Really good hamburgers are omnipresent in New Orleans. They're found in our very best restaurants, fast food outlets and neighborhood canteens better known for red beans and fried speckled trout. This has not always been the case.
Po-boys are still king where it comes to hot sandwiches, but the rise in quality of local hamburger competition has cut into the dominance. Over the past three-to-four years we've seen the arrival of alternative national chains like Five Guys and the opening of local specialists as different in personality as Company Burger and Phil's Grill. Gastropubs are proliferating, almost all of them with a signature hamburger of a notable design. Restaurants run by some of the city's most established and promising chefs, from La Petite Grocery to Toups' Meatery, count hamburgers as featured attractions.
I've been eating a lot of these burgers recently. Earlier this year I got it in my head that I wanted to try to uncover the very best in New Orleans. My most surprising discovery so far has been how few duds I've found. I'm not done searching, but I'm already certain the Great Hamburger Summer of 2011 has blossomed into a genuine New Orleans hamburger renaissance.
hamburger.jpg The Great Hamburger Summer of 2011 has blossomed into a genuine New Orleans hamburger renaissance. (Chris Granger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
Since I'm trying to avoid comparing apples to asparagus, I'm aiming for uniformity in the hamburgers I sample. This means you will find no sliders or lamb burgers on my final list of ultimate New Orleans hamburgers (disqualifying Three Muses' wonderful lamb sliders twice over). I don't alter the ingredients where places are offering only one type (in my experience, these almost always includes bacon) or where a particular condiment (pimento cheese at High Hat Cafe, for instance) has come to define the sandwich. But for the most part I'm eating single patty cheeseburgers dressed, no tomato.
I've been impressed by the hamburgers I've tried at the places mentioned above. The burgers at Liuzza's by the Track, Atomic Burger and Port of Call are also strong contenders. But I need your help tracking down more.