Saturday, October 4, 2014

Where's the Beef?!

Vegans and Chick-fil-a cows beware. The following post is dedicated to beef.


It doesn't get much more American than that. From diners to drive-ins, "hole in the wall" to national chains - burgers have become more than just a cheap, greasy feast. Restaurants across the country have stepped up their game when it comes to the classic meal using gourmet preparation and insane toppings. 

If you've been paying attention, with both your eyes and taste buds, then you've noticed the burger scene here in Charlotte is on the rise. Earlier this year, posted a list of the top 10 burgers/places to get a burger in Charlotte. (You can see the list here.)  I didn't exactly agree with the entire list, but I felt this summer was the perfect opportunity to check out a few spots mentioned and do a quick Burger Tour! 

Ok, time for you to get comfortable. I ate a lot of burgers this summer and I've got a lot to say about them. Below are the top 6 from the summer (in no particular order... because they were all delicious!) Also, I highly recommend you giving these places a visit if you've never been.

1. "Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger": BT's Burger Joint
This place was a hidden gem for quite some time. For a while, the only location was in the Rivergate Shopping Center over in the Steele Creek area. The first time Asha and I tried it, we realized this place knew how to cook up a good burger. Well, only by the wonderful grace of God, there's now a location in south Charlotte AND in Indian Trail. And we just happen to live right in between them.
The menu is full of tasty options including burgers, hot dogs, salads and really, really good milkshakes. My spotlight burger there is the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. Pretzel buns have had a rise in popularity recently, and when you add cheddar cheese, honey mustard, bacon (which makes everything better), and a perfectly grilled beef pattie... you've got yourself a delicious burger. I usually judge a restaurant's burger quality on their bacon cheeseburger. It's pretty standard and BT's makes a great one.

2. "Thundering Herd Bison Burger": CowFish Sushi Burger Bar
One of the more unique restaurants in Charlotte, CowFish boasts an awesome "surf 'n turf" menu jam-packed with sushi and burger options.
Now when it comes to burgers, I'm usually pretty simple. I don't need a ton of extra stuff on my burger. So needless to say, once I read the toppings on this one, I got a little nervous. This half-pound chipotle bison burger is topped with sharp white cheddar cheese, avocado salsa, lettuce, chipotle aioli, and red onion. My tastebuds danced in delight once I finally took my first bite. This was probably the most flavorful burger I ate all summer. That chipotle aioli and avocado salsa perfection. This burger was well worth the price!

3. "Boogan's Bacon Burger": Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar
I vote that this place needs more exposure. Tucked away in uptown Charlotte, this cozy bar is decorated with tons of music related portraits and keeps music videos and sports on the TVs. So when a place has a great staff and a fun atmosphere, of COURSE there's an awesome menu to match. Items like "The Sinatra", "Lisa Marie", "Kitchen Sink" and "Atomic Punk", this menu will leave you very indecisive and wanting to try everything! But alas, I was there for the burgers, and my choice - the Boogan's Bacon Burger. A delicious beef patty topped with bacon strips, bacon marmalade, and roasted garlic aioli all hugged by a tasty onion kaiser roll. But what could make this delicious burger even better? A top notch side! I'm just gonna throw this out there - Cowbell has the best sweet potato tots ever. I'm not even a big fan of sweet potato fries and I murdered these suckers. So if anything, get to Cowbell just for the tots!

4. "The Pig Burger": The Liberty
I'm excited to talk about this burger. The "Thundering Herd Bison Burger" from CowFish may have been the most flavorful burger I had, but the "Pig Burger" from The Liberty was definitely the most unique. But first, let's talk about this place. Located in the heart of South End, The Liberty has a local feel... until you check out everything offered. With menu items like "Carolina Crab Cake Salad", "Organic House-made Veggie Burger", and "Niman Ranch Colorado Lamb Burger", you can tell there are some professional chefs in the kitchen. Plus, the Liberty boasts a nationally renowned beer selection and 30 wines by the glass. Ok, back to the burger. So I continue to have a personal debate - beef vs pork. Which do my taste buds prefer? As soon as I begin leaning toward beef, I eat a magically delicious slice of maple bacon and I'm right back over to pork. Insert the Pig Burger. A beef and pork mixed patty that seriously tasted like... wait for it... it tasted like I was eating beef and pork at the same time! The burger became more and more interesting with each bite. I really liked this burger and wish I could go back and try it again, however, it seems to no longer be on the menu. So, sorry you missed out if you wanted to taste the Pig Burger after reading this. You should still check out The Liberty if you haven't been though!

5. "Bacon Cheese Burger on Steroids": Bad Daddy's Burger Bar
If you live in Charlotte, NC, and specifically the Ballantyne area, then there's a good chance you've already made a visit to Bad Daddy's. If you haven't been by yet,  what are you waiting for? Be sure to go hungry! One of my favorites on the menu - the "heart attack" burger aka the "Bacon Cheeseburger on Steroids." The name alone lets you know you're in for quite a burger. So of course you have a perfectly cooked, all beef patty with Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato all on a tasty bun. But the "steroid" part of this burger…
  • bacon salt
  • housemade bacon mayo
  • 3 strips of applewood smoked bacon
  • 3 pieces of jalapeño bacon
As you can see, no shortage of bacon on this one. 6 strips is the perfect amount! A very meat-tastic burger with a nice kick of heat from the jalapeño bacon. Deeeeeeeeeelicious!

6. "Bacon Cheesy Sliders": Burger 21
Burger 21 was one of the spots visited this summer that wasn't on the original list of restaurants, however, I can tell you from plenty of experience, you NEED to check this place out! The Ballantyne location has been open for maybe a year or two and it's popularity is growing with each passing month. Not only are they serving great burgers, but they also deliver top notch seafood burgers, turkey burgers, chicken tenders, gourmet hot dogs, and hand-spun milkshakes and floats. One of the best features of this place is the numerous amount of sauces to choose from! With standard condiments like ketchup and mustard, to some really tasty treats like marshmallow, chipotle mayo, and my favorite, ragin' cajun! Another great thing about this place are the weekly meal deals. On Thursdays, you can get a 2-pack of sliders and fries for $4.99. It's perfect, and that's why it's my highlighted burger. Little mini burger patties with slices of applewood smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato all on a sweet Hawaiian roll. Mini perfection.

Sorry, no pic of a burger here...just one of my lovely wife!

So there you have it. My 2014 Burger Tour was fun, fattening, and very delicious. I know there are PLENTY of other great burger spots in the area, so if you have any suggestions, please send 'em my way! And if you try any of these places, let me know what you think! 

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