Here Are Charlotte’s Tastiest Burgers: 2019
Read about the nostalgic ones, the show-offs, the unexpected, and more
A BUN, a beef patty, ketchup, lettuce, tomato. At their core, burgers are all the same. You can put foie gras on top, like they do at Cowbell, or wrap them up in rice and seaweed and turn them into a sushi roll at Cowfish. You can grab a single at Mr. K’s on your lunch break, or drive a few blocks down the road to Zack’s. Whether it’s an old-school classic or new combination, what really makes a burger stand out are the memories that come with it—eating at South 21 to relive younger years, or making new friends over a more modern creation. Here are 13 burgers worthy of becoming a memory, a new way to relive to your best times.
1957 E 7th St., 704-919-0104.
The Crunkleton may be most famous for its cocktails, but the spot also offers a tasty seasonal menu. Among the most beloved entrées is the aptly named A Really Good Burger, on which you can add a fried duck egg or fried oysters (among other options) for an even heartier meal.
4009 South Blvd., 704-525-1720
Many locals are loyal to either Zack’s or Mr. K’s, but we advocate finding time for both. As you wait in line here, you’ll debate: fries or onion rings? Blurt out your decision, then wait for yours to be the lucky number called from the microphone, ready for pickup.
This drive-in has served Super Boys to Charlotteans since sock hops were all the rage. South 21’s signature order includes two beef patties, cheese, mustard, lettuce, tomato—and a pickle spear perched atop the bun. That combination has endured for decades. There’s no reason to mess with it.
Brooks’ Sandwich House
2710 N. Brevard St., 704-375-7808
It’s a tough call, given strong challenges from The Diamond in Plaza Midwood, Pinky’s Westside Grill in FreeMoreWest, and the newly established Billy Jack’s Shack in NoDa, with its aptly named “Napkin Burgers.” But a burger is a working-class meal, and our homing device still points us to Brooks’ humble red hut and the heft of those rough-hewn burgers with homemade chili. Eat ’em there, using the unvarnished wood shelf in the gravel parking lot as a makeshift table.
Pinky’s Westside Grill
1600 W Morehead St., 704-332-0402
Chef Greg Auten created what is now Pinky’s best-selling sandwich, The White Trash Burger, when he was looking for a creative way to use the uneaten fried pickles an onion rings he had to toss every day. The five-ounce burger (you can make it a double for $2 more) comes with provolone, fried pickles, onion rings, and spicy ranch. You can customize any one of Pinky’s championship burgers with your choice of toppings ( “Westside” style includes mustard, chili, slaw, and onion), but the White Trash burger is more than enough on its own.
Bob’s Carry Out Pile ‘Em Up
3422 Statesville Ave., 704-918-2264
The interior of Bob’s looks more like a public restroom than a takeout joint with its floor-to-ceiling tiles, but its burgers are superior. From a small window inside, order a piping hot and juicy double cheeseburger with tomato and lettuce for just $4.75, and then devour it in the car before you even drive away.
Reid’s Fine Foods
Reid’s steakburger is the gourmet market’s answer to the fast-food staple. The eight-ounce patty is a mix of ground filet, sirloin, and rib-eye, and comes with lettuce, tomato, and your choice of side (we recommend the truffle fries). If the $15 price tag is too steep, come on Tuesday for lunch or dinner at any one of their locations and get the almost half priced steakburger special. This is one gourmet meal that’s completely acceptable to eat with your hands.
4905 Ashley Park Ln., Ste. J, 704-625-1328
Everything on the menu is meant to be paired with wine here, so it’s surprising to see something often preferred with beer. Topped with bacon; a soft, somewhat sour cheese called quark; pickles; a fried egg; and a roasted shallot aioli, this burger calls for something fancy—a glass of Kingston syrah, if you ask owner and sommelier Laura Maniec.
Moo + Brew
1300 Central Ave., 980-585-4148
Chevre? Ah, oui. This burger joint has a pretty simple concept: burgers and beer, the beverage that goes easily with burgers. That doesn’t mean they can’t be fancy, too. The Rocket Turkey burger has a patty of farm-raised ground turkey, chevre (goat cheese), arugula, a balsamic fig spread, and roasted red pepper—everything you never thought to put on a burger, but should have.
200 W. Woodlawn Rd., Ste. A, 980-237-1880
The seats at the counter are hard plastic, but comfortable. Any other material would be quite an investment for the owners of Chubz Famous Chiliburgers. It’s about as difficult to keep the flavorful, beef-heavy chili on top of the burgers as it is to not overeat here.
Order at the counter to the right, a burger topped with chili and all the fixin’s, then hop up into one of those hard seats at the bar. See what other guests have written in chalk along the short strip of blackboard between the dining counter and the kitchen, scribbles and doodles. When one of the owners, Antonio Watson, yells “Order!” and grabs his spatula, a show begins—part comedy, part kitchen dance.
He hurls well-meaning insults to Steve Kalik, the man who started this place in a strip mall on Woodlawn near I-77 in 2013 and brought Antonio on as a partner. Wisecracks fire across the stove in response to kitchen orders. With each ring, there’s a debate over who should answer the phone. An iguana in a cage near the window pays no mind. It’s the kind of place you can come alone, but you’ll still find yourself in good company. Antonio wraps your chiliburger in paper to help you hold it, and as he passes the paper basket across the chalkboard messages, he gives you some advice with his nose-crinkling smile.
Two hands to hold the basket, so heavy with a soft bun, juicy burger, melting cheese, and oozing chili. Your side of onion rings, too, which comes with your choice of dip—ketchup, Chubz sauce, honey mustard, or barbecue, all made here.
This time, you don’t need the reminder. You pick up the burger: two hands. —Kristen Wile
Dogwood Southern Table & Bar
4905 Ashley Park Ln., Ste. D, 704-910-4919
It’s one of those specials you don’t know about until someone in the know tells you. And once you’re in the know, you’re there… a lot. From 5 to 6:30 p.m., this SouthPark spot serves a $5 burger at the bar. No, wait, they serve a $15 burger for just $5—a half-pound patty made with ground sirloin and served with a side of fries. Just don’t tell all of your friends; we enjoy being able to get a seat.
Most folks skip right over the rest of the menu and look straight to the barbecue platters at this ever-expanding barbecue spot, but the burger deserves a look. A blend of chuck and brisket, the Roadhouse comes with your typical ketchup, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and cheese, but add the sliced brisket for an additional two bucks and you won’t feel bad about ordering a burger at a barbecue restaurant.
Contributions come from Taylor Bowler, Adam Rhew, Kristen Wile, and John Short.
Stories that will make you a smart burger consumer:
Is a Burger a Sandwich?
We asked seven Charlotte restaurant pros
The Ultimate Charlotte Burger
Building your own burger? Do it the local way with our dream burger, using only ingredients from the Charlotte area.
Beef at Ground Level
The cuts and the ratios that make each burger different.