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 boiled burger
(Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin)
At this summer-only burger stand, founded by a fireman in 1909, Motz says he's found the most unusual method for cooking a burger he's ever seen: "They poach the burger in water, surrounded by onions." While the thought of boiled beef is depressing, Motz says the burgers come out wonderfully and are actually infused with onion flavor. They're served on a locally made bun with horseradish mustard, but don't bother asking for cheese – the only option is whether you want one 'with' or 'without' (that's onions on top). "Pete's is only open for a few hours a day on summer weekends," says Motz. "But it's definitely worth waiting for."
Credit: George Motz
118 W. Blackhawk Avenue, Prairie du Chien, WI
[no phone # published]