We spend a lot of our time preaching about the glory of the best burgers all over the country and purchasing pants with larger elastics in the waist. But this time around, we are celebrating burgers that don't get thrown a lot of written ticker tape parades. Yes, some of these burgers have made it onto our local editions' "best" lists, but we contend that -- on a national scale -- they still remain criminally underrated. And if you feel like we've missed out on a burger that deserves its place in the sun, shout it out. After all, we're always looking for more excuses to eat burgers.
Soda & Swine (address and info)
San Diego, CA
We love Soda & Swine, and all it does with meatballs and the like, but when it turns those meatballs into burgers topped with fried jalapeños, pepper jack, and chipotle mayo, our love turns into something more scary and stalkerish.
A Standard with cheese
The Stand (address and info)
Judging by the crowds, The Stand is no secret within the Phoenix community, but we feel the need to reveal its glory to the rest of the country. Do yourself a solid and get the Standard with cheese featuring two thin patties, ditch that pesky tomato, add the butter caramelized onions and grilled jalapeños, and get some more of that Stand sauce on the side. Because you’re kind of going to want to dip everything in it.
Char-broiled natural beef burger
Ardeo + Bardeo (address and info)
Now, normally we’d frown in the face of “truffle aioli” on a burger as being one of those gussied-up moves we’re not really OK with, but once you try the charred burger in this Cleveland Park bistro with its melty cheddar, grilled onions, and peppery arugula, you’re going to be OK with that fancy fatty bonus. Maybe just this once…
Bacon Overload Burger
Yaks (address and info)
Located in the mountainous and forested wilderness near the Oregon/California border, signs for Yaks can be seen all over the roads leading up to tiny Dunsmuir. Heed their call. We’re usually opposed to oversized burgers, but this small, family-style diner isn’t just grandstanding… these are seriously incredible burgers. The Bacon Overload -- with fried onion strings, a stack of swine, and Asiago in both cheese and drizzle form -- is a masterpiece of burger building. Even more curiously, it's also got a coffee roaster onsite, and a burger with grounds cooked into the beef. Even more curiously, it’s delicious, and could prevent you from falling asleep at the wheel as you get back on the road.
Heavenly Double with Cheese
Wholly Cow Burgers (address and info)
Austin’s a place where you can find a quality hunk of beef pretty much anywhere, so it’s not surprising that this fantastic burger was originally sold in a convenience store/bottle shop. But lest you think you’re getting convenience-store quality, take note: Wholly Cow is grilling local, all-natural, hormone-free beef. Burgers are thick, juicy, and oozing with cheese, with all the flavor held together by a sweet Hawaiian roll.
Little Taste of Your Mama
Yo Mama's (address and info)
New Orleans, LA
We’re not sure what is in that special recipe seasoning on the burgers, but whatever it is, we want to put it on all of our wedding cakes, and all the other food at our hamburger-based weddings we’re all definitely having. A true, under-the-radar gem even in the city, the move here is to actually get the uncomfortable-to-say “Little Taste of Your Mama” burger, which is only a quarter pound, but that thinner patty, dressed with all the fixin's is somehow even more delicious. Also, the Peanut Butter Burger is a pretty damn good choice for the rehearsal dinner.
The Elder Tree Public House (address and info)
To paraphrase Mike Myers, if it’s not Scottish, it’s probably a burger that’s made with lamb instead of beef, then stacked with bleu, stout mustard, and grilled portobellos. At least we think he said that. We were too busy inhaling the Spur at this incredible pub.
Flaming Double Cheeseburger
Flaming Burger (address and info)
It’s not the fresh poppy seeds on the homemade buns that are going to make you addicted to this Dallas spot (or is it?!? How do drugs work?). FB has everything you need: thin patties, American cheese, mustard, pickles, and -- if you’re smart -- its Thousand Island sauce. Don’t be surprised if you start hanging out on corners begging people to take you there again and again.
The Ruby Burger
Payne Café (address and info)
The Payne’s in a rougher neighborhood, as dive bars are wont to be, but don’t let that scare you off. The Ruby Burger’s named after the owner, who’s also the bartender, who’s also making your burger, which will be ridiculously big, seasoned with a special spice blend, then loaded with bacon, cheese, and a thin slice of store-bought ham, because this isn’t a place for pretentiousness. It’s a place to drink cheap beer and eat a soul-warming burger.
The After School Special
King’s Hardware (address and info)
Though King’s Hardware is given much love in our Seattle edition, the rest of the world needs to gaze upon the glory that is its After School Special. Mostly because the strange mix of peanut butter, bacon, burger, onions, and pickles can throw you off until you realize that YOU’RE ACTUALLY VERY MUCH ADDICTED TO IT AND NEED IT ALL THE TIME. Just say yes, kids (apologies to '80s Nancy Reagan).
The Fir Burger
Doug Fir Lounge (address and info)
The Doug Fir is a Portland institution, but when most people talk about the glowing, neo-hipster spot, it’s about whatever soon-to-be-huge band is playing downstairs. As such, the soon-to-make-YOU-huge burger is seldom talked about among PDX’s best burgers, even though it is -- a perfectly cooked Wagyu patty topped with bacon, cheddar, arugula, and homemade pickles, because Portland. Get it rare: the toasted brioche is the perfect vessel to catch the juices. Don’t worry. You can burn it off downstairs.
Vesper Lounge (address and info)
You wouldn’t usually think that a Moroccan spot would also have a fantastic burger, but that’s just because you’re being close-minded. Vesper actually has a few formidable choices (including a take on the MPLS style Jucy Lucy) but you’re going to want to stick with the cheeseburger, with the salt and fat cut perfectly by the homemade pickles. Oh, and the fries are topped with this delicious Middle Eastern spice blend called baharat, which is essentially an all-purpose spice that makes everything the best. Eat those too.
Best Burgers (address and info)
San Rafael, CA
It’s in a strip mall next to a Trader Joe’s. It seems like a one-off spot -- a place that exists but doesn’t demand your attention. And that is a shame, because get a cheeseburger with American, grilled onions, pickles, and its “sauce” (mix of ketchup, mayo, and mustard). It should be a weekly event for anyone who lives within driving distance.
Tornado Burger (address and info)
Our love of thin patties is well known, but we kind of keep our love of all things spicy more close to the vest, because secrets are mysterious and sexy. Tornado Burger in Stafford manages to accomplish both of our loves, as it grinds the meat in its Spicy Burger with garlic, jalapeños, onions, and various other spicy deliciousness. Pro tip: drop the tomato, add grilled onions, and get the special spread instead of just the mayo. And hell, add jalapeños too.
The Rabbit Hole (address and info)
Too often, the Jucy Lucy (or Juicy Lucy, depending on who’s claiming they made it) gets all the attention in conversation about Minneapolis’ burger scene. Rightfully so. But That means a more high-end burger can go overlooked, as is the case at this spot in South Minneapolis, which stacks its burger with a beefy patty, smoked bacon, bleu cheese, Gruyère, bourbon onions, arugula, tomato jam, kimchi aioli & a fried egg. It’s like Korean BBQ on a bun, which we’d happily sacrifice third-degree cheese burns to taste.
Cheesy Western "with"
Texas Tavern (address and info)
This legendary throwback spot opened in 1930 and is still owned by the same family (the great-grandson runs the place now). And because you have enough decisions to make in your very fancy life, TT only require one: would you like onions (“with”) on your delicious griddled burger topped with American, pickles, sweet relish, and fried egg? The answer is always, always yes.
MERKT’s Cheddar Burger
Ivy’s Burgers, Hot Dogs, and Fries (address and info)
The hot dogs are great at this extremely Northwestern Chicago spot, but to be frank (!!), it’s not Ivy’s Hot Dogs, Fries, and Burgers. And burgers here are things of simple perfection -- 1/3lb patties of Nebraskan Angus that you can get gussied up with Kalamata olives and homemade tzatziki, but to be honest, a bit of cheddar and some grilled onions are all you need on a burger this perfect.
Hamburguesa con queso
Toro (address and info)
You know what's annoying? The fact that a Spanish place that is nearly impossible to get a seat at post-5:30pm on aTuesday also serves one of the most randomly underrated burgers in the country. If you do manage to stake out a spot, you have no choice but to order it "Messy" with special sauce, pickled red onion, and the garlic aioli, cotija cheese, and Espelette pepper street corn spread. Oh also: try the tapas!
Crazy Dave's Double Drive-In Cheeseburger
Garaje (address and info)
San Francisco, CA
We are very large fans of slightly fancified versions of the In-N-Out classic Double Double (see: Causwells). And this take is the more underrated version of that move, with two thin griddled Angus patties, grilled onions, American, pickles, and the addition of bacon. In some cases, we’d consider that a bit of a sacrilege move to the purity of the burger. This is not one of those cases.
The Morning After Burger
Backyard Ale House (address and info)
If you find yourself in Scranton and had too many Tröegs Nugget Nectars the night before, amble over to Backyard and get this puppy, which puts a burger on a grilled English muffin and tops it with your breakfast: bacon, American, and a sunny-side egg. Oh, the $4 Bloody Mary pairing isn’t the worst choice either.
The Upstate Burger
Whitmans (address and info)
New York, NY
This East Village underground joint made a name off its Juicy Lucy, but the Upstate Burger, tucked away at the bottom of the menu, is the classic burger that shows off why Whitmans is so damn good to begin with. The sirloin patty takes seared onions for a just-sweet bite, house-made bread and butter pickles for crunch, and a tiny bed of crisp bibb lettuce. Lose the tomato, add American, and watch as the melty white cheese mixes with the special sauce. And then eat it, and remember what a classic burger is meant to be. Then maybe order fried pickles and blue cheese fries for good measure.
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