I’ve done a fair amount of traveling over the years in my various jobs. And during that time, I’ve eaten a fair number of hamburgers. I haven’t done this for my own pleasure, mind you, but simply for scientific purposes. I did it for you. Because of my work, you won’t ever have to waste precious calories on a subpar burger.
So now, without further ado, I am releasing the results of my extensive studies. Following are the top five burgers from coast to coast, starting straight from the top.
1). In and Out Burger. This is the easiest choice by far. This west coast institution is unparalleled. It offers the freshest, best-tasting, lowest-cost burger available. When I first went to In and Out, I was jarred by its simplicity. This is not a place for chicken or fish sandwiches. They only do burgers. But when you do burgers this well, you don’t have to do anything else. When traveling to Los Angeles, I’ve been known to make In and Out my first stop when leaving the airport or my last stop when returning. I take pictures to savor the experience. If I were a poet, I would write an ode to In and Out.
2). Culver’s Restaurant. It gets a little crowded after number one, in my opinion, but I’m giving Culver’s and its butterburger (so called because the bun is dipped in butter and lightly grilled) the nod here. Freshness is again the differentiator with each burger made to order. Plus, as a bow to Culvers’ Wisconsin roots, you can order cheese curds as a side instead of French fries. What’s not to like about fried cheese?
3). Steak ’n Shake. Although it might not seem like it if you order a milkshake, I’m assuming Steak ’n Shake qualifies as fast food. After all, it has a drive-thru window. Steak ’n Shake’s original steakburger is smashed thin, which makes the edges nice and crispy. Add cheese, onions, mustard and some shoestring fries and you’re in business. Steak ’n Shake’s burgers also score very high on the value scale.
4). Five Guys. I include Five Guys mostly from a sense of obligation. Everyone seems to love Five Guys. Sure, the burgers are good. That’s a given. For me though, I find the double burger and sack overflowing with fries all to be just a bit much. After I eat at Five Guys, I don’t want another hamburger for a month. Five Guys is the artery clogger among artery cloggers. It’s also the most expensive or this group.
5). Sonic. Perhaps it’s human nature to yearn most for that which we cannot have, which explains my odd affinity for Sonic. Most Sonic restaurants near me have closed over time. As a result, whenever I see one on the road, I’m drawn to pull over. Sonic does a good, honest burger at a fair price. I particularly like the freshness of the bun. Plus, you can order tater tots as a side, which is a nice change of pace and a pleasant reminder of childhood.
That’s my list of the nation’s best fast food burgers with a couple of caveats. First, even though I have been to New York repeatedly, I somehow never sampled Shake Shack so I can’t speak to its quality, although I know it has many devotees. Second, if I were forced to pick from only the large national chains, Wendy’s wins hands down. Finally, if we include dives as well as chains, then Reno’s Little Nugget Diner tops the list. It is home of the “awful awful” burger, so-called because it is both awful big and awful good.
How about you? Do you agree with my list? Would you choose a different order? Do you prefer others?