Buckhead Diner in Atlanta makes one of the best upscale burgers in the country. The beef is fresh ground every day and loosely formed into half pound patties in the cut-off bottom of a plastic jar lined with Saran Wrap. I got mine medium-rare with cheese on a fresh-baked bun with lettuce, tomato, mayo, onions and pickles and excellent handcut French fries. I also got a bottle of a local craft beer called Sweetwater 420--it was quite a feast.
I had borrowed a page from my friend Scott at dallasfood.org and conducted a “calibration” while I was visiting Atlanta. The idea was to fine-tune the gauge of greatness by measuring another city’s best against our own. I also sampled the fresh-ground burger at Scott Peacock’s Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, which was nearly as good as the one at the Buckhead Diner.
Of course it’s difficult to compare a fine dining burger to a convenience store burger or a chain burger. So many influences come into play--there’s no microbrewery beer, linen or china at a convenience store or a chain location. So you have to make allowances. I guess I’ll have to compare these Atlanta burgers to the one served at the bar at Café Annie--as soon as I get around to trying it. (So many burgers, so little time).
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My friend John Bebout doesn’t even consider the burgers at steakhouses or white tablecloth restaurants as true burgers. “Fancy gourmet burgers are something entirely different,” he says. There is a good argument that folk cuisine and haute cuisine need to be considered separately and on their own merits. But then again, Bebout insists that only yellow mustard is legitimate on a burger. He considers brown mustard a fru-fru affectation.
Buckhead Diner was missing from the thoroughly lame 10 Best Burgers recently published by Men’s Fitness magazine. You remember this magazine, the one that routinely puts Houston near the top of their Fattest Cities list. I wonder if its diet expert Tanya Zuckerbot checked out these burgers?
The magazine’s number one is found at The Burger Joint at Le Parker Meriden, a French hotel in New York. Number two is the In-N-Out chain of Southern California--quite the odd couple. Most of the rest are fancy restaurant burgers--there’s a truffle burger, a Gruyere burger, a blue cheese burger, and a green chili burger. While I like all kinds of burger variations, I don’t see how you can compare these to each other.
The only Texas burger, at number 5 on the Men’s Fitness list, is Kincaid’s in Fort Worth, and you know the mag phoned that one in since Kincaid’s decline in quality has been widely reported. You can’t expect Men’s Fitness to send a reporter to a rural convenience store in Washington, Texas, I suppose, but until it does, the 105 Grocery & Deli will remain at the top of my own best burger in the country list. The Buckhead Diner burger is pretty high up there too. -- Robb Walsh