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.
Most hype-worthy newcomer
Ramen Burger, Smorgasburg
(Brooklyn, New York)
"I was skeptical before my first bite of this one," Motz says, explaining that he's always wary of hyped-up culinary trends. "Yet without a doubt this was instantly a great burger experience." This particular Asian-inspired burger variant was the brainchild of Keizo Shimimoto, a former Tokyo ramen cook. In Japan, pork belly is placed between buns made of congealed and crispy ramen, but for this American version, Shimimoto, of course, uses beef. "It's a perfect, flavorful crossover, with reduced shoyu, green onions, and arugula," says Motz. It's currently served at the Smorgasburg market on Saturdays, but thanks to his success there, Shimimoto is in the process of building a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Credit: George Motz
North 7th Street, Brooklyn, NY