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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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The burger search is on

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:

  • Thanks to the runaway success of the Holeman & Finch Public House 10 p.m. burger, stacks are in. Gooey, drippy, American-cheesy stacks.
  • Flip Burger Boutique has found the sweet spot between ginormous and slider with its 5-ounce burger. You savor every bite, you have room for one of the creative sides and, heck, you maybe order a second one to share with a friend.
  • Burgers served in fast-food restaurants and made from some supermarket ground beef can be the ultimate in unwholesome mystery meat. So more and more burger places are reassuring customers that the beef is from a reliable source. Farm Burger, which will open this spring in Decatur, will kick things to the next level by using only Southeast, pasture-raised beef that is ground and dry aged in house.

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.

For the record: I will not be visiting any of those restaurants that have been covered to death.

So….

Supersize it?

I’ve got a three-fer today that will show the variety out there:

1. Yesteryear’s standard bearer:

The "Award Winning Tap Steak Burger" ($10.50)

The "Award Winning Tap Steak Burger" ($10.50)

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:

White Oak Pastures burger with Tillamook Cheddar ($10)

White Oak Pastures burger with Tillamook Cheddar ($10)

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:

Burger stack with American cheese and housemade pickles ($9.25)

Burger stack with American cheese and housemade pickles ($9.25)

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.

59 comments Add your comment

Darin

March 9th, 2010
1:18 pm

Oh man, why did I have to look at those pics on an empty stomach? No way my Lean Cuisine is gonna do the trick for lunch now. Food porn alert!

Great report. I’m going to enjoy this series. Request: John, could you please mention the source of the bread, too? I know some restos out there are using H&F Bakery bread. I’d be interested to know how many of these burgers use locally baked (or house baked) bread.

Juicy

March 9th, 2010
1:24 pm

Ted’s Montana Grill serves T H E Burger, not “a” burger.

Abattoir

March 9th, 2010
2:25 pm

Abattoir has the best burger – half beef, half pork, all phenomenal.

JesusFreak

March 9th, 2010
2:33 pm

Thank you, sir, for the link to the NYT article. If people don’t already know, then maybe this will educate more diners as to the importance of knowing what they are ingesting. With those non-contenders out of the way, I look forward to reading about and personally validating the claims of best burger in the ATL! The photos are a great start, at least they are no-cal and won’t budge the cholesterol levels… ;-)

JATL

March 9th, 2010
2:47 pm

Thanks for doing this! I know you mention this for some, but can you please include if the beef used in the burgers you’re sampling is 100% natural or organic or ground in-house? I haven’t eaten ground beef since January when I found out about the pink slime. SO happy you linked to the NYT article -they also did one that cited the FDA reps coining of the term “pink slime.” I DO love a great burger though, and I would love to know where I can safely enjoy one. Farm Burger sounds awesome! I can’t wait for it to open!

Theron Sapp

March 9th, 2010
2:48 pm

Mr. K, great stuff. I applaud your vow to go beyond the overcovered usual suspects. But if your quest is indeed for the “best” and “most interesting” burgers, could not they, in fact, be at one of those places?

Uncle boris

March 9th, 2010
2:50 pm

The Highland Tap burger gets only 2 out of 5 and is a bit of a bore? Man, I think you’ve been spending too much time on Buford Highway and have lost touch with your inner burger. A great burger IS all about the meat. To hell with the add-on fluff.

Beelzebubba-Demon of the south

March 9th, 2010
2:56 pm

My first wife was a prim and proper true Southern lady. She insisted we stop going to group orgys because she was growing tired of sending out so many thank you notes. I seem to recall her fondness of Ollies Trolley burgers which she swore me to secrecy and I never divulged.

joelle

March 9th, 2010
2:56 pm

you should never age ground beef….
bacterial haven!

Jessica

March 9th, 2010
3:32 pm

Oh man I chose a bad time to go beef-less O.O *drools on keyboard*

That being said, will you be highlighting only BEEF burgers or will you also examine the more exotic choices of burger on menus?

Jst_Sayin

March 9th, 2010
3:33 pm

I had a delicious burger last week at Garrison’s in Vinings. Yummy! It was cooked perfectly!!!

Ben Aroundabit

March 9th, 2010
3:38 pm

Zesto’s Chubby Decker for price & quality!

Geo

March 9th, 2010
3:46 pm

Here are a couple places that I enjoy and would love to get your opinion: George’s in the Virginia Highlands – my favorite burger, Grindhouse burgers and the burger at Young Augustine’s.

joe

March 9th, 2010
3:51 pm

H.Tap is good but not as good as it was several years back, changes of chef etc. screwed things up a bit. Leon’s awesome as is Bacado.

@Abbatoir you say Abbatoir has the best Cakes & Ale has a simliar combo of pork & beef as you described though I haven’t had the one at Abbat to give a true comparison

Burp Bacharach

March 9th, 2010
4:02 pm

The Tap needs a enema, it’s resting on it’s laurels, and the place could use a friendly bartender, whoever the grouch is needs to see the Sun….

Loraine Quiche

March 9th, 2010
4:08 pm

Flip has the douche-baggiest chef in all the land, the burger is almost as pretentious as the couture, get over yourself its a burger your not performing brain surgery…..

bevino

March 9th, 2010
4:09 pm

great article. I encourage the rest of you gastronomes to check out the show Get Delicious on PBA- where they find Atlanta’s local treasures that are also inexpensive. burgers. are. good.

sugarfoot

March 9th, 2010
4:11 pm

I like the Varsity. Not everyone can afford a $12 burger.

M

March 9th, 2010
4:12 pm

For those interested in a similar burger tour in New York City, see http://www.roadfood.com/Forums/A-OneMan-New-York-City-Burger-Tour-UPDATED-12810-including-writeups-amp-Favorites-list-m555018.aspx

And if you are in San Diego, by all means go out to Ocean Beach and enjoy the burger at Hodad’s, truly a work of art.

Scott

March 9th, 2010
4:23 pm

winner looks like great meat but enough with the Brioche buns!!

brian

March 9th, 2010
5:31 pm

Hands down best Burger is BLT Steak. Plus how could you go wrong with a free world famous Pop-Over?

Britpit

March 9th, 2010
6:14 pm

G-E-O-R-G-E-S!!!!!!!!!!!

Mel

March 9th, 2010
6:15 pm

Cheeseburger Bobby’s!

Art

March 9th, 2010
7:08 pm

This has nothing to do with the discussion but goes out to Beelzebubba… “I don’t care who you are, that’s just plain funny.” BTW, the best burger in-town is found on someone’s backyard grill… I would even offer mine as a contestant…. I get my meat from my local butcher shop and have yet to find anything in a restaurant that compares in meat quality or, if I say so myself, preparation….

LAL

March 10th, 2010
1:50 am

Anybody remember The Bucket in old Underground Atlanta? I went there as a preteen in the 1970’s… my first “real” burger. I remember loving Ollie’s Trolley, too… I remember visiting my mom at work downtown. It was a real treat to go to Ollie’s. After those, fast food burgers paled in comparison. I am loving the burger renaissance of the past few years. Just wondering, when did Ollie’s close?

Carol

March 10th, 2010
9:16 am

I agree with Mel – Cheeseburger Bobby’s is fantastic, would love to see one closer to home!!! (please make your way to East Cobb soon)

Frumious Bandersnatch

March 10th, 2010
9:49 am

You gotta try the bison burger at Marlow’s Tavern. You can even do it inside the perimeter now.

msquared

March 10th, 2010
10:56 am

Thumbs down to Grinderhouse for not cooking meat to order. If you like the meat rare, you should get it cooked rare. I liked the way they put the buger together, and would go back if they would. My vote for best burger in town would be the Andy Burger at Cafe de Sol in Poncey Highland……mushrooms(shiitaki I think), good bread consistency, garlic aioli, 8 oz. good quality beef, cooked to temperature. Yum!!

BShepCarlin

March 10th, 2010
11:42 am

did I miss something? No one has mentioned Miss Anne’s on Memorial Drive…Ghetto burger all you need to know. been too long since I’ve been there, did she go out of business like she threatened?

Dealmaker Traveling

March 10th, 2010
12:44 pm

H&F,Grindhouse are favorites, but try Brickery in Sandy Springs

Pbred8

March 10th, 2010
3:05 pm

Excellant cooked to order burgers can be had ar H. R. Wings anf Things locations on the southside. They are located in Fayetteville, McDonough,
newnan,

Sharpsburg and Zebulon

hop 'n fresh

March 10th, 2010
3:17 pm

Hi Life Kitchen & Cocktails has the BEST burger in town. Sirloin Angus beef with gorgonzola cheese and applewood smoked bacon. It is to die for!!!!

Bill Galvin

March 10th, 2010
3:27 pm

Flippin’ Out Just ate at a new burger place in Johns Creek. Wonderful, flavorful specialty burgers with a light smokey grilled taste. The onion rings appear to be tempura and are outstanding.

blackbee

March 10th, 2010
3:28 pm

GRINDHOUSE BURGERS are the best hands down, located on Edgewood in the ole Curb Market, great burger that doesn’t have a steak price.

[...] John Kessler is looking for Atlanta’s best burgers. Check out his findings, and suggest burgers for him to try, on his AJC blog. [...]

Rick

March 10th, 2010
4:42 pm

Melton’s App and Tap near Emory makes a solid burger, nothing fancy.

mags

March 10th, 2010
5:16 pm

I still think Vortex has THE BEST burgers in town.

mandym

March 10th, 2010
5:48 pm

Bocado is the tastiest but the Counter burgers are PDG especially the sliders.Do sliders count as real burgers?

Winger

March 10th, 2010
6:51 pm

My favorite burgers are at Holeman & Finch, Muss & Turner’s, and Bocado, but my most recent find is the Big Jake burger at the Red Eyed Mule in Marietta. They serve up a seriously decent burger, which you can get with their chorizo-based “sloppy jimmy” and a fried egg. It’s served on Texas Toast. Worth a trip!

Jim R.

March 10th, 2010
7:08 pm

LAL–The Bucket in Underground Atlanta was and is The Bucket Shop and is now located across from Lenox Mall. It does have a great burger and John, it would be a worthwhile stop on your Burgerstravaganza.

Pbred8

March 10th, 2010
8:18 pm

There are only two Backyard Burger locations left, Cumming and Buford. Still. a grat burger for a resonable price.

Cow-A-Bonga

March 10th, 2010
9:38 pm

Very impressed with the burger @ Landon’s on Cascade….Had it on 2 separate occasions & it was excellent both times….

Pbred8

March 10th, 2010
10:02 pm

Any Seak ‘N Shake is a good burger ant aany time of day.

Buck

March 11th, 2010
9:24 am

The Big Boomer at the Australian Bakery in East Atlanta (not the Marietta one, they don’t have it) on Flat Shoals has got to be the best burger I’ve eaten in Atlanta.

Nom nom nom

March 11th, 2010
9:43 am

H&F, Ann’s, Andy Burger at Cafe de Sol, Vickery’s have great burgers. And I agree with an earlier poster about Grindhouse. Any burgerjoint who doesn’t ask you what temp you want your burger is immediatly thrown out of the competition.

Joey Eater

March 11th, 2010
9:46 am

Anywhere know where we can get a Kangaroo burger in Atlanta like you can in San Diego?

I’ve tried them and LOVE them.

davo

March 11th, 2010
10:38 am

1. Six Feet Under
2. Fox Bros.
3. Steak and Shake

Pat

March 11th, 2010
11:00 am

I don’t eat burgers out, you never know what you’re getting. But I recently made a trip to “The Counter” in Roswell. It was the best burger I’ve eaten in a long while. Juicy, cooked perfectly, very tasty. The string rings, fried pickles and sweet potato fries were awesome as well.

MLC

March 11th, 2010
2:00 pm

The WHITEHOUSE in Buckhead.
with steak fries.
the best.

Karen

March 11th, 2010
3:50 pm

You have to try the new burger diner Flipin’ Out in Johns Creek. The burgers are smokey flavored, fries are crisp and not previously frozen and the shakes are too die for! Been there with the family 5 or 6 times since they opened and they are a great addition to the area.