I was going to do another comprehensive look at my favorite burger joints for the end of 2013, but decided that I'd switch things up a bit for my year-end overview of my favorite - and most disappointing - burgers for 2013. I found a number of very good burger joints this past year and a few where I went away sort of shaking my head. We'll get into those in a bit. But first - my updated 2013 Top Ten Burger List (click on the highlighted link to read about each place) -
1) Cherry Cricket - Denver. I was at Cherry Cricket four or five times over a three week period in September of this year. I took my wife there for the first visit during that time. Not only do I still think they have the best burger I've ever had - they have the best Southwestern-style green chili I've had. (Sam's No. 3 in Denver is a close second in that category.)
2) Westport Flea Market - Kansas City. Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor, MI held the second spot on my Top Burger list for a number of years. However, Blimpy Burger was forced to close their location in August of this year due to an expansion by the University of Michigan. They hope to reopen at some point, but they're finding that a new location at a price they can afford is a daunting task. So, by default - and totally worthy of the ranking - Westport Flea Market in Kansas City gets the runner-up nod.
3) King's Place - Miesville, MN. This small roadway eatery jumped all the way to third in my Top Burger list. It's definitely a destination place, but it's worth the drive to have one of their flat-grilled burgers.
4) Monk's Bar and Grill - Wisconsin Dells. Still a great burger, but stay away from the mushroom/Swiss burger. They don't use fresh mushrooms and it kills the taste of the burger.
5) Thurman Cafe - Columbus, OH. It's been awhile since I've been there and it may be awhile before I get back. But all I have to do is go back and read my blog entry on the place and it reminds me of how damn good that burger really was.
6) Moon-Glo - Danville, IL. The guy who owns the place is damn proud of the urinal in his men's room, but he should be even more proud of the 3/4 lb. Moon-Glo Burger. It's tough to beat. (Pictured right - the Moon-Glo Burger.)
7) Booches - Columbia, MO. Still one of the great burger destinations in the Midwest. A dive bar/pool hall with great burgers.
8) B&B Grocery - Des Moines. A great burger from a grocery store/meat market? Oh, yeah. Take my word - the double cheeseburger is worth the price.
9) Bulldogs Grill - Wauconda, IL. Another destination burger joint that is worth the drive. I need to get back up there at some point.
10) With apologies to the Burger Barge in East Peoria - I only have 10 spots! - I'm going with Green Gables at Lake Bloomington north of Hudson, IL as my 10th best burger. They had a dip a few years ago, but they've come back strong with their flat-grilled burgers.
For 2013, I decided to come up with a list of the best burgers I found and the biggest disappointments.
Best Burger Finds for 2013 -
King's Place - Miesville, MN. (see above) As I said, it's a destination drive south and east of the Twin Cities. They have over 60 burgers on their menu. And it's a great burger.
Moon-Glo - Danville, IL. (see above) Another great find that's a short drive off of Interstate 74 just south of Danville and a couple miles from the Indiana border. The Moon-Glo Burger is big, thick and juicy. And it has a great taste. I've been back once more for a Moon-Glo Burger and it was just as good as the first one I've had.
House of Coates - Coates, MN. This was a good burger, but a tip from a Road Tips reader turned me on to King's Place in nearby Miesville. Still, it's worth the stop if you're on you're way between Rochester and the Twin Cities. (Pictured left - the Swanee burger at House of Coates.)
Matty's Bar and Grille - Muskego, WI. Another fine burger find in 2013. Any place that serves a warm chocolate chip cookie with a burger gets a couple more points in my book.
Geneva Ale House - Geneva, IL. A thanks to my old friend John Christensen who turned me on to this place in the far western Chicago suburb of Geneva. Not only do they have a great burger at this place, they have a great selection of beers.
Surprising Burgers of 2013 - These are places where I went in and didn't expect much, but was pleasantly surprised.
Bagger Dave's - Cape Girardeau, MO. It turned out this was a chain burger place, but the burger and the beer selection was surprisingly very good.
Valley Lodge Restaurant - Glenview, IL. I'd always wanted to go to this little supper club in the north Chicago suburbs. Just by a weird serendipitous circumstance, I tried their burger and found it to be surprisingly good. (Pictured right - the Swiss/mushroom/bacon burger at Valley Lodge.)
North Branch Pizza and Burger Company - Glenview, IL. Any place with "pizza" and "burger" in their name, I'm a little leery of. But I found that both their pizza and their burgers were very good.
Double Dogs - Bowling Green, KY. I had never heard of Double Dogs before and it was close to my hotel in Bowling Green. I stopped in for a burger before heading out of town and I was actually pleased I did.
Winstead's - Overland Park, KS. I have driven past one of the many Winstead's locations in the Kansas City area for over 35 years and I finally stopped at one earlier this year. I couldn't believe that I hadn't stopped before this.
Biggest Disappointments of 2013 - These are the places that I'd either heard they had good burgers or had won awards for their burgers, but I left highly disappointed.
61 Chophouse - Mediapolis, IA. See the picture at the top of this post? That's the Black Crown Burger from 61 Chophouse. Looks good, doesn't it? It wasn't. The Black Crown Burger won the Iowa Beef Council's Best Burger in Iowa contest for 2013. If the judges like a dried out and lifeless burger, then it's no wonder 61 Chophouse won. It was - by far - the biggest disappointment of 2013. (And as of March 29, 2014, you can't get a burger from 61 Chophouse. Owner Terry Reis took a position as a corporate chef for Palace Entertainment in Los Angeles and closed the place. No tears shed by Road Tips on that one.)
Hi-Ho South - Fargo, ND. I had read somewhere that Hi-Ho South was one of those places you had to try, calling it the best burger in North Dakota. It was far from that. (Pictured left - the burger at Hi-Ho South. Who said this was the best burger in North Dakota?)
Short's Burger and Shine - Iowa City. Another burger that I felt could be something if they knew how to cook burgers. I see a lot of people rave about the place, but on my visits I have been highly disappointed with the burgers I've had.
Shantytown - Bloomington, MN - I just posted on this place yesterday. Another place I really wanted to like, but was completely disappointed with.
American Burger Bar - St. Joseph, MN. Located just west of St. Cloud, not only was this burger disappointing, it was expensive.
Kroll's West - Green Bay. I remember the burger being much better than what I recently had. At one time, it was on my Top 10 list. But there was just something rather funky about the burger I had on a visit to Kroll's West earlier this year.
Doc's Inn - Silvis, IL. I really wanted to like this place, but they severely overcooked the burger. I know I should go back and give them a second chance, but the burgers should be consistent on each visit.
Burger Star - Omaha. Another place that I really wanted to like, but they cooked the life out the burger they served me.
Best Gourmet Burgers - Gourmet burger joints are beginning to make some major noise in the burger world. You're going to pay more for a gourmet burger, but in many cases it's worth it.
Atwood Cafe - Chicago. Still the best gourmet burger I've ever had.
Merriman's Market Cafe - Waikoloa Beach, HI. A close second in the best gourmet burger I've ever had. The fresh tomato slices were to die for. (Pictured right - The burger at Merriman's Market Cafe. Look at how red and juicy those tomato slices were.)
DMK Burger Bar - Lombard, IL. I like the DMK Burger Bar location in the western Chicago suburb of Lombard. I've heard the Chicago location is better, but I don't know how it could be.
Blanc Burgers + Bottles - Kansas City. (Now in Omaha, too). Not only a great gourmet burger, but a wonderful selection of craft beers.
BRGR Kitchen and Bar - Kansas City. Housemade ketchup, a very good gourmet burger and a great beer selection. I like Blanc just a bit more than BRGR, but both are worth the price of admission.
Bru Burger Bar - Indianapolis. Gourmet burgers and great beer selection - starting to see a common thread in some of these gourmet burger places? Bru Burger is one of the best in the Midwest.
Three Aces - Chicago. This is my new favorite gourmet burger place. Don't let the "dive bar" atmosphere fool you. This is one of the best gourmet burgers I've ever had. Great beer selection, too. (Pictured left - the white cheddar and bacon jam burger at Three Aces. Yum!)
Tom and Eddie's - Chicago Area. Tom and Eddie's calls themselves a "fast casual" place that happens to have good gourmet burgers. I've been to a couple of T & E's locations (the Lombard location more than once) and each time I go I find myself liking the burgers more and more.
If you have a favorite burger joint in the Midwest and would like me to give it a try, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll do my best to give it a shot at some point. For all my reviews on burger joints and gourmet burger places that I've visited over the past few years, click on the highlighted links for those categories.