06/23/2014 12:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Top 11 Things That Make a Great Burger

Shutterstock / Elena Shashkina

Everywhere the Accidental Locavore goes these days, hamburgers have transformed conversations into arguments. Everyone has their favorite place/places and whether it's a fast food burger or a $100+ number from a fine dining restaurant, a debate will likely ensue the moment the b (h or c) bomb is dropped.

Since I got back from a trip to LA, I've been thinking about the bi-coastal difference in burgers. This is based on almost nothing (wait, do I hear Fox News calling?), but hey, it's my blog.

LA has much better fast-food burgers than NY. No competition. In-n-Out or Fatburger vs. _____??? Not even close.

However, NY has better restaurant (bar, etc.) burgers. This may be because...

  • There is no such thing as a great burger without great fries and we all know that once you put fries in a bag, they steam and get limp. So eating them in place is the only way to ensure good fries.

  • The downside to NY hamburgers? Ketchup only. It makes them way too sweet, need mustard, always.
  • There is no such thing as a great "burger" made from grain, seafood, soybeans, poultry, or vegetables.
  • And a burger cooked until it's dead is never a great burger. This is why states that won't let you serve a burger that's less than well-done should be boycotted. You know who you are...
  • Or not on a bun (maybe some leniency for a toasted English muffin). Sorry, but lettuce wraps are for Chinese food.
  • Or on a cold bun. Even a quick run through a toaster makes a world of difference.
  • Ditto cold fries -- actually anything less than piping hot fries is a total waste of potatoes (and calories)!
  • No lettuce or tomato. It's a personal thing but it just makes the cheeseburger slide out of the bun and doesn't add anything to the taste. The rare exception? August, when you might luck into a slice of an heirloom tomato -- what a difference that makes!

  • Pickles. In this case it doesn't have to be more than the standard hamburger dill, but like getting a great tomato, a terrific pickle will make a difference.
  • Cheese. Like pickles, decent cheese is usually fine, but good cheese in the right proportion, is a wonderful thing! My preference is cheddar, but there are so many other great options. The way cheese will ruin a burger? Grated and/or not melted on the patty. Cheese needs to ooze.
  • A proper-sized plate. Sorry, PJ Clarks, but if the plate is so small that you have to put the bun on the table to add condiments, you need a bigger plate. And I don't want to hear that "Chef will only put it on that sized plate."

What makes a great burger to you? And where is it?