Burger Meisters

Category: Features Written by Diane Bair and Pamela Wright / August 7, 2014

Technically, burgers are a sandwich by definition of a filling on bread—a patty on a split bun. But they are their own category, with so many variations. Seacoast chefs are putting their unique twists on the all-American hamburger, creating flavorful patties to flip over.

Though the space is friendly and casual—like a hamburger shack should be—the folks at Lexie’s Joint take their burgers very seriously. “Everything is made in-house,” says co-owner K.C. Cargill, who owns the eatery with wife Lexie Wile. They offer three choices: a premium beef patty, chicken patty, and vegetarian black bean patty, and a variety of house-made, fresh toppings. Lexie’s was voted number one for burgers in this year’s Best of Taste. The Burning Down the House is one of the more popular choices, with jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle aioli, or try the Urban Cowboy (bacon, onion rings, BBQ sauce) or the Green Lantern (avocado, chimichurri). Burgers are just the right size—not so big that you won’t have room for a side of their hand- cut fries sprinkled with herbs and parmesan cheese.

Wild Willy’s Burgers, with multiple locations in the Seacoast, including York, Maine, maintains a crowd of loyal followers. “We get customers from all over the country in that little York restaurant,” says Jim Williams (aka Wild Willy), “and many of them are what we call repeat offenders.” They come for the ultra- juicy, hand-shaped patty with a choice of toppings. They also offer a Pineland Farms all-natural beef patty and a bison burger. All are great with the hand-cut fries and a thick chocolate frappe.

The antique-filled, always buzzing, 401 Tavern in Hampton serves build-your-own beef, veggie, turkey, and chicken burgers, or opt for one of the specialty burgers, like the teriyaki-flavored Kamikaze with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, and caramelized onions, the Greek with spinach artichoke fondue, feta cheese, and olives, or the Roadhouse with house-made chili and Colby- jack cheese.

Burgers are king at come-as-you-are Fat Belly’s Grill and Bar in Portsmouth. Grab a seat in the downstairs, family-friendly dining room and take your pick of fire-grilled burgers, including the Cajun Honey Burger with Creole seasonings and smoked bacon, and the popular Black & Blue Burger doused with house- made blue cheese dressing. If you’re really hungry, consider The “Burger Impossible” Challenge. It’s a lofty stack of five half- pound burgers with 10 pieces of cheddar cheese, and 10 strips of bacon, topped with a fried egg and served with a side of chili fries. They’ll waive the $29.95 price if you finish it yourself.

The Tuckaway Tavern & Butchery is tucked away over in Raymond, New Hampshire. Try juicy Angus beef burgers, ground fresh at their in-house butchery, like The Whole Tuckin’ Farm (with fried chicken, bacon, and cheddar). The Holy Cow Challenge (free if you finish it in 30 minutes) is a 4-pounder with cheeses, bacon, onion strings, and pulled pork. 

Burgers go upscale at the new BRGR Bar, the latest venture from noted chef and restaurateur Phelps Craig (also owner of Brazo in Portsmouth). In addition to Maine Family Farms beef patties, there are burgers made from bison, turkey, duck, tuna, and lentils. And what’s not to like about a joint offering a grass-fed beef patty topped with cheddar and bacon, wedged between two fresh-made doughnuts (from Lil’s Café in Kittery, Maine) as an Our Daily Grind special? Other combos include The Four Horsemen (with poblano-habanero salsa, ancho aioli, fried jalapenos, gorgonzola) and Poutine on Portwalk (with fries, peppercorn gravy, cheese curd, and horseradish aioli). Wash it all down with a luscious milkshake—including adult versions like Bourbon + N.H. Maple Syrup and Peanut Butter + Chocolate + Light Rum.