Omnivore - Besha Rodell dines at America’s best burger joint

KCET interviews our former dining critic


Here’s a Google search with a happy ending:

National Geographic just published its list of the 10 best burgers in America. The winning restaurant was the Apple Pan in Los Angeles. I was kind of surprised, since I ate there a few times during the years I was bicoastal. The winning Hickory Burger was good, but I think nostalgia has as much to do with the 65-year-old restaurant’s frequent appearance on “best of” lists.

Googling the restaurant, I came across an online interview there with — ta da! — Besha Rodell, our former dining critic. The interview was conducted by Farley Elliott of KCET TV. A sample:

Farley: So how did you come into the much-coveted LA Weekly position?

Besha: I don’t know, exactly. I applied for it on a whim, because it’s a great job, and at first I didn’t really hear anything. I was working as the restaurant critic for the alt weekly in Atlanta at the time, and had been doing that for six years. Then I got laid off, which was super shocking to me and a lot of people in Atlanta. When that happened, a bunch of different people approached me about doing different things, so I had to get in touch with LA Weekly and let them know that I had some other job offers, and to just let me know one way or the other. I didn’t want to take a job and then find out they had been considering me. That started a ball rolling that was fairly quick.

It wasn’t a super easy thing to do. I really love Atlanta, and had become very entrenched in the Southeast food culture. But this isn’t really a job you turn down.

Farley: What is it that you love about the Southeastern food scene?

Besha: I’m an Australian originally, and I feel as though there’s something about Southern culture that resonates with me. It’s partly about how close family is tied to food there.

When I first got to Atlanta, it was very showy. It hadn’t decided whether it wanted to be LA or Miami or Las Vegas. It was trying to be all of those things, but it doesn’t have casinos, and it doesn’t have a beach and it doesn’t have the movies. In the six years since I moved there, it’s really changed and gotten more into its Southern roots. It’s really becoming the capital of the South.

It was surprising, by the way, not to see Ann’s Snack Bar on the list. The Wall Street Journal named the tiny restaurant’s Ghetto Burger the best burger in the country in 2007. Ever since, it’s received an avalanche of publicity.