Newmarket, NH: Rocky's Famous Burgers

Today's reader recommendation comes from Michael T, aka Pavlov on AHT/Serious Eats, who came to us after noticing our lack of New Hampshire burger coverage. Thanks, Michael! If anyone else wants to share some burger intel, here's how to do it. —The Mgmt.

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[Photographs: Michael T.]

Rocky's Famous Burgers

171 Main St., Newmarket NH 03857 (map); 603-292-3393; rockysfamousburgers.com
Cooking Method: Char-grilled
Price: 1/4-pound Rocky Jr., $2.99; 1-pound double patty "London", $8.99; fries, $1.99 (small), $2.99 (large); deep fried Oreos, 1 for $0.69, 3 for $1.79

"Rocky's Famous Burgers, what's so famous about them?!" I asked myself this every time I drove by the place. About three weeks ago, stumped for a place to get a quick bite, I finally relented.

Stepping into the cozy restaurant, I was surprised to find the place was just about full. Even more full was the menu board, listing everything from the simple Rocky Jr. Burger, to the Daredevil. For the Daredevil, you order the meat and they add whatever toppings they want. Check out their website menu to see the available extras, and you'll see that this may be a daredevil decision indeed. The staff was helpful and friendly without being overbearing. The walls are decorated with pictures of all their customers'...dogs? "You get a free small fry when you bring in a picture of your dog to add to our Dogwall," I was told.

I then saw something that intrigued me: the Oktoberfest, a seasonal burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, bacon, and spicy brown mustard on a pretzel bun...a pretzel bun? I gotta have this! Between the choice of an 8-ounce 80/20 blend all black Angus beef, bison burger ($1 extra), chicken breast, or house made black bean veggie burger, I went for the beef. The choices were "pink" or "not pink"—I went for pink. Oh, and a large fry.

The burger was grilled to perfection—well, as perfect as "pink" can be—and seasoned equally well. The pretzel bun was not toasted, but as it is a pretzel (of sorts) it had a nice brown top and a good sprinkling of pretzel salt. The cheese was well melted and had just enough spicy mustard added to go nicely with the sauerkraut. The burger was super juicy with crunchy charred bits that played nicely with the bacon and sauerkraut, the lettuce and tomato added a nice crisp finish. Its ratio of burger to bun was excellent, so upon finishing there is just enough bun left to hold the last messy dripping bite together without having to grab for the 20th 100% post consumer product recycled paper napkin.

The one slight downer with the whole burger was the thinness of the bacon. I like a slab bacon preferably smoked with fruit wood—the owners like the way you can pile the thin bacon. I have tried the Mule, which is lettuce, tomato, onion, blue cheese, and bacon, on another visit, and oddly the bacon seemed to work on that one so...meh, s'alright.

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Fries with that? Hells yeah! The fries are of the shoestring variety and hand cut daily by virgins. Ok, I made up the virgins part, but they are hand-cut and blanched before being cooked to order. Nicely browned with little bits of crunchy smaller fry pieces seasoned with salt and peppery. The only problem I had with the fries was that I had no idea ordering a large would deplete the entire east coast of russet potatoes. The small is plenty. Besides, you should save room for the deep fried Oreos.

Owners Jillian Kalosky and Brian Donner have been open almost 2 years. Jillian is a former vegetarian (welcome back Jillian!) and Brian is a self confessed burger lover from way back, citing his favorite burger as Hodad's double bacon cheese burger (lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, mustard, mayo, ketchup) in San Diego.

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Finally, who's Rocky? He's Brian and Jillian's dog, a four-year-old Lab mix who's featured on the sign. Is he Famous?!...you bet your a$$ he is! Pavlov

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