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Photos: K-Town's Historic Cassell's Burgers, Pies And Shakes Are Back
Classic burger joint Cassell's Hamburgers recently opened in Koreatown's Hotel Normandie as part of the historic property's remodel, which includes revamped guest rooms, an upscale French restaurant Le Comptoir by Gary Menes, a yet-to-open cocktail bar from downtown nightlife impresario Cedd Moses.
Cassell's, which is helmed by chef Christian Page (formerly of Short Order), is part of a larger trend of restaurants doing throwbacks to classic delis and diners that have become common both in L.A. (think Wexler's, Nickel Diner, and Dinette) and elsewhere in the country. And it's a good thing that this American tradition is being kept alive in some way, as there have been countless closures of classic restaurants like these in recent years.
The updated version of Cassell's, originally established in 1948, is now a few blocks away from its original location down on 6th Street. (The last of the Cassell's locations closed in 2012.) You'll find massive floor to ceiling windows spilling light into a modern diner that's decked out with some of the original restaurant's signage mixed in with modern touches.
Though the location and restaurant design may have changed, the menu has not. As a nod to the diner's first owner Al Cassell, the original menu stands—meaning there are still no fries on the menu. Prices, however, have been brought up to the times: the 1/3-pound prime beef burger goes for $10.99, and a 2/3-pound burger is $15.99. And they do offer an off-menu vegetarian burger for those in the know.
While Cassell's is named for its burgers, the star of the show is the tuna melt. The superb sammie is made by poaching tuna slow and low instead of boiling it, rendering the fish super juicy and the fall-apart tender, unlike its tough canned cousin. There's just the right amount of mayo in the bare bones tuna salad, which is then sandwiched between generously buttered whole wheat slices and your choice of cheese (we've always made ours with cheddar), then grilled to perfection on the flattop. Page doubles up on the squares of cheese for all of the toasted sandwiches, leaving a little overhang that turns into a crackly cheese crisp on the edge of each slice. Think of it as the American equivalent to the crispy bottom of a bowl of Korean bibimbap.
The burgers come with your choice of cheese as well, and are served on metal trays with checkered paper, sort of similar to what you'd find in a Texas BBQ joint. The pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomato are stacked on the side; you that you can customize your burger to how you want it. It also comes with a classic thousand island dressing. The quality of the ground beef is great, and super flavorful, not to mention incredibly photogenic under the ample natural light.
Other items on offer include patty melts, grilled ham and cheese, egg salad sandwiches, no-frills McConnell's ice cream milkshakes, as well as soda fountain staples like sarsaparilla, cream soda, and ginger beer made with in-house syrups. They also have an old-school rotating deli case filled with pies that you find in all classic establishments, and a throwback fridge filled with "real" Coke bottles.
Page, who opened Nancy Silverton's Short Order burger spot in the Farmers Market, and his team will launch breakfast service and a small, well-edited cocktail program at Cassell's as soon as this week.
We look forward to seeing more from the team, and can't wait to wash down another one of those tuna melts with a cocktail.
Cassell's Hamburgers is located at 3600 West 6th Street, Koreatown, (213) 387-5502