Although not much has changed at this place, it’s a place that consistently makes great tasting burgers.”

Hamburger from Brea’s Best.

Something Extra: Brea’s Best has, and it’s not even close, the best onion rings in Orange County. The thinly coated rings are the perfect amount of crisp and feature perfectly fresh onions. The end result is an onion ring that is not matched in quality anywhere else.

4.) Peter’s Gourmade Grill

14311 Newport Ave Ste A Tustin, CA 92780 (714) 832–2099

Price of Burger = $6.50

The Cheeseburger at Peter’s Gourmade Grill in Tustin.

Peter’s Gourmade Grill features another traditional-style burger that simply gets everything right. All of the ingredients — lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles — compliment the patty and bun in a way that brings the sandwich together for an end result that leaves the eater craving the next bite.

“I feel like I’ve tasted this style of burger before, but this one is just better,” says Nevell about the quality of the burger.

The inside is simple and somewhat small although there are televisions inside. The outside features a statue of a grinning chef with a plate full of food. Peter’s is a simple joint that doesn’t offer much more than a great burger, but man is the burger tasty.

Something Extra: Peter’s Gourmade Grill offers a variety of fries that are sure to make anybody’s mouth water. From Greek fries to sweet potato fries with marshmallows, these sides are sure to grab a customer’s attention.

3.) Mick’s Karma Bar

2010 Main St. Ste 165 Irvine, CA 92614 (949) 851–6316

Price of Burger = $5.75

The Karma Burger at Mick’s Karma Bar in Irvine.

This well-hidden burger place is one that all burger lovers need to try. The restaurant is surrounded by high-rise office buildings, forcing one to wonder why this good of a burger joint is hiding in this location. The first bite into a burger from Mick’s leaves little doubt as to why this is such a high-ranked restaurant. On paper the burger has the usual ingredients, but Mick’s goes above and beyond to make sure they taste better. The patty is juicy, the veggies are fresh, and while not a lot of love is ever given to buns, the buns here are fluffy and fantastic. But what really sets Mick’s apart from the rest is the “Karma sauce.” The sauce is a thousand island-like sauce, however, it packs a subtle kick that really takes the burger to another level. The inside of Mick’s offers chalkboards for menus and a small bar top where customers can sit.

“This might be the best burger I’ve ever had,” said Dice.

Something Extra: Mick’s Karma Bar, like Hopdoddy, offers beer-lovers a place to eat and drink. The craft beer at Mick’s is amazing, and further compliments the rest of this great burger place.

2.) GD BRO Burger

2321 E 4th St. Santa Ana, CA 92705 (714) 972–4588

Price of Burger = $8.95

The All-American burger at GD BRO Burger in Santa Ana.

This former food truck offers a burger that makes a statement. GD BRO is different from most burger restaurants with creative, gourmet burgers filling the menu. Their signature burger, the All-American is filled with cheese, lettuce, bacon, caramelized onion, potato chips, and BBQ sauce. Potato chips may seem odd on a burger, but it completely works here. The patty is rich in taste. The other ingredients, especially the sauce, seamlessly combine to deliver the most unique burger in Orange County. Of course, there is also the red bun. The red bun has raspberry infused flavor, which may also sound weird, but it really takes the sandwich to soaring heights. The inside of GD BRO doesn’t offer much more than the delicious burgers as the simple layout has an ordering counter and tables to sit at.

The menu at GD BRO Burger.

“I’ve never had a red burger before,” said Nevell. “But you can bet I’ll have this one again.”

Something Extra: GD BRO Burger offers parmesan truffle fries that are rich in taste and quality. The fries, although pricey at nearly $5, are the perfect way to compliment a burger and offer an unexpected sweet taste that is completely unique.

1.) Burger Parlor

204 N Harbor Blvd Fullerton, CA 92832 (714) 441–2003

The bright neon sign outside of Burger Parlor in Fullerton.

Price of Burger = $10

The best burger place in Orange County, chain or non-chain, is Burger Parlor. Beware that this place is a little pricey, but it’s worth every penny. The burgers here are creative with high-quality ingredients, but above all, they are simply astounding. The Smokey — which features bacon, crispy onion straws, cheese, arugula, oven roasted tomato, and chipotle aioli — is Burger Parlor’s signature burger. With all of the combined ingredients, the burger adds up to have a uniform-like taste. No single taste stands out about the burger, but that is because all of the ingredients work so well together that they blend to form a — dare I say — perfect burger. The inside of Burger Parlor also offers some uniqueness as the brick walls and colorful paintings give off a sort of hipster vibe. The outside of the restaurant features an iconic neon sign that displays an image of a burger with the word “parlor” underneath it.

“This place is the best,” said Glenn. “I’m never going anywhere else for a burger.”

Halfway through The Whiskey at Burger Parlor.

Something Extra: Shakes! The shakes at Burger Parlor are out of this world. With shakes in wild flavors like Cap’n Crunch, Nutella Banana, and the seasonal Pumpkin Pie, Burger Parlor sets the bar high for not only their entrees.

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