So begins our ambitious (perhaps too much so) 50-part series called Where's the Beef, America?, in which we present a list of what appear to be the top burgers in each of this fine nation's great states. We say "appear" because we're simply doing some research on the Web, gathering entries from blogs and trolling through posts on Chowhound, eGullet, and RoadFood.com. We'll throw the beef at the wall, and if what sticks turns out to be bullshit, call us on it, especially if you live in the featured state. Leave your thoughts in the Comments section. Ed.
Delaware. The First State. So called because it was the first state to sign on to the Constitution. That was on this very date, December 7, way back in 1787.
Perhaps Delaware's representatives were visionaries, able to see the greatness that would eventually flow from the charter they were autographing. Or maybe they just envisioned a time down the road when their decendents would reap the benefits of "the most advanced and flexible business formation statute in the nation," i.e., credit card companies can rip you off there more easily than anywhere east of South Dakota.
But we digress. For all their apparent vision back in the day, we were hard-pressed to find much in the way of burgerdom in today's Delaware. But it's a small state, so we're sure there's more out there than the following two places:
JAKE'S HAMBURGERS | Newark, New Castle, Kirkwood Highway, Dover
Founded in Newark, Delaware, in 1991, Jake's is known for its freshnever frozen burgers and its shakes (Jake's make malts as well). Holly Moore of Holly Eats gives it 4 Grease Stains out of a possible 5, reporting that "the hamburgers are loose-packed and grilled." In the photo on Holly's Jake's page, the looseness of the grind is evident. Looks delicious.
A Delaware-native coworker of mine had this to say:
It started out as this little hole in the wall (which is still there), and it has outdoor dining. But it's funny because the outdoor seating area is right next to a four-lane highway. So you're sitting there eating, and all these cars are whizzing by. But people do it'cause it's that good.
It's also apparently good enough to franchise, as there are now three other Jake's in Delaware and one in Maryland. (Click here for Jake's locations)
... a hamburger joint that's been in operation since the 1950's. Although often touted as Delaware's best burger, I love the place more for its atmosphere and nostalgia. From the 1950's Jetson's architecture to the individual jukeboxes at each table, the place makes you feel like a member of the Cunningham family. Several generations of Delawareans have grown up with The Pit It serves many purposes for many people. A memorable destination for a child, a high school hangout, a meeting place, or simply a place for an inexpensive meal.
That's atmosphere, though. How's the burger? Joe H., a poster on Chowhound, says:
The Charcoal Pit cooks the 1/2 pound fresh ground chuck burger over, obviously, charcoal on a good bun. With your first bite the juice will spurt out in your mouth! Order it medium rare, they will ask, and don't have much more than cheese and maybe pickle and onion. They've won the title of best hamburger in the Delaware Valley (Wilmington plus surrounding area) for decades and I honestly believe it competes with Kincaid's Grocery in Fort Worth for the title of America's best.
The classic cheeseburger had that unique chargrilled taste that you rarely find anymore, even in places that grill their burgers over fire. The cooks will grill to your specifications, so the adventurous can still get some red in their burgers. We ordered ours medium and it arrived with just the slightest touch of pink; the perfect balance to bring out the meatiness of the burger. Your waitress will dress the burger from a condiment station and tear the lettuce from whole heads of crisp iceberg.
So, Delawarians: What's the word? Do these places stack up? Are the reviewers on target or in the crapper? Let us know. Comment away!
The Absolute Only Place to Stop: Wilmington's Charcoal Pit [Chowhound]
The Charcoal Pit [RoadFood.com]