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 meat-on-meat triumph
Pastrami Burger, Crown Burger
(Salt Lake City)
A quarter-pound cheeseburger at this West Coast chain has shredded lettuce, tomato, and chopped raw onion on a sesame seed bun, but also the curious inclusion of pastrami on top. And Motz says he adores it. "It tastes peppery and complex, but it doesn't overwhelm the flavor of the beef," he says. "And they steam the pastrami, so it's hot and juicy – absolutely a unique topping."
Credit: George Motz
377 East 200 South
Salt Lake City, UT