The old saying might be “American as apple pie,” but at my house, true Americana comes in ground beef form. The kind shaped into a patty and served on a bun.
For the most part, Dixon and I are both burger traditionalists. Occasionally we’ll give a “gourmet” burger a shot, but typically, cheese, ketchup, mustard and possibly a pickle or two are all the toppings necessary to satisfy us.
We’re easy when it comes to burger style, too, which is good news in Baltimore, where great burgers come in all shapes and sizes. Thick, juicy patties. Flat skinny patties. Sliders. We love ‘em all.
Choosing a favorite would be impossible; there are too many excellent burgers in Baltimore to pick just one. But we do find ourselves ordering burgers at the same handful of spots over and over again. We know we can’t go wrong with a burger order at any of these five restaurants.
our favorite baltimore burgers
Dixon’s usual order at this family-owned Towson spot is a standard bacon cheeseburger, doused in ketchup and mustard (that may or may not end up on his shirt).
The burgers are some of the juiciest around, but we’re fans of more than just the meat. In this case, the buns – often a forgotten piece of the puzzle – make the burger even better. Burger Bros. serves their patties on shiny brioche buns that are substantial enough that they don’t disintegrate under all that juice.
No Burger Bros. trip would be complete without some of their fries, too. The spuds remind me of Thrasher’s fries and they’re best with a liberal sprinkle of malt vinegar.
A couple years ago, when this Canadian-influenced burger joint opened next to The Senator theater, we became instant fans. The burgers, skinny patties cooked on a flat top behind the restaurant’s bar, are tasty all the way through.
Dixon jumps back and forth between a regular cheeseburger and the Barque Burger, which is topped with spicy mustard and a slab of brisket (some days, he needs an extra jolt of protein). But my order is always the same: The Clark Burger. Cheddar, bacon, onion, lettuce, pickle and a generous smear of tangy “CB sauce” top the patty – and they’re perfect, every time.
Don’t miss Clark Burger’s poutine, either. The Canadian specialty – cheese curd and gravy-topped fries – looks a little messy. But it’s worth the extra napkins.
Kooper’s, which has locations in Fells Point, Jacksonville and Mays Chapel, has dozens of burger options on its menu, which makes it a good choice for people who like to experiment. I am partial to the Elvis Got the Blues, which is topped with bacon and blue cheese, though adding blue cheese to anything is a surefire way to make sure Dixon won’t ask me for a bite. (He loves blue cheese dressing, though. Go figure.)
Typically, when he’s ordering burgers, Dixon skips the kids’ menu and orders a regular, adult-sized meal. Not at Kooper’s, though, since the restaurant’s kids’ menu includes sliders. The tiny burgers are just as good as the ones on the regular menu. They’re a hit with everyone in our house.
Famous for its meat-centric menu and commitment to locally-sourced products, it’s no surprise that Parts & Labor has a killer burger. Hefty, really juicy and topped with housemade pickles and spicy remoulade, it is, hands down, one of the best in the city.
As a bonus, though the restaurant is not exactly Chuck E. Cheese, P&L’s deep booths are fairly kid-friendly. They’re open to the restaurant, but offer just enough privacy that a little childlike squirming won’t disturb other diners. Always a win.
Dixon’s first Shake Shack experience was an exciting one. He and I were on a day trip to the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. and ordered burgers and shakes from the Union Station outpost of the burger chain before literally sprinting for our train back to Baltimore. We made the train with seconds to spare and, thanks to the run, our first bites of Shake Shack burgers felt like a well-deserved reward.
And what a reward those burgers are. Thin patties, special sauce, tons of flavor. With crinkle fries on the side and a shake for dessert, we always walk away from Shake Shack feeling like we won the burger lottery.