We are exposed to cheeseburgers at a really young age in the US, with the Happy Meal and its many spin-offs offering the age-old combination of a warm bun with a slab of ground beef topped with cheese, onions, ketchup, and the all important pickle chips.
Having a burger once in a while is typical, but burgers have become a staple of my diet over the last few years. Before the comments go nuts, no I don't need a forklift to move myself from room to room.
The Atlanta Burger from Northvale Diner in Northvale, New Jersey
Growing up in New Jersey, I've had access to the finest Fat Cats and burgers on the planet, but that doesn't mean that they are by any means my favorite. In fact, being around all of these magnificent sandwiches leaves a void that can only be filled by having a classic cheeseburger, handmade and grilled by my father.
Through my stubbornness, I suddenly became "The Burger Lover" among my family and friends, because no matter where I end up, I eat a burger. Steakhouse? Burger. Local bar? Burger. Every shore joint with "The Freshest Seafood"? Burger. At this point, I've probably had around 1,000 burgers in my life, and that's a conservative estimate.
The Shed Burger from The Machine Shed in Davenport, Iowa
I've eaten my way through bacon aiolis, bacon jam, pulled pork, burnt tips, a fried stack of sliced provolone cheese (R.I.P Friday's Cheesy Bacon Cheeseburger), fried mac and cheese, and everything that you can stuff in between two pieces of bread. Sometimes, it's just too much.
That being said, every now and then, a sandwich will come along that demands a place in my stomach, and I find myself hypnotized by its toppings. Here are some of my highlights, in no particular order.
The T.I. Burger from Gator's Dockside, Florida
The T.I Burger from Gator's in Treasure Island, Florida
The T.I. Burger from Gator's Dockside in Treasure Island is without a doubt my favorite burger, out of the thousands that I've had. Writing this sentence from my cold bedroom in New Jersey has me longing for that Florida sun, the pelicans floating in the pass, and this gorgeous hunk of meat in front me. It's an eight-ounce patty topped with a generous helping of mac and cheese that has been turned into a patty, battered and deep-fried. This heart-stopping combination is topped with their "Bite Sauce", which is almost like a chipotle mayonnaise. The sandwich and the atmosphere is something I am always beyond grateful to experience.
The Murder Burger from The Shannon Rose, New Jersey
The Murder Burger from The Shannon Rose in Ramsey, New Jersey
The Murder Burger from The Shannon Rose starts off as a normal burger with lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles. Then they add a bit of kick from some raw jalapeños, and then the whole affair is battered and fried, and served cut in half. While cutting a burger in half is a serious crime, I'm willing to give this devilish creation a pass because of the incredible taste. And it comes with tater tots. Who doesn't love tater tots?
The Hercules from Clinton Station Diner, New Jersey
The Hercules from Clinton Station Diner in Clinton, New Jersey
I have other photos of this thing, but none of them truly give you a sense of how massive this thing was. There's no amount of 'Foodie' skills that can prepare you for a section of the menu titled, "Burgers of The Gods". The Hercules is one of the smallest burgers on the menu. The patty itself is two pounds. It's topped with approximately 9 slices of cheese, half an onion, half a head of lettuce, and an entire tomato. This ground beef slab is then served on a sesame seed bun that is probably equivalent to a loaf of Italian bread.
I'm not one to leave food on my plate, especially when it comes to burgers, but I had to abandon the bun in favor of finishing this behemoth. I can only imagine the amount of physical strength one would need to take out their bigger burgers, but this was truly a feat.
Grilled Cheeseburger Melt from Arooga's, New Jersey
The Grilled Cheeseburger Melt from Arooga's in East Brunswick, New Jersey
Despite the terribly low quality photo, the flavor of this burger was incredible. With the exception of the bacon strips, there was no actual meat. The patty was a Beyond Burger, which is a meat substitute made from magic. The grilled cheeses were incredible and crispy, while the burger tasted exactly like ground beef. I'm a big fan of these meat substitutes, because it takes out the red meat, which is easily the most dangerous element of any of these sandwiches when eaten in large quantities. Most of my friends have asked me for my opinions on meat substitutes like Beyond and Impossible, and with the exception of the price, there's nothing wrong with them. They don't take away from the experience at all, despite what other carnivores might say.
It's an unhealthy obsession, but I really like burgers. My lunch for two full years of college was a turkey burger on a multigrain bun with a slice of pepper jack cheese. For three bucks, that's not a bad deal. It would've made the list if I had a picture of it, but alas, I did not. I didn't ask to be a burger connoisseur, in fact, it was probably my lack of wanting to be disappointed in other dishes that I stuck with burgers, but now it's my thing. I look for ridiculous combinations of ingredients stacked between two pieces of bread and am always pleasantly surprised with the results that are created by some of the nation's craziest kitchens.
What's the craziest burger you've had? Comment below.