That Time I Ate 14 Straight Days of Hamburgers … {the Quest in Review}

So, it happened.

For two solid weeks, I ate a different Roanoke burger every day — all in hopes of finding the best.  That’s fourteen local burgers in a row, kids.  Just count ’em:

🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔🍔

(Notice an extra in there?  That’s because I ate two in one day — no kidding!)

And it only seems right to finish that journey by sharing the full lineup with you — including some notes on my favorites.  So without further adieu, here’s a review of my journey:

Day 1:  the Green Goat ($9)

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The Goat’s burger is deceptively simple — a quarter-pounder that gives you a choice of three toppings.  There’s a giant pizza-topping menu to choose from, though, which makes this one of the most customizable burgers in the city.  If you like to do things your own way, this is the burger for you.

Day 2:  the Maple Burger at Blue 5 ($11)

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This sandwich — topped with bacon, thin-slivered Fuji apples, grilled onions and sweet apple cider mascarpone — hits the perfect balance between savory and sweet.  If you’re in the mood for something truly different … try it.

Day 3: the River and Rail Burger ($12 at lunch)

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This is one of the best burgers in Roanoke … if not the true King of the Hill.  It’s also a crowd-pleaser:  extra-juicy, utterly gigantic and loaded down with an obscene amount of fried onions, house-made pickles and smoky-sweet burger sauce.  If you try just *one* burger in the ‘Noke, make it this one.  At dinnertime, sit up at the bar or one of the high-tops, and ask for it by name. It’s just plain magnificent. 

Day 4:  the Bahn Mi Burger at Beamer’s 25 ($8.55)

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Beamer’s has plenty of fun burgers to choose from, but this one — a pork patty topped with all manner of crunchy vegetables, pickled ginger and chili mayo — is definitely something different. If you’re bored with beef, give it a go.

Day 5:  the Local Roots Burger ($18)

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This farm-to-table restaurant dishes up one of the best burgers in the ‘Noke, and this one still lives at the top of my list right beside the River and Rail burger.  The high-quality grass-fed beef is the star here, but the incredibly melty house-made pimiento cheese is no joke, either.

The bottom line?  This is an exceptionally fantastic burger.  So just eat it, already.  

Day 6:  the Wall Street Tavern Burger ($10)

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WST’s half-pounder is just plain delicious, but it lacks the “X-Factor” that makes some of the other burgers on this list so attention-getting.  Conclusion?  Order this one on a Wednesday — the restaurant’s burger night — when you can get 25% off and choose from a massive toppings list.  Suddenly, a “pretty good” hamburger becomes wildly interesting.

<<Update!  A burger-loving reader has since informed me that Burger Night at WSJ is no more… What? … Insert sad-face here.  Maybe if enough of us inquire, the good folks at the Tavern will humor us again!>>

Day 7:  the Cheesy Western at Texas Tavern (Under $3)

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Love it or hate it, you’re not a real Roanoker if you haven’t tried this iconic burger…  So try it, already.  The circa-1930 diner is open 24  hours a day, which renders you without excuse.  And besides — the Cheesy Western, topped with a fried egg and tangy relish, costs less than your favorite fluffy Starbucks concoction.

Day 8:  Jack Brown’s ($6.99+)

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This downtown bar is by far the craziest place to order a burger in town.  If you’re feeling like a true novelty, try the Greg Brady, topped with mac-n-cheese and barbecue potato chips.  Or try something from the Daily Specials menu, which includes some wild burgers like the Popeye (topped with spinach dip, available on Wednesdays) or the Big Lick Burger (topped with a fried egg and sandwiched between donuts for buns – available on Sunday).

All that to say:  Just do it.  And then you can say you did. 😉

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Day 9:  the Notorious P.I.G. at Martin’s

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Okay, so I admit it – this barbecue-topped burger was the monthly special for July, and now it’s … August.  Conclusion?  Go to Martin’s anyway, especially on Monday night, when all burgers are half price.  Check out the monthly special or choose from an extensive lineup of creative contenders.  I recommend the Southern Belle ($12.99), topped with smoky pimiento cheese, bacon, and a fried green tomato.

Day 10:  a Burger Doubleheader — Hollywood’s ($9.95-11.95) vs. Metro ($18)

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Both Hollywood’s — a friendly neighborhood grill in North County — and Metro — a glossy downtown nightspot — make a great hamburger.  Hollywood’s version nails that classic backyard-burger taste, and it’s especially delicious with pimiento cheese and bacon.  Metro’s iteration is made of ultra-tender Wagyu and finished with a sweet bacon-and-onion jam.  In totally different ways, either one is imminently noshable.

Day 11:  the Roasted Pickled Pepper Burger at Billy’s ($13)

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This burger — topped with super-sweet pickled peppers — was definitely something different.  That said, if it’s lunchtime and you want Billy’s best, order the shrimp & grits or fried oyster salad, which are both available for the same $13 price, and even more distinctive.

Day 12:  Table 50 ($14)

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This is a simple burger that keeps it classy, with house-ground beef, truffle-buttered Kaiser, Wisconsin cheddar, charred shallot mayo, lettuce, tomato and mayo.  Conclusion?  If you’re in the mood for a simple, good-quality burger in a fancy-pants environment, this is the one.

Day 13:  the Classic Cheeseburger at River Rock Restaurant ($4.45)

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This is a fresh, simple burger without all the fuss, served in an out-of-the-way diner with a view of the river.  If you want something really special, order it as a Double Bacon Cheeseburger ($8.85).  Then take pictures… Trust me.

Day 14:  the Dreamer at Burger in the Square ($6.94)

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BITS is one of Roanoke’s all-time-favorite burger joints, and its sandwiches are easily some of the best values in the city.  The Dreamer — a fresh-ground quarter-pounder generously topped with loads of bacon, provolone, grilled mushrooms and onions — is the local’s choice, and there’s a reason for that.  Don’t miss it.

*

So I did it.  I might be a little less svelte than I was 14 days ago, but I think was worth it — and I’m pretty sure I have a few new favorites, too.

I’ll be crunching through some fresh green salads for the next few weeks, but when my next burger-urge strikes, I can tell you where I’ll be going:  either River & Rail — nothing sates burger-hunger like that big beautiful monstrosity they serve there –or my old stand-by, Local Roots, which still dishes up one of the best.

Maybe you can join me! 🙂

See you tomorrow for a final encore-burger …

–Ashley