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.
Two Boroughs Burger, Two Boroughs Larder
(Charleston, South Carolina)
Like Halley's Comet, a Two Boroughs burger is a rare thing of beauty. If you're lucky enough to score one – just 24 are made every Wednesday, and only after 5 p.m. – you will achieve a kind of Motz-ian burger bliss. The main event here, which is cooked in a black-steel pan, is made from two five-ounce patties of local beef, ground with a proprietary spice blend, topped with slices of Nueske's bacon, a drippy Mornay cheese sauce, and an ever-changing special pickle, all on an artisanal benne-seed bun. Once, when Motz brought in about six people and nearly decimated that night's supply, he found his burger topped with a kale-kimchi combo as that night's pickle option. He won't stop talking about it to this day. "The people who make these are burger savants," he says.
Credit: George Motz
Two Boroughs Larder
186 Coming Street, Charleston, SC