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 amazing oddball
Nutburger, Matt's Place
At Montana's first drive-in, established in 1930, the walls feature grand murals of the surrounding mountains, and there's an enticing curved counter. On the menu is a burger with an unusual sauce, which bears an even more unusual name. That is nut sauce, and Motz says it's fantastic. When making burgers at Matt's, the cooks use an ice-cream scooper to plop a dollop of fresh ground beef onto the griddle, which is flattened to create a thin patty that will eventually rest inside a white, squishy bun. That is where the similarities to other burgers ends. "Then they take Miracle Whip and mix crushed, salted peanuts into it," Motz says. "You end up with a sweet mayo flavor, and the briny, crunchy texture and flavor of nuts. You'd think it wouldn't work, but it's really amazing." Matt's is open seasonally, so call before trekking out to Butte.
Credit: George Motz
2339 Placer Street, Butte, MT