THE GRILL MCCOY
ALABAMA: BUTCH CASSIDY'S CAFE
"It's what's between the buns that counts" is the motto at Butch Cassidy's restaurant and bar, so you know it's serious about its hamburgers. The signature Butch burger consists of a huge grilled patty with bacon, cheese, and plenty of toppings and condiments. Expect cheap beers during happy hour and occasional live music.
ALASKA: BURGER BUS
Never has there been a truer restaurant name than Burger Bus. It's just an old school bus, permanently parked and with a lean-to-like shack built onto the side offering shelter while you order. Eat your Kenai Killer burger with cheese, bacon, green chiles, and jalapeños at the one picnic table, or in your car. All the burgers come with fries, and all are under $10.
ARIZONA: THE CHUCKBOX
The sign outside touts "over 278 sold," but the Chuckbox is likely to sell that many burgers in a day now. Watch as they grill your burger (and bun) over a mesquite charcoal barbecue. Then head to the condiment and topping bar with your paper plated burger. You'll eat it sitting on wooden crates after paying in cash only, and you'll love every bite of the chargrilled flavor.
ARKANSAS: OZONE BURGER BARN
Nestled on Highway 21 in the middle of Ozark National Forest is quirky Ozone Burger Barn. Order your huge, hand-pattied burgers at the shack's walk-up window, then take a seat in their only dining area, made up of picnic tables under an open-air shelter.
CALIFORNIA: BILL'S BURGERS
Walk up to Bill's Burgers and have a seat at the outdoor counter, because there is no other place to get food. Watch as your burger is made inside the kitchen — the only thing in the building — by Bill Elwell, who has wielded his spatula for decades. He can be a little grumpy, but the thin beef patties with a nice sear and copious amounts of mayo, lettuce, and tomato are worth it.
COLORADO: CROWN BURGERS
Crown Burgers has been around for 28 years, though the retro interior's bright yellow molded booths suggests longer. Don't skip the Royal burger topped with a pile of thinly-sliced pastrami and whatever fixings you want. Steak fries and fat onion rings are musts on the side.
CONNECTICUT: LOUIS LUNCH
The holy grail of burger joints, not just hole-in-the-wall ones, is Louis Lunch. The hamburger sandwich is thought by many to have been invented here, way back in 1900, and not a whole lot has changed since. The interior is still made of well-worn (and graffitied) dark wood and the burgers are still cooked in the same vertical broilers. The beef is cooked medium, then placed on toasted white bread slices with, cheese, tomato, and onion options.
DELAWARE: GUS & GUS PLACE
Gus & Gus has been operating since 1956 on a corner of the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, and you can walk up to the windows in your swimsuit. Grab a respectable little burger for cheap or, if you're really hungry from your beach day, get a cheeseburger sub. Hamburger patties are cooked, chopped roughly, and layered in a sub roll with melted cheese and toppings.
FLORIDA: EL MAGO DE LAS FRITAS
Miami's contribution to the burger world is the fritas, a Cuban-inspired burger topped with a mound of crispy fried shredded potatoes. El Mago de las Fritas is a little one-counter diner with one of the best fritas in the city. The squishy hamburger bun is grilled lightly on both sides, and the potato strings are crispy and not too greasy. Try it with cheese and a fried egg on top.
GEORGIA: BISCUITS, BURGERS AND MORE
The burgers at Biscuits, Burgers and More are named after musicians, and there's concert posters on the wall of the four-table restaurant inside a gas station supermarket. Biscuit sandwiches and cheese grits are staples, but the burgers draw as many people to this strip mall dive. Try the Dickey Betts with a blackened burger, onions, mushrooms, blue and Swiss cheese, and a handful of bacon.
HAWAII: DUANE'S ONO-CHAR BURGER
Have you eaten a burger with wandering chickens? You can do it at Duane's Ono-Char, a shack just off the highway where the only eating area is outside with the chickens. You can get some very Hawaiian burgers, including the Local Boy — topped with a pineapple slice, teriyaki sauce, and huge pile of shredded cheddar. The burgers are wrapped in parchment and cut in half, making them real lookers.
IDAHO: HUDSON'S HAMBURGERS
Hudson's Hamburgers started as a tent restaurant in 1907. Five generations later, it's still owned by the Hudson family, but it's morphed into a small diner with one long counter. Have a seat and watch the cook sear your burger, which are served with pickles and raw onions on a super soft bun. Try the creamy, homemade hot sauces along with it.
ILLINOIS: ILLINOIS BAR & GRILL
At Illinois Bar & Grill, they don't fool around: The Famous Chicago burger weighs in at 13 ounces of beef, and the patty goes on a scale each time. It comes with two slices of cheese and condiments, but you might as well gild the lily and get the blanket of bacon as well. A burger that big fits right in with the dive bar décor.
INDIANA: MINER-DUNN HAMBURGERS
In operation since 1932, Miner-Dunn serves up as much nostalgia as hamburgers. Burgers are about a quarter-pound of smashed, seared beef; the Major-Dunn burger has double meat, double cheese, extra bacon, fried egg, and onion rings. Always order your burger deluxe, which comes with homemade french fries and a famous soft serve orange sherbet for dessert.
IOWA: RIDES BAR & GRILL
When in doubt, try a biker bar. Rides Bar & Grill has burgers named after motorcycles and classic cars, like the Triumph double cheeseburger. A rentable party room often hosts live music.
KANSAS: GRANDSTAND BURGERS
Grandstand Burgers is a grand name for a tiny place: four stools at a counter and a handful of picnic tables outside. It gets crowded in a building that's mostly kitchen, so expect a line out the door at lunch. Grab a Kelly burger, which has two thick beef patties, bacon, cheese, ham, and a couple of onion rings.
KENTUCKY: BUNZ BURGERZ
Located on hip Baxter Avenue, Bunz Burgerz can be overlooked in a sea of popular restaurants. But while the counter-service restaurant has only a few tables, it's got amazing burgers with unlimited toppings, including creamy Bunz sauce and an olive blend. If there's enough room to eat it, stay — the employees are friendly and the graffiti art on the walls is mesmerizing.
LOUISIANA: JUDICE INN
The Judice Inn has been serving Lafayette residents since two brothers opened it in 1947. It's especially popular among University of Louisiana students, since it's only about a mile off campus. Burgers come wrapped in wax paper, spread with a mustard and mayo mixture, and with an onion slice on the side. Unlike other burger joints, this one doesn't serve french fries — only local Zapp's potato chips.
MAINE: HARMON'S LUNCH
The little roadside stand of Harmon's Lunch makes burgers as it opening day in 1960: small and inexpensive, with thin patties and pillowy, buttered buns, so order two. Get them "loaded" with sweet red relish, mustard and fried onions. There's only about a half-dozen tables, so eat up and get back on the road after a perfect pit stop.
MARYLAND: SUNSHINE GENERAL STORE
It's tucked into the back of the Sunshine General Store, and you'll be eating next to dingy shelves of convenience store goods. But you're not here for the atmosphere. The burgers have thick patties served on a squishy sesame seed bun. Like so many dives, it's cash only, so plan ahead.
MASSACHUSETTS: WHITE HUT
There's nothing fancy about White Hut — it really is just a white hut. But it's been going since 1939 with no signs of slowing, thanks mostly to its slider-like "hamburgs" and "cheesburgs." The beef is falling-apart thin, and the buns are soft and griddled lightly on top for texture. Keep these classics simple with just cheese and grilled onions.
MICHIGAN: MILLER'S BAR
There's a dive bar in Dearborn complete with drop ceiling, stained-glass lampshades, and almost zero sunlight. Miller's kitchen and griddle is right behind the bar, so you can see cooks prepping your hefty little burger patty. There's nothing fancy here: cheese or no cheese, plus onions or pickles. The burgers are juicy, which can be a problem considering they're served on only a square of wax paper.
MINNESOTA: LION'S TAP
The Lion's Tap is what you'd expect a bar in Minnesota to look like: wood paneling, mounted fish, and a fireplace for six-month winters. It's a no-frills bar with equally simple burgers with thick patties, fresh toppings, and gooey American cheese. You won't be able to fit your mouth around a double, but get one anyway. They're served on small paper plates, but they're branded with the bar's name — talk about fancy.
MISSISSIPPI: LATHAM'S HAMBURGER INN
Latham's Hamburger Inn used to be in a dining car across the street. Moving to the current location, Latham's brought the rail car's stools and countertop, where cooks serve doughburgers: beef that's been mixed with flour, created in the South as a way to stretch beef when times were tough. It's shallow fried in a cast-iron skillet, giving it a unique, crunchy crust you can't get on a griddle.
MISSOURI: SQUEEZE INN
Head to southwest Missouri to find unique cheeseburgers at Squeeze Inn. They make their cheeseburgers — called Squeezeburgers — by piling shredded cheddar atop the patty on the griddle. It melts and forms a crispy, lacy cheese skirt that hangs out of the bun. You'll enjoy it much more than the garden gnomes staring at you in the homey dining room.
MONTANA: 2K'S KAFE
2K's Kafe is "home of the big burger," and they're not fooling. The beef patty is much larger in diameter than the bun, so it sticks out almost comically on all sides, and makes the cheese slices look small in comparison. Beef that big is worth the 20-minute cook time and barebones dining room.
NEBRASKA: BOB'S BAR & GRILL
Like 2K's Kafe in Montana, Bob's has a burger with a thick beef patty about double the diameter of the hamburger bun, overhanging the edges by inches and making two hands a must. Don't be put off by the shaggy-looking building in desperate need of a paint job — the big red "Welcome to Bob's Bar" sign greeting you inside will make you feel instantly at home.
NEVADA: SCOOPERS DRIVE-IN
Modeled on drive-ins of the past, Scoopers has drive-up service and a small, no-frills dining area indoors with photos of classic cars and old soda pop ads. The burger beef is ground fresh daily, and toppings such as jalapeños and sliced pastrami are popular options. And then there's the milkshakes — all 48 of them.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: PAPA JOE'S HUMBLE KITCHEN
The burgers at Papa Joe's are almost all named after customers. The beef is hand pattied and grilled fresh for every burger. Skip's Cardiac burger is a massive concoction of buffalo and Cajun-seasoned patties, salami, cheeses, onion rings, bacon, and Creole mayo. If that's not your style, watch for unique weekly burger specials in these humble surroundings.
NEW JERSEY: WHITE MANNA HAMBURGERS
Founded in 1939, White Manna is one of the nation's original slider joints. Burgers are small — most people order three or more — but inexpensive and tasty, with thinly sliced onions fried with the beef, and potato buns steamed on top. If you're lucky enough to grab a seat at the counter, you can watch the cook work his magic on the tiny griddle.
NEW MEXICO: BURGER BOY
In New Mexico, they put roasted green chiles on everything, including burgers. Burger Boy has one of the best versions, in an old-fashioned diner setting. The meat for the burgers is ground in-house and packed loosely, making these burgers extra beefy. Order a chileburger to get more diced, roasted local green chiles on top.
NEW YORK: VILLAGE DINER
A small, two-room diner in a nondescript building in upstate New York serves some of the best burgers in the area. The beef at Village Diner is ground daily, hand formed into patties and served simply with the usual fixings. Or shake things up a bit and get a burger stuffed with ingredients such as jalapeño and pepper jack cheese.
NORTH CAROLINA: AL'S BURGER SHACK
University of North Carolina students know where to head: Al's Burger Shack, just off campus. There's room for only a few counter seats inside, so the line is often out the door, especially since TripAdvisor said Al's had the best burger in the country. Burgers get creative: The Kenny J has Cheerwine barbecue sauce and spicy pimento cheese.
NORTH DAKOTA: WOOD HOUSE RESTAURANT
Not a whole lot has changed at the Wood House Restaurant since it opened in 1978. It still serves diner-style food, and you still order a meal by picking up the phone hanging on the wall at every table. It also still grinds beef for the burgers fresh every day, and serves the patty on a soft white bun, just like grandma used to make. Wash it down with an old-fashioned malt.
OHIO: BOB'S HAMBURG
Akron's first hamburger joint is still going strong. Bob's Hamburg is vintage and a little shabby, but what do you expect from an 87-year-old diner? Burgers are thick and cooked on a well-worn griddle until nice and browned, then served with Bob's special sauce. Wash your burger down with a frosted glass of Bob's own root beer.
OKLAHOMA: SID'S DINER
Oklahomans have their own preferred style of burger called the onion burger, which has shaved onions piled on top. When it's flipped, the onions fry on the griddle and are scooped into the bun with the beef. Sid's Diner serves up a favorite version in a small, old-fashioned diner, caramelizing the onions deeply to give the burger a nice char and sweetness.
Roadside rest stop Roake's opened in the 1930s and still has shiny steel walls reminiscent of a rail car. It's known for hot dogs and secret Coney sauce, but make a mean hamburger too. Get the Roaker burger with Coney sauce, cheese, mustard, onions, and pickles right on the burger to blend the worlds.
PENNSYLVANIA: TONY'S LUNCH
Tony's Lunch, a storefront diner, is home to a hyper regional burger variation called the Fluff Burger. A small, griddled hamburg is topped with raw onions, a pat of butter, a hefty smear of thick, spicy chili paste, and a dollop of marshmallow fluff. (Without the Fluff, it's called a Screamer.) It seems like an acquired taste, but diehards swear by the spicy-hot-sweet combo.
RHODE ISLAND: CRAZY BURGER
The specialty burgers at Crazy Burger live up to the name, with ingredients such as a sesame wasabi rub, brie cheese, and a burger that's cooked in a tortilla like a quesadilla. The Burger of Smaug is ground chicken mixed with pepperoni and chorizo and topped with bacon, cheddar, caramelized onion, and red pepper rings.
SOUTH CAROLINA: THE CLOCK DRIVE-IN
Carhops no longer operate at The Clock Drive-In like when it opened in 1954. No matter, because the burgers are just as good without the roller skates. Try a chili cheeseburger with homemade chili and onion rings prepared daily — they're better than the crinkle-cut fries, but you can get a half and half if you must.
SOUTH DAKOTA: SUGAR SHACK
Sugar Shack is a mom-and-pop bar and restaurant in the middle of the Black Hills. Sit at the wood bar (there's wood paneling on practically every surface) and watch as the cooks prepare your half-pound burger. It's a popular watering hole for bikers, especially on the patio in summer.
TENNESSEE: HERMITAGE CAFE
Nashville is increasingly a late-night town, and Hermitage Cafe caters to night owls, opening at 10 p.m. to serve breakfast and diner classics in a small restaurant that looks shabbier from the outside than it really is. Burgers are the classic standard, because that's all most people want at 3 a.m. anyway, blessedly cheap and still so as a deluxe with coleslaw, french fries, lettuce and tomato.
TEXAS: LEE HARVEY'S
Not far from downtown, Lee Harvey's has wood paneling and beer signs so old that hipsters like them, as well as a gravel yard that's bigger than the space inside and might host crawfish boils or audiences for bands playing on the porch. The menu changes a lot, and there's always a burger — but this might be the only joint on the list where the setting outshines the beef.
UTAH: SHOOTING STAR SALOON
The Shooting Star Saloon, founded in 1879 and claiming the title of the state's "Oldest Continuously Operating Saloon," is in a building that's even older. Dollar bills cover the ceiling, left there by visitors, and Buck, the mounted head of a 298-pound Saint Bernard who died in 1957, hangs on a wall. The Star Burger is the signature, and it's a handful: two beef patties sandwiched with cheese around a grilled knackwurst sausage.
VERMONT: THE SHOPPING BAG
The Shopping Bag is a corner grocery store with grill, and some of the best burgers in Vermont. You know everything is fresh because it's the same stuff they sell. There's no dining area, and you order at one place and pay at another, but it won't matter once you bite into one of their half-pound beauties.
VIRGINIA: MANNY'S BURGER
It's easy to drive right past the walk-up-window-only Manny's Burger, but it's worth a U-turn if you miss it. Burgers are wide and flat, kind of like the onion rings. The Manny's burger special includes sliced ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and mustard.
WASHINGTON: EASTSIDE BIG TOM
Eastside Big Tom is a kitschy little joint that's great for kids — a walk-up shack that doles out thin, traditional burgers with a special creamy sauce called goop. There's a covered eating area with picnic tables in the parking lot, along with crazy yard décor such as life-size dinosaurs, murals, and cartoon sharks.
WEST VIRGINIA: JIM'S DRIVE-IN
Nostalgia keeps diners coming back to Jim's Drive-In, which opened in the early 1950s and still offers curb service. The Big Jim Ranch burger is the most popular, and it comes with ham, red onion, sweet pickle, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
Wedl's takes "hole in the wall" to new levels — it's a sidewalk shack that's been around for more than a century, cooking thin, smashed slider-style burgers on a griddle with lard and onions.
WYOMING: GRUB'S DRIVE IN
One semi-circular counter is all that makes up Grub's. The tiny place has been around since 1946 and serves as the town meeting point over breakfast, pie, and burgers. The Shamrock is its signature, and it's nothing fancy: beef with cheese, mustard, pickles, and onions. But when you've been around for this long, now is not the time to change things up.