A Road Tips reader, Pete Haskins, asked me via e-mail a couple three weeks ago to name my Top 10 best burgers of all the places I've been to. I thought about it for a number of days and finally came up with what I think are the best burgers I've ever had.
My choices of 1 thru 3 were pretty easy. But after that, it became a little more tough to differentiate 4 thru 10. Here's what I came up with:
1. Duffy's Cherry Cricket - Denver: Hands down the best restaurant burger I've ever had. I have turned a number of friends and colleagues onto the great burgers at Cherry Cricket that I've garnered sort of a cult following as to my taste in burgers. 85% lean ground beef, cooked on an open grate over charcoal, the Cherry Cricket burgers have a taste sensation like no other. And the buns are soft and fresh - another point that I look for in the perfect cheeseburger. Look for a post in the upcoming days when we visited the Cherry Cricket - not once, not twice, but three times - when I was recently out in Denver.
2. Krazy Jim's Blimpie Burger - Ann Arbor: A funky little place with a sassy woman grilling the burgers, Crazy Jim's was the best burger I'd ever had until I found the Cherry Cricket. Four patties make about a half-pound burger. Then tell her what you want on them from veggies to bacon to eggs. It was heaven on a bun, I'm telling you.
3. Monk's Bar and Grill - Wisconsin Dells, WI: I'm not a big fan of the Dells area, especially in the summertime because it's so packed with people. But each time I pass by, I always make a point to stop into Monk's for one of their great cheeseburgers topped with grilled onions. If you get up there for a weekend or a vacation, stop into Monk's and have their burger. You won't be disappointed.
4. Solly's - Glendale, WI: They claim they're the inventors of "The Butter Burger" - a hamburger patty cooked in butter. And of all the butter burgers I've had in Wisconsin, Solly's is the best. Top it with cheese and "The Butter Burger" is a cholesterol-hiking delicacy that keeps people coming back for more.
5. Booches - Columbia, MO: Booches isn't much to look at on the inside - it's more of a pool hall than a burger joint. But you forget all about the decor when they bring the burgers out to you. Small cheeseburgers served on wax papers. They are out of this world. But my buddy, Dave Haack, who lives outside of Columbia, was telling me recently that they're getting ready to pass a no-smoking ordinance in Columbia that would ban smoking from any place that serves food. Since Booches is well known not only for their burgers and their pool tables, the owners are contemplating shutting down if they have to ban smoking.
6. Kroll's West - Green Bay, WI: Situated in the shadows of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Kroll's West makes a wonderfully juicy burger that is full of flavor. This old time family bar/restaurant is a favorite of the locals who come in for the messy cheeseburgers served on wax paper.
7. The Burger Barge - East Peoria, IL: The Burger Barge can either go to absolutely outstanding to unbelievably horrible visit to visit. When they're cooked properly, they're excellent. When they're not - as in overcooked (which has happened to me two or three times) - they're inedible. The last three or four times I've been in there, however, they've been great. I always get the Tavern Burger topped with an egg, cheese and a piece of Canadian Bacon. Yummy!
8. Louie M's Burger Lust - Omaha, NE: I haven't been to this funky little spot south of Omaha's downtown area for quite a while. I really need to go back and do a revisit blog entry on Louie M's because not only do they have great burgers, but they have good chili, too.
9. Dotty Dumpling's Dowry - Madison, WI: When Dotty's was at their old location before they were moved by the city of Madison, I thought their burgers were the best I'd ever had. I don't know if it's because they got a new grill at their new location or what, but they don't have that same great flavor the ones at the old place had. Still, they're very good and merit a Top 10 spot in my list.
10. Jack's Locust Street Tap - Davenport, IA: For my money, the best burger in the Quad Cities. Only you need to go during the day on Tuesday thru Friday when Karen is working. She knows exactly how to cook 'em and they're the best in town when she's there.
A few more places that are just outside my top 10 are The Broiler in St. Peters, MO (look for a review on the Broiler in the coming days), and the Green Gables at Lake Bloomington, just north of Hudson, IL. The Green Gables probably would have made my Top 10, but they've been so inconsistent with their burgers since their change of ownership a few years ago. And the Duffy Burger at Duffy's in Utica, IL is very good, as well.
Of course, there's the great Super Cheeseburger at the Starlight Room in Cedar Rapids. And the Blue Moon in Madison arguably has as good a burger as Dotty's. And the burgers at O'Connell's Pub and Blueberry Hill in St. Louis are also worthy of a mention.
Also, I have to mention the Lion's Tap in Eden Prairie, MN, and Matt's Bar, home of the cheese-stuffed "Jucy Lucy" in Minneapolis. And I can't forget Hackney's swiss cheeseburger on homemade rye bread in the Chicago area.
I'm afraid to go in and get my heart checked because I'm afraid the doctor would find a cheeseburger clogging one of my arteries. But I'm always on the hunt for a good burger. And if you know of one that I've missed out on, drop me a line and fill me in.