STORY & PHOTOGRAPHY BY AUBREY DUNNUCK
Not all hamburgers are created equal. Luckily, local Bloomington restaurants offer enough variety to fulfill any craving. Whether you’re looking for a quick-and-dirty fast-food-style burger; a thick meat-centric pub-style burger; or a hamburger that elevates the familiar bun, beef, and cheese formula through expert technique and the finest ingredients, you’ll find it here. You’ll even find a wide variety of meatless burgers that might pleasantly surprise you with their texture and taste.
At its most basic level, the burger is all about taking two or three humble elements—ground meat, bread, and, perhaps, cheese—and transforming them into something significantly more than the sum of their parts. One of the great burger debates revolves around cooking methods: ridged grilling versus flattop griddling. For some, a charcoal grill is key. Charred grill marks and a hint of smoke add more than just flavor. The nostalgia factor should not be underestimated: the best grilled burgers can evoke memories of summertime cookouts. Detractors argue that grills with grates and ridges allow valuable fat to drip right off, leaving the meat with less flavor. Conversely, the magic of a griddled burger is in the fat. The combination of high heat and plenty of grease allows meat to develop a crusty exterior while the burger interior remains tender and moist. The bun is also important. It must be sturdy enough to stand up to a well-cooked patty but should never be overpowering in flavor or size. Likewise, toppings can make or break a burger. A slice of unmelted cheese or handful of soggy lettuce can ruin a tasty burger just as easily as overdone meat. Ultimately, the ideal burger is all about balance. Quality, well-cooked meat, a proportional bun, and complementary toppings will guarantee a really satisfying hamburger.
So why settle for a dried-up, mass-produced McDonald’s or Burger King offering when you can eat fresh, locally made burgers prepared exactly to your liking by fellow Bloomingburghers? Here are 36 local places where the burgers are tops.