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Hamburgers

Raglan Public House | Try The Lamb Burger, It’s Not Baaa’d

Raglan Public House | Try The Lamb Burger, It’s Not Baaa’d

Beginning with 100-percent organic, grass-fed beef, at first blush, Raglan’s burgers don’t seem all too different from higher-quality American versions. But look closer and you’ll find subtle differences, including fresh focaccia style buns, and use of Edam rather than cheddar or American cheese.

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern in San Diego

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern in San Diego

Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern offers a wide assortment of attractive burger options, and each possesses its own appetizing charms. But all of these beauties start off with one huge thing in common: a half pound, sirloin burger patty, formed with naturally raised beef from the Pacific Northwest.

Common Theory Public House — Only Common In Theory

Common Theory Public House — Only Common In Theory

Kearny Mesa may not be the San Diego neighborhood most associated with burgers and beer, but smack in the middle of Convoy Street, Common Theory Public House offers 30 taps of draft beer and a comprehensive menu of elevated pub fare.

Thai Burger Company | An Innovative San Diego Burger

Thai Burger Company | An Innovative San Diego Burger

Food vendors of every stripe bring their a game to the Reader Burgers & Beer Festival, and many bring inspired interpretations of what makes a hamburger. One such restaurant is the Thai Burger Company, and its efforts earned it a most innovative burger distinction in 2017.

The Media Likes Its Burgers Funky

The Media Likes Its Burgers Funky

Funky Burgers and Fries in El Cajon, San Diego

Funky serves big time burgers out in El Cajon, where it recently grew from being a cult favorite hole in the wall to a local destination burger joint, when it moved into a new, larger location. In addition to its signature standard, OG Burger, its loyal customers show up to dig on a dozen creatively constructed burgers that easily live up to the Funky name.

Take the Pizza Burger, topped with pepperoni, sausage, and fried mozzarella sticks. Or the Hangover Burger, which satisfies breakfast cravings with fried egg, hash browns, and bacon. The Southwest Shrimp & Steak is built like it sounds, with surf and turf toppings along with avocado and southwest-style hot sauce. Funky gives the same treatment to hot dogs, and even french fries. You'll find even more takes on dirty fries, smothered by the likes of chili, gyro meat, or buffalo chicken!

Funky Fries & Burgers won the coveted People's Choice award at the first Burgers & Beer contest with its delectable BBQ Pulled Pork Burger, topped by a four hour slow cooked pork, house BBQ sauce, cole slaw, onion rings, melted cheddar, and a drizzle of ranch dressing.

That's tough to beat, but in 2017, owner/chef Sebastian Hallak once again wanted to feature one of his regular menu items. This time he chose the Bacon Mac n Cheese Burger, topped with both melted cheddar and a fried patty of panko-crusted, three-cheese macaroni, served on a brioche bun. Funky didn't repeat as People's Choice, but it did win the Media Hour vote!

Grilled With Extra Sizzle

Grilled With Extra Sizzle

Banzai Bar Near the Sports Arena on Midway in San Diego

The official bar of the San Diego Gulls hockey team, it's not hard to spot this bar and restaurant near their sports arena home in the Midway District — just look for the large yellow neon arrow pointing at its patio. What's easier to miss is that the stylish little spot is a sister restaurant of Little Italy's legendary Waterfront Bar & Grill, home of the city's oldest liquor license and one of San Diego's most storied burgers.

Banzai Bar takes its burger cue from the Waterfront, which is primarily to keep it simple, and let the beef do the heavy lifting. Served with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and pickle on a on sesame seed bun, Banzai's burger patties are lightly seasoned with garlic salt, with beef ground with a rich 27-percent fat ratio for extra sizzle on that flat top grill. They're made with superior texture in mind, and always formed by hand, because Nancy Nichols, the family matriarch behind the Waterfront's success, always said that was the secret to making an especially juicy burger.

In the People's Choice contest of the 2017 Burgers & Beer event, Banzai scored runner up honors serving the same beef on a Hawaiian bun slider with American cheese. You may find those in the restaurant, or go with the half-pound Banzai Burger, offered with your choice of available cheeses, because Banzai wants every customer to leave happy.

Burgers Purely to Your Liking

Burgers Purely to Your Liking

San Diego's Pure Burger 100-Percent Grass-Fed Beef

Found in Bressi Ranch, Pure Burger has established a great reputation for itself as North County's premier build a burger joint, and the attention it pays to its beef has a lot to do with that. Always fresh, never frozen, Pure uses 100-percent grass fed beef in its burgers. It's sourced from the family-owned SunFed Ranch in Northern California, where the pasture-raised cattle isn't loaded with the added hormones and antibiotics of factory-farmed beef. Another key to Pure Burger's success is that it receives shipment of whole beef a couple times per week, and grinds it in house daily, with a blend of garlic powder, salt, and pepper, for peak texture and flavor.

The resulting beef patty is served however you like it. Customers get a choice of white or whole grain wheat buns — each baked locally — and even a gluten free option. Real Tillamook cheese options include Swiss, pepper jack, or cheddar; while locally sourced toppings include fresh jalapeño, grilled mushroom, avocado, and pineapple. Where it really gets creative is fifteen different house made sauces to dress the burger, ranging from organic ketchup and a thousand island-style spread to honey sriracha, balsamic mustard, and chipotle aioli.

Terra Catering: This Chef Wrote the Book on Great Burgers

Terra Catering: This Chef Wrote the Book on Great Burgers

Terra Catering San Diego | Build Your Own Burger

The first place People's Choice winner in the 2017 running of the Reader's Burgers & Beer competition is this catering company that also represents sister restaurants Terra American Bistro, in La Mesa, and gourmet burger specialist Bunz, in west Mission Valley.

Owner and chef Jeff Rossman wrote the book on making a great burger (Seriously — it's a cookbook titled Build Your Own Burger!). He's also written about cooking with local and seasonal produce, and applies the farm to table practice at his restaurants, whether it's building a perfect salad, cooking up local-catch seafood, or merely topping his burgers with fresh, flavorful produce. Rossman's classic burger features black peppercorn aioli and caramelized onions, though at Bunz you'll find a dozen different burger styles with toppings ranging from the usual smoked bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and crushed avocado; to fried chicken, pulled pork, or tortilla chips.

However, for Burgers & Beer Rossman's sous chef Ken Helm cooked up something special to take the top prize. It started with Jensen Meats beef chuck, grilled extra flavorful and juicy with a 25-percent fat blend. Then, on a toasted Bread & Cie sesame bun, he topped the patty with a hunk of braised and peachwood smoked short rib and dressed the decadent combination of meats with tart aioli, Serrano-onion jam, and creamy Appenzeller cheese from Switzerland.

Little wonder it's a winner!