July 25, 2009
The Best Burgers in America?
Posted by Gordon Smith

Searching for the best burgers in America is one of the (many) silly things that foodies do to entertain themselves, but some picks are more credible than others. Lunchbox Laboratory in Seattle, for example, looks like it could be worth a trip, but the recently minted list at Epicurious contains one obvious pretender:

Atlanta: Holeman & Finch
2277 Peachtree Road, Atlanta, GA (404-948-1175)

Best flipped upside down and eaten as fast as humanly possible to manage its gushiness, the burger created by Chef Linton Hopkins is as much an event as it is a sandwich. A bullhorn sounds at 10 p.m. (official burger time), and the crowd goes wild. Hesitate a minute and the limited quantity (they make only two dozen a night) will be gone. The glossy buns baked in their bakery next door contain two patties of freshly ground, grass-fed beef (chuck and brisket in equal proportions), a slice of Kraft American cheese, a pinch of raw red onion, bread-and-butter pickles, homemade ketchup, and yellow mustard. Crisp golden fries are part of the deal. Those who miss out on the burger can always come back for Sunday brunch, when the kitchen makes 72 of them.

This sounds like fun, what with the bullhorn, the limited quantities, and the late hour to accentuate the unhealthiness of the whole experience ... but Kraft American cheese!?!

No, no, no, no! Automatic disqualification.

The point of this list was to reveal the best burgers in America, not to provide a roadmap for "how to ruin an otherwise fine burger."

By contrast, check out the review of Judy Rodgers' burgers at the Zuni Café in San Francisco:

San Francisco: Zuni Café 1658 Market S. (near Franklin) San Francisco, CA (415-552-2522) When anyone mentions hamburgers in San Francisco, one name immediately comes to mind: Zuni Café. While Bay Area residents can't agree on politics—or the best burrito, for that matter—the general consensus is that this is the best burger. Chef/owner Judy Rodgers buys chunks of chuck and liberally salts the meat before going home at night. The next day she and her crew grind the meat, salt and all. The salt seasons the meat so the thick grilled patty releases a gush of liquid with each bite. It's served on a square of grilled rosemary-scented focaccia, generously slathered with garlicky a ïoli, and accompanied by house-made pickled zucchini ribbons and onion strips. The burger can be ordered with Roth Kase Private Reserve (an Alpine-style raw-cow's-milk cheese aged ten months), Mountain Gorgonzola, grilled onions, or portobello mushrooms, but why mess with perfection? Note: The Hamburger is served at lunch and after 10 p.m. only.

Note to critic: adding fine cheese to a burger is not messing with perfection, but rather completing the creation.

Ok, back to the burger ... Roth Kase is not the best cheese from Wisconsin, but it puts Kraft American to shame. If you want to make a great cheeseburger with Wisconsin cheese, I would recommend Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company. It's a Gruyere style cheese that is great for melting.

I know what I am having for dinner ...

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