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Follow me to a Greensboro burger crawl

by Kristi Maier

@triadfoodies

So who needs a hashtag or a National anything to celebrate— well—anything? Certainly not me—and I bet you neither.

But since National Hamburger Day, aka #nationalhamburgerday is coming upon us this Saturday, May 28, we thought we’d get in on the fun and do a burger crawl! That’s right! But—.there’s a caveat. See, Greensboro is kind of known for being a burger town. Always has been since back in the days of Hamburger Square downtown where there were burgers on every corner.

Today, there are some really good burger joints to choose from. Hops, Big Burger Spot, Emma Keys, Burger Warfare are some of the recent greats—and while we give these burger places their “graces” for being burger royalty, this crawl is taking you to the spots in the Gate City that you might not have heard of or even know that they serve pretty darn good burgers. Not classic burger places either. Not even places known for burgers at all.

Shall we go over the rules again? Always more fun with two people. That way there’s more sharing, which means more tasting without getting so full. Burgers can be quartered so that’s what we did. Plus it’s also good to get opinions. Mr. Foodie and I enlisted Randy Barnes, who writes the blog Hamburger Square. He considers himself somewhat of a burger expert. I pretty much let him choose all the places. Our comrade, Chef Lynn Wells, was our fourth “man.” We kept the burgers simple (#baconischeating) because if you can keep it simple and do it well, then your other burgers are sure to be darn good. Plus it made for a more fair comparison.

First stop: Tony’s Citgo, aka Tony’s Food Mart, 3300 Edgefield Road It’s a gas station, people. Full-fledged.

You can get a tank of gas and a 1/4 pound, 1/2 pound or even one whole pound burger. Our chef, “Brandon” has been manning the grill for two years. The meat comes in fresh daily and the burgers are griddled on the flat top to order. You can get an order of fries or onion rings and they even have homemade ranch. The burger was a great size (we split the 1/2 pound four ways), nice and wide, thick and perfectly cooked. Juicy too. There are picnic tables on the side of Tony’s near the kerosene tank for relaxing. But it was looking stormy so we opened some of Randy’s folding chairs and each ate our quarters at his TV tray and I dare say, it was charming. If you’re not on a crawl, your dessert can be one of those packaged pink snowballs. To each his own.

Stop #2: Jams Deli, 5707 Friendly Avenue Mostly known for all kind of sandwiches, Jam’s has a really great vibe. I love the checkerboard and 50’s feel. But you might not know they have a pretty decent burger. It was one of Randy’s top burgers of the year. “I love it because it has shredded lettuce and not many places shred their lettuce—I call it the special sauce.” This burger was a bit smaller but still cooked nicely. Tony’s still wins.

Stop #3: Mark’s Restaurant, 616 Dolley Madison Road So Mark’s is a little more “high falutin” than most burger places. We sat down in the bar, ordered some cocktails, and decided on the Kobe Original burger, which comes pretty basic with a tomato and grilled onion (just lightly seared on the grill). This was the fanciest and most expensive burger of the evening—.$11-12 (because of the Kobe). Mark’s actually split the burgers for us and plated them individually along with our sweet potato chips. It definitely was the prettiest presentation and boy was it juicy with just the right amount of salty crust. The vote: Mark’s moves out to the front (even though Kobe might be cheating). Maybe you wouldn’t choose Mark’s for your burger night because you might think you’re going more upscale. Just know, you can eat in the bar or on the patio, wearing flip flops and really enjoy that burger. Plus, Tuesday nights are gourmet burger night where you can get a Kobe burger with a fried green tomato, pimento cheese and pepper jelly and doesn’t that just sound amazing?

Stop #4: Libby Hill Seafood, 3920 Cotswold Avenue Late last year, LH added a burger to the menu and they recently started adding more. I mean, you come to Libby Hill for seafood. But for that one problem person in your group who doesn’t like seafood, this may be a solution. The burger is a great size and ours was perfectly prepared. This burger was the one out the whole night that tasted like it could’ve been cooked in your backyard. It had a nice grilled flavor, juicy red tomato, leaf lettuce and smear of mayo. Solid.

Stop #5: Reel Seafood, 2002 New Garden Road Starting..to—get— full—. Not exactly where you would think to get a burger but they do have a burger on the menu when all you want is surf but your dining companion(s) want turf. The burger was a decent size and pretty tasty overall and cooked perfectly. However, we were all in agreement on one thing. Reel Seafood does seafood real well—it’s where they shine. So much so that you should order what they do when you go there.

This burger crawl was Greensborofocused and we want to send a shout out to those spots who keep us on our toes. Classic rock star props continue to go to out to: What-A-Burger (the locally owned), Beef a.k.a Biff Burger, Tipsy’s Tavern, Lindley Park Filling Station, and the aforementioned burger royalty at the top of the article. Crafted-The Art of the Taco also should get props for having a burger that some say is just as good as the famous tacos.

Honorable mention for burgers also goes to The Porterhouse Food Truck. I haven’t eaten at the restaurant on Market Street, but recently I had a Mushroom + Swiss burger from the truck and it was one of the best shroom burgers I’ve ever had. The mushrooms were hearty and still had a bite, the onions were sweet and caramelized, the Swiss cheese was thick enough that you could taste its sharpness, the burger itself had a salty crunchy exterior and was perfectly cooked inside. And it was all on a fluffy bun. You could taste all the layers in every bite.

And so we don’t leave out some of the Winston-Salem greats, we’re currently loving the Burger Supreme pop-up at Mission Pizza at lunch on Wednesdays, the Camel City Grill food truck (try anything with pimento cheese or the peanut butter, bacon and pepper jelly), First Street Draught House, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, Foothills Brewing’s burger and recently Chef Travis Myers has been adding creative burgers to Willow’s Bistro menus. And Graze has this ridiculous burger with fried chicken on it! And if you don’t mind the short drive, Chef Dion Sprenkle has Wacky Wednesday, which features three different burgers topped with crispy onions or an amazing house-smoked pastrami.

If you need to refer to YES! Weekly’s burger issue from July 2015, it wouldn’t hurt. That indeed was a labor of love for all of us here. !

Foodie Note: In last week’s Chow featuring The Katharine Brasserie, the desserts should be attributed to Executive Chef Ed Witt.

KRISTI MAIER is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.

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