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Burger Lovers’ Guide to the Best Burgers in North America

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Photo by TheHungryDudes

From plain old fast-food style hamburgers to decadent more-than-just-a-burger burgers and beyond, the burger is one sandwich/snack/meal hybrid that will never cease to captivate the masses. The hunt for the elusive “perfect” burger is akin to sleuthing Bigfoot: many attempt it, few find it. And yet, we can’t help ourselves.

Because we love burgers THISMUCH and know you do, too, we conducted a very scientific (ahem) poll in an attempt to track down the best burgers across North America. By “scientific,” we of course mean that we tracked down the folks who know burgers best, and asked them these three questions:

1. What makes a great burger?

2. Favorite toppings?

3. Best burger you ever ate?

Want to know what they said? What a silly question! Of course you do. Without further ado…

Best Burgers: What the Experts Said

Mr. Lew, of Mr. Lew’s Great Burger Search

What makes a great burger?

A great burger is one that tastes from beginning to end. The burger has to stay together in one piece. There is nothing worse than having to finish a burger with a fork. I find that a little grease coming out of a burger is also a good thing, as long as I’m not drowning in it. Finally, the longer I can taste the burger after a meal, the better. That shows that the beef and the related ingredients were more powerful than anything else.

Favorite toppings?

My must-have topping on any burger is bacon. I find that bacon adds a certain taste that can take an average burger patty to something a little better. For cheese, I tend to prefer cream cheese. It may be too strong for some, but for me, it complements the presence of the beef and bacon.  My toppings usually finish off with lettuce, tomatoes and caramelized onions.

Best burger you ever ate?

The question of the best burger is one that I get fairly often. It’s difficult to answer because not all burgers are built the same and everyone’s take on a burger is subjective. However, the burger that is the most special for me is one I had in Quebec City. It’s the le raffiné burger from Chez Victor (300 Saint-Paul). It’s special because it’s the 100th burger I tried for my blog. It’s one of the most aesthetically pleasing burgers I’ve ever seen. It also contains my favorite ingredients, like bacon and cream cheese.

Read more about Mr. Lew’s burger discoveries on Mr. Lew’s Great Burger Search.

Nguyen and Thi Tran, Owners of Starry Kitchen

What makes a great burger? 

Thi: Moist, seasoned/marinated very well, and good quality meat.

Nguyen: Just the right ratio of a little bit o’ fat and meat with the juicy oils (NOT well done, more medium-rare to medium) just glistening, waiting for your first bite (or lick it as a sample of what’s to come!). A thick and crispy piece of bacon is always nice (inside the patty or on top–either will do) and REALLY fresh veggies. Onions (fresh, red, carmelized—I’ll take ’em all!), green leaf (or even better…BUTTER) lettuce and a fat, juicy tomato slice. Almost everything else is superfluous…but ALWAYS welcome (like a nice melty slice o’ cheese!

Favorite toppings?

Thi: Caramelized onions, cheese, spicy sauce.

Nguyen: I guess I kinda answered that above, right? Sorry, I got carried away!

Best burger you ever ate?

Thi: Haven’t found one yet, but if I have to choose, for now it will be FatBurger [in LA]. It’s simple and delicious.

Nguyen: DAMN that’s a hard question. I dunno about the best, but I will say my current fave is Umami Burger’s truffle burger. Ever since the original location opened up, it’s still hand- down my favorite. Hey Umami cooks, if you wanna sprinkle in some extra truffle oil for me…I don’t mind!

Read more about the Trans at

Robyn Lee, Editor of Serious Eats and A Hamburger Today

What makes a great burger?

The patty should be made of adequately salted beef with good flavor, cooked so it retains juiciness (usually entails being medium rare, but not always) and gets a big of crust on the outside. The bun should match the size of the patty and be just sturdy enough to hold up to the fillings, but not too much that it’s overwhelming (my favorite bun is a Martin’s potato roll). Bun should be toasted—even better if they’re buttered. Toppings should complement the beef, not overwhelm it. My favorites are plain ol’ cheese, lettuce, tomato and special sauce, but others work well when applied thoughtfully.

Favorite toppings?

I’m pretty boring; I just go with cheese (usually American), lettuce, tomato and special sauce (a variation of Thousand Island). I’ll also take pickled onions wherever they’re available (I like them more than regular pickles and raw onions).

Best burger you ever ate?

It’s hard to say where the best is, but my favorite is easily from Shake Shack, a mini-chain that started in New York City. Some would say it’s overhyped, but if had been burgers in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Shake Shack’s Shack Burger would be “just right.” It’s just the right size (four ounces), has just the right amount of toppings, has good beefy flavor, comes on a great soft-and-squishy bun (a Martin’s potato roll), and is a good price ($4.75). I’ve had other great burgers that are larger and fancier, but Shake Shack’s is the one I crave the most.

Read more about Robyn’s burger wisdom at A Hamburger Today.

Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, Southern Food Expert/Burger Fiend

What makes a great burger?

Good meat, good seasoning.

Favorite toppings?

Bacon, cheese, mushrooms, onions.

Best burger you ever ate?

The smoke burger at Alewife in Baltimore.

Read more about Elena’s food musings at Biscuits and Such

Best Burgers: What YOU Said

For good measure, we asked YOU about the best burgers you’ve ever had! Here’s what we heard from you via Facebook and Twitter.

Best burger you ever ate?

Steak ‘n Shake, In-N-Out Burger. – Jerome M., Facebook

Roxy’s Hamburgs (only because of the sauce) in St. Joseph, Hank’s Hamburgers in Tulsa, Winstead’s in Kansas City. – Kelley D., Facebook

Nepenthe Restaurant‘s “Ambrosiaburger” in Big Sur. Maybe the best view while eating a burger anywhere in the US. – Karen B., Facebook

Beer joints. They don’t overthink it. – Jeff F., Facebook

Tote’s Big Boy’s “Big Boy” burger [now closed]. – Mark V., Facebook

W & M Bar-B-Q Burger in Honolulu. – Liza M., Facebook

McDonald’s Big Mac. – Michael J., Facebook

Sidecar in Brooklyn. – @0BrooklynEats0

Kuma’s Corner in Chicago, and Umami Burger and Grill ‘Em All [food truck] in LA. – @Sixyearold

Bobcat Bite in Santa Fe. – @BurgerDogBoy

The Double Eagle and Peppers Cafe‘s “Green Chile Cheeseburger.” – @carriemurph

More Meat Lovers Delights

Still hungry for more juicy burger goodness? Then you won’t want to miss these burger roundups from our friends at A Hamburger Today. Their passion and knowledge of all things burgerlicious is truly astounding.

The AHT Guide to Hamburger and Cheeseburger Styles

Three Best Burgers in the U.S.: No Agreement Anywhere

Editor’s Note: What’s the best burger YOU ever ate and where’d you get it? We’re getting closer to finding that perfect burger…we can almost taste it!

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