Nothing says the end of summer like a juicy burger — whether you’re grilling it in your backyard or seeking out the best patty in town. Of course, there are plenty of sandwiches to be had at ball games, barbecues and hole-in-the-wall joints. But something we’ve found this summer is that upscale restaurants are dishing out some of the best burgers in the country. Read on to find out which ones you should be sinking your teeth into today.
Classic Cheeseburger, The Grape Restaurant, Dallas
For only being served two days a week (Sunday and Monday), The Grape’s classic cheeseburger has gained an impressive following in Dallas. The entire process of creating the meaty masterpiece takes a few days—from weighing and forming the 10-ounce patties to slicing the pain au lait buns—and the dedication is evident from first bite. The fresh-ground patty is topped with Vermont white cheddar, housemade peppered bacon, Nathan’s horseradish half-sour pickles, housemade dijonnaise, lettuce, tomato and onion. The pain au lait bun is toasted to perfection, but it’s the flavor of the hefty burger that really shines.
Husk Cheeseburger, Husk, Charleston, S.C.
Only available at lunch or from the bar at night, the bacon-infused cheeseburger from chef Sean Brock’s Husk in Charleston is a must-try. Benton’s hickory smoked bacon and 100 percent chuck are combined to create two thin patties, which are then seared on a Keating griddle to develop a nice, outer crust. Shaved white onions are steamed on top of one patty and beneath two slices of American cheese, allowing the flavor to seep into the burger while retaining a little crunch. One more slice of cheese is added, along with bread-and-butter pickles and Brock’s special sauce that consists of every condiment you’d want on a burger—ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles and jalapeños. It’s served on a toasted, housemade buttermilk and sesame seed bun that’s moist and soft, yet with a perfect crunch. Keeping with his farm-to-table philosophy, Brock tops the burger with local lettuce and tomatoes only when they’re in season.
Craigie on Main Burger, Craigie on Main, Boston
One of Boston’s most elusive patties, the Craigie on Main Burger is the result of more than six months of work by chef Tony Maws. The 8-ounce patty contains three cuts of beef (which vary day-to-day) blended with suet, bone marrow and dehydrated miso powder. At dinner, less than 20 burgers are cooked in a temperature- and moisture-controlled CVap oven, then atop a 900-degree, flat-top grill, so the burger is juicy but still has a bit of crust. It’s then topped with Shelburne Farm cheddar, mace ketchup, lettuce and onions, which are dressed in a “burger vinaigrette” (essentially drippings and scrapings from the flat top where the burgers are cooked). And in August and September, fresh tomatoes add another element to masterpiece. The housemade milk-style bun is soft and just enough to support the weighty burger.
Greyledge Farms Black Angus Burger, Mayflower Inn & Spa, Washington, Conn.
When chef Justin Ermini created his burger at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Mayflower Inn & Spa, he said it had to be something he’d actually want to eat—and when that drives the recipe, you know it’s going to be amazing. The 8-ounce patty made of dry-aged Black Angus beef from Greyledge Farm in Roxbury, Conn., is seasoned with Maldon organic sea salt and Madagascar black peppercorns. The burger is perfectly grilled and topped with petit Basque cheese (a sheep’s milk cheese) that’s flavorful yet far from overpowering. Ermini makes his own garlic confit aioli to ensure that the condiment adds a bit of complexity without taking over the flavor of the burger. It’s topped with a piquillo pepper relish and arugula. And when everything is sandwiched between a housemade brioche-style bun made with Italian orange honey blossom and whole-wheat flour, this is one burger that will keep you coming back for more.
The Original db Burger, db Bistro Moderne, New York
Known as the patty that ignited the entire haute burger trend, the Original db Burger at Forbes Travel Guide Tastemaker Daniel Boulud’s trendy db Bistro Moderne remains one of the best in New York. The middle of the sirloin burger is stuffed with braised short rib, melt-in-your-mouth foie gras and earthy black truffles—you can actually see the decadent filling when the burger arrives cut in half. It’s topped with frisée and tomato compote, and stuffed between a Parmesan bun, just to amp it up another notch. It may be $32, but for a burger created by this master chef, it’s definitely worth the cash.
Le Pigeon Burger, Le Pigeon, Portland, Ore.
It’s all about going local at Portland’s Le Pigeon (and sister restaurant Little Bird Bistro): The meat is from an area farm that chef Gabe Rucker (who was just named 2013 James Beard Best Chef: Northwest in May) forms into a delightful square-shaped patty. What gives the burger its irresistible zest is the fact that the kitchen doesn’t have a griddle so the only other choice was to grill it, which definitely works in the burger’s favor — and flavor. It’s topped with Oregon-made Tillamook white cheddar, iceberg lettuce slaw (tossed with parsley and aioli) and grilled pickled onions. The grilled ciabatta bun, which is delivered fresh daily from Ken’s Artisan Bakery, dons a nice coat of Dijon mustard and tart housemade ketchup. And if you can’t make it to Portland, the recipe will be in Rucker’s cookbook, Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird, due out in September.
The Palena Cheeseburger, Palena Café, Washington, D.C.
The more casual part of Four-Star Palena offers one of the best burgers in the nation’s capital. The 7-ounce, house-ground patty is a mix of local Angus beef (predominately shoulder cuts with dry-aged steak trimmings added in) that’s wood-grilled to retain full flavor and moisture. It’s topped with sottocenere al tartufo (truffled cheese) that’s slightly melted, adding a unique earthy flavor. The toasted housemade bun, which is similar to brioche but not quite as rich, is smeared with a thin layer of garlic mayonnaise on each side for a subtle kick. The bun is airy so it looks a lot bigger when it first comes out, but rest assured that it’s a near-perfect burger-to-bun ratio once you take your first bite and it “squishes” down.
Tennessee Stack, Capitol Grille, Nashville, Tenn.
Chef Tyler Brown is all about keeping it local—so much so that Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel (where Four-Star Capitol Grille is located) farms its 66-acre plot of land known as Glen Leven (the land is actually owned by the Land Trust for Tennessee ) so Brown could grow his own produce for the restaurant. In December 2012, the Five-Star hotel added a small herd of heritage breed cattle to the farm so Brown also could raise his own beef. And thus, the Tennessee Stack as we know it today was born. Two patties of Double H grass-fed beef are smothered with melted cheddar and bacon marmalade, giving it a smoky flavor. It’s then topped off with hot mustard, sweet onions and lettuce, making the hefty Tennessee Stack more than a meal—and a deliciously satisfying one to say the least.
Fleur Burger 5000, Fleur by Hubert Keller, Las Vegas
If you’ve just won big in Vegas and prefer to celebrate with a burger and a bottle of wine, head straight to Fleur by Hubert Keller (he’s also behind Four-Star Fleur de Lys in San Francisco) in Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. The richer-than-rich Wagyu beef patty is appropriately outfitted with a hearty medallion of foie gras, shaved black truffles and, of course, more truffles in the special sauce. The burger itself is delicious, but it’s also accompanied by a bottle of 1995 Château Pétrus, taking things to an entirely new level. And the red wine, which brings out the earthiness of the black truffles, is served in Ichendorf Milano stemware (imported from Italy) that’s shipped to your home after the meal, so for a cool $5,000, you’ll get an indulgent burger and an even better bottle of wine.
Double Cheeseburger, Au Cheval, Chicago
Though the name indicates otherwise, Au Cheval’s double cheeseburger is actually three 4-ounce patties of prime beef (the trendy Chicago diner also has a “single” that’s really a “double”). The thin patties are cooked on a griddle—imagine your classic diner burger only much, much better. The cheddar is so perfectly melted between the patties that it looks painted on. It’s topped with housemade dijonnaise and chopped onions; but if you’re really daring (and really hungry), you can add a fried egg and a slab of thick-cut bacon. It’s a messy, no-nonsense type of meal and one you won’t soon forget.
Photos Courtesy of Kari Skaflen, The Neighborhood Dining Group, B.Milne and The Hermitage