A good burger is one of life’s simplest but greatest pleasures. With these places around the U.S. to try them, you’ll never want a fast-food burger again.
Louis’ Lunch, New Haven, Connecticut
Louis’ Lunch is thought to be the first place to create and sell the original hamburger. In 1895, owner Louis Lassen was selling steak-and-potato dinners out of the tiny restaurant. In 1900, a customer in a rush asked for something he could eat on the go. Louis took a blend of ground steak, placed it between two pieces of bread, and sent the man on his way. Today, Louis’s great-grandson, Jeff, runs the restaurant, and the burgers remain the specialty of the house. Prepared fresh every day, the burgers are served between Pepperidge Farm white bread toast with cheese, tomato, and onion. 261 Crown St.
ROK:BRGR, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
ROK:BRGR is a gourmet burger bar with three locations in South Florida. The owners were inspired to open a fine-dining burger restaurant since the only burger places at the time were fast food. ROK:BRGR uses only the highest quality ingredients, including brioche buns, artisan cheese, and hormone-free meat. The patties are made to order, and all the sauces are homemade. Try the Bacon Jam burger with Brie cheese and maple-bourbon bacon jam or the Drunken Pretzel burger served on a pretzel bun with aged Vermont Cheddar, beer mustard, and fried onion rings. 208 SW 2nd St.
The Abbey Burger Bistro, Baltimore, Maryland
Abbey Burger Bistro is known for their specialty burger creations and the option to build your own burger from scratch. These are no ordinary burgers, though. Abbey offers a wide selection of meats, from black Angus to bison to turkey—or, if you’re feeling wild, boar, ostrich, or kangaroo. You then choose your bread, cheese, toppings, and sauces. You can also order from the predesigned burgers. Favorites include Harry’s Bistro Burger on an English muffin with an egg and bacon or the Baltimore Burger, topped with homemade crab dip. There are no freezers at Abbey, so everything is always fresh. 1041 Marshall St.
Port of Call, New Orleans, Louisiana
Port of Call has been serving up New Orleans-style burgers since the 1960s. Primarily just a steakhouse, the burgers were made from hand-grinding the steak scraps. Eventually though, these house-ground, hand-formed burgers became the specialty, and today Port of Call is known for their half-pound, charbroiled burgers topped with grated, unmelted Cheddar and served with a baked potato on the side. The cheese isn’t melted because the kitchen is so tiny, and the baked potato came about after the deep fryer broke. But it stuck, and today a meal from Port of Call is one of the simplest and best you’ll have. 838 Esplanade Ave.
Hunter House Hamburgers, Birmingham, Michigan
Hunter House serves Birmingham’s original slider burgers: little hamburgers with sweet onions smashed into the meat and the buns steamed hot. The restaurant has been in operation since 1952 and is the town’s oldest continually operating restaurant. At Hunter House, nothing is ever frozen; the meat is delivered fresh every day, and the buns are made just for the restaurant, using no dairy to maintain the softest texture. If you need further proof of the burger’s validity, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith says it’s his favorite burger in the world. 35075 Woodward Ave.
Matt’s Bar, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Matt’s Bar is the home of the Jucy Lucy, a burger that seals the cheese between two patties. It may be messy to eat, but when you bite into the burger and experience the hot, creamy, melted-cheese center, you’ll know why so many people love it. The inspiration for the burger came when a customer asked for two patties with the cheese in the middle. When he bit into it, he said, “That’s one juicy Lucy!” Somehow the “i” in juicy got dropped along the way, but you’ll know you’ve found the original when it’s spelled “Jucy.” 3500 Cedar Ave. S
Burger Up, Nashville, Tennessee
Burger Up is a local hangout in the 12 South neighborhood of Nashville, serving quality burgers using only the finest ingredients. They source local, grass-fed beef as well as in-season produce for their burgers. The burgers are seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled on a flat top to get a good sear on the outside. Favorites include the Bison Burger with white Cheddar, fried red onion and jalapeños, romaine, tomato, and honey-Dijon aïoli; the Marathon, a quinoa and black bean burger with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cilantro lime crème fraîche; and the Woodstock with Benton’s bacon, white Cheddar, and Jack Daniel’s maple ketchup. 2901 12th Ave S.
The Slip, Kirkland, Washington
At first glance, The Slip might not look like much, but you’ll find some of the best burgers in the Pacific Northwest here. With only 18 seats inside, it’s Washington’s smallest full-service establishment, but if you go during the summer, you can enjoy the perfect weather out on the 100-seat patio. Only the highest quality meat is used, and a must-try burger is the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger— the most un-expectedly delicious combo. If peanut butter isn’t your jam, try the Moss Bay Broiler with wasabi mayo, the Chili Burger, or a Veggie Burger with a housemade patty. 80 Kirkland Ave.
Holeman and Finch Public House, Atlanta, Georgia
The burger at Holeman and Finch started out as a bit of an enigma. Each night, the kitchen would only serve 24 of their famous cheeseburgers, and only after 10 p.m. People would arrive at the restaurant early to secure their spot in the hopes of getting one. But now the burger is offered on the regular menu, as well as at Turner Field. The delectable burger is comprised of two 4-ounce beef patties, buns baked in the bakery next door and toasted on the griddle, American cheese, pickles, red onion, and homemade ketchup and mustard. 2277 Peachtree Road NW
El’s Drive-In, Morehead City, North Carolina
This old-fashioned drive-in restaurant has been an establishment on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast for more than 50 years. The restaurant is famous for its Super Burger, a quarter-pound burger with chili, slaw, mustard, and chopped onions, and the Shrimp Burger, a great taste of the coast’s fresh seafood. You’ll also find Bacon Cheeseburgers, Pizzaburgers, and Oyster Burgers. And you know what’s the best part? It’s all delivered right to your car by a carhop. It’s a tribute to fast food done the right way with quality ingredients and down-home simplicity. 3706 Arendell St.
Photos courtesy of JAM Photography Inc, Justin Chesney, Holeman and Finch, Kaitlyn Cobb, and Chris Richards