13 East Broughton Street, Savannah GA 31401 (map); 912-231-0986; bdburgers.net
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Casual hangout that boasts the best burgers in town 10 years running, but your enthusiasm may vary
Want Fries with That? Lots of side options, including a Fry of the Week that they may or may not have
Price: 1/3-pound burgers $7.65+, 1/2-pounders $8.95+, 1-pound burgers, $10.95+
There's a lot to love about the city of Savannah. Ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss dot countless city squares. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clop down cobblestone streets. Salty ocean air breezes through historic cemeteries during moonlit ghost tours. The annual St. Patrick's Day celebration on River Street rivals Boston's and Chicago's... combined. It's Southern Gothic meets Hollywood. The park bench Forrest Gump sat on! The Bird Girl statue from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil!! Paula Deen!!!
But for all of the things the port of Savannah is known for, I never thought a world-class burger culture was one of them—until Travel + Leisure put Savannah in the Top 10 of their Best Burger Cities list. Having since tried the longstanding local champ, I'm afraid I still don't think of Savannah as a true burger destination.
B&D Burgers opened in 2001 and claimed Savannah Magazine's "Best Burger" title in 2002—and again in every year since. The best burger for ten years running, in the tenth-best burger city in the U.S.—that's setting the bar pretty high. Yes, I expected to have my taste buds blown off during a recent visit.
If sheer quantity is a category in these "Best Of" rankings, then I fully understand B&D's inclusion. The menu boasts 33 different burgers, each available as a third-, half-, or full-pounder, all with locally-significant monikers and topped with everything from guacamole to fried cheese sticks to pineapple. Or customize your own creation with six different cheeses and twelve other toppings. There's even a full menu page explaining how to order. There's plenty for carnivores to get excited about: fresh, never-frozen USDA Choice Angus chuck, Kaiser and wheat buns baked in-house every morning, an upfront willingness to cook your burger to any doneness from rare to well-done (and "possibly crispy"), even a Fry of the Week (although, sadly, the kitchen was out of sweet potato tots during my visit). Suffice it to say that making up your mind at B&D may be easier said than done.
My lunch companion and I settled on a divide-and-conquer approach, each ordering a pair of third-pound burgs apiece with four different sides in an attempt to sample as much of the menu as we could in a single visit. We had a B&D Burger (plain burger), The Broughton (American cheese only), The Forsyth (sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and Swiss), and The Troup Square (pepperoni, mushrooms, marinara, and mozzarella), along with fresh-cut fries, seasoned curly fries, sweet potato fries, and beer-battered onion rings.
B&D cooks their burgers over an open flame, leaving gorgeous grill marks on the beef. And the kitchen definitely knows how to hit their donenesses, producing medium patties that universally had the promised "warm, pink center."
But for me, that's where B&D stopped being special. The burgers were good, with a nice hit of char, decent seasonings, and solid flavor throughout. But nothing I tried ventured into "best" or even "great" territory. The toppings were on the skimpy side: one lonely pepperoni slice on The Troup Square?
And the buns, while tasty, were too much for the burgers. In fact, there was a pile of empty bun shrapnel leftover after every burger at my table. Would this roll size have been more proportionately-correct with a larger patty? Probably. But I gotta believe B&D sells more third-pounders than full-pounders; that bun needs to work for the smaller version, too.
The sides were acceptable, just not stellar. The fries were nicely seasoned right out of the kitchen, with the fresh-cut and sweet potato varieties outshining the limp curlies. The Fry of the Week idea is cool, the kind of thing that would encourage me to come back—but not when the kitchen runs out. (It's the Fry of the Week. Have enough to last a full week.) I'm not an onion ring fanatic, but these were quite good—I bit cleanly through the onion slices, and the batter stayed intact.
In all, B&D Burgers was just like Savannah itself for me: an attractive package, with a lot going for it...on the surface. Lots of people go to Savannah and fall in love. I just never have. Same with B&D. Having consumed 12 percent of the burger menu that's racked up 10 straight best-in-city awards, I couldn't find anything that warranted the hype. If I found myself in Savannah again with a hankering for a hamburger, would I go back to B&D? I suppose...but I'd bump it up to a half-pounder. (Truthfully, though, I'd probably go with the full Savannah experience: a wraparound front porch shaded by a giant magnolia tree where I can tuck into some shrimp and grits and pecan pie...and save the burger for Atlanta, where I know of a dozen burgers better than the best that Savannah apparently has to offer.)
About the Author: Todd Brock lives the glamorous life of a stay-at-home freelance writer in the suburbs of Atlanta. Besides being paid to eat cheeseburgers, he's written and produced over 1,000 hours of television and recently penned Building Chicken Coops for Dummies. When he grows up, he wants to be either the starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or the drummer for Hootie & the Blowfish. Or both.
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