Spotlight On Regional Burgers
What’s Customary For Residents Across The Country
The annual Slugburger Festival happens every July in downtown Corinth, Miss., where there’s a slugburger-eating competition, Miss Slugburger Festival Pageant and slug market. It’s a tradition that’s in its 28th year this summer, and attracts thousands of revelers over a three-day period. There’s also live music and fun children’s activities, but the main attraction is the slugburger, which was invented in Corinth.
The slugburger is unique in that it’s a deep-fried beef and soy patty that sold for a nickel when it was invented in the early 1900s (A nickel was then called a slug). The rule is that it must be eaten while still piping hot or it will morph into something that looks like a slug. Regardless, it’s a regional favorite that won’t be going away anytime soon. Authentic slugburgers can be found at Borroum’s Drug Store, Slugburger Café and White Trolley Café.
While the slugburger’s a tradition in northeastern Mississippi, fans of the butter burger know that its origins lie in Wisconsin. Thanks to the Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s, with more than 500 locations across the country, millions of burger enthusiasts have familiarized themselves with the signature ButterBurger that’s been around since 1984. Midwest beef patties are cooked to order, and then served on a lightly buttered, toasted bun.
The family-owned-and-operated Solly's Grille lays claim, however, to the original butter burger. The restaurant first started offering them in 1936 when it was called Solly’s Coffee Shop in Milwaukee, Wis. They’re made with 100 percent sirloin beef that arrives daily from a butcher’s shop and the toasted bun’s butter comes from local farms.
Minneapolis’ Matt’s Bar & Grill is somewhat of a landmark because of its creation of the “Jucy Lucy,” which is simply a burger with two handmade patties grilled with molten hot cheese in the center. The establishment opened in 1954 as a neighborhood burger joint, but the Jucy Lucy was invented several years later when a customer made a special request. It’s the most expensive burger on the menu at $6.75 and has been featured in the New York Times and Travel Channel's “Man Vs. Food” and “Food Wars.”
The fried onion burger is said to have been created as a necessity as the Great Depression became a reality in the late 1920s. Restaurants throughout Oklahoma began “stretching” the beef by adding thinly shredded onions in the hamburger meat. It helped them stay profitable during the lean years and it became so popular that there’s now an annual spring festival paying homage to it. El Reno’s, Sid’s Diner and Tucker’s Onion Burgers are some of the most well-known places to go for a taste.
When you think of California burger chains, In-n-Out — which has been around since 1945 — immediately comes to mind for its “secret menu.” It features such cult favorites as the “4x4” (four beef patties, hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, spread, four slices of American cheese and stacked high on a freshly baked bun) and “Animal-style” (burger of your choice with hand-leafed lettuce, tomato, a mustard cooked beef patty; add pickle, extra spread with grilled onions).
But the burger that’s redefining the quintessential California burger is found at the rapidly growing Umami Burger chain. Most elements are made in-house (condiments, cheeses, grinded premium steaks), and while each location spotlights a locally focused offering, the signature burger is the one getting all the accolades. It boasts some of the most savory flavor profiles and is topped with roasted tomato, parmesan frico, shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions and house-made ketchup.