This year I did more burger reporting from the road than usual, hitting up burger shops everywhere from Toronto to Tijuana. In May, I ventured to Vegas and consumed 6 burgers in 5 days for this post on A Hamburger Today. Other highlights included an “everything Southern” burger at Big Gun Burger in Charleston and a trip to Steak ‘n Shake in Florida.
My reputation as a discerning burger lover also landed me a judging gig at the
Sacramento Burger Battle, where I was flown in to taste and score burgers from 15 contending restaurants. Despite taking down more beef than I ever thought possible, I still managed to cram one more patty at the airport before waddling onto the plane.
The five best burgers I ate outside of San Diego in 2012 include two picks from Las Vegas, two from Toronto, and one limited time burger from Steak ‘n Shake, a fast food spot that serves outrageously delicious burgers at shockingly low prices. The baseline double cheeseburger is $3.99, including fries. You also get table service, and the food comes on actual plates (not a plastic tray).
Here are my top 5 not-from-San-Diego burger picks, ranked by deliciousness:
1. The simplest burger at Holsteins in Las Vegas is proof that there’s no need to complicate a burger with fussy toppings. This beauty is all about the basics done to exacting perfection: a loosely ground beef patty with a glistening, fatty red center, a melted slice of American cheese, and some ripe tomato slices are all that’s needed. If you want something more distinctive, try the “Rising Sun”, with Teriyaki glaze, nori, crispy yam, and tempura avocado, or the “Billionaire Burger”, a foie gras and truffle mayo’d option that’s right at home in Vegas. For me, in a city of excess, there’s something comforting about simple pleasures, like a classic cheeseburger. Take a closer look in my review on A Hamburger Today.
2. Even though I’m a staunch believer in a firm separation between church and burger, I’ve got to give it up for The Burger’s Priest, a burger shop with two locations in Toronto. The classically configured burgers are more than tasty enough, but you’re going to want to try The Priest — a cheeseburger topped with a panko-coated, deep-fried, cheese-stuffed, portobello mushroom called “the option”. It’s deliciously ironic that a burger spot with links to Christian sermons on their webpage spawned a burger that’s so messy and magnificent that it’s impossible to eat without cursing like a sailor. Simply put: holy f-balls, this is a tasty burger. Read more on AHT.
3. The Barrymore makes the second-best burger in Las Vegas, or rather they used to. Sometime between my visit and now, the restaurant stopped serving lunch and the burger vanished — a real shame, because it was a stunner. The closest substitute is Public House in the Venetian, which has the same owner. There, $19 gets you a “pub burger”, a half-pound grass-fed patty with the same trimmings the burger at The Barrymore once sported: bacon marmalade, gruyere, frisee, and aioli (in this case, Guinness-spiked). RIP, Barrymore burger (AHT post here).
4. The sky-high burger at Allen’s is easily one of the best in Toronto. Burgers are crafted from Angus beef that’s delivered whole, then butchered (into steaks) and pattied (into hamburgers) on site. If you love a rare burger, this is one of the safest places to get one (and one of the few places where that’s even possible). For more details, check out my AHT review.
5. Steak ‘n Shake‘s new guacamole ranch and tortilla strip topped burger dubbed the Santa Fe Steakburger was so delicious that a few bites in, I was already brainstorming excuses to go back for another burger at dinner. For $4.99 with fries, this is a screaming deal. If there was a Steak ‘n Shake within striking distance of San Diego, there’s a good chance the chain would surpass In-N-Out as my all-time fave.