PHOTO: The 571 Haystack Burger from 571 Grill & Draft House in New Carlisle, Ohio. (photo by David Stefanic)
There are few things better than a good burger. We're talking a big, juicy—sometimes stacked to the nines—hamburger or cheeseburger. A good one can be worth taking a trip for, but not all burgers are made equal.
With that in mind, let's look specifically at the Midwest: These six, all-star burger joints are well worth the trip for those passing through or serious enough about their burgers to make it a destination.
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Of course, with anything like burgers, people tend to be passionate about their favorites. Disagree with this list? Feel like your favorite burger was omitted? Let us know!
Kuma's Corner: Chicago, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana
The great thing about Kuma's corner is that they're obviously 100 percent dedicated to being the best burger joint in the Midwest. That shows on their menu, which has a tremendous variety of unique burgers, most which are named as odes to heavy metal bands.
Even the most classic burger, "The Famous Kuma", is stacked with smoked bacon, cheddar, fried egg, lettuce, tomato and red onion.
From there, it just gets even more creative.
The "ABSU" has pepper jack cheese, red onion, avocado relish, queso fresco, a trio of breaded deep fried chiles and tomatillo salsa.
The Lair of the Minotaur comes with brie, a poached pear, caramelized onions and pancetta.
Then there's the Slayer, which should automatically come with a "take home" box. It's a 10 oz burger that sits on a bed of fries. Kuma's piles chili, caramelized onions, andouille sausage, cherry peppers, Monterrey jack cheese, scallions and "anger" on top.
Kuma's plethora of locations should make it even more appealing to the midwestern burger lover. The original is located on West Belmont Ave. in Chicago. There's two other Chicago locations, one in Schaumburg, Illinois and another in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.
Christy Crème: Council Bluffs, Iowa
Not to be confused with the donut chain, Christy Crème is a small, old-school burger and ice cream parlor. Think of it as a locally owned Culvers and, unlike the chain, it has all the charm that comes along with being a true "mom and pop" shop—it's a third-generation family business that has been locally owned since 1954.
Ice cream—and specifically the homemade sherbert—is a must when visiting Christy Crème. But so are the burgers. They have classic hamburgers and cheeseburgers, and if you ask for "with everything", you'll get ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickles and more ketchup.
There's also a bacon burger, a traditional patty melt and a pork tenderloin burger, which is somewhat of an Iowan specialty.
The prices are cheap (the cheeseburger checks in at $4.09), and the menu selection won't blow you away, but the experience is what really matters: The burgers are homemade, classic and created from Omaha Steaks.
To add to the charm, Christy Crème's burgers and treats are only available seasonally. It's closed in November, December and January.
Harry's Restaurant: Manhattan, Kansas
Harry's joins history and quality to bring travelers a must-find Midwestern burger joint.
The restaurant is named after Harry Pratt Wareham, who was an integral part of Manhattan's history and development. He created The Wareham Hotel in 1925, which was as elegant as it was notable at the time because of its six stories (a big deal in this Manhattan). Unfortunately, a 1951 flood devastated the hotel.
Fortunately, the main level became Harry's restaurant when renovations started in 1984.
Known for its dinner, wine and bakery, there's something for everybody at Harry's. Specifically for the burger lover, the "Harry's Burger" is especially worth making a reservation for.
It's fresh ground and cooked to order, made from American "Kobe" Wagyu beef. Harry's then adorns the patty with pecan smoked bacon, mozzarella cheese, iceberg lettuce and tomatoes. It all comes on a house onion bun that is toasted with foie gras herb butter and ancho chile aioli. This burger is a real treat for the senses, especially when paired with the truffle french fries and perhaps a dinner salad on the side.
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Duluth Grill: Duluth, Minnesota
Located right near the St. Louis Bay in Duluth, Minnesota, the Duluth Grill has a handful of unique burger options, all made from fresh, local and organic food.
The “Royal Burger” is a must-have: It features grass fed beef topped with cherrywood smoked bacon, sliced cheddar, hydro bib lettuce, tomatoes and 1,000 island dressing. It’s served on a brioche bun and comes with a side.
The Garlic-Gouda burger and Blue Cheese Burger are pretty self-explanatory, though the blue cheese does also come with maple bacon jam and caramelized onion.
The really adventurous among us may choose the Lincoln Park Industrial Burger or the Yker/Thell PB burger. The former is made from bison patty and adorned with wild mushroom, homemade sauerkraut, swiss cheese, onion rings and sriracha aioli.
The Yker/Thell PB burger is a real smorgasbord of flavor. It’s made with a pork and beef patty that is seasoned with ginger, garlic and sesame. It's then spread with peanut butter, Korean barbecue sauce, homemade kimchi and an over easy egg. Add some cilantro and the brioche bun, and you’ve got one of the most unique burgers in the Midwest.
Dinker's: Omaha, Nebraska
Dinker’s is a small, hole-in-the-wall joint, but there’s a sign outside that claims it has Omaha’s best burger, (which is a pretty easy claim). Frankly, Dinker’s pack-a-punch burgers compete with any—not just in Omaha, but throughout the Midwest.
Dinker’s started as a neighborhood bar in 1965 but is now known for both its cold drinks and food. Of course, it has classic hamburgers, cheeseburgers and bacon cheeseburgers. But if you’re really hungry, check out the Ultimate Triple Decker Dinker, which features three patties (nearly a pound of meat!), mayonnaise, hickory smoked bacon and sauteed onions, all on a grilled Kaiser bun.
The Haystack burger is another favorite. It’s topped with American cheese, honey smoked ham and a free range fried egg. For only $5.95.
That’s a tremendous deal for a tremendous burger.
571 Grill & Draft House: New Carlisle, Ohio
Located in small-town New Carlisle, the 571 Grill & Draft House may be a bit out of the way, but it’s well worth finding.
That's particularly true of the 571 HAYSTACK. It's made with a special blend called 571 sauce, (which has a bit of heat to it). On top, you'll find slices of smoked gouda cheese, applewood smoked bacon, onion straws, lettuce, tomato, pickle and Jalapeños. (You can add an egg to this delicious burger, and it becomes a “Hen House”.)
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, the glazed donut bacon cheeseburger will be right up your alley. It’s got the same burger, smoked bacon, and 571 sauce. Throw in the glazed donut, and it all comes together rather nicely with a sweet and savory mix.
Last but not least is the Mac Daddy Burger. That one's surrounded by a smoked gouda mac and cheese patty. Throw in the applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese and BBQ sauce, and this is a burger that may give you heartburn, but it’s well worth it.