Holsteins is the closest place you'll find to Umami Burger on the strip, but I wouldn't call it an imitator. They've got 15 options for burgers, ranging from the Big Fat Greek, a lamburger with feta cream, olive relish, and tatziki, to the Korean Bullgogi burger with sweet soy marinated beef with a kalbi glaze, kimchi slaw, chili mayo, and a fried egg. Even so, in order to establish a burger baseline, I went for the simplest option: a classic cheeseburger ($14, served with choice of fries).
Patties are hand-formed, with a mix of wet and dry-aged beef that's ground daily, in-house. The patty was throughly browned on both sides, with tasty bits of char, and was so impregnated with moisture that eating it was like having a sloppy make-out session with one of the juiciest, beefiest burgers of all time. Look closely, and you'll see moisture bubbling out of the beef. Better yet, all of the elements, from the toppings to the squishy, lightly toasted bun, were equally on point. You could go for one of the more complicated options, but for me, the classic is perfect, exactly how it is. This was far and away my favorite burger in Vegas, and securely in my top 5 burgers of all time.
From the outside, the Royal Resort, where The Barrymore is located, doesn't look like much, but inside, it's undergone a retro restoration that gives it way more personality than any spot on the strip. It would be worth checking out even if there wasn't a great burger, but fortunately, that's not the case: the burger is stellar.
There's a classic burger, but once you add cheese (for an extra dollar), you might as well go for the Steakhouse burger ($15) with a half pound of grilled grass-fed sirloin topped with Gruyère, frisée, oven-roasted tomatoes, garlic aioli, and the kicker: bacon marmalade. Asking for a medium-rare patty gets you something decidedly less pink than the burgers on the strip, but still plenty juicy and deliciously moist. Of all the loaded burgers I've tasted, this one was the most balanced. The bacon marmalade isn't as sweet as most, and the lightly garlicky aioli balances it out. The final touch, an English muffin-style bun, is lightly toasted, with a fine crumb. Chef Anthony Meidenbauer also created the menu for Public House (in the Venetian), which has a very similar burger. The only real difference is the spread of Guinness aioli, and it costs an extra $4.
Oh wait, how did this photo get in here? Please excuse the non-burger interruption, but the Warm Chocolate Cake ($8.50) with crunchy bits of hazelnut brittle and a ring of cookie crumble surrounding the scoop of vanilla ice cream must be mentioned. The cake was exceptionally moist and intensely chocolatey, making it easily the best treat I had on the trip. Trust me on this one, you want this for dessert.
Hubert Keller's Burger Bar may not have the same panache as Holsteins or The Barrymore, but that's hardly the point. The focus here is on customizable burgers that can be stacked up with toppings like pickled green tomatoes, asparagus, grilled shrimp, or pan-seared foie gras. A basic half-pound burger with freshly ground black Angus beef and the standard roughage starts at $9.50, with extras ranging from 45¢ (aioli) to $30 for 1/3 ounce of black truffles (the foie is a comparative steal at $12).
Initially, it felt wrong to order a simple cheeseburger ($9.20) but any hesitation quickly disappeared when I cut my burger in half to get the "autopsy" shot. The grilled, half-pound patty was so coarsely ground and lightly packed that it practically crumbled apart...and just like so many ill-placed roulette bets, it was gone in seconds. There wasn't much char, but the patty was so intensely beefy that I hardly noticed. You could satisfy your cravings for beef with a steak (and pay a lot more), but I'd stick with this burger instead. If you get fries, make sure to order some aioli for dipping. One portion is enough to cover a whole serving of fries, but both the garlic and the chipotle are great.
If you're curious which burger is Hubert's favorite, that's the (aptly named) Hubert Keller burger ($19.25), with buffalo, caramelized onions, spinach, and blue cheese on a ciabatta bun (served with some au jus on the side). There's a whole lot of umami going on with this burger, and the little pot of jus is a brillant way to make up for some of the fat that's lacking in the buffalo meat.
Another specialty? Dessert burgers ($5.75). This one had a "patty" of Nutella ganache, topped with kiwi, strawberry, and passionfruit gelée (which looks almost exactly like American cheese). The doughnut bun could have been a bit fresher, but as a novelty dessert, it didn't disappoint. There's also a version with a cream cheese filling and fruit, but it's overly sweet.
At Strip Burger, you can get a classic grilled cheeseburger ($9.95) or a griddled "old school burger" ($6.95, or $9.95 for a double). The restaurant may not grind their beef on site, but they do get a fresh shipment daily from Brandt Beef, a top-notch producer in Brawley, California. I tried both versions, and the old school griddled burger (pictured above) had the edge.
Rich and fatty beef juice seeped out of the patties, nearly obliterating the bun in the process. It's a big burger that's sometimes sloppy to eat, but the eating is good. The griddled patties were evenly browned with flecks of char and an aggressively beefy flavor.
That being said, if you like a burger with a lot of red in the center, it's wiser to stick with the grilled burger, which has a thicker 1/2-pound patty, instead of two thinner 1/4-pound'ers. Want a little bit more excitement? You can also get a burger topped with green chilis, mushrooms, bacon, or blue cheese and fried onions (the signature option).
BLT Burger's custom blend of sirloin, brisket, short rib, and chuck (ground daily, in house) made for a tasty burger, but the real standouts were the double smoked bacon and the heavily sesame seeded bun. You can add bacon to any burger for $1.50—a worthwhile investment. I tried the namesake option, a BLT Burger ($13), with seven ounces of grilled Angus beef topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and house sauce. The only miss was the sauce, which struck me as a bit too sweet. You might want to leave it off the burger or add a slice of cheese in its place.
The brisket and short rib made for a fatty, flavorful burger, but at $13 without a side, it was by far the most expensive of the bunch. If you're without a car and within easy walking distance of the Mirage, it's still a good option for lunch (and reasonably affordable by Vegas standards), but if you're more mobile, stick with one of the other options instead.
Honorable Mention: Fries at American Burger Works
American Burger Works' burger didn't make the cut, but their fries ($3) are worth trying. The spuds are cut long and fat, and lightly fried so they're crisp on the outside and full of potato fluff on the inside. Try 'em with one of 15 house-made sauces like chimichurri, ancho chili, or Jack Daniel's ketchup.
Honorable Mention: Shakes
Milkshakes, both with booze and without, are big in Vegas. I didn't have one with every burger, but can stand behind the shakes at Strip Burger and Holsteins. Strip Burgers shakes ($4.95 + $1.95 with a shot) are made with soft serve, and are some of the most affordable on the Strip, and if you're going all out with a boozy shake, you might was well do it at Holsteins, where they make their ice cream in house and offer flavors like the Drunken Monkey ($11), with banana, malt, Frangelico, and Reeses peanut butter cups. It's a lot to pay for a milkshake, but it's worth it.