In the quest to find the best burgers in America, we occasionally neglect the most common patties out there: the quick-and-easy ones. Everybody has a go-to fast-food burger -- including famous chefs. That's right, not even the country's finest culinary minds can resist the allure of the drive-thru. That's why we asked a bunch of them to reveal their go-to fast or fast-casual burger of choice. Apparently, these folks really like Shake Shack.
Chef at Do or Dine (address and info) Brooklyn, NY Favorite fast-food burger: Shake Shack's SmokeShack "It has all the trappings of a good burger: a Martin's Potato Roll, a griddle-crisped patty, melty cheese, and smoky bacon. What pushes it to the ZOMG level is the juxtaposition of Tellicherry pepper relish and Shack Sauce. The former is spicy and acidic, the latter sweet and rich. These two go at it like a cartoon fight -- a cloud of burger parts tumbling through the cyclone of your mouth, with your tongue as some sort of referee. You are the last component standing, now sated, happy, and contemplating another."
Chef de cuisine at Searsucker (address and info) San Diego, CA Favorite fast-food burger: In-N-Out's Animal Style Double-Double "If I’m in San Diego and I'm going to get a burger, I order an In-N-Out Double-Double Animal Style with lettuce, tomato, mustard, and pickles. The Animal Style comes with extra spread and grilled onions. So good.”
Pastry chef at David Burke Group (info) New York, NY Favorite fast-food burger: Five Guys' Little Bacon Cheeseburger “My favorite fast-food burger is Five Guys. I get the Little Bacon Cheeseburger. Since all toppings are free, I take advantage and get lettuce, tomato, onion (raw, not grilled), jalapeños, mushrooms, ketchup, relish, and mayo. There are more condiments than meat, and I like it that way.”
Executive chef at Talde (address and info) and Pork Slope (address and info) Brooklyn, NY Favorite fast-food burger: Shake Shack's ShackBurger "Shack Sauce is great! I love that I can eat one and think, ‘Yeah, I could eat three more of these.’”
Chef at BLT Steak (address and info), BLT Prime (address and info), and The Wayfarer (address and info) New York, NY Favorite fast-food burger: Shake Shack's Shack Stack “Normally, I'd get the classic ShackBurger, but if I'm feeling fatty, it's the Shack Stack all the way. A cheeseburger topped with a cheese-stuffed fried portobello.”
Chef at Lazy Bear (address and info) San Francisco, CA Favorite fast-food burger: Steak 'n Shake's double Steakburger "My favorite fast-food burger is the double Steakburger at Steak 'n Shake. When I was in college, it was the one place still open after the bars closed. I have lots of great memories of driving all the way across town to the Steak 'n Shake with friends just to get those late-night burgers."
Jonathan Sawyer Chef at Trentina (address and info) and Noodlecat (address and info) Cleveland, OH Favorite fast-food burger: Swensons' double double cheeseburg "My favorite fast-food burger is from Swensons, an Ohio park-and-eat burger chain. The nostalgia of that place really draws you in, regardless of your age. Twenty years ago, my wife and I would drive out to get the Swensons double double cheeseburg with special sauce. These days, we drive out with our kids to indulge in burgers, tots, and the most delicious drink: the California."
Executive chef at Besh Restaurant Group (info) New Orleans, LA Favorite fast-food burger:The Company Burger's lamb burger "My favorite fast-food burger is Company Burger in New Orleans. I order the lamb burger, which comes dressed with feta, house basil mayonnaise, red onions, and chili mint glaze. And that's exactly how I like it!"
Gerard Craft Chef at Niche (address and info) and Brasserie by Niche (address and info) St. Louis, MO Favorite fast-food burger: Shake Shack's ShackBurger "My favorite fast-food burger is -- hands down -- Shake Shack. Danny Meyer (a former St. Louisian) obviously knows hospitality, but imagine when a fast-food place is based on hospitality? It makes a great burger that much better."
Chef at MK (address and info) Chicago, IL Favorite fast-food burger: Wingfield's Breakfast & Burger's bacon cheeseburger “My favorite fast-food burger is a little slower than a drive-thru, but so worth it! The place is Wingfield’s Breakfast & Burger in South Dallas. It’s a fast-food place because they have no seats! Also, they always have piles of meat, not individual patties, cooking on the grill when you arrive. The process is simple but very unique -- you can order a single, double, or triple and the chef simply pushes your ration over to the hotter part of the grill, shapes a burger with a pancake spatula, and lets it fry in the hot fat rendered from the mass."
Executive chef/partner at Delicatessen (address and info) and macbar (address and info) New York, NY Favorite fast-food burger: Shake Shack's ShackBurger "I stick with the classics most of the time with burgers. My go-to is the ShackBurger. It’s that fast-food style burger everyone craves (cough Big Mac cough), but done in a way higher-quality manner.”
Jennifer Jasinski Chef at Rioja (address and info) Denver, CO Favorite fast-food burger: In-N-Out's single with grilled onions and ketchup "I grew up in Southern California and worked for Wolfgang Puck in Los Angeles, so for fast food I like In-N-Out Burger! Grilled onions and ketchup instead [of special sauce]."
Director of culinary creation at Rosebud Restaurant Group (info) Chicago, IL Favorite fast-food burger: BurgerFi's cheeseburger “I like my burgers classic with cheese. Nothing extra or special added on. At BurgerFi, that includes double natural Angus burgers, double American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and BurgerFi sauce."
Adam Lapetina is a Food/Drink staff writer at Thrillist, and is surprised nobody mentioned Wendy's. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.