Chains

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CHAINS
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(10) The Counter
Focusing on high-quality custom burgers is an art here.  Customers choose the type of meat – we went with the standard 1/3-pound beef patties, bun, cheese, toppings and sauce.  There are so many choices that they say most days they never make the same burger twice.  Our first burger was fairly basic, which remarkably often results in the better burger and today it was indeed the better of the two.  We had a white bun, lettuce, tomato, grilled and fresh onions, American cheese and red relish. The meat had a wonderful flavor and texture.  It was juicy, but not to the point of falling apart or destroying the bun.  This was an outstanding burger.  The second burger we got a bit more creative by trying the wheat bun, slaw, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, tomatoes, horseradish cheddar, and sweet barbecue sauce.  While we expected an incredible burger, this one was just very good and would rate an 8.  While picking the right toppings for you is key, it does look like you can go through a few hundred thousand possible combinations to find the right one.  Grab a napkin and get started.

The Counter – Build Your Own – $8.95

The Counter – Build Your Own – $8.95

 (10) UMAMI BURGER 
Umami burger brings a wonderful mix of flavors and their unique burger belongs in this elite group of the best of the best.

(9) 25 Degrees
You can design it yourself or go for one of their creative designs.  The first time we had one we thought they were a solid 10, but later tries were a bit more inconsistent.
Number One ($12) & Number Three ($12)

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(8) Chili’s
Remarkably good burgers – especially when topped with their thick smokehouse bacon.

Avocado Cheeseburger ($8.79 includes fries)
Southern Smokehouse Bacon Burger ($9.99 includes fries)

(8) Claim Jumpers
A fun restaurant we always remember for its incredibly oversized portions, but finally decided to try the burgers.  We tried the Widow Maker and the Hickory BBQ Burger.  The burgers are on the expensive side, but do include an order of skinny unimpressive fries, fruit, or slaw.   The Widow Maker is a mountain of a burger that is simply too thick to get your mouth around.  It is piled high with lettuce, tomato, onion rings, smoked bacon, and avocado with some mayo and red relish for added flavor.  The burger was surprisingly good – and a bit messy.  The Hickory burger with its barbecue sauce and smoked bacon was equally good, albeit a more manageable size.  In both cases the star of the burger was the meat.  The burgers typically come medium well, but we asked for medium rare and are glad we did and think you should as well.  Flavorful, juicy burgers made for an excellent meal.

Claim Jumper: Widow Maker – $? includes fries, slaw or fruit

Claim Jumper: Hickory BBQ Burger – $? includes fries, slaw or fruit

 


(8)
 Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Even a great champion has to go down eventually. Five Guys knocked out In-N-Out as the best large chain burger joint.  They make an outstanding burger with a big selection of toppings customized for every customer.  Their  standard burger is two fresh, flavorful and juicy patties cooked to order. This chain is rapidly expanding out West and doing it right.
Cheeseburger ($5.49), Bacon Cheeseburger ($5.99), & Little Cheeseburger ($4.19)

(8) Hard Rock Cafe
Hard Rock Cafe London – The Hard Rock Cafe was famously started in London by a couple of American’s who wanted a place they could get a decent burger.  Amazingly, a few decades later the mega-chain still delivers a pretty good burger.  We opted for the Legendary 10 oz. Burger, which comes with bacon, two slices of cheese, onion ring, lettuce and tomato.  The meat is thick and moist; and the toppings fresh. Not a bad choice at all on the fairly large menu.  The incredible setting with all the legendary memoribilia definitely enhance the experience.

Hardrock Cafe – Legendary 10 oz.

Hardrock Cafe – Local Legendary

(7)  Bob’s Big Boy
For decades, this was John’s favorite burger, but somehow the red relish just isn’t enough to beat out the freshly ground and beautifully constructed burgers elsewhere.  (Still, the Big Boy Combo with salad, fries and the hot fudge cake might be what he orders before they give him the electric chair.)
The Original Double-Deck Cheeseburger ($6.99 includes fries)
 

(7) Burgers & Beer
Sports bar with an awesome beer cooler/vault and some pretty tasty hamburgers.   Nice variety of burger options and all come with a condiment tray, so you can add the final touches just the way you like it.  We tried the basic cheeseburger with a potato roll bun and The Admiral, which comes on a soft French roll and has grilled onions and jalepenos.  Without adding any condiments, both burgers were equally tasty.  A nice meaty flavor, soft bread that soaked up the juices and simple, good flavors.  For the price, just the burger with no sides doesn’t seem like a good value, but if you opt for one here, the burger should satisfy your taste buds.

Burgers & Beer: ? – $?

Burgers & Beer: Cheeseburger – $?

 

(7) Fuddruckers
They give you the bun and the meat and you do the rest – with plenty to choose from.  A nice burger place that served as our nightly dinner during one San Diego Comic-Con.
The Works Burger (1/2 lb. – $6.49)

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(7) Hamburger Mary’s
This place is loads of fun and the burgers fit right in.  Some are better than others, but the combinations are interesting and tasty.

Buffy the Hamburger Slayer –          $11.99 includes fries


(7) In-N-Out Burger
The chain restaurant that seems to be loved by everyone.  Fresh ingredients, burgers made to order, and always done right. There is a reason that everyone seems to praise In-N-Out – they deserve it.  For a two dollar burger, we don’t think anyone else can come close.
Cheeseburger ($2.15).
FYI – we served In-N-Out at our wedding.

The Franci, us, eating In-N-Out on our wedding day

(7) Johnny Rockets
Good greasy spoon burgers.  Juicy meat and simple burgers done pretty well.
Rocket Single ($6.29) & Smoke House ($6.79)

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(6) Burger Lounge
This place should be great – this mini-chain focuses on not just burgers, but one basic burger. They use good quality meat and fresh toppings and had a line out the door. But when it comes down to it the burger was good, but not great.
Grilled Lounge Burger with American ($7.95)

(6) Eureka!Burger
We tried the The Original Eureka!Burger with American cheese and the Cowboy Burger with shoestring onion rings, crispy bacon and barbecue sauce.  The quality and flavor of the meat is very nice – and the cook understands what medium rare actually means.  However, once past the excellent patty, the burgers aren’t overly special, which is surprising because all the right pieces seem to be in place.  But the soft, special hamburger bun brings little flavor to the pairing and none of the toppings stand out.

Eureka! – Original Eureka!Burger – $8.95

Eureka! – Cowboy Burger – $10.75

(6) Islands Fine Burgers and Drinks
A bit inconsistent, but still a nice burger made fresh to order.  The never-ending fries are not bad either.
Kilauea Burger (includes fries)

Sorry folks,                                      no burger image available

(6) Fat Burger
Another place that does a good job with just-right meat and simple toppings.  Always a good burger.
Large (8 oz.) Fatburger

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(6) Steer ‘N Stein
The Moreno Valley restaurant churns out a pretty good burger.  They take the burger seriously and provide a farily juicy piece of ground beef cooked to order. The Famous Cheese Burger is their go-to burger.  Toppings are fresh and everything works together pretty well, but not quite enough to raise it to the level of some of the better hamburger restaurants.  The Hickory Bacon Cheeseburger comes with the expected toppings and provide another good, but unspectacular burger.

Sorry folks,                                        no burger image available

(5) Buffalo Wild Wings
Decent size burger comes with shoestring fries.  The burger has a soft bun and comes with lettuce, tomatoes, sliced red onion, bacon and honey barbecue sauce.  The sauce is sweet and tangy.  The bacon was thin and limp.  The beef wasn’t particularly flavorful and was pretty dry.  Nothing stood out about this burger.
We ate a Honey BBQ Bacon Burger ($9.95 includes fries) in Moreno Valley, CA.

(4) Bravo Burger
A satisfying burger.  Basic stuff (lettuce, tomato, special sauce), but fresh, filling and pretty tasty.  The lack of high quality meat keeps the burger from being even better.
We ate a Double Cheeseburger ($4.99) & a California Avocado Cheeseburger ($4.49) at the Moreno Valley, CA location.

Sorry folks,                                      no burger image available

(4) Farmer Boys
Basic burger with fresh toppings is good, but doesn’t stand out.
Farmer’s Burger and Cheeseburger

(4) The Habit
Meh. After hearing a lot of hype, we were disappointed in what we thought was just an OK burger.  We could kick this habit if we had to.
Charburger with cheese – $3.45

(4) Mel’s Drive-In
This famous Hollywood landmark is well known for being a great place to be in the very early morning hours, however in the light of day its burgers don’t stack up to those around town.  The cheeseburger ($8.25 with no sides) is quite basic – an ordinary sesame seed bun, lettuce, tomato, pickle with mayo on the side.  Despite being ordered medium-rare, the meat was closer to medium, but more importantly it was not juicy.  The patty is flavored, but the seasoning masks the flavor of the meat.  The restaurant has recently added sliders, which are a nice improvement over the basic burger.

Mels Drive-In: Famous Melburger – $8.25

Mels Drive-in: Sliders

(4) Portillo’s
Great bun and fresh toppings, but nothing special about the burger patty.  This place is legendary for its hot dogs and Italian beef dip so you’d do well to stick to those menu items.
We ate a Cheeseburger ($4.19) at the Moreno Valley location.

Sorry folks,                                      no burger image available

(4) Red Robin Gourmet Burger
They are trying, but it just doesn’t excel.  We don’t know if the meat is frozen or if the flavors just don’t pop as well as they should, but the burgers were just OK.
Whisky River BBQ Burger – $9.59 & Banzai Burger – $9.69 both come with fries

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(4) Ruby’s
A bit more bland than we expected, but not a bad burger by any means.
The All-American includes fries

Sorry folks,                                      no burger image available