By all rights, 2012 should have been the year the burger business stopped to catch its breath and reassess. Beef prices had skyrocketed. A decade or so of rapid growth had critics expecting a bubble burst for better burgers. Instead, 2012 welcomed a bumper crop of great new burger joints. Included here are more than three dozen interesting new places—all of which opened in the past 12 months—that proved not just that the burger category wasn’t out of ideas but also that it still has new places to go.
So what does the Class of 2012 have to say for itself? Where is it taking the burger business?
◙ What’s most striking is how many of these restaurants are centered on being part of a local food community. Check out Citizen Burger Bar’s menu, which proudly explains its use of buns from local Albemarle Baking Co. and cheese from nearby Mountainview Farm. Its beef comes from five miles away at Timbercreek Farm. Such devotion to place is shared by many of the new burger joints.
◙ So is a belief that a good burger deserves to be accompanied by a beer, glass of wine or distilled spirit. Several have full bars. Burger Bach in Richmond, V., has 16 beers (many local) on tap. My Burger Bar gives an interesting spike to the classic Vanilla Coke Float.
◙ Brands are big. Beyond naming the farms and ranches that supply food, several of these restaurants’ menus make a point of identifying brands used, such as the Cool Ranch Doritos on OMG’s OMG Burger and Freakin’ Unbelievable Burgers’ specification of Cholula hot sauce as an ingredient for one of its burgers.
◙ Grass-fed beef used to be a rarity but it’s gaining advocates, including seven of this year’s new restaurants.
◙ Notice how many of the burger builds below close with a special sauce or aïoli. House-made condiments, in conjunction with ketchup and mustard, are important parts of many signature burgers.
These certainly aren’t all the new burger joints of the past year, but they nicely represent the continuing culinary creativity that drives the burger business year after year. Check ’em out.
1720 Burger Bar
Try the giant Optimus Prime or just the Daisy Duke, topped with house-made pimento cheese, grilled thick-cut bacon and grilled onions
400 Degrees Gourmet Burgers & Fries
The top-of-the-line $13.95 Kobe Burger is American Wagyu beef, soused onions, smoked Cheddar, crispy potatoes and signature 400° Spread
Big Burger Spot
Go $7.49 for the Big size Pimento Cheese Burger with house-made extra-sharp pimento cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce and bacon
Black Betty Burger & Winebar
$15 gets you The Betty, a house-blend brisket patty with mozzarella, maple-peppered bacon, frizzled onion with vine-ripened tomato, butter leaf lettuce and honey-truffle Dijon mustard
Black Hills Burger & Bun Co.
The latest Burger of the Week: the Fat Smitty (a 1/3-lb. patty with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, a fried egg and garlic aïoli
Rochelle Park, N.J.
The Famous Bacon Double Boom is two Angus beef patties, double layers of bacon and American cheese and house BOOMSauce
Bru Burger Bar
The $11 Pacific Rim Burger has shrimp, bacon, Swiss cheese, pineapple, guacamole, red- onion jam and sweet chili mayo
The Buck Burgers & Brews
Saint Joseph, Mo.
The Stuffed Bleu Cheese Bacon Perfection ($9.50) is a –oz. patty stuffed with blue cheese and Buck bacon, topped with lettuce and tomato with a side of house Archie Sauce
At this “New Zealand-inspired gastro pub” the $10 Aucklander is grass-fed New Zealand beef with avocado relish, mayl, uncured bacon, New Zealand Egmont cheese, tomato, Dijonaise and mixed greens
Burger Bar 57
The $14 Whisky BBQ Burger starts with a 10-oz. Certified Angus Beef patty, finishes with BBQ sauce and Irish whisky Cheddar
Burger Bar and Bistro
South Norwalk, Conn.
The Ultimate tops its standard 7-oz. chuck/sirloin blend patty with thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, sweet onions, Gorgonzola cheese and aged balsamic reduction ($12)
Burger on Smith
The ($10) Trademark is a grass-fed-beef patty topped with Cheddar, tomato, bibb lettuce and horseradish-chive aïoli on a Portuguese muffin
Yo, Tommy! The Lasorda has a freshly ground pork sausage patty, crispy mozzarella, oregano and roasted peppers
Burgess Brothers Burger
The menu at this first-responders-dedicated burger joint includes a $5.95 Rescue Burger with pineapple and a $7.95 Hero Burger with smoked pulled pork, Cheddar and grilled onions
Cheese Curds: Gourmet Burgers & Poutinerie
Halifax, Nova Scotia
The Legendary CC Porker Burger has two Angus patties topped with cheese curds, two bacon strips, fried onion rings, lettuce, tomato and house CC Sauce; plus there’s a House Curry Sauce for poutine
Citizen Burger Bar
The Southern ($14) has Timbercreek beef, house pimento cheese, Neuske’s bacon, yellow mustard, iceberg lettuce, tomato on a brioche bun
Proud of its “seriously simple menu” with a burger, double and triple ($7, $10, $13)
Eden Burger Bar
The Pastrami ($10) tops an 8-oz. dray-aged-beef patty with pastrami, Swiss, slaw, onion and house rémoulade on a brioche bun
Freakin’ Unbelievable Burgers
The $5.69 Fire Burger is two patties of Certified Black Angus beef with pepper-Jack cheese, spicy mayo, Cholula hot sauce, jalapeňos, onion straws, shredded lettuce and tomato
The Sir Pork’s-A-Lot is just $8.50 for a pork patty (mix of pork shoulder and sausage), mud spread, boschetto a la tartufo (truffled sheep and cow’s milk cheese), lettuce, tomato an applewood bacon
Jamaica Plain, Mass.
The $11 Kitchen Sink burger is a 5-oz. patty of grass-fed beef with bacon, provolone, Swiss, crispy onions, roasted red peppers, lettuce, pickles and Grass Fed Special Sauce
Grange Hall Burger Bar
A classic build-your-own concept with grass-fed, farm-raised beef; sage and white onion turkey patties; or wild rice and sautéed veggie patties
Griddler’s Burgers & Dogs
A traditional corner storefront where the $5 Firehouse Griddler gets pickled cherry peppers, lettuce, chipotle mayo, hot sauce and pepper-Jack cheese
Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monahan believes nothing enhances the dining experience like military décor and camouflage uniforms. Choice of Classic or Deluxe, soldier.
Sauce choices for the 1/3-lb. grass-fed beef patty cheeseburgers ($7.99) include Indie, aïoli, BBQ or tzatziki
JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers
Burger choices are “single” or “double” but patties are freshly ground brisket and chuck; buns are scratch baked daily
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern
On Mondays, any JFAT Burger and a draft is just $12
Johnny B’s Burgers, Shakes & Fries
Burgers are all-natural, grass-fed Hawaiian beef; fish is caught daily
The Napa ($8) has Gorgonzola cheese, wild arugula, oven-roasted tomatoes, green olives, onion and basil-garlic aïoli
Local 186 Burgers & Beer
The Big D is 12 ounces of Snake River Farms Kobe beef topped with sautéed onion and Great Hill Blue cheese ($21)
LurnyD’s Grille Food Truck
Gotta get The Southern Burger ($7) topped with American cheese, lettuce, fried green tomato and house-made Comeback Dressing (with mayo, chili sauce, ketchup, and mustard)
The Cadillac is a 6-oz. ground White Oak Pastures lamb patty topped with caramelized onion, goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms and Creole chili sauce on a toasted white or wheat bun
My Burger Bar
Pair your Peanut Burger & Jelly Burger ($8.49) with a Vanilla Coke Float (Coca-Cola and Three Olives Vanilla Vodka)
OMG Burger Truck
THE OMG Burger! is a ground beef-and-bacon patty topped with Ranch dressing and Cool Ranch Doritos
The $8.50 burQueño burger is New Mexico beef with fire-roasted hatch green chile, white Cheddar and red-chile aïoli
Co-Owner Nancy Silverton’s special Nancy’s Backyard Burger is a house dry-aged beef blend with North Country Smokehouse applewood bacon, Comte, avocado, heirloom tomatoes, onion, iceberg, lettuce and spicy mayo ($14)
Soho Burger Bar
The $14 Bison Beef on Weck is an 8-oz. bison burger started on the grill, finished in au jus and served on Kimmelweck roll with horseradish
Stuffed Gourmet Burgers
Porky Burger, a recent Burger of the Week, was stuffed with pulled pork and BBQ sauce
Sure Thing Burger
The Sure Thing Burger is grass-fed Maui cattle with cheese, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and 8 Island Sauce
The Curry Chutney Burger has onion chutney, Curry seasoning and shredded lettuce, served on brioche bun, whole-wheat bun or as a salad.