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.Read More
13 Spots for Epic Burgers in the Triangle
There’s no shortage of great burgers in the area
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.
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.
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.
Jack Tar and the Colonel’s Daughter
“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.
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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.
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.
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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).
Bin 54 Steak & Cellar
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.
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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.
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The smashburger at American comfort restaurant Fine Folk is a holdover from chef/owner Chris Lopez’s pandemic project Gov’t Cheeseburger. The chargrilled double patties, special sauce, and shredded lettuce creation was too iconic to abandon with the new spot, so it made its way onto the menu. The Fine Folk burger comes with a side of salt and vinegar chips.
Cortez Seafood and Cocktail
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 loose their shit over.”
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Wye Hill Kitchen & Brewing
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.
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.