The Hamburger at P.J. Clarke’s.
The Kobe Burger at N9NE Steakhouse.
The American palate may have gotten more sophisticated during the past few decades, but beef is still very much our meat of choice, and the burger is still our favorite and most accessible way to consume it.
Daniel Boulud launched the upscale burger craze in the late ’90s at his New York brasserie and made it a national pheenom. In Las Vegas, Hubert Keller followed with his excellent Burger Bar at Mandalay Place in 2004, and now, there are more creative burger joints—and food trucks—in Vegas than we can count.
Chains such as In-N-Out and the popular Midwestern import Steak ’n Shake (new at the South Point) compete with celebrity chef concepts such as Laurent Tourondel’s swank burger emporium BLT Burger at The Mirage and casino marketing venues such as the new I Burgers at the Palazzo, while fast-food giants can only shake their collective heads.
On Super Bowl Sunday, it’s dips, beer and pizza during the game, burgers after. The more ambitious among us may grill, but most of us are just too done-in to cook.
To that end, here are seven amazing burgers that should satisfy any carnivore. (Though, if you do crave a veggie burger, the Boca Burger at Claim Jumper is hard to top.)
Sin City Burger at Smashburger
I love the burgers at this new chain, which already has four Vegas locations, including the one on Maryland Parkway that’s sneakily placed right next door to an In-N-Out. These burgers are made from meat never frozen, “smashed” on a griddle with a weight, available as either third- or half-pounders. I like the Sin City, which has bacon, cheese and a fried egg, which is far more common in Europe and often seen as odd here, but then I was also the kid who liked the black Jujyfruits. 9101 W. Sahara Ave., 7541 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 5655 Centennial Center Blvd. and 4725 S. Maryland Parkway, Smashburger.com, $6-$7.
Kalbi Burger at Bachi Burger
Hawaii native Lorin Watada, formerly of Roy’s, owns this Pacific Rim burger concept in Las Vegas. He’s through the looking glass with a host of Asian-themed burgers embroidered with flavors of Japan, China and even Vietnam. The Kalbi Burger pays homage to Korea: a minced beef and pork concoction topped with ko chu jang mayonnaise—best described as a fiery fermented bean paste mayo—and stinky kimchi. 470 E. Windmill Lane, 242-2244, $8.
The Gold Standard at Holsteins
This new burger stop features adult milk shakes and fusion-y appetizers, plus several exotic burgers that push the envelope a little hard. But Holsteins’ signature burger is sheer genius. It’s made with dry-aged beef sirloin, bacon, aged goat cheddar, tomato confit, baby arugula and garlic-chili aioli. There’s a nice veggie burger, the Urth, on the menu here as well. In the Cosmopolitan, 698-7000, $17.
The Hamburger at P.J. Clarke’s
It wouldn’t be a true upscale burger without a fancy provenance. The legendary New York bar does a fresh, coarse French grind of Meyer Ranch Red Angus beef and serves it simply on a bun with pickles and onion, all the better to appreciate this burger’s intensely beefy taste. Ignore the saucer-size plate on which it for some reason arrives. Toppings such as thin, flavorful chili and a number of reputable cheeses are extra. In the Forum Shops at Caesars, 434-7900, $9.30.
6-Pack Iron Chef Sliders at KGB
The “Rock ’n’ Roll Chef,” Kerry Simon, has a huge hit on his hands. KGB stands for Kerry’s Gourmet Burgers, and the place has a cute Russian theme and vodka bar. I love the cheeseburger soup and Cap’n Crunch milk shake, but what I really crave are these sliders made from Creekstone Farms beef, into which a hint of onion is mixed. You get a neat half-dozen, topped with American cheese and a tomato slice. They are addictive. In Harrah’s, 369-5065, $14.
Kobe Burger at N9NE Steakhouse
Barry Dakake’s 10-ounce patty also has an impressive pedigree—American Kobe beef from a cattle ranch in Idaho. This beauty, a 70/30 grind, is cooked on a griddle placed on top of a burning fire and presented on a potato-flour bun, topped with aged cheddar, crispy apple-wood-smoked bacon and burnt balsamic onions. Fries and a hefty blue cheese coleslaw come on the side. In the Palms, 933-9900, $25.
House-Ground Steak Burger at Bradley Ogden
By my lights, this is the best burger on the Strip—a huge ball of meat coarsely ground from four cuts: chuck, Kobe, prime and filet mignon. It’s served on a bun baked in the kitchen, with a combination of house-made dill and sweet pickles, lettuce, tomato and onions. A generous portion of fries, cooked in peanut oil, come on the side in a paper cone. Served in the bar only, at Caesars Palace, 731-7410, $19 a la carte. (For $10 additional, it’s a three-course dinner with Bradley’s Caesar salad and a killer butterscotch pudding.)