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Arts & Life

Food Critics: The Best Burgers In Kansas City In 2018

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Burgers are a classic KC menu item.

"As a steak town, Kansas City has always had a lot of good burgers, too," Charles Ferruzza told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR's Central Standard.

Whether diners prefer a thin or thick patty — or something meatless — local menus have plenty of options.

Ferruzza, along with fellow Food Critics Mary Bloch and Jenny Vergara, searched out the best burgers in and around Kansas City.

Here are their recommendations:

Mary Bloch, Around the Block:

  • Blvd Tavern — Daily Grind Burger. It has a lot going on, but the flavors all play well together. Love the red wine shallot jam and peppercorn mayo. Great bun-to-meat ratio.
  • Hogshead KC. Topped with a thick piece of bacon and a fried egg.
  • Brady’s Public House — prime beef burger. With bacon, red onion jam and cheddar. Really good meat that’s cooked perfectly.
  • Pigwich food truck. Great hamburger. It’s next door to the Local Pig, so you would expect that the meat is pretty good … and it is.
  • The Burger Stand at the Casbah in Lawrence. They’ve got so many burgers on their list and they’re great about switching out the condiments. I ask them to put the habanero-cactus jam and avocado that comes on the Fire Burger on the black bean burger. It’s a great combo.
  • Corvino Supper Club — double cheeseburger. Typically, I’m a thick, juicy, rare meat kind of burger eater. The exception would be Corvino’s double cheeseburger with homemade pickles and bun.
  • Café Europa in Crestwood. Big thick burger accompanied by awesome hand-cut fries.
  • Howard’s Café — beef burger. With house-made American cheese, pea shoots, pickled veggies and sauce on a potato bun.
  • Howard’s Café — veggie burger. Made with a mixture of French green lentils, red beans, rehydrated porcini, brown rice, quinoa, and more. Served with homemade cheese; it’s delicious.
  • Room 39 — veggie burger. Made with black beans, bulgur wheat and Portobello mushrooms. It’s satisfying.

Jenny Vergara, Feast Magazine:

Burgers are equal opportunity. There are many excellent burgers available at both the low and high end of the pricing spectrum. I decided to focus my recommendations on locally owned, everyday places that are doing extraordinary burgers at a reasonable prices.

  • Cronin’s Bar & Grill in Lenexa — basic burger. This nondescript Irish-themed sports bar serves a thick, juicy cheeseburger and house-cut French fries that I highly recommend. They refer to it as “Our Famous Burger” on the specials menu, and they have every right to brag. You MUST get the fries, which come with the burger for $7.50 (and on Thursdays, the burger is $6 on special).
  • Smitty’s Diner — Gladstone Burger. Located inside the Gladstone Bowl, Smitty’s basically serves as the snack bar for the bowling alley. But it is much more than that; it is a 1950s-era diner with checkerboard tile floor, colored neon lights and Formica-topped tables with chromed-out stools at the counter. The Gladstone Burger is a perfectly-seasoned double cheeseburger. Thin, lacy patties are stacked on top of each other — one with Swiss cheese, the other with American. Of course, you must have tater tots. The burgers are under $7 and a small tot order is $1. Nope, you don’t have to bowl to eat there; I checked.
  • The Lunchbox in the West Bottoms — single burger with cheese. The sign on the outside says 9th Street Liquor and & Deli; The Lunchbox is the restaurant that is sitting in the middle of this liquor store. Open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday to Saturday (and from 9 a.m. to midnight on Sunday), The Lunchbox has been a staple in the West Bottoms, whether you are going to or returning from work. With tables and chairs scattered around for guests to sit on, simply go to the front counter and check out the chalkboard signs that hang overhead with the menu. Get the simple and satisfying ⅓ lb. fresh ground single burger with cheese that’s served with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. You’ll want to get an order of house-cut French fries, too. The single burger is only $5, a total bargain, but they will make it a double or a triple if you prefer.
  • Kitty’s Café — double cheeseburger to go. It’s best known for its famous tempura-battered pork tenderloin sandwiches. But many people may not realize that Kitty’s also serves one heck of a great cheeseburger, too. It’s available in singles and doubles, with cheese or without, and they’re cooked on a flat top griddle. I always get the double cheeseburger because they are thinner and smaller. Served with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and mustard if you want, for $4.75.
  • Helen’s J.A.D. (Just Another Dive) — Northlander Burger. They serve up some really solid burgers at this dive-y little watering hole in NKC. These are not dainty burgers; they’re a thicker style of burger. One of the most unique is the Northlander ($7); it’s made with Angus beef, chopped bacon, mushrooms, American cheese and green olive aioli. It’s salty and briny, and you can’t seem to stop eating it.
  • Town Topic on Broadway — patty melt. Slices of rye bread, griddled with butter. Beef patty made and cooked to order. Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, pickles and mustard. $5.50. Enough said.

Charles Ferruzza, food writer:

  • Hayes Hamburgers & Chili in the Northland. Traditional thin, diner-style burgers (not unlike the sandwiches served at Town Topic) grilled to order. Stays open 24 hours for those 3 a.m. burger cravings.
  • Humdinger Drive-In. It has changed very little since the place opened in 1962 at the very height of the Kansas City drive-in craze. It still boasts a sign, “Ever Eat Here?” and 14 different kinds of hamburgers, ranging from a modestly-priced “kiddie burger” to a half-pound triple cheeseburger. There’s also a taco burger, a pizza burger and a chili cheeseburger. The burgers are big, juicy and topped with your choice of onion, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, American cheese and pickles. Cash only, just like 1962 — although there’s now an ATM … and bullet-proof glass at the front counter.
  • Jim's Diner serves one of my favorite, favorite burgers. It's just a nice, big, juicy, fat burger.
  • Burg & Barrel. Delicious well-made burgers.

Listener recommendations:

  • Quinton’s in Lawrence — mushroom and Swiss burger. They get everything absolutely right.
  • Fric & Frac. Served fresh and hot. Get curly fries and a cold beer with your burger. It’s a wonderful place.
  • Christy’s Tasty Queen in KCK. Really juicy, good burgers. They also serve shakes.
  • Genessee Royale. Chef Todd Schulte’s burger is a winner. Also, the burger and bloody Mary special on Saturdays is a good way to start your weekend.
  • KC Smoke Burger — cheeseburger. It’s just done right with high-quality ingredients.
  • KC Smoke Burger — lamb burger. It’s delicious; so flavorful and juicy.
  • I would recommend Capital Grille for a fancy burger, the Green Room in Westport for casual and Grandstand Burgers in Merriam for a great shack burger!
  • Johnny’s Donuts. Great diner-style burgers. And yes, they also have donuts. You can get a donut as the bun if you are so inclined (I’m not).
  • Paul’s Drive-In in KCK. It’s a classic 1960s drive-in with flat-top burgers. The burgers are short and wide.
  • Two of my favorites: Westport Flea Market (grilled but greasy) and McCoy's (grilled but very lean).
  • Hogshead KC. Its burgers are super, super thin with two pieces of American cheese. You can get a single, double or triple with bacon. It’s by far the best burger in the city right now.
  • The Corner Restaurant in Westport. Half-pound luscious burger with a hearty bun. It comes with balsamic reduction sauce, goat cheese and arugula. It’s kind of a flavor bomb in your mouth.
  • Tannin Wine Bar. Super juicy, with delicious aioli and thick-cut bacon.
  • Maid-Rite in Lexington, Missouri — loose meat sandwich.
  • St. Timothy’s does a burger at the Blue Springs Fall Fun Festival every year that will have two lines that stretch a city block. It’s one of the traditions my wife and I do every year.
  • Pirate’s Bone serves a beet burger and a black bean burger. They are by far the best vegan burgers in Kansas City. The beet burger is made from shredded beets and other spices and ingredients, and it’s paired with pickled cabbage, avocado and more. It’s savory-sweet.
  • Westside Local. If you want upscale, this is it.
  • Knub’s Pub in western Shawnee. The burgers are quite good (ground brisket, I believe), served at a family-friendly pub complete with pub fries and pinball machines!

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org and follow her on Twitter @JenChenKC.

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