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Chris Hennes

Best Fast Food Burger

126 posts in this topic

I suggest for the purposes of this topic we go with "it must have a drive-through window" and I therefore withdraw Five Guys from consideration. As the discussion Mitch linked to makes abundantly clear, this is no easy distinction, and the line has definitely been blurred by the "fast casual" places. Perhaps a "best chain burger" discussion is in order, too. But I personally am looking for a burger I can grab and run with when I'm in a hurry. No waiting in line for 20 minutes, no 10 minutes to cook it to order, etc. FAST food.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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That might work, or maybe that you don't have to get out of your car to get your food?

I suggest for the purposes of this topic we go with "it must have a drive-through window" and I therefore withdraw Five Guys from consideration. As the discussion Mitch linked to makes abundantly clear, this is no easy distinction, and the line has definitely been blurred by the "fast casual" places. Perhaps a "best chain burger" discussion is in order, too. But I personally am looking for a burger I can grab and run with when I'm in a hurry. No waiting in line for 20 minutes, no 10 minutes to cook it to order, etc. FAST food.

Upon further reflection, these proposals leave out restaurants that are indisputably fast-food places if they're located in dense urban areas. New York and San Francisco are two places I know of where real estate is often too expensive to allow parking, let alone a driveway and window.


Dave Scantland
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Well in Oregon and Southern Washington we have Burgerville, which not only has a drive-thru lanes, it has bike-thru lanes. But that won't help you, Chris, in Oklahoma :-(. Which is a shame because their sweet potato fries and blackberry milkshakes (both seasonal items) are fabulous.

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Having a drive-through is just a proxy for being fast enough that the throughput is about one order per minute per line, and probably no more than five minutes to complete one single order from start to finish (and even five minutes is a long time). Fast. No broad philosophical questions: if Thomas Keller will make me a burger in that timeframe, he counts.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Not sure if they have any in Oklahoma, but as a midwestern chain, they might. The best fast food hamburger I have ever eaten is at Culver's. They originated in Wisconsin and are known for butterburgers, custard, and various dairy based items such as cheese curds. I limit myself to once a week there so I can still fit into my clothes. I have tried carl's and in n out, bit this is better imho.


Edited by Alexa De Paris (log)

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I've heard of them, I think we have them. But what is a "butterburger"? Sounds frightening...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I've heard of them, I think we have them. But what is a "butterburger"? Sounds frightening...

They butter the bun before toasting it. Not scary, and they do make a good burger.

Peter and I had lunch at Smashburger the other day, and it was quite good, as was the milkshake. We did not like their fried onion strings, and didn't try the fries. In fact, we liked these burgers a lot. No drive through. Order at the counter and they bring you your order.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Chris, based on where you live I'll throw my vote to WhatABurger. That's where I go to satisfy my once-a-month-or-so burger craving. I order the #7 (Jr Burger meal) and have them add an extra patty, because I like a bigger meat-to-bread ratio. And, the smaller fries/drink suit me fine. If you have a bigger appetite, get a double regular size burger.

I think their fries are WAY better than any other fast food joint in our area (S. GA/N. FL).

Well, 5 Guys fries are better, but they don't have a drive thru.

Pam

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The most drool-inducing, crave-worthy, stomach-satisfying burger I've never been able to shake from my taste buds is, hands down, In-and-Out. No chain makes a burger as flavorful, as beautiful, and as well-balanced.

To refute the Five Guys phenomenon—I've found their burgers to be sloppy and greasy. The toppings often overwhelm the meat and the buns are soggy and lackluster. Is it just me, or is this place all marketing hype?

I may catch some flack for this, but I still think that the best widely-available fast food burger is McDonald's Big Mac. Yes, it's sloppy and greasy, too, but there's no other burger as iconic, and deservedly so. I still crave a Mac every couple of months.

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There is a bit of discussion on Five Guys over here. I like 'em. You choose your own toppings, so it's hard to see how they would overwhelm the burger: I find the beef to be pretty flavorful (for a fast-food burger). But I think the Braum's burger I had the other day was clearly superior, and was ready faster to boot (yes, they have a drive-through).


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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What about White Castle? I have never been there, but have heard good things. Of course, from what I have heard about White Castle, their burgers don't really sound like the burgers that are being discussed. They sort of sound to me like sliders. So, I don't know if White Castle would count.

Still, I am curious, is White Castle worth a stop if I ever am in the neighborhood of one?

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What about White Castle? I have never been there, but have heard good things. Of course, from what I have heard about White Castle, their burgers don't really sound like the burgers that are being discussed. They sort of sound to me like sliders. So, I don't know if White Castle would count.

Still, I am curious, is White Castle worth a stop if I ever am in the neighborhood of one?

To appreciate White Castle it must be after 1am and you must be plastered/high. Cheap steamed meat on a little bun.

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Twas a sad day when Philadelphia's White Castles went to that great grease trap in the sky. I miss my squared off double bacon cheeseburgers big time.

Greasy, oniony, perfectly steamed buns with a hint of grilled/steamed ground beef. The tidiest fast food bag ever - box, box and more boxes stacked in perfect harmony. Chased by a box of onion rings and a chocolate shake.

Pretty much defines a perfect lunch.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

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OK, I let this become a bit of an obsession recently, since I drive by a whole ton of fast-food burger places on a regular basis. So far around here I've had Whataburger (OK bacon cheeseburger), Braum's (excellent, stay away from the fries though), Burger King's new A1 steakburger (OK if you like a lot of A1), McDonalds' Angus burgers (not so great), and Carl's Jr. (bad). I keep wanting to like Carl's Jr. since they are the most convenient for me, but I just can't. I've tried them at a number of times a day, and I've tried several of their burger incarnations, and I have yet to find one that I would willingly eat again. I'd much rather have Braum's burger, which is actually really good, or a Big Mac even. C's J seems obsessed with putting so much other crap on their burger that you can't actually tell if there is any beef on there, and if you get them to leave it off it turns out you didn't actually WANT to taste the beef. I gave them their last shot at lunch today, with the same results.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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What about White Castle? I have never been there, but have heard good things. Of course, from what I have heard about White Castle, their burgers don't really sound like the burgers that are being discussed. They sort of sound to me like sliders. So, I don't know if White Castle would count.

Still, I am curious, is White Castle worth a stop if I ever am in the neighborhood of one?

To appreciate White Castle it must be after 1am and you must be plastered/high. Cheap steamed meat on a little bun.

Indeed they are like sliders.

And if you want to get at least an idea, you probably can buy them frozen at your grocery store.

They're not as good as buying a half-dozen or so fresh, but they're not bad. We always have a box or two in our freezer for impulsive snacking.

White Castle frozen burgers


I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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A bit of a confusing topic with the distinction between chain burger and fast food burger. I don't consider Five Guys or Smashburger, which we have here, fast (nor as good as local shops that turn out a burger about as quickly), but they are chains.

Among places with a drive-thru my choices would be, in order, Whataburger, JIB, BK, Wendy's, McD, Sonic. Time was you couldn't call Whataburger fast - they used to brag they didn't start cooking until you ordered and it could take 10-15 minutes depending on the line and the propensity of the teenage staff to spend a lot of time chatting about last night's date (or tonight's) rather than doing their jobs. Now you can get through the drive-thru at Whataburger here in 60 seconds; the quality has gone down as the speed has gone up but it's still my first choice as it tends to be reliably delivered good and hot.

I've only been to Culver's twice (it's a two hour round trip from where I live) but I was impressed with the freshness, quality and variety of ingredients as well as the taste. I don't recall if they had a drive-thru, I went inside both times. You order at a counter but your food is brought to your table and it's not particularly fast so maybe it doesn't qualify even if they have a drive-thru.

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I like the Mooyah mini-chain here in the Dallas area. Though I don't think any location has a drive through. It's counter service (place order at counter, they call your number). So, it's not quite like a McDonalads fast, but it's not sit down full service with a waiter place like Red Robin.

Oh, and In-n-Out is coming to town. (Garland, to be exact) They will build a central commissary in the Dallas area, so that means more should be on the way. Maybe one will make it north of the Red River so some of you Yankees can give it a try.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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My vote definitely goes to one to Carl's, Jr., for just the typical McDonald's quality fast food burger. The burgers are, on average, juicier and just loaded with a ton more toppings--onion rings and bbq sauce, for example.

For a fresher taste, I'd recommend In-n-Out on the West Coast. I'm not a huge fan myself, but the burgers themselves are so fresh you can taste it. Plus, unlike most fast food places, even the buns are put on the grill for some nice toastiness.

And on the East Coast, you probably can't beat Five Guys. I'm a big fan of how they wrap everything in foil just to keep it nice and steamy. While the burger itself is quite simple, it's done simple and right.


Edmund Mokhtarian

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My vote definitely goes to one to Carl's, Jr., for just the typical McDonald's quality fast food burger. The burgers are, on average, juicier and just loaded with a ton more toppings--onion rings and bbq sauce, for example.

Sure, bad BBQ sauce and mediocre onion rings... I just don't get all the love they receive. The Western Burger I tried was among my least favorite burgers I've had since I started this "research." Give me a better-tasting patty over more toppings any day.

On another overrated (IMO) burger note: I had my first Sonic Supersonic Cheeseburger the other day. Not saying it was bad: just that it was completely unremarkable. And who the hell wants to eat in their car, anyway?! The fries were pretty awful, too, guess I should have gotten the Tots.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I remember with clarity the day my son got his first Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl's Jr......he spat it out. Overwhelming cloying artificial smoky flavor in the sauce and chewy bacon according to him. The teens are more into Mexican food stands and trucks these days, but for burgers when they are starving and in unfamiliar territory they rely on McD or In N' Out. Fatburger does not have a drive thru and has a hard to access postage stamp parking lot, so that kicks it out of "fast food" for them.

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On another overrated (IMO) burger note: I had my first Sonic Supersonic Cheeseburger the other day. Not saying it was bad: just that it was completely unremarkable. And who the hell wants to eat in their car, anyway?! The fries were pretty awful, too, guess I should have gotten the Tots.

Sonic is a puzzle indeed. They are different in that they do offer the tots where most fast food burger joints don't. A&W and Arby's used to offer tot-ish type potato sides though I'm not certain they still do. Sonic's are not the greatest tots I've ever had but are decent and are a nice change when you get tired of fast food fries.

I think Sonic's success is nostalgia-based, a la the drive-in. I've been trying to figure out their "one thing" (like McD's has their Big Mac) that is their strength but I'm not sure what that would be.

Their Cherry Limeade is fantastic but their diet version is just terrible.

And don't order a hot dog from them. I believe, but haven't confirmed this, that they microwave their hot dogs, bun and all. The bun has a chewiness to it that microwaved bread gets.

They have some good grilled sandwiches but they tend to be a little greasy. They will also sometimes feature a "happy hour" where you can get two drinks for the price of one which is great in the summertime.


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On another overrated (IMO) burger note: I had my first Sonic Supersonic Cheeseburger the other day. Not saying it was bad: just that it was completely unremarkable. And who the hell wants to eat in their car, anyway?! The fries were pretty awful, too, guess I should have gotten the Tots.

I'm with you on the Sonic Burger, I recently had my first one and, yeah, i guess it was edible, but I'm not going back for it. I did get the tots, and I agree with Toliver: not the greatest tots, but it's still nice to have them.

I had a vague recollection of somebody raving about the "frito pie" so, I couldn't resist.

SonicChiliPieR.jpg

So wrong, and yet... ehh... just wrong.

I just wasn't all that impressed. I suppose if I'm going by one on a hot day I could imagine getting a limeade, but I'm certainly not going out of my way for the burger.


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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I used to love going into White Castle and ordering a half dozen cheeseburgers for lunch!


Chris

Cookbooks are full of stirring passages

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I've only been to Culver's twice (it's a two hour round trip from where I live) but I was impressed with the freshness, quality and variety of ingredients as well as the taste. I don't recall if they had a drive-thru, I went inside both times. You order at a counter but your food is brought to your table and it's not particularly fast so maybe it doesn't qualify even if they have a drive-thru.

My son took my wife and I out today for Father's Day and I, inspired by this thread, chose Culver's (bonus - relatively cheap for him). As far as the burger goes, I'd rank it tops among those we have in the midwest. The patties are Wendy's-like, but IMHO a touch better, and all the other elements of the burger are better.

The sides were a little disappointing. Not bad, but not much better than acceptable either. I was excited by the cheese curds, but knew I would be ordering a burger with cheese so I chose the Onion Rings. Luckily, my wife ordered the cheese curds. My son went for the crinkle fries. One cheese curd was enough for me. Almost more batter than cheese it seemed. They went unfinished. My onion rings were unremarkable. They went unfinished. I think my son's fries were finished with the help of his runner's appetite - and ketchup.

My chocolate malt was not bad, but decidedly not very malty. Still, their menu is impressively vast for this sort of place. It would be hard for anyone not to find something to their liking.

And as to whether it qualifies as fast food, I'd say it ekes in under the wire. There is a drive-thru, but you order at the window and then park with a number on your car. We ate in, and as has already been noted, the food was delivered to the table. But it was only 5-7 minutes. I've had worse waits while standing in (or in a car outside of) a busy true fast food joint.

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