Ale ‘n’ Angus Pub / Facebook
The NCAA’s March Madness is about to kick into overdrive, with the Final Four competing for the 2016 championship. The Villanova Wildcats, Oklahoma Sooners, North Carolina Tar Heels, and Syracuse Orange are facing off in a race to the finish, and, as is often the case with March Madness, it’s anyone’s game. But when it comes to the best burgers, college bars, and local specialties, is there a winner? We rounded up the best of each of the competing states, and will let you decide for yourself.
Village Whiskey / Facebook
Chef Jose Garces has won heaps of praise for the burgers he’s serving at Village Whiskey, and it’s well-deserved. His burgers are so lightly packed that they’re almost fluffy, and come on a house-baked pain au lait bun that’s similar to brioche, but less eggy. The patties are well seasoned, super juicy, and full of flavor. If you’re looking for something especially decadent, go for the Whiskey King Burger, which is topped with maple bourbon-glazed cippolini onions, blue cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and foie gras for good measure. It’s a wonder to behold.
Yelp / Bill S
This giant Filbert Street spot, located inside the convention center across from Reading Terminal Market, has a huge selection of craft beers, an expansive menu, sports on TV, and even a dance floor. One of the city’s largest sports bars, more than 40 local beers are available on tap, and menu items from chef Andrew Brown include kettle chip nachos topped with beer-braised short ribs, brick oven pizzas, fish tacos, killer cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches, and even a pork roll sandwich with egg and cheese.
The cheesesteak is one of those perfect foods. There’s something about the combination of griddled thin-sliced steak, melted processed cheese, diced onions, and a soft Italian roll that hits us on a level that only the most decadent meals do. If there’s one city that’s synonymous with this legendary sandwich, it’s Philadelphia, and you can find our picks for the city’s top 10 here.
This iconic Oklahoma City burger joint has been featured in nearly every local publication and rose to national fame after being featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Run by Justin Nicholas for the past 18 years, Nic’s serves half-pound burgers smashed into the griddle for a crisp crust, and crowds line up for them (as well as other comfort food specialties like meatloaf and pork chops) on a daily basis.
Logie’s on the Corner / Facebook
Located right in Campus Corner in Norman, this is a solid college bar if ever there was one. Drink specials and a fun crowd make this a great spot to watch the games, and it’s a comfortable and fun place to maybe have one or two too many as well.
In Oklahoma, smoked bologna is something taken very seriously. It starts with plain old bologna, usually unsliced and bought at either the grocery store or a butcher shop (if you’re being fancy), and while the whole thing can be popped into the smoker, it’s often scored or partially sliced beforehand to absorb more smoke and get a nice crust. It can even be stuffed with things like cream cheese and jalapeños!
Al’s Burger Shack / Facebook
Al’s quietly opened in September 2013 and quickly made its mark as a go-to spot in Chapel Hill for great burgers. The beef is pasture-raised with no antibiotics and no hormones, and is formed into smallish patties that are topped with a wide variety of housemade toppings including chili, bacon-onion jam, and Cheerwine barbecue sauce. We suggest you make it a double!
The Library / Facebook
Located right on the edge of the UNC campus (and conveniently right across the street from a Waffle House), The Library is the place to watch March Madness in town, and it’ll be opening up early Saturday to get the party started. With great daily specials, a fun vibe, and plenty of room to dance if you feel inspired, it’s always a party at The Library.
Barbecue is king in North Carolina, but not brisket and ribs: Here it’s all about “whole hog,” whole pigs that have been slow-smoked before being chopped up and mixed with sauce. In Central North Carolina near UNC, Lexington-style whole hog is doused with a vinegar-based sauce that’s kicked with pepper and given a red tint from ketchup.
Ale ‘n’ Angus Pub / Facebook
The burgers at this hotspot, as the name might imply, are made with Angus beef, and they go through 16,000 pounds of it annually. Cooked to order from never-frozen beef on a well-seasoned griddle, these eight-ounce burgers are things of beauty, especially when topped with a mound of prime rib!
While it’s decidedly divey, Chuck’s is quite possibly the best spot in town to watch Orange games, projected onto a big screen. The beloved bar is renowned for its inexpensive pitchers, the big crowds it draws for games, and its raucous drunken singalongs. And while a recent renovation did away with some of its gritty charm, the crowds it draws are as boisterous as ever.
This Syracuse staple is just what it sounds like: salty potatoes. But there’s a decided art form to making them. First, the potatoes need to be small new potatoes, and they need to be boiled in water with just the right concentration of salt. The end result is a plate of potatoes with a salty crust and a light and fluffy, perfectly seasoned interior, and they’re usually served with melted butter. Find a recipe here.