135 W 1300 S, Salt Lake City UT 84115 (map); 801-487-4418; lucky13slc.com
Cooking method: Grilled
Short Order: Flavorful burgers executed consistently well
Want Fries With That? Yes! Upgrade to the rosemary garlic fries or the beer-battered onion rings for a bit of heaven
Price: Breath Enhancer, $8; Celestial Burger, $9; all burgers come with regular fries; sub rosemary garlic fries or beer-battered onion rings, +$1.50
A year and a half ago, when I was 9.3 months pregnant, I had an intense need for a thick, juicy burger with flavor to last for days. Lucky 13 was the only burger joint that would do. Cue heavily pregnant woman walking into a bar (did I mention Lucky 13 is a bar?) and showing her ID to the bouncer to claim her burger prize. The next day, Baby Zog decided to make an appearance. I attribute this to Lucky 13's rosemary garlic fries and intense house smoked bacon. Who knows, maybe Baby Zog was just anxious to be able to bite into his own Breath Enhancer burger.
Garlic burgers are kind of a thing in Salt Lake. When Carey visited Utah as part of her cross-country eating quest, we visited two restaurants well-known for their garlic burgers. Total failures. It was after she left that I happened upon Lucky 13 through suggestion of some good friends. Good friend status was solidified after my first bite.
Lucky 13 cleans up quite nice on the outside, with a shiny tin roof, colorful neon signs, and an outdoor patio you'll want to use in nice weather (not so much now, when it's 9°F). The inside shows its gritty dive bar side—a side that, frankly, makes the place all the more lovable. And if you need more reason to check it out, last year they won the title of Best Burger in the World at the 2012 World Food Championships. Downsides to Lucky 13 are it's small and pot-hole ridden parking area, and the sometimes very difficult to reach take-out line.
Before you take the flavor plunge at Lucky 13, prepare to smell like garlic for the rest of the day. Begin with the Breath Enhancer ($8), which has fresh minced garlic, onion, rosemary, cheddar, field greens, and tomato. All burgers come on rosette buns from Stoneground Bakery. The fluffy bun comes in handy for soaking up the burger's juices.
The standard burgers at Lucky 13 all come with seven ounces of fresh 80/20 house ground chuck, cooked to medium, unless otherwise specified. While one of my burgers on this trip was slightly uneven in color, the flavor was still beefy, juicy, and tender. The grilled patty has a slight char on the outside and the beef was evenly seasoned.
The finely minced garlic is made into a paste of sorts, and acts as the condiment of choice on the Breath Enhancer. Depending on your love of garlic, it may feel like a little pop in the mouth. However, the substantial patty can take the heat.
If you want a burger similar to their prize-winner, order the Celestial Burger ($9). This burger comes with caramelized onions, tomato, field greens, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, and the all important and truly celestial component, house smoked bacon. The bacon is smoked daily, using hickory and applewood. It's thick-cut, intense, and crackly all at once. Arguments could be made that you would want to eat this as its own meal.
As for your sides, upgrade to the rosemary garlic fries or the beer-battered onion rings (+$1.50) and your meal will be complete. The garlic fries are thick cut, coated lightly with oil, rosemary, and the requisite garlic. The onion rings are also thick cut, and the batter has a slightly sweet flavor to it, similar in flavor to a yeast doughnut batter (read: really, really good).
If you find yourself in Salt Lake and want a deeply intense garlic burger experience, Lucky 13 should be top of list. Even if you don't love garlic, come here for one of the best burgers and bacon in Salt Lake. Although this is a meat-lovers paradise, any non-meat loving friends will be more than appeased with the fries and onion rings, and any burger can be made "Veggie Style" (with a Garden Veggie Burger or Spicy Chipotle Black Bean Burger) for an extra dollar. Don't forget your ID. Poor Baby Zog will have to make do with take-out versions until he hits the big 2-1.