It's the icon of American food, that ubiquitous palm-size patty served between two slices of bread with a wedge of lettuce, square of cheddar and slice of tomato.
For years, it's survived under heat lamps, through take-out windows and onto sticky plastic trays. But, out of nowhere, the dining scene has changed. The American Burger is having a renaissance as gourmet restaurants are touting the sandwich. While a Carl's Jr. or McDonald's is probably near you, here are some of America's newest and hottest bourgeois burger joints.
BLT Burger, Las Vegas
What to order: American Kobe Burger
BLT Burger's old-fashioned booths
It's the second installment of Bistro Laurent Tourondel's BLT Burger, located in the Mirage Las Vegas. Among a hotel of foodie outposts and be-seen diners, it's one of the hottest late-night dining scenes in the city. It's open till 2 a.m. weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends. The circular open kitchen allows dressed-up guests to watch while enjoying plasma-screen displays of sports events and hip-hop videos.
Thirsty guests descend on the BLT Burger Bar, which has more than 20 beers on tap, exotic cocktails and imported wines. An appetizer menu includes Kobe sliders, barbecued nachos topped with brisket, and homemade chili drizzled with crème fraiche. Burger variations include buffalo chicken, lamb tandoori and American Kobe served with Wagyu beef, and sides like Vidalia onion rings and sweet potato fries.
What to order: Radius Signature Burger
It's the perfect balance of grown-up restaurant and perky social lounge, with a post-office cocktail scene. But among the rolled-up sleeves and loosened ties of this Financial District-based French eatery by Michael Schlow is a burger that was feted as America's best at the 2008 South Beach Food and Wine Festival.
But what exaltly makes the Radius Burger so special? To begin, Schlow creates a patty from organic grass-fed beef and tops it off with regional ingredients like Vermont cheddar cheese and locally grown onions that are fried to a golden crisp. The burger is topped with a black pepper horseradish sauce and rushed to the table while still dripping in its natural juices.
Marc Burger, Chicago
What to order: BBQ Burger
It's not your usual Macy's collection of cafeteria restaurants and windowless dining cafes. Marc Burger is the newest shopping gourmand to debut at Macy's Chicago flagship. Marcus Samuelsson of C-House finds a State Street home to debut a burger-theme café among a gourmet collection of department-store eateries like Rick Bayless' Frontera Fresco and LaBrea Bakery.
While the burger bar has yet to find its foodie respect in Chicago, Marc Burger looks to change that with a sirloin patty smoked and seasoned with paprika and a secret-recipe barbecue sauce. The burger is then topped with strips of applewood bacon and a heaping of crispy fries. Non-beef eaters shouldn't fret because the grilled chicken sandwich topped with avocado sauce is worthy of a restaurant in its own right.
DB Bistro Moderne, New York
What to order: The Original db Burger
Located off the lobby of City Club Hotel, DB Moderne by Daniel Boulud isn't where you'd expect to find one of NYC's best burgers. A cosmopolitan eatery by one of America's prized chefs, its Bernardaud-trimmed tables are more accustomed to platefuls of coq au vin and hearty grilled steaks. But it's also where you'll find the Original db Burger, a lunchtime delicacy for businessmen and showbiz elite looking for all-beef inspiration.
Boulud's burger masterpiece is derived from organic sirloin and braised short ribs served on a crispy Parmesan bun accompanied by a handful of perfectly crispy pommes frites. But the real flavor comes from the slathering of foie gras and sprinkling of black truffles, which deliver a foodie sensation that is equal parts gourmet and high-class comfort food.
8oz., Los Angeles
What to order: Estancia Grass Fed Burger
On a value-oriented strip of Melrose, the owners of Table 8 debut a new burger concept in the restaurant location that made them a fixture on the Hollywood dining scene. A first-floor space is arranged with a single-door entryway leading to a makeshift hostess desk regulating foot traffic between the two-room dining room and back bar with endless collection of premium whisky and micro beers.
The space is lofty and industrial with exposed brick walls, concrete floors and laid-back vibe that befits its brown-bag printed-burger menu. The kitchen is all about comfort food beginning with beer-battered onion rings, truffle potato skins best ordered extra-crispy and deep-fried pickles. Burgers like the hefty 8oz. come with grilled mushrooms and heirloom tomato ketchup with toppers like honey bacon and Gruyere cheese.