If you tell an Angeleno that you’re “headed to The Apple Pan for a tuna melt, cheese fries, and a root beer float,” they’re likely to roll their eyes. That’s because this nearly 70-year-old institution—known primarily for its signature Hickory Burger—hasn’t tinkered with its recipes since the 1940s. While burger spots across the country have introduced marrow-topped patties and build-your-own options, The Apple Pan has stood resolute in its own, uncompromising vision.
As is sometimes the case, a few of our favorite restaurants in Los Angeles offer dishes that aren’t in plain sight; but up until a week ago, we didn’t have the slightest idea that The Apple Pan offered items not listed on its menu, which has not changed since the restaurant first opened.*
Sunny Sherman, granddaughter of the original Apple Pan owners Allen and Ellan Barker, says, “These are things that people have requested, and we’ve accommodated them. Then what happens is another person sees them and says, ‘Oh yeah, that sounds good,’ and that’s how they catch on.”
But with great knowledge comes great responsibility. The Apple Pan staff doesn’t mind when customers order off-menu items, with one important caveat: the cooks are not a fan of grilling onions when the grill is slammed, so be a good samaritan and only order those when the restaurant isn’t busy.
Note: The Apple Pan also has an off-menu grilled cheese for the kiddies. Now go forth and unlock the swag.
Tuna Melt (Grilled Onions Optional)
The backstory: The Apple Pan’s “tuna salad sandwich,” which has flecks of sweet pickle relish in it, is in fact just as noteworthy as the Hickory Burger or banana cream pie. But what’s this about a tuna melt? If you ask nicely, The Apple Pan staff will slide two slices of Tillamook cheddar or Swiss cheese into your tuna salad sandwich and throw it on the griddle until the cheese is molten. You can choose between white, wheat, rye, or even a hamburger bun—and if you want grilled onions on there, the staff can do that, too. (Rumor has it that former Loveline co-host Stryker repeatedly tried to get Dr. Drew to accompany him to The Apple Pan to try it.)
The backstory: There’s nothing quite like a paper tray full of well-done french fries to go with your Hickory Burger. Now, imagine if those golden-brown fries were sheathed in melted Tillamook Cheddar. That’s right, The Apple Pan serves cheesy fries, and yes, you need to order them the next time you’re there at 2am.
Root Beer Float
The backstory: Think the only thing The Apple Pan does with vanilla ice cream is pie à la mode? Think again. Ask for a root beer float, and you’ll receive two scoops of vanilla in a styrofoam cup topped with IBC root beer. If this soda-fountain classic doesn’t transport you back to 1947, we don’t know what will. (Also, if you ask the server to make the float in a paper-cone cup, they’ll comply, but Sherman warns that the O.G. vessel won’t hold much soda.)
Lettuce-Wrapped Hickory Burger
The backstory: Anyone familiar with In-N-Out’s secret menu knows they can order a burger “Protein Style,” meaning the patty will come wrapped in lettuce instead of in between two buns. Gluten-free Angelenos will be hyped to discover that The Apple Pan offers both its Hickory Burger and Steakburger “Protein-Style” too. Sherman admits, “It’s good. You don’t miss the bread.”
*There has been one change to the restaurant’s original 1947 menu; Kelly’s corned beef sandwich is no longer on it.