Courtesy of Dyer’s on Beale
Memphis: Dyer’s Burger
The Burger: Grease is the word at Dyer’s Burger, a Memphis institution since 1912. The pounded-thin, all-beef patties at this café are dunked in a cast-iron skillet of boiling hot vegetable oil. The meat turns crunchy as the fry cook flips it onto a squishy Wonder Bread bun. Only mustard, pickles, and onions accompany. Many die-hards favor the “triple triple” combo: three patties stacked between molten slices of processed American cheese.
Best Sides: Add more vitamin “G” to your diet with onion rings, chili cheese fries, and a deep-fried Twinkie.
The Burger: Duchamp is almost too upscale to deserve mention on this list, except for the fact that in a city famed for its love of red meat, this one is a whopper. Chef Michael Taus bakes Czechoslovakian cottage-cheese-and-dill rolls from his grandmother’s recipe to pair with an eight-ounce burger, made with ground chuck blended with trimming scraps from local meat purveyor L&L Packing Company.
Best Sides: Garlic-and-Romano cheese fries.
Courtesy of Frank Aymani
The Burger: Lüke is an old-timey brasserie owned by chef John Besh, who may cook fancier fare at Restaurant August but knows that a 10-ounce Charolais top round beef patty and house-made onion roll doesn’t need to be gussied up for a lunch date in downtown New Orleans. Well, he does top it with ripe tomatoes, Emmentaler cheese, caramelized onions, and thick slabs of country bacon from Alan Benton’s famed smokehouse in the mountains of Tennessee. But that’s just gracious southern hospitality for you.
Best Sides: Seafood gumbo and a custom-brewed Lüke Alt pilsner.
The Burger: Gastropub is one of those words real lumberjacks can’t say with a straight face, but they still come out of the Pacific North woods for the hungry-man special burger at Quinn’s Pub, an inviting Capitol Hill eatery where eight ounces of natural Painted Hills Ranch beef is topped with cheddar, bacon, and mayonnaise.
Best Sides: More meat! Order the wild boar sloppy joe and beef tongue hash with a fried duck egg.
The Burger: Ranch 616 is a South Texas–style diner that skews south of the border. The Chili and Fritos burger is quite the Tex-Mex mix: it’s an eight-ounce beef patty stuffed with crunchy corn chips, homemade chile con carne, pico de gallo, and tomatillo crema. But it’s the Framed Burger that takes the prize. It’s filled daily with different fixings—Maytag blue, cremini mushrooms, jalapeño peppers—on the short-order cook’s whim. And it’s worth stopping by on performance nights for live country by Lucas Hudgins & the First Cousins. This is Austin, after all.
Best Sides: The Texas Gulf Coast crab-and-fish cake and the fried fruit pies with Mexican vanilla ice cream.
Hale’iwa, HI: Kua’Aina Sandwich Shop
The Burger: For the past 25 years, this breezy spot on Oahu’s North Shore has been serving up half-pound charbroiled burgers topped with slices of fresh, island-grown avocado or pineapple on a kaiser roll to the protein-loving surf crowd that hangs ten on the Pipeline.
Best Sides: Shoestring fries.
Len Depas/Kemble Park Tavern
The Burger: Given the New Austerity sweeping the capital, lobbyists are loving the street cred they garner by trading prime rib for America’s favorite combo meal. On weekends, cozy Kemble Park Tavern serves a terrific brunch burger, topped with a fried egg and bacon, on a brioche bun. And for those who need a little extra pork in their barrel, there’s “whole hog” sausage on the side.
Best Sides: Breakfast potatoes, scrapple, Byrd Mill grits.
Jeanmarie Theobalds; Britany Westphal
New York City: Back Forty and Black Iron Burger Shop
The Burgers: The Big Apple’s best burgers are being served up a few blocks from each other in the East Village. At the gritty, no-attitude Black Iron Burger Shop, the house special, the Iron Horse, is made with two patties topped with grilled onions and horseradish cheddar. A few streets north at Back Forty, chef Peter Hoffman’s sleeker homage to down-home cooking, the grass-fed beef burger is paired with heritage bacon, farmhouse cheddar, spicy ketchup, and a big sour pickle.
Best Sides: Rosemary fries and a malted milkshake at Black Iron; salt cod hush puppies and crispy onion rings at Back Forty.
Courtesy of Murphy’s
Hanover, NH: Murphy’s on the Green
The Burger: Murphy’s on the Green is a classic Yankee college town tavern fraternized in equal number by tweedy Dartmouth professors, honor roll students, and townie regulars. Members of the Theta Delta Chi chapter pledge their loyalty to the Murph Burger, a half-pound Angus beef patty with crispy shallots, rémoulade, bacon, and plain old American cheese.
Best Sides: Cheddar cheese fritters, fried buffalo wings, and New England clam “chowda.”