There's nothing more American than the hamburger. When I lived in Sweden, my Swedish roommates saw me cooking a burger and thought it was the funniest, most stereotypical thing. Every time I touched a frying pan after that they would come out from their rooms and ask if I was cooking another one. Last laugh's on them: They'll never get to taste Charleston's chefs' awesome variations on the classic.
Park Circle joint Sesame is grilling up some unique burgers. Chef Paul Bracewell says his customers are "gluttons for punishment," as they keep coming back for more of the Bronson. The burger packs as much punch as the 70s action star it's named after, covered with a super spicy habañero spread, house-made cole slaw, and barbecue sauce.
Looking for something a little milder? Check out the restaurant's Elvis-influenced Memphis. "Most people see it on the menu and think, 'Peanut butter on a burger? That's disgusting.' Then they try it and that's all they order," Bracewell says. Using grain-fed beef from Montana's Meyers Beef, the nuttiness of the peanut butter matches well with the burger's hearty flavor. And don't forget their Citadel Mall location, if you're heading out to shop this weekend.
For something more traditional, head over to Husk for a burger that Chef Sean Brock says is "probably my favorite thing in the entire world." The Husk Cheeseburger is a tribute to the In-N-Out Burger. It features two thin patties made from local cows fed exclusively on peanut hay. Brock isn't a fan of fighting with strips of bacon on his sandwiches, so he decided to ground bacon straight into the beef. It's topped with the restaurant's secret sauce and American cheese, no substitutes. "If you don't want American cheese, order something different from the menu," Brock says. On top of all that, it's cooked in a wood-burning oven, giving it a nice, subtle smoky taste.
AC's Bar and Grill doesn't settle for mediocre bar food. Kitchen manager Daniel Hope recommends the California burger, a favorite of his and customers. Not California in the In-N-Out Burger style, this one features a thick patty topped with mayonnaise, provolone, and green olives.
After the Mt. Pleasant Christmas parade, head over to Poe's Tavern on Sullivan's and grab an Amontillado. This one's got Southwestern flair, topped with guacamole, jalapeño jack, pico de gallo, and chipotle sour cream. For those looking for something mighty hearty, go for the Tell-Tale Heart, replete with a fried-egg, bacon, and cheddar cheese.
If you're sticking to the Mt. Pleasant area, the recently re-opened Village Tavern is serving some great burgers too. Their house burger is far from traditional, topped with a merlot onion jam, pepper jam, and five-year old aged gouda. Worth checking out is the Charleston Burger, smothered with housemade pimento cheese, vine-ripe tomato jam, and topped off with a fried green tomato.
West Ashleyans might want to hunker down with a Wilbur or Sucker Punch at Triangle Char and Bar. The beef is grassfed and S.C.-grown, and the burgers are big and beefy. The Wilbur is a turbo-charged bacon cheeseburger with crisp pork belly and cheddar while the Sucker Punch blackens the beef and piles it with some appropriately stinky blue cheese.