HiHo Cheeseburger

Classic Burger with a side of Hand-Cut French Fries
Photos by RICH SCHMITT Staff Photographer

1320 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Price: $

By MICHAEL AUSHENKER | Contributing Writer

In the heart of downtown Santa Monica, there’s a new sheriff that’s come to town from the ranchlands—and this burger aims to slay the competition, pardner.

HiHo Cheeseburger, an Ojai transplant that lent the Ventura County enclave’s main boulevard a retro-Cali vibe from 2015-18, has re-invented itself as a modern-rustic, New American gem;  essentially a re-imagining of the classic American cheeseburger experience, according to Sheeroy Desai, one of several owners of the former and v.2 edition of HiHo.

Desserts: Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie and Banana Cream Pie

“HiHo evokes happiness and nostalgia,” Desai told the Palisadian-Post. “What we’re selling here is the classic American cheeseburger.”

The big selling point here: Using sustainably raised beef from First Light, a New Zealand Wagyu supplier, HiHo’s burger is lower in saturated fat and higher in heart-healthy Omega-3s, vitamins and antioxidants, according to the restaurant. Most notably, HiHo Cheeseburger is the first and only burger restaurant that exclusively uses 100%, grass-fed Wagyu beef.

The strategy has seemed to work. Since its debut in Santa Monica, HiHo Cheeseburger has packed in customers and received much acclaim online. Among the tributes: Its signature burger has been named one of Eater LA’s “17 Essential Los Angeles Burgers.”

And the partners behind HiHo are nearly ready to open a second HiHo in Los Angeles; they are about a month or two from debuting a new location near the Fairfax District at Wilshire Boulevard and Crescent Heights.

On the surface, with its throwback 1950s minimalism and purposefully limited menu, HiHo Cheeseburger evokes the business models of an In-N-Out Burger or a Johnny Rockets … but that is where the similarities end.

Which is not at all saying that HiHo is a step down … just different. HiHo serves an elevated version of the classic American cheeseburger, and its signature burger, the HiHo Classic, features two patties, American cheese, lettuce, onion jam and house-made pickles. (There is also a triple-patty version.)

Classic Cheeseburger also comes in both double- and triple-patty varieties (as well as “Make It Spicy” versions), layering its patties with cheese and ketchup.

While I found these burgers a bit salty and somewhat rigid in its prescribed ingredients for my taste (you can eliminate any of the lettuce, tomato, pickles and ketchup going into your burger, however, you can’t order mayonnaise, for example), the good news is that all of these hamburgers won’t send anyone home hungry.

These are well-presented burgers with a solid architecture and the Wagyu, which in its purest form can be ordered as a double or triple sans cheese, is worth experiencing.

Also very order-worthy (and this is coming from a dedicated carnivore) is the Vegetarian HiHo, a delicious, gluten-free, house-made vegan patty that stuffs a lettuce shell the size of your fist.

Hand-Cut French Fries accompanying these burgers borderline on addictive. Once I started, I really couldn’t stop.

For dessert, the restaurant offers three prime choices: a strawberry-glazed Cheesecake, Key Lime Pie and Banana Cream Pie—all tasty. All three make winning choices (in my opinion, the Cheesecake is most essential here). The establishment’s Vanilla or Chocolate Shake both very much hit the spot.

That is basically the extent of the food served here. So the question remains: does HiHo Cheeseburger ultimately live up to all of its acclaim? Yes and no.

One has to admire the restaurant concept’s singular commitment and devotion to the cheeseburger; a single-minded quest I often find my hungry self on.

While I’m not sure I would give this cheeseburger the gold for the best burger I have enjoyed in LA, if you’re looking for a good, clean burger that essentially delivers the delicious as well as bang for your buck, look no further for the HiHo silver.