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Burger and fries from Hightop Burger.
Hightop Burger

14 Spots for Epic Burgers in the Triangle

There’s no shortage of great burgers in the area

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Burger and fries from Hightop Burger.
| Hightop Burger

During the early days of the pandemic, burgers proved to be a steady staple — not only because they’re tasty, but they also travel well as takeout. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, pandemic or not, burgers are here to stay. In the Triangle, there’s no shortage of burgers to add to the list — and each chef and restaurant add in their own special touch to the American classic. From a simple all-beef patty with American cheese and OG toppings to more gourmet versions with local cheeses and housemade buns, there’s a burger for everyone. Eater has a guide to essential burger stops to satisfy cravings. Stop by one of these spots and pick up a juicy, meaty burger for a solid good time. And for those of you missing Gov’t Cheeseburger, the team has reemerged as Fine Folk, currently popping up at Union Special until their Raleigh brick and mortar (next door) is ready.

A number of North Carolina restaurants have resumed dine-in service. The level of service offered is indicated on each map point. However, this should not be taken as endorsement for dining in, as there are still safety concerns: for updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit here. Studies indicate that there is a lower exposure risk when outdoors, but the level of risk involved with patio dining is contingent on restaurants following strict social distancing and other safety guidelines.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Picnic

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1647 Cole Mill Rd
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 908-9128
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Most people go to Picnic for the whole hog barbecue, but customers shouldn’t sleep on the Picnic burger. Two patties, crafted with house-ground brisket and bacon (from the same place the pigs come from for the joint’s hyped barbecue), are topped with Picnic sauce, pimento cheese, pickled red onion, and bread and butter pickles — sandwiched between a Martin’s potato roll. Burgers also come with a side of choice, and no judgment if that side just so happens to be mac and cheese. Grab a picnic table outside and devour a burger alongside an adult slushie or craft cocktail or order for takeout. Picnic is open Thursday to Monday from 11 a.m to 8 p.m.

The PICNIC Burger
The Picnic Burger
Jenn Rice

2. Vin Rouge

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2010 Hillsborough Rd
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 416-0466
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Vin Rouge’s VR burger and frites used to be a weekly feature, but as of late, it’s a mainstay for both dine-in and takeout. “I’m a burger traditionalist and It’s one of my favorite burgers,” says chef Matt Kelly. Not only is the patty, crafted with Brasstown Beef ground beef, standout, but the burger is dressed up with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, Dijonnaise, and thick-cut bacon sandwiched between a brioche bun — served with onion soup dip and, naturally, frites. Open for dine-in and takeout Tuesday through Sunday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday brunch, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

VR burger and frites
VR burger and frites
Vin Rouge

3. Everything Bagels

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530 Foster St Ste 1-E
Durham, NC 27701
(484) 343-1404
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Located inside the Durham Food Hall, Ray Williams, owner of Everything Bagels, is known for getting super creative with “avant-garde” bagel sandwiches and burgers. “This beauty is a great breakfast addition on our menu,” says Williams, of the popular breakfast burger. We’re talking two grass-fed Angus beef patties, Ashe County Cheese mild hoop cheddar, charred pickled onion, fried egg, and mayo. Williams suggests a plain bagel for this situation. Everything Bagels is open daily; check online for varying hours.

The breakfast burger at Everything Bagels
The breakfast burger at Everything Bagels
Everything Bagels

4. Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter

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202 Corcoran St #3210
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 682-5225
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“We opened with this burger,” says chef and owner, Gray Brooks. “It's never leaving the menu.” Brooks’ version of the perfect burger consists of a double-grind patty mix of chuck, brisket, short rib, and extra beef fat griddled to perfection. Add in griddled onions, house processed cheese, jalapenos (for crunch so you don’t need lettuce) and Duke’s mayonnaise sandwiched between a house-made benne seed bun and it’s a solid win. Currently, Jack Tar requires all guests over 12 to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter the restaurant.

Jack Tar burger
Jack Tar burger
Forrest Mason Media

5. Alley Twenty Six

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320 E Chapel Hill St
Durham, NC 27701
(984) 439-2278
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Alley Twenty Six, an upscale craft cocktail bar, is also home to a delicious food menu, including the standout Alley Burger. And after more than four years later, it still remains one of the most popular items on the menu. Think of a combo of eight ounces of house-ground burger with black truffle cheddar cheese, bourbon bacon jam, chipotle aioli, and arugula, housed between a potato bun — with the option to jazz it up with foie gras, a fried egg, or bacon. A four ounce version aptly named the Alley Burger Jr., also exists. Alley Twenty Six is open Wednesday to Sunday for cocktails, dine-in, and to-go, plus a small shop with their famous house-made tonic syrups and a small but exceptional selection of wine, vermouth, amaro, and more.

Alley Burger at Alley Twenty Six
Alley Burger at Alley Twenty Six
Alley Twenty Six

6. Counting House

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111 Corcoran St
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 956-6760
Visit Website

For those still pining over chef Jeff Seizer’s burger at now-closed Royale — the Royale Burger now exists at Counting House, inside the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham. The seven ounce patty is a house grind and equal parts brisket, short rib, and chuck — which is then frozen in sealed bags and sous vide at 48.8 degrees celsius for precisely 30 minutes. It’s then seared and lightly smashed, with melty gruyere cheese, housed between a deliciously griddled muffin by way of Michaels English Muffins — served with house-made au poivre aioli and hand-cut fries. “It’s so simple on the plate but the work happens for days beforehand,” says Seizer. Counting House is open for dine-in and to-go Tuesday through Sunday.

Royale Burger at Counting House
Royale Burger at Counting House
Jenn Rice

7. Bar Virgile

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105 S Mangum St
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 973-3000
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Bar Virgile’s burger eight-ounce BV cheeseburger is quite simple: a juicy, perfectly cooked double-beef patty situation with LTO, Duke’s mayo, and Heinz ketchup. Consistently coined Durham’s best burger by locals, it pairs well with a craft cocktail. (FYI: the spot boasts one of the largest spirits selections in the Triangle). Bar Virgile is open for dine-in and to-go Monday through Saturday

BV cheeseburger at Bar Virgile
BV cheeseburger at Bar Virgile
Bar Virgile

8. Bin 54 Steak & Cellar

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1201 Raleigh Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27517
(919) 969-1155
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Bin 54 Steak & Cellar, Chapel Hill’s elevated steakhouse, is known for its juicy steaks, but the burger is not to be overlooked. Chef Kevin Draper also admits that cooking burgers is harder than cooking steaks. Draper makes the Bin 54 hamburger patty in-house using quality Angus beef. Most burgers are around six to seven ounces, but it’s a steakhouse, so 10 ounces is just right here. Topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese of choice (American is the way to go, by the way), the burger boasts a nostalgic outdoor grill taste that can’t be beat. Bin 54 is open for dine-in and takeout Monday to Saturday, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Bin 54 hamburger with fries
Bin 54 hamburger with fries
Jenn Rice

9. Hightop Burger

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2330 Bale St # 112
Raleigh, NC 27608
(984) 200-6521
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Hightop Burger, an independently-owned, modern day smash burger joint, features a small menu of tasty burgers, hot dogs, shakes, tots, and more. The standout remains the High Burger with beef, ordered the “hightop way” — with lettuce, tomato, cheese, sautéed onion, pickles, and special sauce. Burgers are smashed to order and served on a Martin’s Potato Roll bun. It would be a crime to not order the giant bacon and cheddar-stuffed tots, aptly named High Tots. Hightop Burger is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for dine-in and takeout.

10. Mandolin

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2519 Fairview Rd
Raleigh, NC 27608
(919) 322-0365
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Chef Sean Fowler puts as much thought into the George Clooney Burger as he does with every dish at Mandolin. 75 percent Angus beef and 25 percent pork belly give it a solid meaty flavor, and when paired with blue cheese bacon ranch, tobacco onions, and lettuce on a Lucette Grace brioche bun, served alongside Mandolin fries, it’s next level. Mandolin is open Tuesday to Sunday for dine-in and to-go.

George Clooney burger at Mandolin
George Clooney burger at Mandolin
JNK Public Relations for Mandolin

11. Cortez Seafood and Cocktail

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413 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603
(919) 342-8227
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During the pandemic, chef Oscar Diaz popped a smash burger deluxe up on the Cortez menu for the first time. “We as a group spent many pandemic nights eating burgers to get ratios and sauce right,” Diaz says. “Our patties are small but we double them and they are smashed paper thin on a ripping hot flat top that has our house rendered beef fat,” he says. American cheese prevails, and as Cortez notes, much like the bun, the cheaper the better. Add crispy leaf lettuce, sliced tomato, crunchy house pickles, onion, and Cortez sauce, and it’s easy to see why it’s a hit. “The Cortez sauce is what really takes the burger over the top,” he says — “but also the house cut fries people lose their shit over.” Cortez is open for dine-in and to-go Tuesday to Sunday.

Smash burger deluxe at Cortez
Smash burger deluxe at Cortez
Cortez

12. Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

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201 S Boylan Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603
(984) 200-1189
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Go to Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing for the views of downtown Raleigh, but stay for the awesome food and beer— including the Wye Hill Burger. The 1/3 pound burger comes with double cheeses (cheddar and gouda), fried green tomatoes, bacon, and chipotle crema. “The Wye Burger is topped with a fried green tomato that is breaded with brewer’s grain from our brewery,” says Max Trujillo. “Our best beer recommendation would be our Space Disco Hazy IPA,” which pairs well with the flavors of the burger. The spot is currently open Wednesday through Thursday for dine-in and takeout, with an ongoing Lawrence BBQ pop-up on Monday and Tuesday.

The Wye Hill Burger
The Wye Hill Burger
Felicia Trujillo

13. Whiskey Kitchen

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201 W Martin St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 803-3181
Visit Website

At Whiskey Kitchen, the lamb burger is the way to go and has remained on the menu since day one. The burger entails a lamb patty, sheep’s cheese, tomato, vesta aioli, and mint, housed on a brioche bun. Vesta aioli adds a nice kick while mint and basil freshen it up. Whiskey Kitchen is open daily for dine-in and takeout.

 

The lamb burger at Whiskey Kitchen
The lamb burger at Whiskey Kitchen
Stacey Sprenz Photography

14. Locals Seafood

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500 E Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 594-1459
Visit Website

On the more inventive side of the burger spectrum, Locals Seafood (inside Transfer Co. Food Hall, with a sister spot in Durham Food Hall), offers a tuna bloodline burger, in which chef/partner, Eric Montagne, notes, emerged out of necessity. The grilled tuna burger comes equipped with American cheese, shaved lettuce, pickles, and tartar sauce, and looks just like a regular beef burger to the eye. Montagne relays that the bloodline of the tuna (a darker strip of meat and what gives it the “real beef patty” look) is often cut out as it's deemed less desirable. “The bloodline has a deep purple color which comes from a higher concentration of blood flow due to its close proximity to the center of the fish,” he adds. “The increased blood flow gives this part of the tuna loin a much higher iron content and a slightly different flavor — and after some R&D we thought that the bloodline behaved and tasted similarly to beef so we decided to follow that rabbit hole,” he says. To date, the team has been able to utilize over 1,000 pounds of tuna line that would have been tossed out. Locals Seafood at Transfer Co. Food Hall is open for dine-in and to-go from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. daily.

Tuna bloodline burger at Locals
Tuna bloodline burger at Locals
Jenn Rice

1. Picnic

1647 Cole Mill Rd, Durham, NC 27705
The PICNIC Burger
The Picnic Burger
Jenn Rice

Most people go to Picnic for the whole hog barbecue, but customers shouldn’t sleep on the Picnic burger. Two patties, crafted with house-ground brisket and bacon (from the same place the pigs come from for the joint’s hyped barbecue), are topped with Picnic sauce, pimento cheese, pickled red onion, and bread and butter pickles — sandwiched between a Martin’s potato roll. Burgers also come with a side of choice, and no judgment if that side just so happens to be mac and cheese. Grab a picnic table outside and devour a burger alongside an adult slushie or craft cocktail or order for takeout. Picnic is open Thursday to Monday from 11 a.m to 8 p.m.

1647 Cole Mill Rd
Durham, NC 27705

2. Vin Rouge

2010 Hillsborough Rd, Durham, NC 27705
VR burger and frites
VR burger and frites
Vin Rouge

Vin Rouge’s VR burger and frites used to be a weekly feature, but as of late, it’s a mainstay for both dine-in and takeout. “I’m a burger traditionalist and It’s one of my favorite burgers,” says chef Matt Kelly. Not only is the patty, crafted with Brasstown Beef ground beef, standout, but the burger is dressed up with Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions, Dijonnaise, and thick-cut bacon sandwiched between a brioche bun — served with onion soup dip and, naturally, frites. Open for dine-in and takeout Tuesday through Sunday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday brunch, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

2010 Hillsborough Rd
Durham, NC 27705

3. Everything Bagels

530 Foster St Ste 1-E, Durham, NC 27701
The breakfast burger at Everything Bagels
The breakfast burger at Everything Bagels
Everything Bagels

Located inside the Durham Food Hall, Ray Williams, owner of Everything Bagels, is known for getting super creative with “avant-garde” bagel sandwiches and burgers. “This beauty is a great breakfast addition on our menu,” says Williams, of the popular breakfast burger. We’re talking two grass-fed Angus beef patties, Ashe County Cheese mild hoop cheddar, charred pickled onion, fried egg, and mayo. Williams suggests a plain bagel for this situation. Everything Bagels is open daily; check online for varying hours.

530 Foster St Ste 1-E
Durham, NC 27701

4. Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter

202 Corcoran St #3210, Durham, NC 27701
Jack Tar burger
Jack Tar burger
Forrest Mason Media

“We opened with this burger,” says chef and owner, Gray Brooks. “It's never leaving the menu.” Brooks’ version of the perfect burger consists of a double-grind patty mix of chuck, brisket, short rib, and extra beef fat griddled to perfection. Add in griddled onions, house processed cheese, jalapenos (for crunch so you don’t need lettuce) and Duke’s mayonnaise sandwiched between a house-made benne seed bun and it’s a solid win. Currently, Jack Tar requires all guests over 12 to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter the restaurant.

202 Corcoran St #3210
Durham, NC 27701

5. Alley Twenty Six

320 E Chapel Hill St, Durham, NC 27701
Alley Burger at Alley Twenty Six
Alley Burger at Alley Twenty Six
Alley Twenty Six

Alley Twenty Six, an upscale craft cocktail bar, is also home to a delicious food menu, including the standout Alley Burger. And after more than four years later, it still remains one of the most popular items on the menu. Think of a combo of eight ounces of house-ground burger with black truffle cheddar cheese, bourbon bacon jam, chipotle aioli, and arugula, housed between a potato bun — with the option to jazz it up with foie gras, a fried egg, or bacon. A four ounce version aptly named the Alley Burger Jr., also exists. Alley Twenty Six is open Wednesday to Sunday for cocktails, dine-in, and to-go, plus a small shop with their famous house-made tonic syrups and a small but exceptional selection of wine, vermouth, amaro, and more.

320 E Chapel Hill St
Durham, NC 27701

6. Counting House

111 Corcoran St, Durham, NC 27701
Royale Burger at Counting House
Royale Burger at Counting House
Jenn Rice

For those still pining over chef Jeff Seizer’s burger at now-closed Royale — the Royale Burger now exists at Counting House, inside the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham. The seven ounce patty is a house grind and equal parts brisket, short rib, and chuck — which is then frozen in sealed bags and sous vide at 48.8 degrees celsius for precisely 30 minutes. It’s then seared and lightly smashed, with melty gruyere cheese, housed between a deliciously griddled muffin by way of Michaels English Muffins — served with house-made au poivre aioli and hand-cut fries. “It’s so simple on the plate but the work happens for days beforehand,” says Seizer. Counting House is open for dine-in and to-go Tuesday through Sunday.

111 Corcoran St
Durham, NC 27701

7. Bar Virgile

105 S Mangum St, Durham, NC 27701
BV cheeseburger at Bar Virgile
BV cheeseburger at Bar Virgile
Bar Virgile

Bar Virgile’s burger eight-ounce BV cheeseburger is quite simple: a juicy, perfectly cooked double-beef patty situation with LTO, Duke’s mayo, and Heinz ketchup. Consistently coined Durham’s best burger by locals, it pairs well with a craft cocktail. (FYI: the spot boasts one of the largest spirits selections in the Triangle). Bar Virgile is open for dine-in and to-go Monday through Saturday

105 S Mangum St
Durham, NC 27701

8. Bin 54 Steak & Cellar

1201 Raleigh Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27517
Bin 54 hamburger with fries
Bin 54 hamburger with fries
Jenn Rice

Bin 54 Steak & Cellar, Chapel Hill’s elevated steakhouse, is known for its juicy steaks, but the burger is not to be overlooked. Chef Kevin Draper also admits that cooking burgers is harder than cooking steaks. Draper makes the Bin 54 hamburger patty in-house using quality Angus beef. Most burgers are around six to seven ounces, but it’s a steakhouse, so 10 ounces is just right here. Topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese of choice (American is the way to go, by the way), the burger boasts a nostalgic outdoor grill taste that can’t be beat. Bin 54 is open for dine-in and takeout Monday to Saturday, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

1201 Raleigh Rd
Chapel Hill, NC 27517

9. Hightop Burger

2330 Bale St # 112, Raleigh, NC 27608

Hightop Burger, an independently-owned, modern day smash burger joint, features a small menu of tasty burgers, hot dogs, shakes, tots, and more. The standout remains the High Burger with beef, ordered the “hightop way” — with lettuce, tomato, cheese, sautéed onion, pickles, and special sauce. Burgers are smashed to order and served on a Martin’s Potato Roll bun. It would be a crime to not order the giant bacon and cheddar-stuffed tots, aptly named High Tots. Hightop Burger is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. for dine-in and takeout.

2330 Bale St # 112
Raleigh, NC 27608

10. Mandolin

2519 Fairview Rd, Raleigh, NC 27608
George Clooney burger at Mandolin
George Clooney burger at Mandolin
JNK Public Relations for Mandolin

Chef Sean Fowler puts as much thought into the George Clooney Burger as he does with every dish at Mandolin. 75 percent Angus beef and 25 percent pork belly give it a solid meaty flavor, and when paired with blue cheese bacon ranch, tobacco onions, and lettuce on a Lucette Grace brioche bun, served alongside Mandolin fries, it’s next level. Mandolin is open Tuesday to Sunday for dine-in and to-go.

2519 Fairview Rd
Raleigh, NC 27608

11. Cortez Seafood and Cocktail

413 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603
Smash burger deluxe at Cortez
Smash burger deluxe at Cortez
Cortez

During the pandemic, chef Oscar Diaz popped a smash burger deluxe up on the Cortez menu for the first time. “We as a group spent many pandemic nights eating burgers to get ratios and sauce right,” Diaz says. “Our patties are small but we double them and they are smashed paper thin on a ripping hot flat top that has our house rendered beef fat,” he says. American cheese prevails, and as Cortez notes, much like the bun, the cheaper the better. Add crispy leaf lettuce, sliced tomato, crunchy house pickles, onion, and Cortez sauce, and it’s easy to see why it’s a hit. “The Cortez sauce is what really takes the burger over the top,” he says — “but also the house cut fries people lose their shit over.” Cortez is open for dine-in and to-go Tuesday to Sunday.

413 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603

12. Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing

201 S Boylan Ave, Raleigh, NC 27603
The Wye Hill Burger
The Wye Hill Burger
Felicia Trujillo

Go to Wye Hill Kitchen + Brewing for the views of downtown Raleigh, but stay for the awesome food and beer— including the Wye Hill Burger. The 1/3 pound burger comes with double cheeses (cheddar and gouda), fried green tomatoes, bacon, and chipotle crema. “The Wye Burger is topped with a fried green tomato that is breaded with brewer’s grain from our brewery,” says Max Trujillo. “Our best beer recommendation would be our Space Disco Hazy IPA,” which pairs well with the flavors of the burger. The spot is currently open Wednesday through Thursday for dine-in and takeout, with an ongoing Lawrence BBQ pop-up on Monday and Tuesday.

201 S Boylan Ave
Raleigh, NC 27603

13. Whiskey Kitchen

201 W Martin St, Raleigh, NC 27601
The lamb burger at Whiskey Kitchen
The lamb burger at Whiskey Kitchen
Stacey Sprenz Photography

At Whiskey Kitchen, the lamb burger is the way to go and has remained on the menu since day one. The burger entails a lamb patty, sheep’s cheese, tomato, vesta aioli, and mint, housed on a brioche bun. Vesta aioli adds a nice kick while mint and basil freshen it up. Whiskey Kitchen is open daily for dine-in and takeout.

 

201 W Martin St
Raleigh, NC 27601

14. Locals Seafood

500 E Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601
Tuna bloodline burger at Locals
Tuna bloodline burger at Locals
Jenn Rice

On the more inventive side of the burger spectrum, Locals Seafood (inside Transfer Co. Food Hall, with a sister spot in Durham Food Hall), offers a tuna bloodline burger, in which chef/partner, Eric Montagne, notes, emerged out of necessity. The grilled tuna burger comes equipped with American cheese, shaved lettuce, pickles, and tartar sauce, and looks just like a regular beef burger to the eye. Montagne relays that the bloodline of the tuna (a darker strip of meat and what gives it the “real beef patty” look) is often cut out as it's deemed less desirable. “The bloodline has a deep purple color which comes from a higher concentration of blood flow due to its close proximity to the center of the fish,” he adds. “The increased blood flow gives this part of the tuna loin a much higher iron content and a slightly different flavor — and after some R&D we thought that the bloodline behaved and tasted similarly to beef so we decided to follow that rabbit hole,” he says. To date, the team has been able to utilize over 1,000 pounds of tuna line that would have been tossed out. Locals Seafood at Transfer Co. Food Hall is open for dine-in and to-go from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. daily.

500 E Davie St
Raleigh, NC 27601

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