Graze (Madison, WI)
Ed Levine, founder of Serious Eats: I ate my favorite burger of 2010 with Carey and Robyn in an unusual location: a bus stop in Madison, Wisconsin. Graze chef-owner Tory Miller had just packed up a pub burger and fries for us right down the block from the bus stop. We were really hungry, and the bus stop offered an impromptu table (a bench), so there we sat taking bites of Miller's wondrous burger. The pastured Highland Beef was insanely juicy, flavorful, and beefy, and it came on a housemade English muffin, with fantastic, perfectly cooked and salted fries on the side, and what the menu called the works—bacon, cheddar, lettuce, pickles, onions, mustard, mayo, and ketchup—all for 10 bucks. We swore we weren't going to finish, as we were about to eat our way through Milwaukee, but damned if we didn't polish off every last morsel.
Burger Garage (Long Island City, NY)
Adam Kuban, founder of AHT: My favorite burger of the year is one I've had a few times within the last several weeks—and that's the double cheeseburger at the Burger Garage in Long Island City, Queens. It's on my to-do list for a full-on review, so I'm not going to scoop myself here, just trust me when I say that this burger is KILLER. La Frieda beef, cooked perfectly by a crew of folks who care enough to do s*** right.
In-N-Out Burgers, Shipped Overnight
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Burger Lab contributor: My favorite burger of the year? Well, I'm not going on taste, but certainly the ones that my good friends out in San Francisco sent me via overnight delivery from In-N-Out for "research purposes" when I was working on my In-N-Out knockoff were the ones I was most excited to receive and consume. That alone makes them my favorite. They didn't taste half bad for having been completely frozen either.
Holeman & Finch (Atlanta, GA)
Daniel Zemans, Chicago correspondent: The griddled burger cooked to medium at Atlanta's Holeman & Finch rocked my grilled rare burger-loving mind. The juicy patties are simply exploding with a beefiness that sings freshness. The bread and butter pickles, ketchup, and mustard are all impeccably made in-house and are joined by melted American cheese and red onions. The whole thing is served on an unsweetened brioche made next door at the company bakery, which Bon Appetit just named one of the 10 best in America. I'm hesitant to call any burger perfect, but improving this thing does not seem possible.
Rustic Canyon (Los Angeles)
Damon Gambuto, Los Angeles correspondent: Ladies and Gentlemen, behold The Breakfast Burger from Rustic Canyon. The eight ounces of 80/20 Niman Ranch beef, thick cut bacon confit (cooked in duck fat!), Tillamook sharp cheddar, a fried egg, and arugula sitting between a Röckenwagner bun would be enough to make this a fantastic burger, but there's more. Chef Evan Funke adds a round of perfectly-cooked hash browns that might stamp this burger's ticket to the hall of fame. He was inspired his girlfriend's reference to the french fry-stuffed "California" burritos you find in San Diego Mexican food joint. Funke's burger, in turn, inspired me to take a wining photo for the Photoshelter Burger Photo Contest. It just may be the most delicious expression of burger excess I've ever tasted. A burger of the year indeed!
Nicky Rottens (San Diego, CA)
Erin Jackson, San Diego correspondent: This was my first year reviewing burgers for Serious Eats and while there were many memorable burgers, the one I can't get out of my mind is the impeccably-constructed Bruschetta Burger from Nicky Rottens. The juicy patty, cheese "envelope," and perfectly-balanced flavors were so spectacular, I immediately wanted to go back for seconds. When I returned a week later, I considered ordering one of the other 13 burgers, but ended up getting the exact same thing. It was that good.
Twisted Root Burger Company (Dallas, TX)
Kat Robinson, Southern correspondent: The Big Ass Burger is made from ground chuck and brisket, two half pound patties nicely crusted and cooked to order, served up on a custom made bun with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and housemade pickles on the side. Paired with Twisted Root's own Ancho-Chipotle Ketchup and a float made from root beer AND soft serve made in-house...it feels like a sin. I have dreamed hard on that burger in the seven months since I first laid mouth on it.
Grüner (Portland, OR)
Adam Lindsley, Seattle/Portland correspondent: I first tried Grüner's burger earlier this year and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. Every component—the high-fat beef, the sturdy but not crusty house-made bun, the creamy fontina, the insanely good bread-and-butter pickles and pickled onions—comes together in perfect harmony to make a burger I guarantee you'll dream about weeks later. The unreal fried smashed potatoes are just a bonus.
Shake Shack's Shack Stack (NYC)
Nick Chen, Philadelphia correspondent: In my opinion, there's no question that the "best burger I ate in 2010" honor belongs to the Shack Stack at Shake Shack. A double cheeseburger comprised of twin four-ounce patties, melted American cheese, and a fried portobello (stuffed with even more cheese), the Shack Stack is a delicious gutbomb that tricks you into thinking you're eating healthy (there is a mushroom after all). I'm well aware that a lot of people think that Shake Shack is overrated, and deserves no part in the "best burger" discussion. That's fine...haters gonna hate.
Multiple locations; check shakeshack.com
Serpentine (San Francisco)
David Kover, San Francisco correspondent: There's a reason I kicked off my AHT career with a review of Serpentine: I love that burger! The meat is stellar, but more than that, it's just such a well-balanced sandwich. The Serpentine burger features delicious house-made bread-and-butter pickles, pickled red onions and tangy cheddar. The flavors of these fixings are calibrated just right, so that they elevate but don't overwhelm the meat. Oh, and the burger is heck-a-juicy. I want one right now.
Farm Burger (Atlanta, GA)
Todd Brock, Atlanta correspondent: Tucked away in a trendy Atlanta suburb, Farm Burger's hook is their eco-friendly mentality: from locally-raised, grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free cows to the garden-fresh veggies, all the way down to compostable containers. Yes, it's a burger joint that locavores can feel good about, but there's plenty for carnivores to sink their teeth into as well. Build your own burger from an impressive toppings roster or go with one of their Blackboard Burgers. I decided to work up a Number Six on 'em (insert your favorite Blazing Saddles quote here): house-cured bacon, pepper jack cheese, salsa verde, and a sunny-side-up egg, all bookended by maybe the best bun I've ever had. I don't know about that cow's carbon footprint, but I can say it made for the best burger I ate this year.
See also: Atlanta's Farm Burger Gets an A for Locavorism and a B for Burgers (review by Daniel Zemans)
Namu (San Francisco)
Will Goldfarb, Condiments reviewer: Namu's burger starts with a juicy and perfectly cooked Niman Ranch patty resting in a soft pain de mie bun, topped with dijon mustard and aioli. From there they infuse Korean flavors with kaiware, pickled daikon, soy-glazed onions, and a must-have kimchi relish. The result is a delicious and unique burger.
Robyn Lee, AHT editor: Despite eating lots of burgers in 2010 (I had to...for my job), the burger I remember most fondly from this year is one that was among my favorites in 2009: the cheeseburger from Veselka. Its deliciousness has been argued about on AHT in the past, but I stand by the burger-grilling abilities of this Ukrainian restaurant. The patty is juicy and bursts with beefiness, and comes on a great, perfectly sized, sesame seed-laden bun. Some people may think this burger is too boring, but it doesn't need more components. I wouldn't change a thing about this burger.