“You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars.”
– Charles Kuralt
“I always want to find the best burger in town.”
– Dennis Quaid
#5 Tutu’s Burger @ Tutu’s ($16)
Walked into Tutu’s in the dead heart of their hinterland: not yet supper, no longer brunch. 5 PM. An hour to kill before I could wrest a meat patty from the claws of their kitchen. So I drank a Full Sail IPA and watched shift change. When six o’clock rolled around something wild took me over, and instead of refreshing my memory of their cheeseburger, I decided to try the mushroom burger. To those amongst you who shudder at the thought of grinding the raw flesh of animals and then reforming it into a smooth, short cylinder? The mushroom burger awaits. The ground, patty-fied carcass of mushrooms stacked neatly between shapely buns. Ketchup was served in a small, metal ramekins. The fries were rough, in a very pleasant way.
#4 Cheeseburger @ Roberta’s ($16)
Not that this temple needs any more consecration, but to omit this prince among burgers would be a dastardly mistake. His highness was served all deconstructed, as though it was of no concern to him whether or not I be impressed by his height, or his girth, or his standing demeanor. Three ramekins, bearing ketchup, mayonnaise, and mustard, stood with dignity at his side. Soon, I found myself knifing ketchup and mustard onto the cartoonishly perfect cheese slice, a motion that seemed too delicate to preface this meal. This time a Diet Coke washed the meat down my throat. Served with strangely human-looking fried tubers. Available only at lunch.
#3 Hamburger @ Fritzl’s Lunch Box ($9 +$1 for Cheese)
The road to true satisfaction is paved with honesty. So admit the truth to yourself, and go ahead, invest in liver failure. The majestic 22 ounce bottle of Grimm Cassiopiea Imperial Porter almost outshines the burger itself. Almost. But instead, from the fog of a light drunk that beacon of truth emerges. Thick, summery, strong: the burger at the Box is powerfully American. Fourths of July drip from its meaty pores. Checkered picnic table cloth gloats behind my eyelids, closed in silent ecstasy. The ketchup is served in a tall, clear, plastic dispenser. Get the potato salad for $3 extra, it’s worth so much more.
#2 NEK Burger @ Northeast Kingdom ($15)
The ketchup at NEK is served in petite squirters, completely full. So classy. While I sit, clutching a SixPoint Sweet Action, the genuinely attentive server drops the small condiment bottle in front of me. There is no indication that anyone else’s filthy hands have soiled this before my own; the bottle seems almost brand new, and the ultimate illusion of dining out is sustained in full. The burger arrives, flanked by a cup of thin, arrogant fries, and it melts into me. In that moment, my gut is pierced by beauty as the elements unionize, joining ranks to form a mass of formidable flavor. It presses forward, and I cannot deny entrance. There is a mushroom spread on this burger, and perhaps that’s the glue that binds. The next day, I wake up with severe vertigo. Probably unrelated…
#1 Grass Fed Burger @ Cafe Ghia ($13 + $2 to add Braised Bacon)
I slip into Cafe Ghia as the closing hour wrings out its last breaths, but I’m by no means the only one: the Cafe is lush with diners. Is it unfair to add bacon to this burger, and to none of the others that have graced my discerning esophagus this week? Yes, oh god, yes. The fat hunks of farm animals can barely contain themselves between the full, hearty bun borders. Grass fed? I can taste the happiness. Accompanied by a carrot and arugula salad, spicy pickles, and a Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. The ketchup is housed in a opaque red container.