To give the Indianapolis burger scene some love (and point you in the direction of some worthy local options), we've enlisted the help of Micah Frank, chef/partner at Black Market and two-time nominee for Food & Wine's The People's Best New Chef (2012 and 2014).
When it comes to his idea of a "perfect burger", Micah typically likes a classic presentation with a small, extra-fatty patty (70:30) liberally seasoned with salt and pepper, cooked to medium in its own fat in a cast iron skillet, and topped with American cheese, ketchup, yellow mustard, pickle, and raw onion. In the summertime, when tomatoes are at their peak, Micah tops his patty with marinated Indiana heirloom tomatoes and onions and encases it in a yeast based olive-garlic-basil bun. When he's looking to liven up a burger, he says he sometimes reaches for olive and botargo (salted, cured fish roe) relish.
So, where does this self-taught chef go to satisfy his burger cravings in Indianapolis? Scroll down to find out.
Micah Frank's Top 5 Burgers in Indianapolis
1: Working Man's Friend: This is "old school craft" at its best. Double grinding fatty chuck is the key to achieving what would seem impossible: paper-thin, crispy edges of beef hanging out from the steamed non-fancy bun. Simply dressed with only the basics—ketchup, mustard, pickle and raw onion—this classic "flat top" double cheeseburger is a refreshing retreat from the multiple gourmet varieties found on today's trendy menus.
234 N Belmont Avenue, Indianapolis IN 46222 (map); 317-636-2067
2: Duos: Prime time Indiana produce mingles with Asian ingredients to create the ultimate summer-only non-meat burger. Fermented tofu patty, seared to perfection, combined with soy marinated Indiana Beefsteak tomatoes, carrot and ginger, topped with crushed peanut-scallion salad on a homemade "City Bun" served with local greens. Umami anyone?
2960 N Meridian Street, Indianapolis IN 46208 (map); 317-508-8614; duosindy.com
3: Twenty Tap The light potato bun is a highlight without overpowering the 100 percent all natural Indiana beef patty from Fischer Farm, which doesn't get lost despite being topped with tomato-bacon jam, creamy Brie, fried potatoes and an egg. This burger is just as functional as it is flavorful.
5406 N College Avenue, Indianapolis IN 46220 (map); 317-602-8840; twentytap.com
4: Golden Ace Inn: They have used the same cast iron skillet used to fry each burger for the past 30 years. No frills beef patty cooked in its own fat and served on a soft, sweet bun with a limited selection (thank you!) of traditional toppings. Appreciate the wait over an Irish whiskey...or three.
2533 E Washington Street, Indianapolis IN 46201 (map); 317-632-0696; goldenaceinn.com
5: Shoefly Public House: Well seasoned and cooked a perfect medium well, this juicy 100 percent pork patty is simply adorned with thinly sliced tart apple, smoked Gouda, and dressed arugula. This non-traditional burger doesn't try too hard—the texture and flavors just make sense.
122 E 22nd Street, Indianapolis IN 46202 (map); 317-283-5007; shoeflypublichouse.com
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax