When Jamie was a little girl her mommy asked her a very important question: For your 5th birthday, if you could go anywhere or eat anything, what would it be? Jamie didn't have to think twice. Cheeseburgers please, she responded at a rate faster than her little body could articulate clearly.
At least, this is the story I've been told since we got married. And, so every now and then, to celebrate a milestone, take-a-load-off, or purely indulge - we hit up a restaurant touted for its' cheeseburgers, known as a Hamburgerie among the Dutch FYI (separate top-5 list in the making there).
Now, after years of biting into heart-attack specials, Jamie's releasing her Top-5 Cheesy-B list. Or rather, I will as she has saved her rough notes in my phone and delegated a posting.
Before revealing the list below, keep in mind that this was her mission: to evaluate dozens if not (probably) hundreds of cheeseburgers on their merits of flavor, texture, presentation, and value-for-money.
This is by no means a comprehensive list (she can't visit every burger house in the world). So, it's limited to those in USA, Canada, and Germany - where she's lived or traveled to extensively over the years. She rarely eats a burger at the same place twice and takes notes akin to those of a sommelier tasting wine (this is serious business - clearly).
To make things fair, she has only ever ordered the same classic cheeseburger, to level the playing field. That said, sometimes these inevitably came with bacon - though specifically not requested, who can refuse that. And, she lets the restaurant use its' preferred cheese (not one to request processed-cheese slices). Her notes clarify when the cheese differs from the usual. No handicap, like in golf, was applied.
TOP-5 Cheesy B List
Vereinshaus, Unterbach-Düsseldorf, Nord-Rhein Westfalen / Germany
Restaurant: Since 1908, fantastic beer patio with mouth-watering burger advertisements. Who can refuse that?
Flavor: Savory, smoky, well-balanced
Texture: Medium+ moisture, intoxicating aroma of caramel and charcoal, nut-like notes from the bun (sesame), which held its own (not doughy or soggy).
Presentation: Tidy: whopping burger with a skewer to keep it together, fries in adjacent basket, dip in a steel cup.
Value-for-Money: Good. A melt-in-your-mouth morsel for under 15 euros: includes artisanal fries, and homemade fry sauce.
Neuhaus (Edelweiss Bar) - Berschtesgaden, Bavaria / Germany
Restaurant: For hundreds of years food and drink have been served here. Now, the sons have taken-over and it's the best of traditional Germany but with millennial-approved cuisine.
Flavor: Umami, balanced between the salt of Bavarian Blue cheese and the sweetness of the homemade curry sauce.
Texture: Medium+ moisture, caramel notes, succulent patty with a bun slightly too-big for its britches but it all worked out.
Presentation: Tidy: whopping burger with a skewer, note: the patty was homemade with a side of steak-cut-like fries and artisanal curry sauce in a steel cup.
Value-for-Money: Good. At around 13 euros, no one was complaining. The taste was to die for, a real toss-up when trying to determine what's better: the former burger choice, or this. But, rumour has it that this isn't available for me to re-test. Now, they offer one with Parm cheese and alternate toppings instead.
Bayerische Burg ( m. Frites und curry soß) was its' title on the menu in 2015.
Burgerstop/Burger Laden - Düsseldorf, Nord-Rhein Westfalen / Germany
Restaurant: Since 2007: started in Krefeld, with a newer establishment noted above. They claim to be based in the 'motherland of burgers'. I'd tend to agree. Here, you build the burger (choose bun, cooking style, and cheese). I chose whole wheat, medium rare (bluetig), and cheddar, for the record.
Flavor: Creamy, medium-minus acidity (healthy dose of fresh tomatoes), well-balanced overall.
Texture: Medium+ moisture (order bluetig always); bun disappears under this sauce-boss of a sandwich (disintegrating bun).
Presentation: Tidy: whopping burger with a skewer, fries on plate, array of dips available to self pour (ask about the Adobe pepper sauce).
Value-for-Money: Very good. Fries and cheese burger will run you around 11 euros but unlike other burger joints, the quality is consistent. I've visited this one the most in the last two years and I always rate it the same - Delish!
The Works - Toronto, Ontario / Canada
Restaurant: This is the only chain on this list. It's good but I wasn't expecting it to come in 4th. However, I've had a couple restaurants place higher than this but for various reasons they are no longer relevant (menu changes, inaccurate info, change in management). Therefore, no US restaurants made it into the top-5, and as such we've got Canadian chain The Works, instead.
Disclaimer: It has become apparent that there remain several venues to try (newly opened) in Toronto, before this rank is solidified.
Flavor: Juicy, beefy, cheesy, balanced by acid from pickles. 'Nuff said.
Texture: Medium-minus moisture from beef, thinner patty (slightly) than the above with a sog-prone bun (lots of sauciness going on), though still sound. Crisp crunch from the pickles.
Presentation: Pure Diner: burger patty on bun is served separately from bun with garnish, both situated on checkered paper with fries piled next to them in a bowl. They're the same width as those from the Pickle, mentioned below, but with a more rustic appearance (skins still apparent).
Value-for-Money: Good. The lunch special is 11 CDN (under 10 USD or 8 euros) including fries and a drink. Consistent flavor notable for its' classic-diner taste.
Fickle Pickle - Stouffville, Ontario / Canada
I'll preface with this. It may be a sentimental choice, otherwise it made 5th place because I used to work diner shifts as a kid, and those work up an appetite like you wouldn't believe. But I ate this burger often and always loved its consistent juiciness and delectable taste - cooked with perfection to the last bite.
Restaurant: Since time immemorial. It's been a fixture in the town, though realistically it has been running for a couple of decades now under the current ownership.
Flavor: Savory, beefy, cheesy, medium-minus acid from the fresh young tomatoes and mayo, hint of charcoal, well-balanced.
Texture: Medium+ moisture, crunchy from the use of Romaine lettuce (way better than Iceberg). Not doughy or soggy.
Presentation: Diner-esque: burger supports itself, and the fries are piled next to it. They're double coated in some kind of flavouring that might kill you - but it's completely addictive.
Value-for-Money: Good. No burger sauce provided, so it may be a more honest taste than we get with other burgers. The flavor is consistent throughout the burger (perfectly flame broiled), very succulent, though a dollop of mayo kicks it up a notch.
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No American cheeseburgers?
Although many USA-based burger joints present themselves as hefty competition, none quite made their way into this top five. As restaurants go, US service is outstanding, and they let you choose how you want your burger cooked (just like with steak) . I mention this because in Canada, most places refuse to do this. But, ultimately their burgers taste a bit-too prescribed or heavier than they need be). Was it a case of too much butter on the bun? Or sauces that are too sweet? Who knows. Still, admirable competition. Leave your burger joint recommendations in the comments below.
Stay tuned to the next reveal of the 5 burger places that have fallen from grace (prep for a rant and choose your burgers wisely).