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.
The burger deconstructed
Gom Cheese-Brr-Grr, Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor
The word gom is German slang for "sticky," and this burger – which Motz calls "a Sloppy Joe without the tomato sauce" – definitely has that quality, thanks to a secret spice blend and a fair amount of sugar mixed into the beef. "It's served on white toast, so it feels like a hamburger sandwich," Motz says. When Zaharakos was renovated and restored to its original turn-of-the-century grandeur, complete with ice-cream parlor memorabilia and a museum next door, Motz says that included the recipe for this one-of-a-kind sandwich. "They also have a huge player organ that's about 9 feet tall, and they'll play it for you," he says.
$6.49 without cheese, $6.99 with cheese
Credit: George Motz
Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor
329 Washington Street, Columbus, IN