There's no food with more multiple
personalities than the hamburger.
It can be a nickel-thin slider eaten
by the half-dozen or a rich pillow
of prime chopped sirloin as costly
as a 2-pound lobster. It is doo-wop
drive-in fare, but equally at home
on the backyard grill or in a trendy
bistro. Some burgers are lean and
nutritionally virtuous; others are
greasy delights hidden under gobs of melted cheese.
While burgers are everywhere in America, some
regions boast their own unique style: New Mexico
is home to cheeseburgers topped with fiery green
chilies; Wisconsin boasts the butter burger (yes,
drenched with melted butter); west of Oklahoma
City, you'll find onion-fried burgers that sport thin
hoops of onion smooshed right into the meat as it
cooks, lacing it with caramelized vegetable sweetness.
Two restaurants in Minneapolis claim the Juicy Lucy,
a patty concealing a pocket of cheese inside that melts
as the hamburger cooks. Southern California burgers
are known for their outrageous quantity and quality of
condiments, nowhere more evident than in the jawstretching
tower of lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion
stuffed inside the bun at Hodad's of Ocean Beach.
In the world of hamburgers, size makes all the
difference. A 3- to 8-ounce patty is roughly the normal
size. Plenty of them are smaller—White Castle makes
18 from each pound of beef. Those who prefer jumbo
burgers have no trouble finding thick half-pounders.
And really big eaters can go to Denny's Beer Barrel
Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, where the menu
includes 3-pound behemoths, and where extremely
hungry parties can special-order 50-pounders served
in custom-baked buns. If it's girth you go for, visit
Cotham's Mercantile in Grand Prairie, Arkansas,
where the Hubcap Burger, a house special, is wide
enough to eclipse a plate. For height, head to the
Anchor Bar in Superior, Wisconsin; their Galleybuster
is a mountain of three 1/3-pound beef patties layered
with melted cheese and lots of grilled onions.
One of the strangest-looking burgers is served at
Shady Glenn, a dairy bar in Manchester, Connecticut.
It's created by laying three or four slices of bright orange
cheese on the patty as soon as it is flipped on
the griddle, making sure the edges droop and start to
melt onto the hot iron. As the grilling cheese turns
chewy, the cook flips up its still-pliant corners with
a spatula and curls them above the meat, where
they harden and stand like the petals of a rose,
creating a burger flower with a cheesy crown.
We always hunt for one-of-a-kind restaurants,
but the Pacific Northwest chain called Burgerville
is too excellent to ignore. The beef is steak-house
juicy; if you like cheese with attitude, top yours with
tangy Tillamook cheddar. Add local smokehouse
bacon for its sweet-pepper punch, and you've got
a four-star burger for under $5. On the side, how
about Walla Walla onion rings or sweet potato fries
with marshmallow-brown sugar dipping sauce and
a hazelnut milkshake? Aah, now that's fine dining!
Family-Friendly Stuffed Cheeseburgers
We were experimenting one night and
came up with these tasty cheese-filled
Family-Friendly Stuffed Cheeseburgers. Our kids and neighbors fell in
love with them. They're so good that
we often don't add any condiments.
—Alethea Osborne, Florence, Kentucky
Cajun Beef Burgers
Flavor abounds in these hefty Cajun Beef Burgers, spiked with bits of veggies and Cajun seasoning. A creamy mayonnaise and Creole mustard spread adds even more Louisana-style flair.
—Rebecca Baird, Salt Lake City, Utah
Fig-a-licious Pork Burgers
With fig puree and melted Gorgonzola, these Fig-a-licious Pork Burgers are almost a gourmet meal.
—Mary Cannataro, Chicago, Illinois
Michael and Jane Stern, authors
of more than 40 books, travel
the country looking for great
food. For more of their culinary
discoveries, visit roadfood.com