Summer is grilling season. Americans are getting their burger on. As a nation, we've gone gaga over gourmet burgers, a fast-growing segment of the fast-casual restaurant industry. However, there are now so many buns in this industrial oven that some wonder if investors may get grilled.
Shake Shack, for example, shook up Wall Street when it went public earlier this year. The shares have shot up 40 percent.
The food, however, still rocks. Gone are the days when dressing up a hamburger meant adding cheese and pickles. Chefs are now more likely to add foie gras, aioli, and beef tongue.
The Daily Meal has canvassed a nation of burger lovers and created its list of the best burgers in America. The company made 101 choices based on reviews of "70 noted writers, journalists, bloggers and other culinary authorities."
Here's what is missing from this list: In-N-Out. The California-based chain is a perennial favorite in burger reviews, usually coming out on top. Not this time. In-N-Out isn't No. 1, or No. 2 ... or even No. 101.
The Daily Mail told CNBC in an email that it did not include chains such as In-N-Out on its best burger list, but did rank the restaurant as #2 on a separate list for Best Chain, and #1 as "regional chain they wish was national."
So which burgers are best?
No. 5—The Kuma burger at Kuma's Corner
This Chicago restaurant is a "bar and burger joint with a heavy metal attitude." It creates monthly burgers based on bands like Behemoth (burger on a bed of fries, stout gravy, kielbasa, cabbage, beef-battered cheese curds, bacon, chives—and a defibrillator, I hope). The one scoring high with The Daily Meal is the traditional Kuma burger, where the "extra oomph" comes from a fried egg. Zagat claims, "consensus says it's 'totally worth it."
No. 4—Double chili cheeseburger at The Varsity
The Varsity, based in Atlanta, boasts it's the world's largest drive-in restaurant. The Daily Meal thinks the burgers are worth getting out of your car for, especially the double chili cheeseburger. Not only does it love the "greasy cheeseburger" which is somehow "more compact than most," but more than the burger, it loves the sweet bun. The other plus, this may be the most affordable burger on the list, around $4 for a week's worth of calories.
No. 3—Chargrilled burger at The Spotted Pig
Simple is better, and in the case of The Spotted Pig in New York, just the pictures on the website will make your mouth water.The Daily Meal credits The Spotted Pig with launching the "high-end gastropub trend." You know, grilled cheese sandwiches with onion marmalade, sliced beef tongue with duck egg (the beef tongue again!), flourless chocolate cake. However, front and center at this restaurant is the chargrilled burger with Roquefort cheese and shoestring fries for $22.
The burger is pretty simple: a half pound of prime grilled beef topped with "a layer of creamy, stinky Roquefort," served on a brioche bun. "It's the kind of burger that will force you to close your eyes after taking the first bite and just be with the beefy, cheesy decadence, " summarizes the review. One food blogger adds, "Nothing else required. No Heinz. No tomato. No onion. Bun, beef and cheese, period."
No. 2—Cheeseburger at Au Cheval
Bon Appétit calls the cheeseburger at AuCheval in Chicago "the perfect griddle burger," and The Daily Meal once again highlights the beauty of its simplicity. The cheeseburger is made of two (or three) patties topped with cheddar cheese, Dijonnaise and pickles, along with fries "fried in lard." YES! The restaurant also serves gluten-free and dairy-free menus, so you can have the burger without the bun, or the burger without the cheese, but you can still have lard-fried fries ... YES! Bottom line, writes The Daily Meal, "just about everything about this burger is perfect."
No. 1—Black Label burger at Minetta Tavern
How do you become named the best burger in America, a continent full of burger connoisseurs, burger chefs, backyard grill masters? The Minetta Tavern in New York has cracked the code, according to The Daily Meal, which calls its Black Label burger "the stuff of legend."
First, the restaurant dry ages the beef for six to seven weeks. The beef is a blend of four different cuts—short rib, skirt, brisket and rib-eye. It is seasoned and cooked in clarified butter, topped with caramelized onions and served on its own sesame seed bun which is unlike anything surrounding a Big Mac. But the Black Label comes with a big price: $28. Worth it? Reviewer George T. wrote on Yelp, "Say what you will, my two cents is that the BLACK LABEL burger is the best there is, irrespective of price, age, gender, sexual or religious orientation."
(For the full list of 101 burgers from The Daily Meal, click here)\
TheDaily Meal tells CNBC it did not include chains like In-N-Out on its bestburger list. However, earlier this year it ranted In-N-Out #2 for Best Chain(um, who is better?) and #1 as "regional chain they wish was national."