Beef: It’s what’s for dinner. And lunch. And breakfast. Or at least it has been for us the past several weeks, as we thought about little else beyond burgers. Ignoring calorie counts in the name of journalism, we went on a quest to find Baton Rouge’s best burgers. After researching and sampling burgers topped with everything from foie gras to pork belly preserves, we narrowed it down to our 13 favorites. And while they may not all be made of beef—yes, there is a veggie burger and a turkey burger on the list—they all have one thing in common: Each is a perfect fix for those indulgent moments when you just need a burger.
By Maggie Heyn Richardson, Benjamin Leger, Danielle Mack,
Matthew Sigur and Jennifer Tormo
Fat Cow’s NAPA BURGER
What’s on it: Sourdough bread with a hint of cheddar and jalapeños, sliced D’Anjou pear, red onion marmalade, arugula, charcoal-grilled beef patty
If burgers could be stereotyped, the Napa Burger would be personified as the rebel. Topped with sweet pears and marmalade, and best paired with a white wine such as pinot grigio, it tosses out all rules about what to eat and drink with red meat. “Traditionally, it’s weird to have fruit on a hamburger,” Fat Cow chef Doug Hosford says. “It’s funny because we pair fruits with all kinds of meats—why can’t we do pear on a hamburger? Why is that forbidden?” Hosford, a former country club chef, drew inspiration from his fine-dining background to create this salt- and pepper-seasoned patty topped with a medley of pears, jammy red onion marmalade, creamy goat cheese and light, fresh arugula. The end result is pure brilliance. Sweet, meet salty: You’re going to be very happy together.
What’s on it: Sweet sourdough bun, lettuce, tomato and onion, fried egg, American cheese, homemade sausage patty, another fried egg, bacon, ground beef patty
The Breakfast Burger is one big burger. So big, in fact, that servers drive a knife down the center to keep it from falling over. The first week Mason’s Grill offered the dish, the restaurant gave away its signature T-shirts to diners who ate the whole thing. “Usually people are in shock of how big it is,” manager Kristin Alfandre says. “They say, ‘Oh my gosh, that thing is huge. I’m going to need another stomach.’” The burgers are made to order from scratch in the restaurant’s kitchen by co-owners Mike and Shirley Alfandre during Saturday and Sunday brunch. While Kristin proclaims the sweet sourdough bread is the best bun you’ll ever have in your life, she says it’s the fried egg that makes the dish so good. People often ask if the burger is topped with a special kind of sauce, and servers explain that the yolk seeping into the meat gives the burger flavor. Even if you can’t finish the whole thing, this burger is worth a try. And if you can finish the whole thing, well, Kristin jokes that the restaurant is located right near a hospital—so you’ll be fine.
What’s on it: Original Bistro Byronz bun, spinach and tomato, Asian mayo, homemade veggie patty
When Bistro Byronz revamped its menu last fall with a host of new entrees, a surprising addition was the Veggie Burger. Even more surprising: It’s made from scratch in-house. “I myself don’t eat a lot of meat,” says Byronz’s co-owner Emelie Kantrow Alton. “So I was kind of at the helm of creating the Veggie Burger. We wanted to make sure nothing was premade.” That’s a breath of fresh air when many restaurants’ vegetarian offerings are often uninspired (think premade tofurkey patties with fake grill marks). This patty is formed from a hefty mix of red beans, pecans, mushrooms, carrots and zucchini. It’s then topped with a zesty Asian mayo and the prerequisite tomato and spinach. “We really wanted something that tastes like vegetables,” Alton says. “We weren’t trying to replicate a meat product. This has the quality and taste of real vegetables.” Sandwiched between bread made at Chef John Folse’s Bakery Division in Gonzales—based on Bistro Byronz’s original homemade bread recipe—the Veggie Burger doesn’t skimp on taste or size.
5412 Government St. (218-1433) | 8200 Village Plaza Court (367-4170) | bistrobyronz.com
Barcadia’s BRIAN 2.0
What’s on it: Brioche bun, pork belly preserves, Maytag blue cheese, fried onion strings, ground beef patty
Curbside’s Brian burger helpedpopularize the food truck in Baton Rouge, and now the burger is back with a new attitude on the recently opened Barcadia menu. The Brian 2.0 combines sweet-salty pork belly preserves with Maytag blue cheese and fried onion strings, setting off a wide range of flavor notes and textures, says Barcadia executive chef and Curbside founder Nick Hufft. To make the preserves, Hufft cooks down pork bellies from Tennessee artisan producer Benton Farms with onions, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. The condiment was so well received that Hufft has been working on packaging it for retail. It could hit shelves later this year, he says. The Brian 2.0 will also be featured on the Curbside menu when the truck reopens in the next few months, Hufft adds. The original Brian was made with cheddar cheese and no fried onions, and yes, you can still order it that way, too.
What’s on it: Brioche bun, local heirloom tomatoes and greens, Merlot truffle mayo, sunny-side-up egg, smoked onion jam, sauteed wild mushrooms, duck confit, foie gras, Gruyere cheese,Wagyu beef patty
When patrons seethe Wall Street Burger come out of Restaurant IPO’s kitchen, the reaction is like dominoes—everyone wants one at their table. Of course, the $55 price tag might stop diners in their tracks, but executive chef Scott Varnedoe says this burger is meant to be shared. Not to mention, it comes with a small bottle of Meiomi pinot noir that can easily fill two wine glasses. “This, for me, is not a gimmick. I wanted something that ate like a steak, like when you order a steak at a high-end restaurant and you get all these unique flavors on top of a filet. It’s worth every penny,” Varnedoe says. What constitutes all those unique flavors? The juicy Wagyu beef patty is topped with tender slices of duck confit, smoked onion jam, foie gras, sauteed wild mushrooms, Gruyere cheese, mayo made from a Merlot-truffle reduction and an oozing sunny-side-up egg all sandwiched between a sweet Brioche bun. Whew! As Varnedoe says, “You can’t eat this every day.” But boy, is it a good day when you can.
What’s on it: Homemade sesame seed bun, sauteed mushrooms, Swiss cheese, black Angus beef patty
There is certainly noshortage of options at this local burger institution, but one menu staple hails as the frequent choice of many regulars. Served on the same locally baked bun since the restaurant’s opening more than 30 years ago, the Mushroom Burger is a popular customer favorite at Brew-Bacher’s Grill. With fans from near and far, even actor Dennis Quaid drops by when visiting the Capital City to enjoy this masterpiece—a grilled-to-order patty of black Angus beef, topped with mild Swiss cheese and tender mushrooms, sautéed in Worcestershire sauce and a touch of essence seasoning. Most enjoy rounding off their burgers fully dressed with mayo, lettuce and tomato. You can be confident in knowing you made the right choice, but the real dilemma arises when you have to choose between onion rings or fries.
5580 Government St. (927-8131) | 8415 Bluebonnet Blvd. (761-1700) | 5251 Nicholson Drive (766-8491) | brewbachersgrill.com
Goodwood Grill’s MEGABURGER
What’s on it: Sesame seed bun, lettuce and tomato, pickle, mustard and mayo, grilled onion, mushrooms, jalapeño, bacon, American and Swiss cheese, ground beef patty
When Nick Haghighi opened Goodwood Grill in July 2004, he quickly noticed that his customers had a lot of ideas for toppings on their burgers. “They wanted this and that, so I just put everything on it,” he says. Shortly after opening, Haghighi introduced the Megaburger, a half-pound burger that even makes him sigh, “It’s pretty huge.” Still, the restaurant sells anywhere from 25 to 30 of them per day. Some customers share it. Some see it as a rite of passage. “We’ll have customers who get it and then brag about it, like ‘Woah, do you see this thing,’” he says. But he takes pride in serving it. A self-taught cook, Haghighi says he fixes every plate like it’s his own lunch, making each burger fresh by hand each morning with a seasoning blend of salt, pepper and some onion. “When you mix it all together—the freshness and seasonings—you cannot go wrong with that,” he says.
What’s on it: Golden egg roll, lettuce and tomato, bacon, Wisconsin cheddar, ground beef patty
A classy restaurant and bardeserves a classy and straightforward burger, and the Prime Burger at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar does not disappoint. A special house blend keeps this patty of top-grade ground beef perfectly seasoned. Diners are given their pick of aged Wisconsin cheddar, Swiss or Danish blue cheese to melt atop the juicy patty. Throw in some crispy bacon, a sweet, dense egg roll bun and the bar’s impressive happy hour cocktail menu, and it all amounts to the perfect combination for decompressing after work with friends or coworkers.
What’s on it: Traditional hamburger bun, lettuce and tomato from Capital City Produce, onion, American cheese, ground beef patty
Sometimes, you just needa good ol’ cheeseburger. Nothing fancy. Just meat, cheese and simple fixings. For those times, there’s Dearman’s. Dining at this classic soda shop is like traveling in a DeLorean back to the ’50s—long before artisan burgers became a staple on every gourmet restaurant’s menu. The beef is ground fresh daily in the open kitchen, and the burgers can be served alongside shakes and malts. Diners enjoy their meals in surroundings as classic as the food: checkered black-and-white floors and retro red chairs and booths. It’s a formula that attracts loyal customers who can’t resist coming back for more. “I would say 70 to 80 percent of our business is repeat business,” manager Casey Evans says. Much like Baton Rouge mainstays Fleur de Lis Pizza and Louie’s Cafe, it seems this restaurant is here to stay for another several decades, at least. Hey—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
7633 Jefferson Highway | 924-1391
HEAVY HIT BURGER
What’s on it: Whole wheat, sesame seed bun, lettuce and tomato, mayo and mustard, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, avocado, homemade patty with chuck, inside round and brisket
If Baton Rouge had a list of serious food institutions, George’s would be near the top. One of the oldest bars and restaurants in town, the three George’s locations each have the same huge menu, filled with sandwiches, plate specials and even oddities like eggrolls. But it’s also burgers like the Heavy Hit—topped with shredded cheese and two big slices of avocado—that keep residents coming back. General manager Tony Lanata says the Heavy Hit started in the late ’70s, “before California food became cool.” Served medium, the beef is a mix of chuck, inside round and whole brisket that’s been ground up and gives the patty a little extra fat. “It’s already a pretty doggone good cheeseburger,” he says. “Then, you put the avocado on it, and it gives it a little West Coast feel.” The Heavy Hit was hip and trendy before restaurants wanted to associate those words with a burger. “It was probably the first designer burger in Baton Rouge,” Lanata says.
2943 Perkins Road (343-2363) | 15321 George O’Neal Lane (755-5700) | 8905 Highland Road (768-8899) | georgesbr.com
MEGA BURGER WITH SHRIMP
What’s on it: Toasted bun, lettuce and tomato, pickle, ketchup, mustard and mayo, American cheese, raw or grilled onion, 5 ounces of grilled or fried medium-sized shrimp, ground beef patty
Raul’s Deli has spread its flair for herb-seasoned and, yes, juicy burgers across the city. The highlight of visiting a Raul’s is what you can put on your burger, which brings us to the Mega Burger with Shrimp. Eating one is like taking on a Man vs. Food challenge. The patty is 10 ounces. After the lettuce, cheese, tomato, pickle, mayo and mustard, there’s an additional five ounces of medium-sized, Cajun-style shrimp—grilled or fried. The sight of it might be a little much for health nuts, but its popularity hasn’t wavered—it’s been a best-seller the past three years.
7111 B. Airline Highway (778-7285) | 1183 S. Flannery Road (615-7171)
What’s on it: Cracked wheat bun, lettuce and grilled onion, Swiss cheese, homemade Cajun honey mustard, char-grilled turkey patty
Few things are as crave-worthy as the traditional beef burger, but the moist, flavorful Turkey Burger at Burgersmith makes this healthier choice a guilt-free pleasure that is sure to leave an unforgettable impression. Forget about beef—you’ll quickly gobble this down. Get the best of both worlds with juicy, hand-formed, char-grilled all-white turkey, housed on a slightly sweet, cracked wheat bun. It’s generously topped with crisp lettuce, grilled onions, Swiss cheese and zesty house-made Cajun honey mustard, made fresh daily with traditional honey, Cajun spices and special seasonings. Of course, you can also opt to customize this juicy creation as you wish. Served with an order of Burgersmith’s signature French fries, this will soon be your go-to burger on your next visit.
If there is one thing Baton Rouge natives agree on, “the weight is worth the wait” at Riverside Patty. With a great reputation preceding it, this local burger icon has been serving up oversized, homemade burgers since its doors opened at its original downtown location in 1982. Because each burger is made to order, devoted fans anticipate longer wait times but are always pleased with the finished product. During lunchtime, you’ll spot everyone from judges to attorneys to long-time downtown employees at the restaurant. Although you’ll need extra napkins, the perfect flavor marriage of high-quality ground beef, melted cheddar cheese and a generous portion of tasty, meaty chili make this half-pound burger a favorite to many. Served on a fresh, toasted bun arranged quickly on a thin paper plate, it’s dressed as you please—with mayo, mustard, lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion. If you are brave enough to finish, get ready to unbutton your top pants button because this chili cheeseburger is what a good burger is all about.