It's time to update my list of my Best Burgers - 2011! A few things have changed, but for the most part it 's similar to my previous lists. I've changed the Top Ten a bit, added a few new places to the honorable mention list, and sadly had to delete a couple that have gone out of business.
1. Duffy's Cherry Cricket - Denver. Still the best. Hands down. I have yet to find a burger that comes close to Duffy's. Pictured at left is their mushroom bacon Swiss cheeseburger. Simply outstanding.
2. Krazy Jim's Blimpie Burger - Ann Arbor. It's been years since I've been to Krazy Jim's and would really like to go back at some point. It's worth a weekend trip to have a Blimpie Burger.
3. Monk's Bar and Grill - Wisconsin Dells. Still a strong number 3 on my list. This bar/burger joint in the Dells is a treat to stop at when I have the opportunity to drive past - which is now about once a year. The burger is tasty, the beer is cold. I just wish I had more opportunities to go there.
4. The Thurman Cafe - Columbus, OH. This place jumped right into my Top Ten list after our visit there in the fall of 2009. Not only was it an interesting place and they had a great staff there, the burger was outstanding. I know I've only been there once, but it was still one of the best I've ever had. Unfortunately, I probably won't be back out to Columbus any time soon so I won't be able to savor the taste of another Thurman burger for awhile.
5. Booches - Columbia, MO. A recent visit to Booches reinforced my belief that Booches deserves a Top Five mention on my list of favorite burgers. Booches is truly a burger joint and the consistency of their burgers each time I visit there reinforces my belief that you don't screw with tradition. (Booches cheeseburgers pictured at right)
6. Sobleman's - Milwaukee. After my initial visit to Sobleman's in 2009, I went back to Solly's, which previously held the number 4 slot on my list. While the Solly's burger was still good, the meat, the bun, the toppings on a Sobleman's burger clearly won out. It's a great place to have a burger, too.
7. Solly's - Glendale, WI. If Solly's burger wasn't so basic, it would be higher on my list. Their "butter burger" is flavorful and juicy. The place is truly an institution in North Milwaukee and they've got a loyal clientele. But I believe Sobleman's is a better burger.
8. B&B Grocery Deli and Meat- Des Moines Don't let the name of the place fool you. This Des Moines grocery store makes a burger that is moist and juicy, topped with gooey cheese and a bun that is light, but firm enough to hold this messy burger. It's a five napkin burger, to say the least. (B&B's double cheeseburger pictured at left.)
9. Louie M's Burger Lust - Omaha. The best name for a burger joint. I recently visited Lou Marcuzzo's funky little place south of downtown Omaha which features about 20 specialty burgers and can make about anything you want to order up. It's still a great burger.
10. The Burger Barge - East Peoria, IL. Still somewhat inconsistent, when they're on - they're tough to beat. When they're not, it's just another burger. However, it's still a Top Ten burger in my book.
Here's my list of high honorable mention burgers in no particular order. These are all worthy of being a Top Ten burger joint, but are just outside looking in.
Smoking Harry's - Creston, IL. Harry's burger was a Top Ten burger in 2010 and is still very good. The combination of a flat griddle-grilled 3/4 pound burger, a great bun and the ambience of a little town dive bar makes Smoking Harry's one helluva burger.
Creekside Bar and Grill - Davenport, IA - The Portobello Bacon Mushroom Swiss Cheeseburger continues to get better and better. The burger is getting to be consistent in taste and texture and is worthy of another nomination for the Best Burger in Iowa from the Iowa Beef Council. (Creekside's Portobello Bacon Mushroom Swiss Cheeseburger pictured at right.)
Lions Tap - Eden Prairie, MN. After a long absence, I was just at the Lions Tap not long ago and it was just as good as when I first went there years ago. It's got to be the grill that has the taste of fried burgers and onions literally burned into it that makes the taste of a Lions Tap burger so good.
Stella's- Bellevue, NE. Another place that is very tough to leave out of the Top 10. Stella's has been around for over 70 years. The old-timers in the Omaha area say the burgers are just as good today as they were when Stella was cooking them up in the 50's. I've been going there since the late 80's and even with new ownership, it's tough to beat a Stella burger.
Starlite Room - Cedar Rapids. I was just in there recently and it confirmed to me that their flat grilled Super Cheeseburger could easily be a Top Ten pick based upon their consistency of how good the burger is each time I visit. The football-shaped burger patty is moist, juicy and full of flavor. And more importantly, it's like that every time I go into the Starlite Room. (Starlite's Super Cheeseburger pictured at left.)
Blue Door Pub - St. Paul. Quite possibly - no, quite probably - the best of all the stuffed "Juicy (Jucy) Lucy" cheeseburgers in the Twin Cities. A great little place with a number of eclectic beers, the Blue Door Pub tops my list of cheese-stuffed burgers.
These burgers get an honorable mention from Road Tips. They're all very good and you won't go wrong if you have one of these burgers.
Burger Jones - Minneapolis. There are some great burger places in the Twin Cities and Burger Jones is one of the best. Eclectic burgers, great beers on tap, nice atmosphere. The only black mark against Burger Jones could be their prices - their mushroom/Swiss cheeseburger is $9.99. But it's worth it.
Moonshine Store - Moonshine, IL. The Moonshine Store double cheeseburger (pictured at right) is truly an iconic sampling of pure Americana. People line up until 12:15 p.m. for these delectable burgers. After 12:30 - forget it! The grille's off!
Dotty Dumpling's Dowry - Madison, WI. Would have been a Top Ten pick, but they've been inconsistent on the past few occasions I've been in. And they certainly aren't as good as they were when they were in their original location in downtown Madison.
Major Goolsby's - Milwaukee. I've completely overlooked having Major Goolsby's on my list before, mainly because it was one of the very first entries I had on Road Tips back in 2005. I need to go back in to Goolsby's downtown Milwaukee location to do an in-depth entry on the place. But their chargrilled burgers are excellent, to say the least, and are always a must each time we visit Summerfest.
Blue Moon - Madison, WI. At one time, no one could touch Dotty's in Madison. Now, the Blue Moon gives them a run for their money. I still think Dotty's is a tad better, but not by very much.
Green Gables - Hudson, IL. Another place that has suffered from inconsistency, but the Green Gables has made a little surge over the past couple of years. I've heard that the people who bought the place from the original owners are no longer there and the new management has gone back to making burgers like they used to. The last couple times I was in, the burgers were just as good as the first time I was in.
Two Mits - Elkader, IA. Steam grilled burgers made in a little trailer on a corner lot in downtown Elkader. Just the beauty of the area is worth the drive to Elkader. Two Mits is a must stop when you get there. (Two Mits cheeseburgers pictured at left.)
Newt's - Rochester, MN. Newt's burgers consistently win "Best of Rochester" honors and have been mentioned as one of the top ones in the state of Minnesota. I haven't had all the burgers in Minnesota yet, but they make a damn fine one at Newt's.
O'Connell's Pub - St. Louis. I've been sampling burgers in the St. Louis area over my past few visits and while there are a number of good ones in the area, "Oc's" burger is still one of the better ones I've encountered. The old-time pub feel alone is worth going to and hanging out.
Paradise Pup - Des Plaines, IL. Prepare to wait in line for these juicy char-broiled burgers that they top with creamy cheddar cheese. But the wait is worth it.
The Nook - St. Paul, MN. The Twin Cities are known for their "Juicy (or Jucy) Lucy" cheese-stuffed burgers and the Nook is the second-best I've found, behind the Blue Door Pub. Pictured at right is their "Paul Molitor Juicy Nookie" - a pepperjack cheese-stuffed burger. The bad thing about it is that the interior of the restaurant was destroyed during a fire late last year and I'm afraid the ambiance and the burgers won't be the same after they reopen later this Spring.
Jack's Locust Street Tap - Davenport. Don't let the "Warm Beer" and "Lousy Food" signs in the window fool you. They have one of the best burgers in the Quad Cities. But go only on Tuesday thru Friday during the day when Karen's cooking. The other times, the burgers can be pedestrian, at best. Karen's got the touch.
Hackney's - Glenview, IL. Their Hackney burger is served on dark rye bread and is one of the best in the Chicagoland area. I've had Hackney burgers in five of their six locations. Each time at each place, the burger is exactly the same. It's consistently very good.
Maid-Rite - Newton, IA. I'm partial to loose meat burgers and while many will argue with me that the Canteen in Ottumwa, IA or Taylor's Maid-Rite in Marshalltown, IA is better, I still think the oldest existing Maid-Rite that I grew up loving is the best of them all.
The following establishments don't fit the "burger joint" title as they're more upscale with both their decor and their burgers. But they deserve a mention.
Atwood Cafe - Chicago. Hands down, the best gourmet burger I've ever had. And at $17.95, it had better be. If cost isn't an issue, anyone can make a great burger, but the Swiss cheeseburger at Atwood Cafe is moist, flavorful and tasty. The pickled red onions, fresh tomato slice and crisp lettuce help add to the sensational taste of the Atwood Cafe burger. (The Atwood Cafe burger pictured at left.)
Newstead Tower Public House - St. Louis. From my two visits to Newstead Tower Public House, they tend to under cook the burger, so if you want a medium burger, order it medium-well. But the half-pound grass-fed ground chuck burger is still very good and the toppings are fresh and flavorful. Bring some cash, though. It's not a cheap burger at Newstead Tower Public House.
Jack Fry's - Louisville. Jack Fry's is a little pretentious and snooty, especially the time I went in just to order one of their cheeseburgers for lunch. But the taste of their burger more than made up for the snobbishness I encountered on my visit.
Merriman's Market Cafe - Waikoloa Beach, HI. The locals on the Big Island called the burger at Merriman's Market Cafe the best on the island. They have a great burger served on a sourdough bun with tons of bacon and grilled mushrooms, topped with white cheddar cheese and what could have been the best tomato slices I've ever had. (Merriman's mushroom, bacon, white cheddar cheese burger pictured at right.)
Alfie's Inn - Glen Ellyn, IL. Alfie's has the feel of an old time supper club, mainly because that's what it is. And they have a damn fine sirloin burger and they serve a lot of them.
The Kitchen- Stillwater, MN. A surprisingly good burger at a contemporary American restaurant in the tourist village of Stillwater, just east of the Twin Cities on the east coast of Minnesota. Their burger may have been the best of all the upscale places I've been to.
Burger Bar - St. Louis. Chef Hubert Keller's foray into gourmet burgers. I had the Kobe burger on my first visit, then had the regular Black Angus burger my next time in. I think I liked the Black Angus burger better.
Ted's Montana Grill - Various Locations. Ted Turner's restaurant chain has a very good buffalo burger that is actually pretty juicy for as lean as the meat is. Their special grilling technique is the key, but the spices they add to the buffalo burger helps, as well.
My All-Time Favorite Chain Restaurant Burgers -
In 'n Out Burger - The west coast classic. Absolutely the best of all the chain burgers.
Five Guys Burgers - The east coast classic. Gives In 'n Out a run for their money. And they're expanding westward as we're starting to see more Five Guys locations around the Midwest. Plus Five Guys is one of the very few places where I order french fries. (Five Guys bacon cheeseburger pictured at left)
Schoop's - From my first couple of visits, I can see why this Indiana-based chain has been in business from 1948. It's a great burger with great flavor.
Whataburger - I still love getting a Double Meat with cheese when I come across a Whataburger. It's just too bad that I rarely come across one in my travels because I don't travel the Southwest region of the nation.
Meatheads - A blatant rip-off of Five Guys burgers, but I certainly like the ones I've had there. I just wish they'd come to the Quad Cities. That is, if Five Guys doesn't make it here first.
Dairy Queen - Yep, those mavens of ice cream cakes and Blizzards make a mean cheeseburger. Some locations are better than others, but for the most part the burgers at Dairy Queen are consistently good. And they are made to order so you don't have to worry about someone pulling them off of a line or from under a heating lamp.
Don and Millie's - Probably the closest thing to the old King's Food Host burgers that I grew up loving in the 60's. This Omaha-based chain isn't big, but they make a great burger.
Smashburger - This Denver chain is also rapidly growing and for good reason. They make some pretty damn good burgers.
Runza - If Don and Millie's doesn't have the closest thing to an old King's burger, then Runza is right there, too. Found primarily across Nebraska, the Runza burgers are a great for a quick burger fix when I'm on the road.
Fuddrucker's - Financial troubles has caused the closure of many Fuddrucker's locations, but the few that are still open are still consistently good. If you need a burger and you don't know the good local places and there's a Fuddrucker's around, go to Fudd's.
Sonic Drive-In- One of the toughest things to do while I'm trying to watch my weight is to stay out of the two or three Sonic's they built here in the Quad Cities over the past couple years. And I've been doing a fine job at that, thank you very much.
And these five burger places are vastly overrated, in my opinion -
Nitty Gritty - Madison. Two visits, two bad experiences. The burger was vastly overcooked the first time there (and that included a long hair cooked into the burger) and my second visit was a disaster with getting the wrong burger. No, I won't go back
Cozy Inn - Salina, KS. Burger bloggers rave about the Cozy Inn. But I went there last summer and I was highly disappointed. Now, you tell me if their burgers would be worth the visit again from the picture on the left. Where's the beef?
Cheeseburger in Paradise - Jimmy Buffett's chain of "upscale" burger joints. The burgers I've had at a couple of them are average, at best. They don't bring any cache to the party, other than being served in a place owned by Jimmy Buffett.
BLT Burger - Las Vegas. Great chefs should stick to what they do best - make eclectic and dynamic food. I've eaten at Laurent Tourondel's upscale burger place in the Mirage three times and each time it was an average burger at inflated prices.
The 5-8 Club- Minneapolis. People rave about this place for having the best "Juicy (Jucy) Lucy" in the Twin Cities. While it may - or may not have been - the first place to feature a cheese-stuffed burger, on the two visits I've made to the 5-8 club the meat was so over-cooked that the cheese cooked completely out of the burger.