Thursday, May 30, 2013

[HOT LIST] Burgers

iBurger. All photos by Nicole Rupersburg.

May is National Burger Month. While summer for some means trying to squeeze their pasty white Midwestern blubber butt into last year's bikini only to find that winter has not been kind to them, some of us (hi) have made (an uneasy) peace with the fact that maybe bikini season stopped for us a few years back, and this summer isn't looking much better. There is a certain freedom in realizing you're not Kate Upton, and with that freedom comes the ability to go on the summer #burgercleanse. (Use that hashtag on Instagram plz; trying to make it a thing.)

Perhaps you'll recall when just last week I noted that Detroit is still very much a meat and potatoes town. That being established, you can go ahead and assume that we know our way around a beef patty.  Now, you know all the old familiars -- the ones that have been written up in national publications, the ones that people will Instagram with words like "yum" and people will comment with "want" and "I love that place!" I'm talking about places like Red Coat Tavern and Miller's. Then there's the burger elite -- which, to just go ahead and reference myself again, I already covered them last week -- Vinsetta Garage, Roast, and burger n00b Monk. Iron Chef Michael Symon is also looking to expand his B Spot Burgers into the metro Detroit market, probably because we are a bunch of fat asses. Bottom line? We know some damn burgers.

For the purposes of making this list manageable, chains and fine(r) dining restaurants that serve burgers have been excluded. This is all bar burgers, diners, and straight burger joints. I've also ruled out sliders (sorry Green Dot) because that is a separate list. Also, I am a burger purist: while I concede the notion that burgers can be all dressed up and fancified for the betterment of burger enjoyment, I prefer to experience my burgers in their natural state -- beef, cheese, bun. Nothing more. All assessments have been made based on purely the plain old burger. (With cheese. Because it HAS to have cheese.)

#1 East Side Tavern Mt. Clemens
There is an episode of How I Met Your Mother in which Marshall spends the entire episode on a quest to find the Manhattan burger that changed his life. A burger of such superior quality, that was so much more than JUST a burger but an experience, that it had become legen-waitforit... in Marshall's mind. A burger so transcendent that no other burger could ever live up to its impossibly high standard. A burger that is almost cultural mythos. The burger at East Side Tavern is that burger. But don't take my word for it. Take my word for it.

#2 The Bronx Bar Detroit
Take a giant burger the size of your head and throw it on a sizzling flat-top grill with all of its other burger friends in plain view of the bar (so close, in fact, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the burgers occasionally get seasoned with Jameson's). Then take a giant ciabatta bun, slather it in butter, and throw it on the grill too. For good measure, add a couple of slices of melty American cheese -- which, and I know I'm going to catch some flack for this, in my own very much experienced burger experience is THE superior cheese for burgers -- and a giant pickle on the side. And there you have the Bronx Bar burger. Simple. Magical. It's the burger you just can't quit.

The Emory. 

#3 The Emory Ferndale
The Emory's burgers are something of a local legend. It just goes to show that the secret to a great burger is all in the beef, and theirs comes from Eastern Market's Fairway Packing. (Note: For those who are not familiar with Fairway, their burgers are consistently the best in the business. Any restaurant that serves them is automatically among the top in town.) The big fluffy buns come from Royal Oak bakery Hermann's. And the best part? A burger and fries will cost you only $5 on Tuesdays, and the Emory also rocks a brutal beer list to go with your beef.

From @eatitdetroit Instagram feed.
#4 Good Burger Dearborn
Dearborn is not lacking for good burgers. People still love the shit out of Miller's. There's also Howell's, which some say has the better bar burger. Moo Cluck Moo just opened in Dearborn Heights and is looking to be a game-changer. But I have seen the future, and in this future gas station food is the new trendy pedestrian blue collar IT food that "foodies" will flock to. And it starts at Good Burger. Located inside a BP gas station on Ford Road just a few blocks off of I-94, Good Burger is perhaps the most efficiently-named restaurant in metro Detroit. Because you will leave saying, "Damn, that WAS a good burger." Everything is made fresh in-house -- condiments are made from scratch, fries and onion rings are hand-cut; grilled-to-order burgers are never frozen and served on either a pretzel roll or brioche bun sourced from local bakeries, and the meat itself is expertly seasoned. I told you my rule about eating burgers plain? With this one you won't even WANT to dilute the flavor with any other frippery. Burgers are served with perfectly-crispy (and made to order) seasoned shoestring fries, and they also deliver.

#5 iBurger Dearborn
It would seem that metro Detroit's REAL cheeseburger paradise is Dearborn. Dearborn is just great. I love Dearborn. Have I told you how much I love Dearborn? Such a cultural mish-mosh and I LOVE that. Black people, white people, Arab people, Mexican people -- if you want diversity, it's all in Dearborn, and it's actually properly integrated instead of the street-by-street segregation you find in other "diverse" cities. Now, with a large population of ethnic Arab Muslims, this also means that you'll find a lot of halal restaurants. They're not all Mediterranean, either. You'll find halal Mexican, halal Italian, halal fried chicken, halal pizza, halal sushi. America! Bless you melting pot, and bless you fatass Midwestern eating habits and cultural assimilation. iBurger is a halal burger joint, and, you know, maybe it's because Muslims don't eat pork and can therefore put ALL of their energy into the beef (even the bacon is beef) instead of being distracted by the temptations of pig parts, but damn this is a tasty burger. Read more about it here. They also serve raw juices and ice cream. Raw juices at a burger joint (and they're not talking about the burgers, though those are plenty juicy too). Don't you just freaking LOVE that?

Bubbling under The Detroiter Bar (Detroit), One-Eyed Betty's (Ferndale), Red Hawk (Ann Arbor), the Avenue Pub (Wayne), Cutter's (Eastern Market), McShane's Pub (Corktown), Rosie O'Grady's (Ferndale), Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger (Ann Arbor), Nemo's (Corktown), Mae's (Pleasant Ridge), Greenwich Pub (Detroit), Sidetrack (Ypsilanti), Clubhouse BFD (Rochester), Jay's Stuffed Burgers (Plymouth), Honest John's (Midtown), Doyle's Tavern (Plymouth), Brownie's on the Lake (St. Clair Shores)