Kristen Iversen takes us through Brooklyn to sample the best burgers they have to offer:
Hard Time Sundaes: We’ve raved about this burger before, strongly advising any and all meat-lovers to make the trek out to a Walgreen’s parking lot in Mill Basin, just to try one of the essential Brooklyn burgers. Well, now, Andrew Zurica’s unforgettable creation is available far more conveniently (unless, uh, you live in Mill Basin?), because his mobile operation relocated to Williamsburg’s Pfizer Building, where you can still get his signature single-, double-, or triple-patty burgers, all featuring meat that’s been given the perfect hard sear, rendering each patty crispy and craggy on the outside, and ultra-juicy within. Top your burger with everything from jalapeño slices to layers of iceberg or slices of tomato, just make sure to accompany this treat with one of Zurica’s excellent milkshakes. (I like strawberry best.)
Le Fond: Sometimes you get your burger from a truck and other times you get it from… one of the most charming French bistros in Greenpoint? Sure! Why not? Look, just because you’re not used to seeing bouillabaisse on the same menu as a burger, doesn’t mean they don’t belong together. And make no mistake, Le Fond’s burger is decidedly French, what with its refusal to utilize the ubiquitous Martin’s potato roll. Rather, Le Fond makes due with twin slices of toasted, buttery brioche, which perfectly soaks up the juices from the square patty, which has an out-of-this-world richness that’s tempered by a tangy dill pickle relish, but which then soars again thanks to the addition of luscious French cheese.
Belle Shoals: This relative Brooklyn newcomer brings a Southern flair to this corner of South Williamsburg, with items like hush puppies and po’boys dotting its menu. But its burger crosses all state lines and proves to be universally delicious. Served in a mini cast iron pan, this burger is all about two things: one) the perfectly rich blend of short rib and brisket which makes each mouthful a tender taste explosion and two) the secret sauce, which has just the right amount of tang to it. Get it with a slice of Cabot cheddar. The purist in me says to forgo the option of a fried egg, but what the hell, right? You only live once.
Bar Bolinas: So, speaking of regional specialties and things that make a burger really stand out from the crowd, I have three words for you when it comes to the burger at Bar Bolinas: Dutch. Crunch. Bun. That’s right: Cultishly beloved and mostly available only in San Francisco of all places, Dutch Crunch bread is notable for its feathery interior cased inside a golden and—you guessed it—crackly, crunchy exterior, which it gets by being basted with a mixture of rice flour and sugar before being baked. This results in one of the best textured buns in all of Brooklyn, and it doesn’t hurt that it encompasses an exemplary patty topped by mild and melty havarti cheese.
Pop’s: Remember when it was easy to find a high-quality, ultra-satisfying burger for under $8? Yeah, me neither. It’s becoming much more of a challenge to do that now, and while I am totally of the opinion that you get what you pay for in life, particularly when it comes to food (particularly when it comes to meat), it’s also never not a great delight to find an affordable, high-quality culinary indulgence. Enter: Pop’s. Here, burgers won’t set you back more than five bucks if you get them unadorned, and they’re a lesson in simplicity as virtue; because after all, what more do you need than a squishy potato roll and extra juicy beef patty? Literally nothing.
Emily: Why go to a pizza place and get the burger? Well, maybe do it because this burger is one of the best you’ll ever have. Perhaps because Emily isn’t a burger joint, all burger rules are thrown out the window when it comes to this version. Rather than a typical bun, this beauty is served on a sturdy pretzel roll; the patty tastes more like steak than ground chuck, helped along by a generous showering of black pepper following its quick sear in clarified butter; the whole thing is complemented by a beautiful mess of caramelized onions, melted Vermont cheddar, and pepper-accented house-made aioli, leading to an ultra-flavorful burger that can easily stand up to the dense mass of the pretzel bun.
Rose’s: There isn’t that much too this burger, but somehow its spare list of ingredients add up to something sublime. The sesame seed-studded roll is lightly toasted, providing the perfect cushion for an impeccably juicy, flavorful patty draped with rich, nutty cheese and a slick of mayonnaise. And… that’s it. There’s no bells and whistles to this burger, but there don’t need to be. The sum is so much greater than its parts; Rose’s is doing nothing more or less than burger alchemy, and the result is pure gold.
Ed and Bev’s: So while the fabulous Sussman brothers (the duo behind Ed and Bev’s) are clearly paying tribute to their hometown of Detroit with many of their menu items (i.e. the excellent Coney dog), I’m not exactly sure what part of Michigan this burger comes from, and I don’t really care, because when something is this good? Provenance takes a backseat to experience. And the experience of eating this cheeseburger—featuring White Castle-esque steamed onions, McClure’s pickles, and a beautifully unctuous cheese sauce, all sandwiched on a Martin’s potato roll—is perfection. Well, ok, ok: This burger is inspired by the iconic Hunter House burger in Birmingham, MI, and, well, if it tastes anything like the Ed and Bev’s version, maybe it’s time I took a little road trip west.
Duncan’s Burgers: You know how, when you really want a burger, like when you’ve been partying and drinking all night, it can sometimes be so hard to find a burger, but then when you do find that burger, it’s, like, the best thing you’ve ever tasted? Of course you do. And it’s literally the best. Well, that’s the feeling you get when you’re drinking at Three Diamond Door or Cobra Club and you get it together to order a burger from Duncan’s and then get delighted by the subtly funky, quarter pound dry-aged beef patty, offset perfectly by just the right balance of lettuce, tomato, onion, and, of course, special sauce. During a night of drinking, or even while stone-cold sober, Duncan’s is always just what the doctor ordered. Or, rather, what you ordered off Seamless. Look at that, you’re even better than a doctor. Well done.
Speedy Romeo: I’m not going to say I saved the best for last here, but I am going to say that this burger is not just one of the bests burgers in Brooklyn, but it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten period. The patty itself is hefty—a full half-pound—and it’s cooked on a wood-fired grill, rendering it beautifully smoky and full of flavor; it’s then topped with Provel cheese, a funky addition (it’s a processed, beloved in St. Louis, blend of cheddar, swiss, and provolone) that adds something wholly different than the ubiquitous slice of Cabot cheddar; then, to that is added “LTO,” or lettuce, tomato, onion, except here, the lettuce is shredded romaine and the onion is thinly sliced red, and the tomato? Well. The tomato is actually San Marzano tomato reduction, which is jammy and smoky and salty and just an all-around umami bomb. Finally, there’s the Speedy Sauce, which I’d have injected via IV if possibly (it’s not, I checked); the sauce is a pepper-spiked aioli which adds just the right element of tang and heat to this perfectly balanced behemoth of a burger.