I was always drawn to the comfort of the hamburger. And being the comprehensive eater that I am, I spent months searching for the best of the best in ground beef, cheese, bread, and creative toppings. What I found was that outside of the insane creations at Yo Mama’s (which I explain below), most burgers here are pretty normal—by New Orleans standards, that is. A great burger should be clever in its simplicity. To do that a chef has to first rethink every aspect of the dish. For example, at Oxalis the beef is combined with crème fraiche to make it unthinkably decadent. And at Latitude 29 Chef Chris Shortall replaced pickles on his burger with cornichons. But in a city renown for its culinary scene, it is certainly no surprise that the search for burger mastery is a topic of endless, fascinating conversation amongst locals. Here are a few of my favorites:
When I first had the burger at Chef Jonathan Lestingi’s gastropub in the Bywater section of town, it blew me away. Made with seasonal aioli and pickled shallots (you can also top it with bacon, cheese, or bone marrow), it is by far the juiciest and most succulent burger I’ve ever had. The bar here slings some of the best cocktails in the area, too.
Locals generally agree that the uptown Company Burger serves the best all-around American cheeseburger in town. It stacks two locally sourced beef patties, American cheese, thinly sliced onions, and housemade bread-and-butter pickles inside a fresh-baked roll; accompanying it with an order of hand-cut fries or chunky onion rings is a must (and be sure to try the jalapeños from the pickle bar in the back—they’re extraordinary).
Yo Mama’s Bar and Grill
Smack in the middle of the French Quarter, you’ll find Yo Mama’s, a pub legendary for its Peanut Butter Burger. Yes, you read that right! This uniquely delicious creation includes bacon and a slathering of peanut butter atop its beef patty. You can opt for more traditional fixings, like mushrooms or avocado—but trust me and order this local favorite. You won’t be sorry.
This French Quarter restaurant occupies an incredibly atmospheric landmarked building that dates to 1796. But though it serves a fairly upscale dinner menu (veal sweetbreads, roasted quail) and a swanky weekend brunch, half the time I go there I end up ordering the fantastic burger. Made with dry-aged, grass-fed beef, sharp cheddar, and a brioche bun, it goes perfectly with the terrific cocktails whipped up by the house bartenders.
Though it’s pretty off the beaten path in Metairie, this spot is well worth a side trip if you’re a true burger connoisseur. Phil’s features a checklist-style burger menu that lets you customize your preferences and toppings; you can order up everything from an alligator burger topped with fried onion strings to a bison burger with grilled pineapple ketchup.