Burger Legend Bill Elwell Still Mans Griddle After 50+ Years in Van Nuys
Bill Elwell is a 91-year-old burger legend who’s made the ultimate L.A.-style hamburger on the same flat-top grill since 1965 at Bill’s Burgers in Van Nuys.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Written byJoshua Lurie
Bill Elwell has been making old-school hamburgers on the same flat-top grill since 1965 at Bill’s Burgers in Van Nuys. At 91 years old, he is still sharp, quick to crack a joke and nimble in his tiny kitchen at the open-air stand.
Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., customers can find Bill behind the counter. Pull up a stool for a prized view, world-class banter and equally great burgers. A small, wall-mounted menu lists items like hot dogs and tuna melts, but burgers are the main draw.
For anyone who appreciates In-N-Out-style burgers featuring thin, well-seared patties stacked with sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, pickles and mayo on soft buns, Bill’s Burgers may very well knock them off their stool. This is the pinnacle of the style, fueled by a winning ratio, Bill’s expert technique and a well seasoned grill. I’d also recommend molten American cheese and crispy bacon. Might as well make it a double.
Bill doesn’t serve French fries—preferring potato chips. Ask for fries, and he’ll refer you to McDonald’s down the street.
Bill says by one customer’s estimate he’s made about 4.5 million burgers in his career. The stand goes through 300 patties per day, though that number doesn’t account for double burgers, which would reduce the total. Regardless, Bill’s Burgers gets so busy by 11:30 a.m. or noon each day that he has to take the phone off the hook. He can’t be bothered to answer the phone but still makes time to split one burger each day with longtime kitchen cohort (and ex-wife) Hiroko Wilcox.
Sitting at the counter, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic. I asked Bill what he remembers about his very first day of business back in ‘65. He says, “I don’t remember anything. I’m 91 years old. I’m lucky to f****** be here.”
14742 Oxnard St., Van Nuys, 818-785-4086
Swanky supper club, anyone?