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Last year, our story on the Top 10 Burgers in Atlantic City proved one thing: Everyone loves a good burger. Not only was it one of our most-read stories of all time, but the restaurants on the list literally sold out of burgers.
This year, we wanted to take it to the next level. Sure, South Jersey has a plethora of great burger spots, but we wanted to compare burgers throughout South Jersey, which not only makes the list tougher to create, but offers the ultimate burger list.
We also have a separate list of the Top 10 Burgers under $10 and a Top 10 Readers list that will be revealed on April 28. And everyone will be able to taste most of the burgers on all three lists at one place: Burger Bash at The Deck at Golden Nugget Atlantic City on May 21. (All ages welcomed. See accompanying stories.)
While nearly every restaurant has a burger on its menu, we are here to tell you which burgers reign supreme at the Jersey shore.
Let the debate begin.
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It might surprise some people that this stunning boutique restaurant in Wildwood Crest has a great burger. It does — on its bar menu. So grab an El Diablo martini and let us choose which of the three signature burgers you should order. The Bacon & Bleu is outstanding in every way. A proprietary 8-ounce blend of brisket, short rib, chuck and steak trimmings would be great without anything on it. But when you season it, cook it in a flat-iron pan AND a charbroiler, then add smoked applewood bacon, caramelized onions, shallots and plenty of blue cheese and put it on an amazing brioche, you have yourself — as Jules from “Pulp Fiction” would say — one tasty burger! MarieNicoles.com
Lots changed at Gregory’s recently. There’s a new dining room, and culinary grads Joe and Paul Gregory have taken over the kitchen, offering the best food this Somers Point institution ever had in its 70-year existence. The half-pound burger — particularly the Breakfast, Bacon, Egg & Cheeseburger — is a perfect example of how good the food is. A fresh blend of meat from West Side Meat in Rio Grande featuring brisket, short rib and chuck with a 25-percent fat content is the backbone of this creation. It’s simply salted and peppered and seared on a flattop. Although it’s fine with a slice of sharp cheddar cheese — and available for $6 in that form on Wednesdays — the applewood-smoked bacon and over-easy egg, where the yolk serves as a dressing, makes this burger a star. Accompanied with some killer, fresh, house-cut fries, and it’s the recipe for a Top 10 burger. GregorysBar.com
Executive Chef Russ Barrie offers a 16-ounce version of his burger, he agrees with us that the 10-ouncer is plenty of burger … and plenty of deliciousness. While you might not think of this beautiful bayside spot as a place to grab a burger, you should. It all starts with the meat, of course, which is simply seasoned with salt and pepper and slowly cooked on an open flame. Like any good chef, Barrie goes the extra mile devising a tomato jam that is worth the price of the burger itself. Barrie roasts down the tomatoes, reduces them with red onion, sugar and balsamic vinegar, resulting in sweet yet tangy perfection. Crispy, thick-cut applewood bacon, crumbled blue cheese, lettuce, tomato and red onion are the finishing touches as it’s placed on a Formica brioche roll that is nicely buttered and grilled. All of this goodness is accompanied by thin, house-cut fries. The burger is the reason to go. The sweeping view is a bonus. TavernOnTheBayResort.com
There’s a reason the Steakhouse Burger won a silver medal in 2015’s Battle of the Burger in Philadelphia: It’s not only one of the best burgers in South Jersey; it’s one of the best burgers in the tri-state area. A juicy blend of chuck, short rib and brisket with a hearty 25-percent fat content is just the beginning of a beautiful burger experience that ends with one of the best rolls on this list — an onion, poppyseed Formica brioche. Char-grilled on an open flame, the special house seasoning features salt, pepper, garlic and some “secret” ingredients, and the toppings show Cattle ’n Clover’s attention to the little details. Fresh onions are frizzled and placed on top like a crispy nest. Pickles — made in house — are fried in the form of a giant pickle chip that covers the burger. A homemade boursin cheese spread shows out-of-the-box burger making. And the giant steak knife that holds it all together, including lettuce and tomato, is a beautiful touch. Who says the Irish can’t make good food? CattleNClover.com
If you look at the rest of the burgers on this list, you will see a bevy of fancy ingredients from black angus meat to blends to homemade condiments. Vagabond somehow doesn’t need any of that pomp and circumstance to pump out tasty burger after tasty burger. Maybe it’s the simplicity that makes it work so perfectly. Eight ounces of ground beef with 20-percent fat content is topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and your choice of American, cheddar, Swiss, blue, gouda or provolone cheese. The seasoning of the burger — Lawry’s seasoned salt and some secret spices — combined with the flame-broiled meat take it Top 10 worthy. The presentation certainly helps: a stacked burger with a steak knife through it, the Vagabond logo branded on the toasted brioche Formica bun and served on a wooden cutting chopping block. Spring an additional $3.99 to upgrade to the hand-cut Belgian fries and grab at least one of their dipping sauces such as Old Bay mayo, cheese sauce or Sriracha ketchup. VagabondAC.com
In an area with less competition, The Iron Room’s Flat Iron Burger would top most region’s best burger list. It’s a perfect burger. Gourmet by all standards, Executive Chef Kevin Cronin uses 8 ounces of all-natural, grass-fed, angus beef. The mix of sirloin and chuck with a hearty fat content offers amazing beefy flavor. Cronin, as always, likes to keep things interesting. You can choose your standard cheddar, but he also offers emmental (Swiss) or Gruyere, which is our preference for its sweet yet salty profile. Simply seasoned with salt and pepper and fried in a flat-iron pan before bringing it to temp in an oven, Cronin takes it to the next level by not only making his own catsup — not ketchup because it has a little bit of fish sauce in it — but also adding Newsky’s applewood-smoked bacon and one of our favorite brioche rolls from Formica Bros. Served with his signature, hand-cut Belgian fries, Cronin’s already magnificent creation can get even better by upgrading to some of the Iron Room’s stellar cheese selection including Cypress Grove’s Truffle Tremor, Humboldt Fog or Sriracha Cheddar for 5 bucks. And if you go on Sundays, burgers are half off, which makes it the best $7.50 burger you will ever, ever have. Seriously. ACBottleCompany.com
Why wasn’t this burger on last year’s list? Because we didn’t know about it. But when Executive Chef Norman J. Reola’s brain exploded after not making the list for his worthy Vic Burger, he delivered one to us. Consider the oversight corrected as the Vic Burger is simply outstanding. Available only on the lounge menu, Reola and his team start with 10 ounces of prime chuck with 25-percent fat content before adding two hearty slices of applewood-smoked bacon. Served on a tasty Valenti’s Bakery brioche, my favorite part of the Vic Burger is the choice to use both white cheddar and American cheese. You get the slight tang of the cheddar and the creaminess of the American. Best of both worlds. Served with fresh-cut sea salt fries, the Vic Burger is everything a steakhouse burger should be. VicAndAnthonys.com; GoldenNugget.com
The Bozzi Burger at The Palm, Atlantic City ($18.50): Last year’s No. 1 burger in Atlantic City is the third best in South Jersey and is just as awesome as we remember it. Named after the family that owns the famed Palm steakhouses around the country, The Bozzi Burger is a super bargain at $18.50: A full pound of of prime beef with the perfect amount of fat — about 30 percent — topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles and choice of cheddar or gouda (our preferred choice) on a fresh-baked Formica brioche that is buttered and grilled. There’s even a cherry on top — a cherry pepper, that is. It comes with the biggest stack of Yukon gold fries imaginable, and we really encourage you to order the smoked bacon slab ($16) with chipotle adobo glaze and house BBQ sauce that is the best burger topping on this list. Despite hundreds of Bozzi Burgers sold last year after we named it No. 1, it remains a secret item. You have to ask for it. And that’s part of the coolness of it. ThePalm.com; Tropicana.net
Anyone who knows Chef Lucas Manteca won’t be surprised that his burger is the second best burger in South Jersey. The Red Store Burger is a prime example of how serious he takes his food. Nearly everything on the burger is scratch made. For starters, he uses a custom blend of black angus brisket, chuck and short rib that he seasons in a 24-hour process that results in great juiciness. He bakes his own brioche roll that is buttered and grilled. He makes his own grain mustard and his own ketchup, a silky concoction based on his popular tomato jam. Of course the herbed garlic fries are house cut. The only ingredients he doesn’t make are the blend of cheeses — Vermont cheddar and British-aged cheddar — but don’t be surprised if he does that, too. He even puts wood chips under the gas flame to add flavor. Wingcraft had been destroying the competition until we went to The Red Store. Then it became a tough decision. CapeMayPointRedStore.com
Most restaurant owners would be happy if they were named the No. 2 burger in Atlantic City. And Wingcraft Kitchen & Beer Bar Owner Nick Ballias was just that … he just wasn’t happy enough when his Classic Double hit No. 2 last year. So about a week after the list appeared, he began a year-long quest to hit No. 1. The Manhattan Project went through three variations before Ballias thought he had the burger that could top all others. And he was right. Wisely sticking with famed New York meat man Pat LaFrieda to supply the same blend of hormone-free chuck, brisket and short rib that can still be tasted in the Classic Double, this 6-ounce blend also features prime rib that was dry aged 30 to 50 days. So you get the New York strip flavor from the chuck, the fat and juiciness from the brisket, the hint of sweetness from the short rib and the nutty, funky, intense beef flavor from the dry-aged prime rib. The finishing touches include smoked gouda, crispy fried onions, a honey BBQ steak sauce (ask for it on the side) and a buttered, grilled potato roll. It’s like eating a Peter Luger steak on a bun. You may ask, why isn’t the Classic Double on the list? Well, it would — and should — be, but I didn’t want to take up two spots from one restaurant. And that burger is even better since last year thanks to the addition of a special sauce. The Manhattan Project is as good as a burger gets, and Wingcraft’s quest to be No. 1 is fulfilled. WingcraftAC.com
Try all of the winning burgers at the first-ever AC Weekly Burger Bash at Golden Nugget on May 21. Tickets are only $25, plus fees. Want more information? Go to ACWeekly.com/BurgerBash. Already know you wanna go? Then head to ACBurgerBash.eventbrite.com to purchase tickets. And vote for your favorite burger by April 24!