In 2001, New York City chef Daniel Boulud famously changed the hamburger game, convincing a nation of thin-patty burger eaters that they suddenly wanted — nay, needed — truffles and foie gras stuffed into the formerly utilitarian dish. Chefs across America quickly jumped on board the “bistro burger” trend, collaborating with butchers to create custom (and often secret) beef blends, experimenting with haute toppings, and generally ensuring that most restaurants in America feature some version of the “gussied-up” burger.
But at the same time (and perhaps in part due to the emergence of the internet), a seemingly nostalgic appreciation for the simple classic emerged. Fueled by the online version of word-of-mouth, hardcore burger fiends made pilgrimages to the original hamburger restaurants of the Midwest and the coasts, obsessively documenting the birthplaces of sliders, California burgers, and smash burgers online. Decades-old landmarks, revived in this new wave of burger fandom, once again became essential stops on many diners’ burger bucket lists, a list that undoubtedly continues to grow with each new (or newly re-discovered) burger joint that emerges on the scene.
So these days, what makes a burger truly essential? For Eater’s 2015 Burger Week foray into an essential burger guide, Eater’s city editors considered both ends of the burger spectrum, focusing specifically on beef hamburgers in all varieties of styles.