If America has a national sandwich, it's unequivocally the hamburger. But deciding what particular combination of ground beef, seasonings, toppings, and bun is the best is sheer folly once you bite in and discover the various regional and even hyper-local variations from across the country that all go by the name burger. So to guide us through this varied landscape – and provide us with a short list of truly notable entrants from across the country – we enlisted the help of George Motz, noted host of Travel Channel's 'Burger Land,' and author of 'Hamburger America' (and producer of a film by the same name).
Motz says there are a few key components to any great burger, but the most important is that it's made of freshly ground, single-source beef. He's also especially fond of shining a light on classic spots that frequently go unmentioned in gourmet top tens. "When you walk into a burger restaurant, and all they're talking about is their beef blend or how much they love their butcher, you know you're in the right place," he says. In that spirit, here are 18 dining spots that Motz says make burgers that deserve special recognition – some classic, some exotic, some bizarre, all delicious – and that should be on any devotees burger bucket list.
Blast from the past
Hickory Burger, The Apple Pan
"Time stops in this classic place," says Motz, and he notes that there's a real community around the restaurant helping to preserve its heritage. "The film director Todd Field once noticed that the restaurant's 1960s-style cup holders were gone, so he had his staff scour eBay. The next time I returned, they had been replaced!" Beyond the nostalgic appeal of the restaurant, though, is an equally timeless Hickory Burger, one that's been served here since 1945. It features a smoky hickory sauce, Tillamook cheddar, pickles, lettuce, and mayo, plus a thick chunk of cold iceberg lettuce that adds crunch and freshness. "And every time my butt hits that chair, they ask me if I want a piece of banana cream pie, even before I can eat my burger."
Credit: George Motz
The Apple Pan
68-885 Ramon Road, Los Angeles