Editor's note: For our new series of Burger City Guides, we're asking our favorite chefs from around the country to tell us about their five favorite burgers in the cities/states they're based in. Got requests? Let us know in the comments or email us at email@example.com.
Despite a strong penchant for the Cajun and Southern flavors he's become known for across New Orleans, Louisiana native Donald Link is a sucker for the simple, all-American hamburger. "I don't care for any gourmet versions," he says. The perfect Link burger must be balanced: The meat can't be too thick, the onions and tomatoes must be sliced thin, and the lettuce should be shredded. Cheese and condiments should be simple, limited to cheddar with mustard, ketchup, and especially mayonnaise. If the bread tears apart halfway through, it pisses him off. He's earned his right to be picky: With four restaurants to his name, the James Beard award-winner has made a lasting impression on the Big Easy's culinary tradition.
In Donald's words, check out five burgers that fit the bill, in no particular order (he swears):
1. Lee's Burgers, simply cooked on a flat top with mayo, mustard, and onions. This is the real old-fashioned way. The meat is not too thick or dense, and everything is perfectly balanced.
Multiple locations listed at leesburgers.com
2. The Company Burger is a great concept. They use good-quality beef and grind their meat fresh. American cheese is crucial to me for a good burger, and they do it right. The proportion of meat to bread to sauce is right on and it eats well.
The Company Burger, 4600 Freret Street, New Orleans LA 70115 (map); 504-267-0320; thecompanyburger.com
3. I love the burgers at the Carrollton Boosters Little League ballfield at The Fly. This one surprises people. The meat is nothing special but they are all grilled to order and dusted heavily with Tony Chachere's Cajun spice. You get the bun at the stand with lettuce, tomato and cheese, and take it to the grill, where it goes straight from the grill to your bread. Then you put your condiments on. It's awesome. I could eat three of them—that's the true test of a hamburger.
The Fly, New Orleans LA 70118 (map)
4. Then there are the burger stands like Pirate Cove in North Louisiana at Toledo Bend Lake, where I grew up fishing. They take forever, but they are truly some of the best I have ever had. I think the secret to these is that they toast the bun on the flat top in the meat grease, adding just the right toasty, meat-soaked crust.
Pirate Cove Marina, 1567 Caribbean Drive, Florien, LA 71429; 318-565-4467 (map)
5. And then there's my back yard.