This past year’s Burger Tour was quite the undertaking. The roster of “to-be-had” was massive. The list was 102 restaurants deep. These included burger-specific restaurants, diners, casual dining, and more. The list was compiled from suggestions from readers, listeners, friends, and things that I was wanting to try.
I wasn’t alone in this. Street Team Steven was a sponsor of this tour. He accompanied me to a large portion of the restaurants. We talked and conferred but all the ratings were mine. My wife, Stephanie, went with me for several of them, as well. The same went for her, too. She had some say but the rating was mine to make. My friend Jeff Davids sponsored one of the burgers, too.
To recap the tour, we started this on March 22, 2021 (which oddly enough, is a year tomorrow), and it ran until the week after Thanksgiving. Yes, there were 102 to choose from but I didn’t get to all of them. I couldn’t (and really shouldn’t) have more than 3 or 4 a week. I had to have some breaks. Some that were missed were ones that I really wanted to get to but just didn’t for whatever reason, whether for proximity, convenience, or honestly, desire. Not that I didn’t want to go to some of them but because there were others that I felt I needed to try more. The ones that I missed outside of the Winston-Salem area were because of the distance. The ones outside Winston that I did have were ones that I was either working in that area on an outside project or Steven and I went there together.
I’m going to remind you of the 2019 Burger Tour results. It was the Top 10 burgers in the area. Starting from the 10th and counting down:
10. Small Batch
9. Max Burger
8. West End Cafe
7. Cin-Cin Burger Bar
6. Canteen Market & Bistro
5. Food Freaks of NC Food Truck
4. Zito Pizzeria and Grill
3. Social. Southern Kitchen & Cocktails
2. Zesto Burgers & Ice Cream
1. Boone Doggies
Of those 10, three are no longer in business at all (Zesto, Social. Max Burger); two have changed their concepts (Small Batch, Canteen); one was a food truck that isn’t out much but has a brick and mortar (Food Freaks); and four that are still doing what they were doing, mostly. The “mostly” I’ll talk about in a bit.
These burgers were different kinds of burgers going up against each other. The list had specialty burgers, pub burgers, diner burgers, weird burgers, and so on. This year, I decided that to be a contender for the list, it was going to have to be a “standard” ingredient burger. That means, as close as possible, it was going to be cheese, mayo, pickle, tomato, onion, sometimes mustard. Perhaps some shredded lettuce if that was the lettuce style, no whole-leaf iceberg or other leaf lettuce were allowed but I did allow spinach as a substitute. If there was a burger sauce like a “special sauce” or Russian dressing type thing, we used that instead of the mayo. The difference wasn’t really noticeable in the grand scheme of things. Some of the ones on this year’s list are pub burgers, others are diner burgers. Pub burgers are usually around 7-8 oz. Diner burgers are generally 3-4 oz. Some of the burgers are fresh beef and some are frozen. I have found that I don’t mind frozen beef as long as the final product is seasoned well and done right.
For this year, Steven and I devised a system to allow me to put a numerical rating into six different categories. Those categories were “Flavor,” “Quality of Ingredients,” “Presentation,” “Aroma,” “Order Correctness,” and “Overall Happiness.” It wasn’t a straight, across-the-board weighting, either. Order correctness and aroma were 5% each of the total rating. The presentation was 10%. Quality of ingredients 20%. Flavor 25%. Overall Happiness was 35% of the rating. Because, to me what I felt while eating it, the enjoyment of the burger, and the ambiance in which I was consuming it matters a lot to me. After all, the whole purpose is the experience, at least to me. All of those categories equal 100%.
For this year’s final list I expanded to a Top 15 and really, that’s a misnomer because Nos. 10-15 are basically tied and mostly interchangeable.
There are some that we couldn’t put in the contention for the official ranking because of several factors; some of which are chains (smaller or otherwise), specialty burgers, availability, etc.
Here are the burgers I did get to:
4th Street Filling Station, 601 Burgers and Brews, 6th & Vine, A Slice of Napoli, Allen’s Dairy Treats, Antojitos Las Delicias, Big Burger Spot (Greensboro Guilford College Area), Big Burger Spot (Kernersville), Big Burger Spot 2 (Greensboro Battleground), Bobo’s Deli & Grill, Boone Doggies, Cafe Arthurs, Cagney’s, Campus Gas, Carolina Ale House, Char’s Hamburgers, Cin Cin Burger Bar, Culver’s, Dari-O, DB’s Grill, Earl’s, Food Freaks, Foothill’s Brewpub (Downtown WSNC), Foothill’s Grill & Tap (King, not related to the brewery), Frank’s New York Style Pizza and Subs (Rural Hall), Grandma Ruby’s, Greek Guys Grill, Hero House, Hop’s Burger Bar WSNC, Hot Dog City, Joe’s Take-Out (Clemmons), John Brown’s Country Store and Grill (King), Johnny B’s Grillhouse, Kermit’s Hot Dogs, King’s Hot Dogs (Rural Hall), Little Red Caboose, Local Artisan (which is currently closed), Mama Zoe Michaels, Mojito (Mojito Burger), Mozelle’s, Mr. Barbecue, Munch Box, Nicks Old-Fashioned Burgers (Welcome), P.B.’s Takeout, Papa Lee’s Grill (currently closed), Piedmont Aviation Snack Bar, Pine Tree Tavern, Putter’s, Quiet Pint Tavern, Rudy’s Cafe & Catering (Greensboro), Small Batch HP, Thunder Road, Times Square Pizza (now The Pizza Place), TJ’s Deli (Parkway), Tuning Fork Provisions, Twin Peaks Restaurant, Wake Mart – Exxon (4100 Cherry), West End Cafe, Willow’s Bistro, Young Cardinal Cafe, Zito’s Pizzeria & Grill, and Zoe’s Kitchen (Trenwest).
Here are the places I had on the list but did not get to:
66 Pizza, 801 Southern Kitchen and Pancake House (Advance), Beef-Burger (Greensboro), Brick Oven Pizza (Clemmons), Burger Supreme (truck), Davie Tavern, Diamondback Grill, Doss’s (Kernersville), East Coast Wings, Grey’s Tavern (Greensboro), Hop’s Burger Bar GSO, J Butler’s, Jeffery Adams, Kickback Jack’s, King’s Crab Shack, Krankies, Lone Star Burger (High Point), Mayberry Ice Cream, Midtown Cafe, Milners, Mossy’s (Clemmons), Old 64 Diner, Old Richmond Grill, Pfafftown Kitchen, Porterhouse Burger Co (High Point), Riverbirch Lodge, Sir Winston, Small Batch WSNC, Sweet Potatoes, The Katherine, The Loop Restaurant, Tipsy’s Tavern (High Point), Tucker’s Grill (Hornytown), Twin City Minis (truck), Villa Grill (Clemmons), Whatyasay Burgers (truck), Zoe’s (Old Walkertown Rd).
As I said, some of the ones I couldn’t get to were a matter of location and convenience. I had to go to many of these in-between work and lunch hour times, so I couldn’t get to a lot of the outlying places unless Steven and I were making a trip out of it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to try them. It just wasn’t in the cards this time around.
On this tour, I am sorry to say that I had some of the worst burgers I’ve ever had in my life. I am not going to mention who they are because I’m about building up my local food establishments, not tearing them down and I think that for the most part, these restaurants offer a lot of good outside of the not-so-good burgers on their menus or they just so happened to have a burger on the menu but they specialize in other cuisines.
There are some that we couldn’t put in the contention for the official ranking because of several factors; some of which are chains (smaller or otherwise), specialty burgers, availability, etc.
Before we get to the list, I want to go over some honorable mentions and/or explanations.
*Diamondback Grill, I did have a specialty burger but not their regular menu burger so I couldn’t count that. Plus, being as they are a sponsor of mine, I wouldn’t have included them in the rankings. This way there was no claim of favoritism given to that. The same goes for Mojito Latin Soul Food where I did have their Mojito Burger.
Two of the last lists’ Top 10 were left off this time.
*Food Freaks couldn’t count because their menu specifically and explicitly says there are no lettuce, tomato, or pickles available. So, it can be a specialty burger, which we had the Godfather and Puff Mento, but still not in compliance with the rules this time around.
*Zito’s Pizzeria scored a 90 and would have pushed numbers 10-15 out of the list altogether. However, because the burger isn’t conspicuous on the menu and she doesn’t have beef all the time (she uses it for the meat sauces and such), I couldn’t count it. But, if you’re going there and want a burger, call ahead to see if they have the beef they need for it. It’s worth it if they do have it.
There are a few “chains” that could have shown up in the top list, but because I’m narrowing the list to “local independents,” I chose not to include them on the list proper, but here’s how some of the stacked up:
*Culver’s rated a 91. It’s one of the best burgers in town, actually, and Vikram is community-minded and wants to be involved. Give them a try, and… cheese curds.
*Dairi-O. Yes, I know they’re local but they have more than three locations and are a little bigger than I’d like for the “local” aspect. They rated an 89 and I really like their double cheeseburgers. I have been several times for “unofficial” burgers. I do suggest you try them if you haven’t.
*Twin Peaks. They were better than I expected and had a score of 84 which would tie the 15-10 spots but, they’re part of Fat Brands which includes over 2000 restaurant locations worldwide.
So, here it is. I’m going to start from #15 and count down. I reiterate that numbers 15-10 could have been any number, so just because one is #11 doesn’t mean it did better than the one before it, I just had to put one somewhere. The numbers in parentheses are how that location rated out of a possible 100.
#15 — Nick’s Old Fashioned Hamburger (84)
Street Team Steven went here to try not only the burger but the tenderloin sandwich, too. I will be 100% upfront here, I’ve had better burgers from Nick’s than we did on this trip. The ratings were for this trip, no matter how much I’d had before (and I have had Nick’s several times). Even with that, though, it was still a strong burger. Mayo, pickles, tomato, onion, and cheese. We had not only a single cheeseburger and the tenderloin sandwich, but a double burger. I think that Steven and I both agreed that the double was the way to go. Had I had this on the 2019 tour, they probably would have been in the top 10. Nick’s is in Welcome at 6999 Old US Highway 52 (just past North Davidson High School).
#14 — Big Burger Spot – Kernersville (84)
The two Greensboro locations did fairly well, too (one at 80 and the other at 79), but the K-Ville location won due to the “overall happiness” rating. The experience was better here, not that it wasn’t before the onion rings were spectacular, too and that adds to the experience. The burger, though, was solid. All three locations were solid, actually. I think part of it was the owner actually made the burger there. He just so happened to be in that day. Stephanie and I ate there on the way back from Greensboro, where I was working for the day. Mayo, pickles, tomato, onion, mustard, ketchup, cheese. Pub burger with diner burger personality. The experience was more “diner.” Big Burger Spot, 803 Old Winston Road, Kernersville.
#13 — Hero House (84)
This was recommended to me by my friend Paul Jones and while I have eaten at Hero House before, it has been a long, long, long time. Mostly because it’s on Stratford Road and can be a pain to get in and out of. I just went for a late lunch and missed most of that traffic. But, I’m so glad Paul put me on this burger. It had this great under-flavor of onions like many diner burgers have and many others should have. Mayo, pickles, tomato, onion, cheese. Hero House is a great family-owned business, too. They do good work. 914 South Stratford Road, WSNC.
#12 — West End Cafe (84)
Here’s our first return burger from the 2019 list: the Cheeseburger Grinder. West End Cafe does everything well. I’ve never had a bad meal there. GM John McLemore introduced this to me in 2019 and I returned to it this time, too. This is a burger patty formed in the shape of a rectangle and topped with Thousand Island dressing, spinach (instead of lettuce), tomato, onion, pickle, American and pepper jack cheeses on a hoagie bun. It was a darn fine burger. A bit messy, but delicious. West End Cafe is at 926 W 4th St., WSNC.
#11 — Antojitos Las Delicias (84)
This was a bit different and a wonderful surprise. A Mexican burger. My Facebook friend Sarai’s mother owns this restaurant and had mentioned that they do a burger. I had to try it. So, in addition to mayo for this, they have avocado as a spread and it added a whole different dimension to the burger. I’m not sure which cheese they use, but it was really good. Here’s a pro tip for you: just get a single patty, you won’t need a second one. Trust me. Antojitos Las Delicias is located at 1521 E 5th St in WSNC. and is take-out only.
#10 — Mozelle’s Fresh Southern Bistro (84)
The Chef’s Double from Chef Jay Pierce. Let me tell you this burger was one huge mess. In fact, it would have rated higher but it was falling apart from so much stuff happening with it. All that, though, and it was delicious, worthy of a higher placement but the “Overall Happiness” factor took a bit of a hit. Two smashed Brasstown beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, American cheese, pickles, onions, on a brioche bun. Mozelle’s is at 878 W 4th Street in WSNC, just two doors up from West End Cafe. Never a bad meal there, either. Mozelle’s always does amazing work.
Okay, so here we go into the Top 9, where most of the ratings were different.
#9 — Young Cardinal Cafe (86)
The YC Burger, a pub burger with a 6oz. ground beef patty, onion aioli, pickle slices, sliced tomato, cheddar cheese. I do wish that there was a cheese option that wasn’t cheddar, as I don’t like cheddar on my burgers, but this was white cheddar, which melts a little better so it wasn’t a deal killer. The onion aioli was a bit messy but the flavors were amazing. Chefs Andrews and Swing do amazing work at YCC and I am so glad I had this one, on our anniversary, by the way. The patty was cooked just right and all the ingredients popped well together. Juicy, messy, delicious. YCC is located at 424 4th Street in WSNC.
#8 — King’s Hot Dogs (87)
King’s Hot Dogs was on the monster Friday trip that Stephanie and Steven and I took to King and Rural Hall. We tried four burgers that day. Steven and I split all four so we really only had two whole burgers. Anyway, with the break and travel in between, we were getting loaded up pretty fast. This was the last one that we had that day and truthfully, I didn’t want it and didn’t enjoy it. It was way too much to try at once and while I don’t usually give second chances, this wasn’t King’s Hot Dogs’ fault. It was mine. So, I went back, on my own to give it a fair shake. That was a darn fine burger and I’m so glad I went back. Double patties, mayo, pickles, tomato, onion, and lite mustard. King’s Hot Dogs is located at 1009 Bethania Rural Hall Rd, in Rural Hall. The picture is from the first trip.
#7 — Greek Guys Grill (88)
This was another surprise. This is almost certainly a frozen patty. But, this is the perfect example of taking a frozen patty and making it taste delicious. Stephanie and I stopped after going to her mom’s for the nightly check-in. It wasn’t on the list but I saw it on the menu and decided to give it a shot. It was seasoned so well and the ingredients so fresh, that it made me go, “mmm” out loud. Stephanie had one, as well and she agreed with me. It was a double diner patty, mayo, pickles, tomato, onion on a sesame seed bun, which I generally don’t like, but the seeds were sparse and not in the way and not distracting. When we drive by here going to her mom’s, I think, “man, I could go for a Greek Guys’ Burger.” Greek Guys Grill is located at 2545 Somerset Center Dr, WSNC.
#6 — Piedmont Aviation Snack Bar (88)
Another huge surprise for me. I had seen it in passing and didn’t know if it was actually open. I had noticed it on the DoorDash menu, as well. I just didn’t know much about it. I saw a friend talk about it and decided to jump in there and try it. It’s another situation of taking a frozen patty and making magic with it. Much of the score here is from my enjoyment from eating it, but I cannot take anything away from the flavors. The seasoned grill with years of use along with fresh ingredients and proper seasoning on the patties is certainly magic. It was a double diner patty, mayo, pickles, tomato, onion. I have said this a bit in the last few months, but PASB is a hidden gem in this town and we need to make it less hidden. You won’t be sorry. PASB is located at 3820 N. Liberty St, WSNC. The reason this got #6 is that it had no category below an “8” rating.
#5 — Hops Burger Bar WSNC (89)
This was a definite surprise. Anyone reading this and having been in WSNC for the last 3 years is probably questioning why it was a surprise. Well, in 2019, Hops Burger Bar had just opened. There was a lot of hype that I didn’t really understand, and in some ways still don’t. But, when Steven and I went for a burger, it was underwhelming, to say the least. This time around, with time to season the grill and the employees, they were able to knock it out of the park. While we had two burgers, “The Spicy Goat” (with goat cheese, applewood bacon, sweet and spicy jelly, and lettuce) which we got just to try, and the “Hops Classic.” The classic came with American cheese, applewood bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, ketchup, mustard, and mayo. Now, I can’t remember what it was but something was wrong with our order. Either it was supposed to not have lettuce on it and did, or something was left off that was supposed to be on it. In the ratings, I nicked it a bit for that. But, my silly self didn’t put down what it was. But, I will say, Steven and I were both very pleased with the Hops Classic. Hops Burger Bar WSNC is located at 901 Reynolda Rd.
#4 — Mr. Barbecue (89)
When I did my rankings in 2019, I had said that this would have been my #3, but a devastating fire closed the restaurant and led to its rebuild in early 2021. Mr. Barbecue has risen to my top 4 even if they don’t have the “Jumbo-sized” burgers that they used to have. This is always a solid burger, almost what a diner burger should be, frozen or not (which I’m not sure it is frozen). And, probably a good bit of it is that I just enjoy eating at Mr. Barbecue. We did without it for a period of time and that was harsh. I always get mine, mayo, pickles, tomato, onion. It’s my comfort food. Mr. Barbecue (and Miss Fried Chicken) is located at 1381 Peters Creek Pkwy, WSNC. Mr. BBQ eeked out Hops because the order correctness was a 10 for BBQ and 9 for Hops.
And here is the TOP THREE!!
#3 — Joe’s Take-Out (90)
Here we are, top three. Joe’s Take-Out in Clemmons was a “double” so to speak because I had scoped it out prior to the tour’s start. But, nonetheless, Steven and I tried three burgers when we went, the BBQ Burger (which was a specialty burger with BBQ sauce, cheddar, and an onion ring), the OKC Burger (cooked on top of onions, mayo, pickles, tomato, and light mustard), and the Smashed Joe’s Burger. The latter was the one that counted for this. It was mayo, pickles, tomato, onion, and mustard, with cheese, of course. The seasoning was really, really good, the ingredients were very fresh and you could taste it. The onions were crisp, the tomato juicy but not too, pickles crunched and the patty was perfectly smashed. It was a really good burger and it is well-deserving of the #3 spot. Joe’s Take-Out is in the Tanglewood Commons Shopping Center across from Tanglewood Park at 4124 Clemmons Rd.
#2 — 601 Burgers and Brews (92)
This was probably the biggest surprise for Steven and me on the Burger Tour ’21. We had no expectations and even joked about some of the menu items, expecting it to be a mediocre experience. We could not have been any more wrong. What we got was popped in the mouth with burger magic. We had two burgers (split between us). One was the misnamed, Smash Burger, which should be called “smashed” burger because unlike a traditional smash burger that has two smaller patties that start in a ball and are smashed onto the grill, forming a good crust and char, this was a burger that was smashed onto the grill after being assembled; bun and all. Now, while we laughed at it (we’re not proud), we stopped laughing and were pleasantly surprised at the flavors. Double patty, pimento cheese, Candied Bacon, and smashed grilled on a Brioche Bun. But that wasn’t the “official” burger. The official burger is called “Old Glory” and Steven and I still talk about this burger when we meet up for lunch. American cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato, mayo, and we added onion. Y’all… this burger was near perfection. Properly seasoned and juicy patties, crisp pickles, wonderfully plump but not messy tomato, and a little more lettuce than I wanted so I removed some but that didn’t at all impact the burger. To top it off, the sidewinder chips, which are puffed-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside french fries shaped like little half-moons were the bombdiggity. I can’t believe I just used that word, but oh well. The restaurant is located at 2203 N US-601, Mocksville. It would probably be worthy of the top spot, except…
#1 — Boone Doggies (99)
The reigning champion returns and kicks butt on retaining its title. I went in knowing that Boone Doggies was going to be hard to beat. I’ve eaten there several times since 2019 and every time, it’s heaven in my mouth. There were some good contenders on the list, but none of them, no matter how hard they tried, could knock Boone Doggies from atop the mountain. Smash burgers, the way they were meant to be with amazing flavor, char, and crust. We had three burgers, but only one of them counted. These are the same three burgers we had in 2019 and we just wanted to revisit to make sure all was right in Burgerland. First, the two that didn’t count for ranking but counted in so many other ways. The Rock, with mayo, homemade BBQ sauce, bacon, grilled onions, and American cheese. Oh, yes. The Peacock, with mayo, homemade pimento cheese (made by Drew’s father), bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Yes, again! But the one you need to know about, in relation to this list, is The Grandfather. This is the classic burger. Two smashed patties, mayo, pickles, tomato, onion, shredded lettuce, and love. I’m not at all religious but this almost makes me find the Lord. This is 100% everything a smash burger or any burger, in general, should taste like and be. The rating should actually be 100 but, I did take a half-point away because I had to drive so far to get there. But it was worth every mile. Boone Doggies is located at 566 E Main St. in Yadkinville. Update: Boone Doggies has announced that they will be closing their Yadkinville location at the end of the month, but they will be concentrating on their Mocksville Location, which has all the same things and then some. That is at the Colin Creek Golf Club:
2251 US Highway 64 East, Mocksville.
There you have it. The Man Who Ate the Town’s Burger Tour ’21 recap. Which of these is your favorite? Do you disagree with me? I welcome comments and friendly discourse. I don’t want to hear that the list was biased because as with 2019’s list, we learned that it very much IS biased. It’s my list, with my rating, with my opinion, with my blog, and my podcast. So it is my bias.
I had a great time doing these burgers, but I have a doctor’s appointment this week and I doubt he’ll share my jubilation. So, Street Team Steven, my wife, Stephanie, and I are looking for the next “tour” for 2022. I think Cheesesteak has been mentioned, but I’d like to hear thoughts on other tours we could do. Burritos, tacos, pizza, subs, sushi (although that can get expensive), and so on. Throw them at me.
Thank you, as always to Street Team Steven for supporting this blog and podcast and being a fun food partner with my wife and me. Thank you to Mojito Latin Soul Food and Diamondback Grill for your support of my efforts. Thanks to the listeners of the podcast and readers of this blog for your valuable support.