I ate quite a few burgers this year on a quest to find the cream of the crop. Some noteworthy picks, thoughts on the ridiculousness of topping offerings, and tips for ultimate enjoyment, here.
As 2018 comes to a close, I’m looking back fondly on oh so many beef patties. Thin ones. Thick ones. Local ones. Those enjoyed far from home.
I have met very few burgers in my lifetime that I didn’t like. Some may argue that pizza is always good, even when it’s bad. Completely untrue. A burger, on the other hand, rarely leaves me disappointed. Add bacon and cheese, and the odds of enjoyment are really stacked in your favor.
But what sets one burger apart from the next? Can one ever be truly objective in their judgement? How much does ambiance, service, and the company with which the burger was enjoyed factor into an overall rating?
Without further adieu…
THERE’S NO DISGUISING A SUB-PAR PATTY
I cannot emphasize this enough. The patty itself is EVERYTHING. Again, a burger is still good even when it’s not top-notch, but a patty that’s too lean or has been cooked on a griddle that’s brand spanking new will leave something to be desired. I walked out of at least half a dozen establishments this year lamenting a lack of actual beefy taste. Terrible case in point: Gordon Ramsay Burger in Vegas. I know what you’re thinking: don’t expect much from celebrity restaurants in tourist destinations but this was so close to being perfect - duck bacon, goat cheese, wild mushrooms and arugula on a perfectly pillowy seeded bun - that the patty let-down was painful.
On the bright side, Burger Shack left a memorably beefy impression underneath copious toppings - evidence below.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
Doors that only open between 10pm and 2am Friday and Saturday. A secret entrance marked prohibition-style with a sole red light. There was so much hype surrounding Black Door Burger, I was nervous it would be a bust. And then I finally made it. And it was magic. Somehow hitting all the right fast-food notes but fulfilling the need for high-quality, fall-apart beefy flavor, I wish I had ordered two. It was just a perfect late-summer night in Long Beach with friends, sitting outside at Shine’s with the best burgers in town. The plot thickens: unbeknownst to me, I had caught this pop-up during its last weekend in business. Three words: come back, baby.
THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR
It’s almost instinctual - everyone reaches for fries before the main event. I blame this instinct on McDonald’s, dating back to the late 80s when their fries were still good. You reach into the bag before getting home, and lo and behold, there are none left by time you arrive. Sigh.
I can count on one hand the number of times fries were as memorable as the burger this year, and with 38 burger occasions and counting, that’s not saying very much. Two things: 1) a great burger doesn’t need a wingman; 2) Local Burger in Bay Shore probably has the best fries on Long Island, along with an impressive array of dipping sauces.
My point: eat the burger first. A winning strategy.
WHEN IN DOUBT, DOUBLE UP
Double patties are offered for a reason: it’s going to be a superior burger experience. This applies to patties weighing in at fewer than four ounces. The topping distribution is more pleasurable, the beefiness will be there, and you’ll ultimately be more fulfilled. I’ve tested this theory at my two local favorites - the chain BurgerFi (always a go-to) and Moo Burger (an independent burger shack). A single just doesn’t cut it. You’re already eating a burger - don’t deny yourself a truly pleasurable experience. And on that note…
BURGERS DON’T MAKE YOU FAT
GASP!!! Say WHAT!? Yes, that’s right - one more time for the folks in the back. I embarked on this burger journey exactly one year ago. Fifty two weeks later, I’m exactly 0.6 pounds lighter, and roughly the same body fat percentage (actually a teensy bit lower).
A caloric surplus can indeed cause weight gain. A burger a week as part of an overall balanced diet and active lifestyle? As always…
Enjoy your food! Enjoy your life!