Self-declared foodie and STA Travel staffer Tom Browne knows a lot about the USA. And burgers. Here’s his guide to the most amazing burgers to be found in the home of amazing burgers, the USA.
10 years ago, if someone mentioned the word burger around any upstanding Brit and the first picture that would pop into their mind would probably be the grease laden truck, tucked up in self-respecting nightclub car-parks everywhere, or maybe our pal Ronald with his styrofoam containers.
However, these days, mention the same word and you’d get an entirely different image – from brioche buns to dry-aged beef blends, there are a veritable plethora of gourmet burgers gracing the streets of our damp little country.
While the UK has only just fully embraced their love affair with a good burger fairly recently, our colonial cousins on the other side of the Atlantic have been up on their burger game… since, well, forever, being the originators and all. So it makes sense that as the home of burgers, the USA is the place to go for the very best in burger cuisine.
Here are some of our favourites for you to snaffle next time you’re stateside.
The Shackburger. Image courtesy of Izik on Flickr.
Where to Find the Tastiest Burgers in the USA
Find it – East Coast
Best Burger – The Shackburger
New Yorkers love to argue about the various merits of the cities different culinary institutions, and aside from pizza (let’s not even go there!) the issue of the city’s best burger is probably the most hotly argued gastronomic issue on the streets. For me – Shake Shack’s Shack Burger takes it every time. Crusted, salty patties, oozing American cheese and the perfect spongy Martin’s potato roll make this a lesson in how a no-frills, classic burger should be made.
Find it – On the West Coast, and in the South West
Best Burger – Double Double, Animal Style.
The East Coast has Shake Shack, and the West has In-N-Out. This classic Californian joint has been in business since 1948 and remains the perfect antidote to the plethora of Raw-Vegan-Kale-and-Wheatgrass cafes, now synonymous with cali culture.
In-N-Out is famous, ironically, for its ‘secret menu’, of which, the Double-Double, Animal Style is a stalwart. Two patties fried in onions and mustard, with two slices of American cheese – Lush. (The Secret Menu also gives you the option to have your chips fried to a specific ‘done-ness’, add hot, pickled banana chilli’s to anything and even the option to order a no-bread, no salad, extra cheese, Paleo diet dream burger – The Flying Dutchman.)
In-n-Out burger. Image courtesy of adactio on Flickr.
Find it – New Haven, Connecticut
Best Burger – The Original.
The Original by name, The Original by nature. Way back in 1900, Louis Lassen, a Danish immigrant, was visited by a time pressed patron who needed a lunch he could eat on the move. Hurriedly, Louis gathered some leftover steak trimmings, formed them into a patty and seared them in a cast iron pan. As he placed his invention between two slice of toast, the Great American Burger, as we know it, was born. The original café still stands in the same place as way back then – so if you want a little taste of that 1900’s vibe, be sure to pay a visit!
Find it – Texas and Southern USA
Best Burger – The Whataburger
The Final Big Name chain in this guide takes us to Texas… where everything is bigger, including the burgers! Whataburger serves enormous patties for an absolute steal, and while not the most sophisticated of establishments these burgers definitely hit the spot!
If it's good enough for the Texans, then it's good enough for us! Image courtesy of icanchangethisright on Flickr.
Find it – San Diego, California
Best burger – The Bacon Cheese Burger
Hodad’s is a San Diego institution with two joints in the city and a guaranteed line whenever you visit. Why? One reason – the burgers, and what burgers they are; quite frankly the Bacon Cheese Burger is out of control.
The secret is in the bacon – first, Hodad’s braise pounds of the stuff in water, until it’s fall-apart-tender – then they form individual pure bacon patties – frying them under a cast-iron weight and thus creating the most insane crispy bacon experience of your life. Thrown into a fresh, soft bun with an intimidatingly large chuck-steak burger and you have a serious, serious meal, and if that wasn’t enough, the milkshakes are pretty bonkers too.
Find it – Dallas, Texas
Best Burger – The Big Tex Beaver
That’s right, this is a beaver burger. Twisted Root is a neighbourhood spot in Dallas, Texas, which is famous for their, quite literally, wild list of meats available for consumption. Choose from elk, beaver, alligator and more and watch the innuendo’s fly.
The Western is a 1/2 pound burger topped with pepperjack, bacon, onion strings, and jalapenos and also, added a fried egg. Amazing.
The Western burger at Twisted Root Dallas. Image courtesy of Celloc on Flickr.
The Company Burger
Find it – New Orleans, LA
Best Burger – The Company Burger.
In a town famous for its food, New Orleans only has one winner when it comes to a good burger. Company is a relatively new restaurant but already has a passionate following of burger connoisseurs and is often frequented by local celebrities like Lil’ Wayne and photographer Craig Mulcahy. The Company Burger itself is nothing more than a solid, juicy, classic American hamburger – but you’ll find a whole selection of great local beers and bourbons behind the counter to make the meal something special.
Find it – Chicago, Illinois
Best Burger – The Black Sabbath
Bizarrely, Kuma’s best burger takes inspiration from the jewel of the UK’s West Midlands – Birmingham. Ok, well, not quite… It’s not the called the Bullring Burger after all, but our Second City’s greatest musical export, and the fathers of heavy metal.
Black Sabbath inspire this insane concoction of a cajun spiced, blackened patty, topped with house made chilli and spicy pepper jack cheese. With each burger at Kuma’s taking on the character of a heavy metal band (see also ‘The Iron Maiden’, ‘Neurosis’ and ‘Pantera’ burgers), this joint is definitely worth a stop in on your next trip to the windy city. Shaaaarrrrrronnn!
Santa Fe/Bobcat Bite
Find it – Santa Fe, New Mexico
Best Burger – Green Chilli Burger
Santa Fe is obsessed with Green Chilli – you’ll find it gracing the plates of hungry New Mexicans from breakfast through to dinner – and perhaps it’s greatest use is adding an element of heat and roasted smokiness to a damn fine (and enormous) cheeseburger, which is exactly what you’ll find at Santa Fe Bite, the new incarnation of legendary Santa Fe diner ‘Bobcat Bite’.
Bobcat Bite Green Chili Burger. Image courtesy of lifeontheedge on Flickr.
Find it – Las Vegas, Nevada
Best Burger – The Billionaire Burger
Holsteins is a Vegas strip stalwart and the perfect spot if you ever find yourself nursing the hangover from hell. The Billionaire Burger crowns Holstein’s menu, and is opulence itself with a Kobe Beef patty topped with foie gras and truffle mayo. In a town full of money, eating this burger generates almost guaranteed baller status, and may lead to heavy winnings at the roulette wheel later in the evening, and quite possibly a trip to the little white chapel.
(we make no guarantees…)
Find it – St Petersburg, Florida
Best Burger – The Biff Deluxe
At a buck fifty, this is probably the cheapest burger out there. However, people don’t necessarily visit this St Petersburg landmark for the food – the key to Biff Burger is in the parking Lot – every Friday night a procession of America’s motor industry heritage pulls in, from Ford GTs to Classic Harley’s – making this rockabilly joint more than just a place to refuel yourself on a charbroiled burger.
The Minetta Tavern
Find it – New York
Best Burger – Black Label Burger
The Black Label Burger is the 68 day dry-aged, rib-eye steak of burgers… And that’s because it’s made with 68 day dry aged, rib-eye steak! The Black Label mince blend is custom ground every day by New York’s premier butchers, Pat La Frieda, and is the integral part in what is probably New York’s most luxurious burger. At $26 it sure ain’t cheap, but anyone who’s tried it will testify that its money well spent.