Slideshow: Staff Picks: Our Last Burgers on Earth

Rustic Canyon | Los Angeles
Rustic Canyon | Los Angeles
As my father is fond of saying when he chooses an present indulgence over future security: "I could be dead tomorrow." Unless "Last Burger on Earth" refers to a Martian migration, for the purposes of this exercise in burger eschatology I will be dead tomorrow, so why not indulge. I pick the Breakfast Burger from Rustic Canyon. The eight ounces of 80/20 Niman Ranch beef, thick cut bacon confit (cooked and preserved in duck fat), Tillamook sharp cheddar, a fried egg, and arugula sitting betwixt a Röckenwagner bun would be enough to make this a burger for end times, but there's more. Chef Evan Funke adds a round of perfectly-cooked hash browns that might stamp this burgers ticket to eternity. —Damon Gambuto, Los Angeles correspondent

Rustic Canyon review »

1119 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica CA 90401 (map); 310-393-7050‎; rusticcanyonwinebar.com

[Photograph: Damon Gambuto]

David Burke's Primehouse | Chicago
David Burke's Primehouse | Chicago
I suppose it's possible that the day will come that I find a burger that I enjoy more than the one at David Burke's Primehouse, but I kind of doubt it. I've had some great contenders to the throne, including a couple—Sepia and Owen & Engine—that I've reviewed recently on AHT. But the beefy intensity, the funk from 40 days of dry aging, the magnificent crust, the garlic spinach and crispy shallots on top, and the bacon mayo on the toasted potato bun all come together to form a truly special blend of flavors and textures. And at $12 in a downtown steakhouse surrounded by burgers that are routinely 25 percent more expensive, this thing's also a helluva deal. —Daniel Zemans, Chicago correspondent

David Burke's Primehouse review »

616 N. Rush Street, Chicago IL 60611 (map); 312-660-6000; jameshotels.com

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Holsteins | Las Vegas
Holsteins | Las Vegas
You've probably seen this burger photo if you've been hanging around AHT lately. Holsteins was tops in my Five Best Burgers on The Strip round-up, and is currently stalking my dreams. The freshly ground patty made from a blend of dry and wet-aged beef was cooked to such a vibrant pink that it was practically scandalous, while the moisture that bubbled out of the loosely-packed patty was almost obscene. Add some thick-cut, seasoned steak fries and a boozy shake along side it and I'm completely done for. —Erin Jackson, San Diego correspondent

Holsteins review »

3708 Las Vegas Blvd. South 89109, in the Cosmopolitan (map); 702-698-7940; holsteinslv.com

[Photograph: Erin Jackson]

Apple Pan | Los Angeles
Apple Pan | Los Angeles
My pick for the Last Burger on Earth: the Steakburger from Apple Pan in Los Angeles. Might be because it was the first "great" burger I ever had, but it continues to hold up visit after visit. I love the hint of apple in the occasional burger, as if the guy making the pies moved directly over to forming the patties without changing gloves. Impossibly tender beef. If the apocalypse is eminent, I'm setting up camp here. —Adam Lindsley, Portland correspondent

Apple Pan review »

10801 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles CA 90064 (map); 310-475-3585

[Photograph: Nick Solares]

Kopp's Frozen Custard | Milwaukee
Kopp's Frozen Custard | Milwaukee
Hands down my last burger would be a butter burger from Kopp's Frozen Custard. It may not be gourmet, but it's a fantastic fast food burger that happens to be the only one I crave in between burger reviews. I'm guessing that stems from the fact that I grew up with Kopp's, and the burgers haven't changed a bit. Gooey American cheese, thin patties, and, of course, butter make this like an un-grilled patty melt. Don't forget, even if you're full, you have to get custard for dessert! —Lacey Muszynski, Milwaukee correspondent

Review coming soon!

Multiple locations; check kopps.com

[Photograph: Lacey Muszynski]

Super Duper | San Francisco
Super Duper | San Francisco
Last burger on earth? Wait, I'm dying?? Is it because I ate too many burgers???

I think I'd want to keep those last bites simple, a sort of final taste of a burger in its basic form, so I'd go to Super Duper. There are no shocking bells and whistles, just high-quality ingredients. The patty of Niman Ranch beef gets griddled until a healthy flavor-crust develops, but it's still juicy. I don't think I'd need anything fancier than that to send me into the great beyond. —David Kover, San Francisco correspondent

Super Duper review »

Multiple locations; check superdupersf.com

[Photograph: David Kover]

John Howie Steak | Bellevue, WA
John Howie Steak | Bellevue, WA
John Howie Steak's gargantuan Kiss Your Hips Goodbye Burger would be my last burger on earth because I'm fairly certain eating a whole one of these would be the end of me, but in a most delicious way. Nearly a pound of grilled prime chuck, tempura-fried bacon and onion rings, melted cheddar and Swiss cheese, all stacked between two grilled cheese sandwiches, this burger is not for the faint or cholesterol-wary heart. It's a jumble of textures and flavors, all crispy, juicy and stringy from the cheese, but amazingly you still taste the beef, which elevates it from being just a crazy pile of food. Originally called The Triple Bypass Burger, it's name was changed after a legal dust-up with an Arizona chain having the same burger name, but I don't care what you call it; I just consider it one hell of a last meal. —Denise Sakaki, Seattle correspondent

John Howie Steak review »

11111 Northeast 8th Street, Ste. 125, Bellevue WA 98004 (map); 425-440-0880; johnhowiesteak.com

[Photograph: Denise Sakaki]

Pie 'n Burger | Pasadena, CA
Pie 'n Burger | Pasadena, CA

It's an unassuming sandwich, sitting there wrapped in its parchment paper sheath: There's nothing too special about it. It's made of very loosely packed ground beef (unspecified cut, not ground in-house, no famous butcher behind the label) cooked on a griddle with a slice of American cheese. The bottom of a toasted bun gets slathered thick with Thousand Island-style spread with a few pickle slices and a slab of onion, and the whole thing is topped with crisp iceberg and a toasted top bun. That's it.

But a bite reveals its secrets: This is a perfectly balanced burger. Biting into it, you get the soft give of the pillowy bun followed by a touch of creamy richness from the sauce on your tongue cut with the fresh crunch of iceberg from the top. Next, the textures reverse themselves, the tang of pickles and hot bite of onion slashing through the richness of the sauce while your top teeth meet the hot, rich lavaburst of melted cheese. Finally, upper jaw and lower strike the beef, itself an exercise in textural contrast, the crisply seared crust giving way to juicy pockets of melted fat and gooey cheese that have managed to find their way into the welcomingly open-textured patty. Your teeth meet in the tender, beefy, ever-so-slightly pink center. It's glorious. —Kenji Lopez-Alt, Serious Eats chief creative officer and Burger Lab columnist

Pie 'N Burger review »

913 East California Boulevard, Pasadena CA 91106 (b/n South Lake Ave and South Mentor Ave; map); 626-795-1123; pienburger.com

[Photograph: Kenij Lopez-Alt]

Shake Shack
Shake Shack
When I crave a burger, Shake Shack is my first choice. When visitors from out of town want burgers, Shake Shack is where I bring them. And when I find out a friend doesn't like Shake Shack, I question that friendship. On my deathbed, bring me a Shack Burger (and frozen custard). —Robyn Lee, editor of A Hamburger Today and photographer

I'm sure people have said it already, but when I close my eyes and picture the burger, I picture a Shack Burger, after a long wait spent drinking plenty of Shackmeister. —Ben Fishner, Serious Eats technical support and project manager

Shake Shack review »

Multiple locations; check shakeshack.com

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

The Breslin and Lot 2 | NYC
The Breslin and Lot 2 | NYC
I've been hesitant to answer this because I really can't make up my mind between two amazing burgers: the sheeptastic lamb burger from The Breslin or the beefy kick-in-the-mouth pub-style burger from Lot 2. Every time I bite into one I think, "Yeah, this is my last burger on earth." Then came the day when I ate both burgers in one day...and I just. couldn't. decide. So I'm going to say both, or either, depending on which I've most recently eaten. —Max Falkowitz, editor of Serious Eats: New York

The Breslin review »
Lot 2 review »

The Breslin: 16 West 29th Street, New York NY 10001 (map); 212-685-9600
thebreslin.com
Lot 2: 687 6th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11215 (b/n 19th and 20th streets; map); 718-499-5623; lot2restaurant.com

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Hinkle's Sandwich Shop | Madison, IN
Hinkle's Sandwich Shop | Madison, IN
I'm going to go all Calvin Trillin and pick the burger I grew up eating in my hometown. (Well, it's actually located five miles from my hometown, but that's close enough, right?) Hinkle's Sandwich Shop in Madison, Indiana, specializes in very thin burgers that are topped with caramelized onions and served on fluffy little dinner roll buns. To this day, this style remains my ideal burger. That the burgers are served in an old school joint, which has been open since 1933 (minus a fire in 2000 when I was in high school), only adds to the experience. —Nick Kindelsperger, editor of Serious Eats: Chicago

204 West Main Street, Madison IN 47250 (map); 812-265-3919; hinkleburger.com

[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Le Pigeon | Portland, OR
Le Pigeon | Portland, OR
I'd have to say I'd go for the burger at Le Pigeon in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. They only do five a night—though you can also get a similar burger at Gabriel Rucker's other spot, Little Bird. This burger is insanely juicy, drip-down-your-face-and-arms juicy, and it's totally worth getting there early for it. —Maggie Hoffman, editor of Serious Eats: Drinks

Le Pigeon review »

738 East Burnside Street, Portland OR 97214 (map); 503-546-8796; lepigeon.com

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Kenji's Burger Joy
Kenji's Burger Joy
My pick for "Last Burger on Earth" is easy: the original with American cheese from Happy Kenji's Burger Joy (that's the name of Kenji's fictitious burger joint). When Kenji was tirelessly working on perfecting his burger recipe, I did some of the best burger eating of my days. His is essentially a terrific version of a classic roadside burger stand burger—thin, juicy, and loosely packed with the maximum amount of browned crust from the griddle. Whenever he had a burger making night, I made sure I was there to help taste them. I like to think I contributed to their excellence in some small way. In that process, I learned all about the difference grinding meat makes (haven't bought pre-ground since) and the cuts and ratios that give a good burger the right amount of fattiness and depth of flavor. Those burgers define my ideal burger. —Meredith Smith, editor of Slice

The Burger Lab: The World's Best Burger for a Single Man (or Woman) »

[Photograph: Kenij Lopez-Alt]

Minetta Tavern | NYC
Minetta Tavern | NYC
I vote for the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern. Go big or go home. —Jessica Leibowitz, Serious Eats videographer and photographer

Black Label Burger review »

113 MacDougal Street, New York NY 10012 (map); 212-475-3850; minettatavernny.com‎

[Photograph: Robyn Lee]