Thanks to everyone who, in more than 200 comments on this blog, gave me an idea of where to start looking for the city’s best and most interesting burgers. There is a real burger revolution afoot as restaurants rethink the staple menu item. The 8-ounce patty that you can barely fit your mouth around has given way to much more elegant and carefully constructed sandwiches. I’m noticing several trends:
Today I’ll begin a regular feature — Burger of the Week. With any luck, these patties will paint a picture of the state of the burger in Atlanta today.
I’ve got a three-fer today that will show the variety out there:
1. Yesteryear’s standard bearer:
Here is the archetypal slab-o-cow restaurant burger, shown in bloody chiaroscuro, from Virginia-Highland’s shadowy meat cellar, Highland Tap. This grand 10 ounces of house-ground moo is all about the protein. The bun is but a squishy and easily-soaked vehicle, the grill imparts little to no char flavor. While the grilled onions that come atop the burger suggest a level of care, they add little in terms of flavor. I found this burger to be a fine source of dietary iron, and a bit of a bore. I give it 2 out of 5 ketchup bottles.
2. Backyard nostalgia, pre-obesity epidemic:
Once upon a time in the not so distant past, our mothers did go the neighborhood butcher to have the hamburger ground for our fathers and their lighter-fluid-fueled backyard barbecues. The burgers were cooked to crisp-edged, petroleum-enhanced succulence, and then got all the familiar garnishes at the table. At Leon’s Full Service, we can all appreciate the sane portion and skillful construction of this burger made with Georgia’s White Oak Pastures beef. I love the lacy crunch of the patty’s perimeter and the lean, beefy juices of its center. There is a pronounced char flavor, thankfully without any whiff of lighter fluid. The burger comes fully dressed unless you want it otherwise. I didn’t mind the nostalgia of iceberg lettuce, but would upgrade the ballpark mustard on my next visit. I give it 3 out of 5 Weber kettles.
3. The fast-food-goes-uptown burger:
For many, the ultimate burger experience happened not in the back yard but in the back seat. Your buddy passes back your bag of food after hitting the drive-thru, and you unwrap your stomach’s desire. It’s a double stack, the griddle-pressed patties sliding around in a slick compound formed from their greasy juices and the primordial melt of American cheese. At Bocado, this burger goes through the upscale-ometer and becomes a fine construction of H&F Bread Co. bun, two roughly formed (yay!) and almost embarrassingly juicy patties, with American cheese for lubrication and housemade pickles for spice and tang. It is exceedingly rich and soft, with a wonderful beefy flavor peeking though. The American cheese is both gushy and clingy, which may or may not be your cup of nostalgia. I give it 3 out of 5 golden arches.