"Burger purists have a historical cast of mind. They’re always walking around with a patriotic and antiquarian bent thinking about old-time, classic hamburgers, like the kind that was eaten by Wimpy and Jughead. Burger purists aren’t really fit to live in this world. There’s a kind of poetic idealism to them and a sense of innocence that was lost by the American Adam."
Those of the words of Josh Ozersky, aka “Mr. Cutlets” - a James Beard Award winning food writer and cultural historian, whose books include, Meat Me in Manhattan, A Carnivore’s Guide to New York, The Hamburger: A History, and Archie Bunker’s America: TV in Era of Changing Times.
As the former restaurant’s editor of Citysearch.com and editor of The Feedbag, Josh has eaten at just about every restaurant in the city, but what he knows best is meat, especially hamburgers. He knows so much about them, that some might even consider him an expert on the topic.
A good burger according to Josh "deserves a kind of Shinto-like approach. Think about way the Japanese sacrilize the purity of simple objects. Look at the way they think about a piece of sashimi. That’s the way we should think about a hamburger. Because the hamburger, like sashimi, or a baked potato, or a piece of fruit on a plate, is a gastronomic end point."
HAMBURGER HALL OF FAME
Walter Anderson - "The hamburger was invented in 1916 in Wichita, Kansas by a fry cook named Walter Anderson. He founded the first real hamburger restaurant, which in turn became the first real hamburger chain. So, the hamburger was invented by White Castle because White Castle was the company that Walter Anderson and his partner, Billy Ingram, founded."
Ray Kroc - "He invented McDonald’s, not the McDonald’s Brothers’ store in California, but the actual McDonald’s empire."
Pat Lafrieda Jr. and Sr. - "I hate to say this because people think that I toot their horn too much, but Pat LaFrieda, is a New York butcher who really kind of recreated the hamburger and took it to the next level, well I should say Pat Senior did it and Pat Jr. sort of really took it to the next level. They took the idea of taking custom blends from whole muscles, whole short ribs, whole chucks, strips, brisket points, and approached the burger making process the same way a winery does. When a winery designs a wine, they don’t just put one grape in it, they put a little bit of cabernet and a little bit of merlot, or whatever to get that balance of flavors. They did this to the hamburger."
Dave Edgerton - "There's a Darwinian pressure in the burger industry to differentiate themselves from their competitors and that's why Dave Edgarton, the founder of Burger King, invented the Whopper. He was like "we’re gonna make something so massive that only a Titan’s appetite could consume it" and thus we have the invention of the quarter pound burger."
Bob Wian - "The double burger was a major evolutionary step forward. That happened in the 30s when Bob Wian from Bob’s Big Boy invented the "Big Boy", which was the double burger. McDonald’s would later rip it off in the form of the Big Mac."
BURGERS BY REGION
New York - "In our city, I think you characteristically used to see a lot of the Irish bar burgers particularly on the east side. They're behemoth 10 or 12 ounces of hemorrhaging blood and grease on a plate, but that's changed. They New York burger scene is becoming very strong and the competition is fierce."
Oklahoma - "In Oklahoma they have the onion burger. They cook the burger with raw onion right into it on the grill."
Mississippi - "They have the old slug burgers, where they add a little bit of meal to them just to add them out."
California - "In and Out Burger uses thousand island dressing with lettuce and tomato. They consider it to be their thing. Let them call it their thing."
New Mexico - "In New Mexico they have the famous green chili cheeseburger."
Wisconsin - "Wisconsin is where they have all these great dairy products, so they make butter burgers. Culver’s is the chain out there and they actually put softened butter right on to the bun, so it melts and bathes the burger in the fresh dairy butter."
Miami - "In Miami they have Cuban burgers and sometimes they have a little pork ground into them, maybe even a little chorizo. It sounds good but it's not as good as a real hamburger, it’s just not."
Hamburgão - Newark, NJ - "In the Iron Bound section of Newark, which is where all the Brazilians and Portuguese live, they make Hamburgesas. These burgers have potato sticks, mayo, mustard, ketchup, fried egg, bacon and lettuce. This hamburger transcended the barriers of America in the same way that it transcended the wildest dreams of cupidity that the White Castle guys wanted."
Hamburger America - "by George Motz traces the regional differences in burgers, another great book."
Nick Solares - "He's another burger purist, burger writer, and protégé of mine. He has a site called A Hamburger Today and he’s the hamburger critic for SeriousEats.com."
OZERSKY APPROVED MANHATTAN BURGERS
Bill's Bar & Burger - “Architectural and aesthetic marvels that accomplish everything I ever loved about hamburgers: Crusty surfaces, fluffy buns, American cheese, an appropriate freight of meat and the all important high fat content that keep the whole thing sapid."
Stand – “This burger is quirky but brilliant. A true NY original especially for its fresh internal seasonings.”
Shake Shack – “The most critically hailed and super humanly consistent hamburger of the last 40 years.”
HB Burger – “Another classic griddle cooked, salted, old school burger served on a white bun, which, by the way is the way God intended."
OUTTER OZERSKYTAN BURGERDOM
White Diamond – “The White Diamond in Linden, New Jersey and also the one in Clark, NJ are the best of the North Jersey time machine burgers: stark, poetically simple, tender and a slender patty laid on the softest bun imaginable."
Hildebrandts – “This spot in Williston Park, Long Island is an ancient ice cream parlor that produces one perfect hamburger at a time with the aid of tradition and the local butcher a block down the street."
Dram Shop – “Dram Shop in Park Slope, Brooklyn imported a Texan style coffee shop burger into the heart of Park Slope’s vegetarian mom territory, which is one of the boldest and most generous acts ever committed for the good of New York hamburger lovers.”
Joe’s Best Burger – “Joe's Best Burger is a Flushing fast food restaurant that I always wished to succeed. It’s not in the class of Shake Shack or Bills, but America would be a better place if there was a Joe’s Best Burger swapped in for every Wendy’s.”
Steak 'n Shake – “Now that White Castle has retreated to frozen meat, the sourced code for griddle / smashed hamburgers is this joint."
Corner Bistro - "How many years did people talk about the Corner Bistro? “Oh, it’s the best burger.” It’s like one of the worst hamburgers in America, it’s worse than Wendy’s. But people talked about it so it became this hot thing. But people got led astray."
Five Guys - "This place is a tragedy because they do everything right, they really understand what’s good about burgers. They've got a nice system, they have fresh meat and they have unfrozen French fries, but they have this crazy commitment like all the QSR chains do so the meat has to be cooked to 160-165 degrees in which case it’s as dead as Dillinger and hardly worth using as a doorstop. If they would let you order to order, Five Guys would really be like a great American burger chain."
Loui’s Lunch - "It's in New Haven, Connecticut, and claims to have invented the hamburger. It’s a matter of historical record that it’s been serving hamburgers or "hamburgers" since 1900. Let me tell you something, the next hamburger that Loui’s Lunch serves, will be its first, because they serve a ground beef patty on toast and that’s not a hamburger."