Once upon a time, on a flight from Los Angeles to Oklahoma, a man behind me described the concept of a “Make Your Own Burger” restaurant to his seat partner. “First, you pick a bun!” he said in loud bellow, meant for the nearly deaf or perhaps to scare away any bears that might be on the airplane. I did not see him, but I imagine he was also lifting his arms up to look big and imposing. Airplane bears are easily frightened if you look large and are loud.
“You can pick a regular bun,” he continued, shouting. “Or a sesame bun. They’ve got those pretzel buns, honey wheat. Or a Hawaiian bun. Or…” he said as if he were about to reveal the location of the Holy Grail, “you could do no bun at all! Make it a salad.”
While I appreciated the man’s enthusiasm as he described (topping by topping) every goddamn choice one could possibly find at a “Make Your Own Burger” establishment, it was 5:30am. I had been up since 3am. And I thought I was going to get to nap, but instead, I spent the entire flight, awake, listening to a man describe the wonder of being able to create the king of burgers.
That man will never know how his descriptive ways caused me to visualize the perfect burger, WHAT A STORYTELLER. I was able to see every ingredient of my burger, taste it practically, as I pictured loading his corpse into a trunk (having just slowly and delightedly murdered him), then licking my fingers to get the last bit of my wonderful burger, and pushing his body, weighted down with very heavy rocks, into Lake Hefner! For those of you who have never been to Oklahoma City, Lake Hefner is Oklahoma City’s man-made lake by the highway that people in Oklahoma City constantly will tell you is “nature” and a “place to hike” when you admit to missing mountains and ocean and trees. This is a very dubious claim.
Luckily for the man in 27A, Lake Hefner is not a large enough lake that I felt confident his body would stay sunk, and also, the airline had confiscated my barrel full of acid in the security line. Which sure, they found the 50 pound barrel of acid that I was laboriously dragging behind me. But they totally let me slip RIGHT through with a nearly full bottle of conditioner! What if I had been a terrorist??? Do we really want people to have soft hair? So as much as I longed to murder the man who had never heard of creating your own burger before that trip, it would have to wait for another day. And I will say, to his credit, he’s not wrong about how great Make Your Own Burger places are. They. Are. Delicious.
There’s something to be said about keeping burgers simple. But I am a real sucker for a complex, loaded burger just bursting with toppings and flavors. Specialty burgers are incredible. So for this list I went with the most common (I think) specialty combo burgers that you see pop up over and over again at restaurants. And while every burger is slightly different depending on the place, I put what ingredients I think HAVE to be there. The rest is gravy. Sometimes literally of course, and that’s a good call.
We went with only ten burgers, but there are so many more we could have chosen. Tell us all of them in the comments! But I’ll include just a few of the runner ups here. These are also amazing burgers and they just NARROWLY missed the official list:
The World Traveler Burger: A beef patty made from free range cows, grazing in a remote spot in the Andes that is only reached by hiking 1000 miles by foot, riding in a one person boat across an alligator filled swamp with a very old donkey, and getting carried through an ice cave by a 90 year old, local man who can see the future. The patty is then placed on a bun made from ground pictures of bikini clad women’s backs, standing in infinity pools with their arms outstretched to take in the view. And the whole thing is topped off with a sauce made from that 500 year old Scotch you tasted in the Highlands because you became such good friends with the locals. You just really love experiencing the culture, you know?
The Living In Your Parent’s Basement Burger: A Chicken Patty cooked in a light marinade of human breast milk, topped with thinly cut strips of the Dave Matthew’s Band Poster you kept proudly in your room until you graduated college, and finished with the crumbled dollar bills you thought you’d save until Dad had that talk about “pitching in to the household if you’re going to live here.”
Optional topping include: unused condoms, and a deep broiled sense of disappointment.
The Trump Family Burger: This is a super popular burger, seriously it’s selling like crazy, more people buy this burger than any other burger. Everyone just refuses to report it as such, like the totally fake New York Times, because so many illegal immigrants are buying other burgers for rapists and dead people, and they don’t count. But it’s crazy the amount of people that love this burger. It’s terrific. It’s made of rare, endangered tiger meat, and it may be covered in Russian dressing but who knows… it could be Chinese dressing. Those people make a lot of dressings too, so who knows. Sure, it might be Russian Dressing, but I straight up asked, “Is this Russian dressing?” And the cook said, “No.” So I asked him again, in a totally different way. “Russian dressing is this?” I asked and again, he said, “No.” So I don’t know. The point is that anyone would have eaten the burger anyway. Especially if they were curious and they ate it really quickly. Really it was nothing. Plus, it comes on a really sexy bun, very slim, very fit. It looks great. It’s in such great shape, beautiful. I’ll move at it like a bitch. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to make a burger like this but he totally failed. He was fired. Nobody liked his burger, okay? There’s only one way to make this burger, and it’s a big, big, big deal. A good deal. Nobody makes a burger that’s a better deal. Everyone else’s burger is garbage.
Those are all amazing burgers! We’re very sorry they can’t be on this list. But unfortunately, they were disqualified from the ranking for not being real. Thems the breaks, kids!
So now, I present SPECIALTY BURGERS, POWER RANKED.
Our rating system today will be “Samuel L. Jackson enjoying a tasty Big Kahuna Burger.” Although his enjoyment of the burger probably isn’t going to stop him from murdering you so….sorry.
10. Hawaiian Burger
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No better pair than Burgers and Brews! Come in tonight and choose between the flavorsome Hawaiian Burger topped with delicious grilled pineapple, ham, butter lettuce and a creamy Sriracha Aioli or the savory Mushroom Swiss Burger crowned with sautéed garlic mushrooms and melted Swiss cheese. Whatever you decide, you won’t be disappointed. But that’s not all – team your bold burger with a 20 oz. Mango Mamba from @12stringbeer for only $15. Come dine with us from 4PM-9PM!
It has to have: Grilled pineapple, teriyaki sauce, sweet onion, ham or bacon
I don’t know why this burger rubs me the wrong way. I like Hawaiian pizza. But as a burger, it’s too sweet and it has too much going on. So much pineapple, and it’s often in a big slicey chunk rather then the little soft, slices that blend into pizza so well. It’s just like aggressively assaulting me with pineapple. Of course, every time, I file a police report, but they always ask me what was I wearing when I ordered my meal… Why did I have on a Hawaiian shirt, grass skirt, and lei on if I didn’t want all the pineapple. Why did I go to the restaurant all by myself? Wouldn’t it have been safer it I had friends with me at the table? And why did I even open the burger page of the menu? Isn’t it kind of sending mixed signals to my server if I’m just staring at a Hawaiian burger on the page while ordering? Maybe…and they’re just spitballing here. Maybe… I ordered the burger and then just regretted it later? Isn’t that probably what happened? I got embarrassed that I wanted so much pineapple? Listen, they know I don’t want to ruin the burger restaurant’s reputation over one aggressive slice of pineapple, right?
Rating: 1 Samuel L. Jackson in a wheelchair subtly encouraging you to eat more burgers. Have you ever noticed that you can eat all the burgers you want without every getting sick? That you’re the only one that ate the mad cow burgers and lived? That you can lift more burgers than anyone else? Sure, maybe it sounds unbelievable, but he always knew since he was allergic to beef that there must be someone, somewhere out there who could handle more beef than any other human. An extraordinary amount of beef. All the infected beef from all the Chipotles in the whole world. And, mister, you’re that person.
9. Philly burger
It has to have: Provolone cheese, onions and peppers, mushrooms
Now this is a story all about how
My life got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of all burgers, if you care
In west Philadelphia born and raised
On the playground was where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out eating cheesesteaks real cool
Munchn’ and crunchn’ ’em outside of the school
When a couple of guys who were up to no good
Sold some Philly burgers in my neighborhood
I got in one little fight, and my mom got scared
She said, “You’re movin’ with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air.”
I begged and pleaded with her day after day
Cheesesteak ingredients on a burger? No way!
But she gave me a kiss and then she gave me my ticket.
So I put my Walkman on and said, “I might as well kick it.”
I whistled for a food truck and when it came near
The license plate said “Fresh” and it had dice in the mirror
If anything I could say that this truck was rare
But I thought, “Nah, forget it.”
– “Yo, Give me a burgare.”
I swallowed that burger ’bout 7 or 8
And I yelled to the food truck driver, “That’s good. Smell ya later.”
I looked at my kingdom
I was finally there
To sit on my throne: Burger Prince of Bel-Air
KEEP IT ON THE CHEESESTEAK LIKE IT BELONGS. It doesn’t make sense on a burger, AND IT NEVER WILL.
Rating: 2 Samuel L Jacksons taking care of the damn, airplane food. Why don’t they serve full meals anymore huh? Why not a nice burger and a side of chips? All they give is pretzels, PRETZELS. That’s not even nuts. Shit. He is so tired of it. And he’s going to take. Care. Of. Business. Because Samuel L. has had it with these motherfucking pretzels on this motherfucking plane!!!!
8. Ramen Burger
It has to have: A ramen noodle bun, a soy teriyaki glaze, scallions
The Ramen burger sounds soooooo good. I love ramen. And I love hamburgers. So why not combine them, you’d think. What could go wrong? But just because you love two things separately doesn’t mean they should be mashed together. Like ice cream on top of steak, or several tequila shots immediately following a dinner at the Cheesecake factory. Or even the on screen romance between Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie in The Tourist. With any of those, it doesn’t matter how good they are on their own, you’re going to puke after.
The problem with the ramen burger is that both tastes end up feeling diluted so you end up with a vaguely bland experience. You just want to enjoy your burger in a delicious, flavorful soup, and your ramen in a warm, freshly baked bun, you know? What? Oh. Ooops. I mixed those up. I MEANT you want to enjoy a burger in a warm, freshly baked soup, and ramen, in a delicious, flavorful bun. That’s what I meant.
Rating: 3 Samuel L Jacksons doing whatever he does in the movie Lakeview Terrace, I guess. I didn’t see it. But that’s okay because no one did.
7. Pizza Burger
It has to have: Mozzerella cheese, tomato sauce
I really like Pizza Burgers, like a lot. I’m only rating this so low on the list because I think I’m the only one. And this list IS COMPREHENSIVE, FAIR, AND REPRESENTS EVERYONE. When I was in college we had a “make your own custom burger and sandwich” station in our dorm cafeteria. And at every meal I would go to the pizza station and request marinara sauce and mozz cheese, and then I’d bring them in a little cup over to the sandwich station and make them make me a pizza burger or sometimes just a pizza sandwich. I’d have this as a snack after my normal dinner or lunch because my friends and I would literally sit in the cafeteria from the moment they opened until the moment they closed like totally normal people. Huh? Why yes, I did gain weight. How did you know?
Rating: 4 Samuel L. Jacksons who have created giant, carnivorous, genetically engineered hamburgers that reside in a ridiculously dangerous amusement park on a Costa Rican island (on which absolutely nothing could go wrong as long as the electric fences hold up). AND WHY WOULD THEY FAIL? Oops. They did. Oh well, hold onto your butts, folks. Hold onto your butts.
6. Bacon Cheeseburger
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It has to have: Bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato
I mean, there’s nothing that you could dislike about a bacon cheeseburger. That would be like disliking the most lovable comedian in the universe, John Mulaney, which is absolutely and completely impossible. You’d have to be a monster not to look at his sweet, hilarious face and feel anything but Awwwww. Every person who encounters him is exactly like the Grinch, your heart swells several times its size (which a lot of the time causes you to have a heart attack and die). But it’s worth it. One time I saw precious, adorable, baby John Mulaney at the Comedy Store, and he was just the greatest. We all just smiled the whole time. Oh Mulaney and his stories and antics. Precious. Afterwards, a very angry comedian came on the stage. And he was less funny than John Mulaney because John Mulaney is perfect. An he got frustrated that we weren’t laughing as much as we did with perfect, wonderful John Mulaney.
“SORRY I’M NOT JOHN MULANEY, ASSHOLES” he yelled at us.
“You should be,” I thought. The apology was really not accepted. All comedians should be John Mulaney, and they should all get plastic surgery to look like him. Including the women. That’s all I want from the world. IS IT SO MUCH????
Rating: 5 Samuel L. Jacksons who more or less show up to your burger eating experience as a cameo, but, you know, they have a 9 burger deal so they have to jump in there and tell the other superheroes something real quick.
5. Mac and Cheese Burger
It has to have: Pulled pork (ON TOP OF THE BURGER) and mac and cheese
Mmmmmm. Mac and cheese is good on everything, y’all. And it’s darn delicious on a burger. Recently I was with my family for my cousin’s wedding. Between the wedding and reception there was a short window of time that everyone went to a bar because, I mean, what are we going to do NOT start drinking immediately after mass? That would be CRAZY (obviously I could not partake given the current situation I’ve gotten myself which kicks me while I try to sleep and it was TRAGIC). But ANYWAYS, I ordered a pre-dinner mac and cheese burger like a totally normal human being.
“That’s just…bread on top of more bread,” my mom said confused. “Isn’t that too many carbs?”
“YOU’RE NOT MY REAL MOM,” I screamed. “AND YOU CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.”
“That doesn’t make any sense I gave birth to….”
“YOU’RE DEAD TO ME. YOU KNOW NOTHING OF TASTE OR FLAVOR. YOU’RE A MONSTER.” I bellowed. “I WANT PROOF THAT WE’RE RELATED.”
“Like a DNA test or….”
“HELP! SHE’S TRYING TO TAKE MY PURSE. CALL 911!!!! SOMEONE QUICK. ALL I WANTED WAS TO EAT A MAC AND CHEESE BURGER IN PEACE. I’VE NEVER SEEN THIS WOMAN IN MY LIFE. AHHHHHH. AHHHHHHH. AHHHHHHH. OH, WAIT. THE BILL IS HERE. MOM, DO YOU MIND GRABBING THAT? I DIDN’T BRING ANY MONEY. I LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUU.”
Rating: 6 Samuel L. Jacksons with inexplicable lisps to show that he’s a villain. And he’s trying to kill everyone in the world in order to leave more hamburgers for everyone else. You get to see a lot of heads exploding which is a plus, obviously. Though it does put you slightly off your hamburger game. Just kidding, we see a lot of violence in this country so….we’re preeeeetty desensitized to the whole thing. We could eat a hamburger while watching just about any body part explode. Fun!
4. Hangover Burger
It has to have: A runny egg, bacon, and some sort of potato hash.
I don’t know if a hangover burger is beneficial in actually curing a hangover, but it sure is the best. A runny egg is pretty much good on everything, but is just especially delectable on a burger. The way the egg drips down the side of the burger while the bun soaks up most of the yolk, the salty bacon, the potatoes…. the way you have a full face tattoo, are missing a tooth, and are married to Heather Graham… all of it blends together for the perfect post-drinking experience. Now just repeat exactly that same plot pretty much word for word two more times….And you’ve got a real winner of a burger. You’re going to make a lot of money at least, that’s for sure.
Rating: 7 Samuel L. Jacksons unable to see the mysterious ghost that haunts his home and seduces his children and their friends into solving mysteries regarding lost hamburgers. It’s unclear what the ghost wants, most likely their souls, but he is really helpful. Sure, the children have become secretive and lock themselves in rooms talking to a spirit who was violently murdered and is communicating with them from beyond the grave to complete his own mysterious agenda that he needs a group of children to carry out, but Samuel has no reason to be worried.
It’s normal to wake up with your son standing over you with a knife, chanting. Standard kid stuff.
3. The Pretzel Burger
It has to have: Beer Cheese, caramelized onions, a pretzel bun
I can’t tell you the things I would do for a free pretzel bun because they would be unspeakable acts of horror. For ONE pretzel bun. That’s all it would take. I wish I could say I’d be better than that, but you put a pretzel bun in front of me, and….Look, pretzel buns are the greatest of all the foods. And maybe you wouldn’t go as far as I would. I bet you’re a slightly better person than I, sure. But don’t tell me you wouldn’t at least do something minorly bad like….say… burning down an orphanage to get one. No one is that much of a saint. Hahaha. Can you imagine? Turning down a pretzel bun to save ORPHANS? No one could. THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE PARENTS.
Rating: 8 Samuel L. Jacksons warning you not to go into that hotel room to eat your hamburger. Terrible things happen in that room, and everyone who goes in dies. But the hotel can still rent it out for some reason if you REALLY insist, and no one has closed down the hotel even though literally dozens of people have been found dead so…..your call.
2. BBQ Burger
It has to have: Barbecue sauce, bacon, blue or cheddar cheese, onion rings
There’s a reason pretty much every burger restaurant on the planet offers some form of the barbecue burger. And that reason is that way back when, an evil sorcerer put a curse on the earth that caused all the dinosaurs to die and also every restaurant that served burgers to have to serve a barbecue burger. And that’s just history.
A barbecue burger is just the great standard. There’s pretty much no way to mess it up because you know exactly what you’re getting, and it’s going to be great. Whether you’re at a dive bar or a diner, the barbecue burger rarely disappoints. Unlike your son who majored in clowning and movement in college.
“So. Dance?” You asked. “You’re majoring in dance?”
“So what does that….”
“We learn how to walk, DAD, be in our bodies.”
“We’re spending 80 thousand dollars a year so you can learn how to walk?”
“GOD DAD YOU NEVER GET IT. YOU’RE SO EMBARRASSING. YOU’VE NEVER SUPPORTED ME IN ANYTHING EXCEPT FINANCIALLY AND WITH YOUR TIME AND LOVE. UGH.”
Rating: 9 Samuel L. Jacksons giving a rousing speech. “Yeah things look bad now. Burgers can be lethal, but they don’t hold a candle to man. We CAN eat all the burgers if we just work together. First we have to….” (and then a shark jumps out of the water and devours him and it’s REALLLLLLY good.)
1. Southwest Burger
It has to have: Pepperjack Cheese, avocado or guac, salsa, jalapeno, beans
Ah the perfect specialty burger. It’s spicy, it’s tasty. IT’S THE BEST BURGER ONE COULD EVER MAKE EVER.
Rating: Ten Samuel L. Jacksons biting in and saying, “Mmmmm that IS a tasty burger!”