England: Gourmet Burger Kitchen
When in London, food historian Andrew F. Smith gets his burger fix at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, a small chain with about 55 locations throughout England (and a few locations elsewhere, including in Greece and Turkey). GBK's burgers are made with beef from independent farms, according to the company Web site, and include the Classic (with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayonnaise, and relish), the Frenchie (with Gorgonzola, bacon, and onion jam), and the Taxidriver (with onion rings, American cheese, Cajun relish, and smoked chile mayo), plus a new variation featuring meat sourced from Windsor Castle's herds. Smith praises GBK, founded in 2001 by chef and cookbook author Peter Gordon and two other New Zealanders, for using "nutritious products" and the "freshest ingredients available."For more burgery goodness in the U.K., A Hamburger Today's Lee recommends two London-based review sites, Burgerac, written by an anonymous burger enthusiast, and Young & Foodish, a blog by Daniel Young, who has been a food critic for the New York Daily News and has written for a wide variety of food publications.
France: Le Dalí and PDG
Paris chef Yannick Alléo has won three Michelin stars for Le Meurice hotel's namesake restaurant, and he's clearly bringing the same game to the hotel's second eatery, Le Dalí. There LaFrieda devoured an "awesome" burger with smoked bacon, lettuce, pickles, mustard, and mayonnaise. "The meat is so tasty," he recalls. "I later discovered that the chef uses a mix of chuck and beef rib. Superthick and succulent." (LaFrieda also gave a shout-out to the buns from the "amazing" Frédéric Lalos of Le Quartier du Pain.) Le Dalí's burger will set you back €42 (more than $50), but those in search of a more budget-friendly burger in this culinary capital will find satisfaction at PDG, whose all-American burgers were named best in Paris by Le Parisien in 2006an accolade seconded by Steel, who calls the jumbo double bacon cheeseburger "all about American excess," while noting that plenty of inspiration, such as the brioche-like bun, comes from France.
This tip comes from Lee of A Hamburger Today, which recommended Burgermeister this year as well worth the sometimes-long waits for "classic-tasting, extremely well-balanced" cheeseburgers and standout chili cheese fries. But what captured our attention most about Burgermeisteraside from its awesome nameis its location: a converted public bathroom below the elevated tracks of the U-Bahn's U1 line near the Schlesisches Tor station. Another endorsement comes from Time Out Berlin, which lists Burgermeister among its top 30 restaurants: "The patties are generous and grilled to order and make perfect fodder before a night in the Kreuzberg clubs."
Japan: Freshness Burger and MOS Burger
According to Motz, what makes Japan's Freshness Burger special is that the chain, which has locations throughout Japan as well as in Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore, doesn't pay attention to details: "Freshness seems like the only burger joint in Japan that doesn't fuss over their burgers," he explains. "Other places tend to concentrate too much on the picture-perfect burger and miss out on taste. In most cases it's the sloppy, gooey burger that wins the taste test." The Freshness menu has its share of exotica, such as a teriyaki Spamburger topped with a fried egg and a choice of veggie burgers made with beans or tofu, but it's the classic burgers and cheeseburgers that will satisfy classic American cravings.
Another Japanese chain, MOS Burger, has caught the attention of Smith. Founded in the early '70s in Tokyo, MOS now has nearly 1,500 locations around the country, plus outposts in Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and beyond. Like Freshness, MOS has straight-up American-style burgers, plus a number of non-beef options, such as shrimp and curry, which vary by location. "It's Japan's largest hamburger chain, but it's worth trying," says Smith. "They looked at how McDonald's operated and did the opposite. Instead of cranking out quick, cheap hamburgers, MOS Burger emphasizes the quality and safety of its ingredients. And they have been extremely innovative in their product offerings, such as a Teriyaki Burger."