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Food Experts Reveal Where They Go For Great Burgers

Maine is extraordinarily lucky to have a roster of talented food writers, who, like everyone else (well, almost everyone), are fans of a well-made burger. Maine is a ginormous state and (here's a secret), Eater does not have god-like vision to see into every nook and cranny to ferret out the many, far flung worthy examples of supreme burger-dom. So, in addition to you, dear readers, we depend on the experts to help enlighten us. Eater dipped a bucket into to the Maine writing talent pool to ask, "What is your favorite burger(s) in Maine and why?"

burger-wbi.JPGNancy Heiser - restaurant critic for The Portland Press Herald; writer for DownEast
I tried an outrageous burger -- with price to match -- at White Barn Inn in March, during their bistro-menu months: Wagyu beef sirloin finely ground to give it the texture of filet mignon, cooked a touch off rare with a crusty sear. At LFK in Portland, for less that half the cost, one can get a thick, hand-formed, juicy-greasy beef burger served with garlic mayo on a dark pretzel roll. Very tasty.

burger-ruski.jpgJohn Golden - The Golden Dish blog, The Portland Press Herald.
I've had the $15 burgers at all of Portland's highly regarded restaurants--and they're certainly good. But the single best burger is at Ruski's (in Portland's West End). It has the perfect char, it's cooked exactly as you order it and the thick mound of beef is excellent quality. It's not fancy or trying to be anything but a burger. None better.

burger-LFK2.jpgKate McCarty - The Blueberry Files
My burger crush of the moment is at LFK - the pimento cheese so melty and gooey, the crisp, buttery pretzel bun, the meat always a perfect medium-rare (when ordered so), that it makes me overlook my otherwise firm dealbreaker of no fries. The bacon-studded potato salad and lightly dressed greens are worthy sides. One that will never get mentioned is the burger at DTL (Downtown Lounge). Since I don't eat major chain fast food burgers, their All American is the closest thing to satisfy that thin patty, soft bun, pickles, chopped onions, square, yellow cheese, ketchup and mustard craving. The fries are crisp and salty, and it's only $7.95.

burger-pigsfly.jpgRachel Forrest - SeacoastOnline
My favorite is the burger from When Pig's Fly in Kittery. It's small, but mighty. It's always juicy and packed with flavor from some crazy cravable seasonings chef Ben Hasty uses. It's just 4 ounces but you can double the patty for double the deliciousness. I love it with crisp bacon. If I get the single patty I can still share a pizza or another fun dish or two and have the best of all worlds--with a fine craft beer.

burger-nocturem.jpgEmily Burnham - The Bangor Daily News
The burger at Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor. The best thing about it? The fact that it's grilled to perfection every time. It's the best deal on the menu - it's a hefty, house-made, locally-sourced third pound burger on a nice, light bun. I'm a big fan of the plain old lettuce-tomato-onion and a slice of cheddar, but if I'm feeling particularly hungry I'll go for the Trappist burger: ale caramelized onions and pungent Trappist cheese. Mmmm. Pair that with a nice Maine craft brew, and it's a fast and totally satisfying dinner.

burger-h%26m.jpgMalcolm Bedell - From Away blog
"The Land 'n' Sea Burger" from Hoss and Mary's
in OOB, a $4.95 "crossover burger" topped with a deep-fried clam cake, spicy tartar sauce, lettuce, and tomato. At Hoss 'n' Mary's, four ounce hamburger patties are treated as just another condiment in some crazy sandwich creations. In this case, the hamburger combines perfectly with the deep-fried, golden clam cake, and the spicy tartar sauce is enough to bring everything together and make the burger make sense. Or maybe nonsense.

burger-owlshead.jpg"The 7-Napkin Burger" from the Owl's Head General Store in Owl's Head. The burger starts with a loosely-packed hamburger patty that must weigh at least 6-8 ounces, cooked to the temperature you request (an increasingly rare feature in a cheeseburger these days), with a thick, seasoned crust. The beef is set upon a huge white hamburger bun that's soft, but sturdy enough to stand up to the toppings that follow. What pushes the burger into "Seven Napkin" territory, however, is what comes next: a liberal application of mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup, onions, pickles, lettuce, and tomato. It's a gloriously messy burger that never gets out of your control, the bun diverting the river of juices from the burger away from your chin and arms and down onto your plate.

More faves from Malcolm: The Big One from Don's Lunch in Westbrook - "It's the best possible version of a McDonald's double cheeseburger, the way you remember them tasting when you were five years old but that never exists at the Golden Arches." The Cheeseburger at Fat Boy Drive In in Brunswick; and the Cheeseburger at Harmon's Lunch in Falmouth.

burger-bagkettle.jpgHilary Nangle - The Maine Travel Maven blog
Since I spend most of my winter at Sugarloaf, I must nominate the burgers at the Bag & Kettle, a.k.a. The Bag. The Original Bag Burger (hand-formed beef patty, charbroiled with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion on a toasted bun, served with house sauce, is alone worth a trip, but I'm a fan of the King's Landing, one of the "gourmet designer burgers." It's gloppy with chunky blue cheese dressing that drips and oozes along with the juices. I allow myself one a year, and it probably takes me most of the next 11 months to work it off. Of course, when you've had more than 40 years to perfect a burger, as The Bag has, it shows. And, by the way, it also serves a cheeseburger soup, should you prefer a liquid version. When the burger craving hits when I'm back on the coast, we head for the Owls Head General Store and order the 7-Napkin Burger.

The White Barn Inn

37 Beach Avenue, Kennebunk, ME 04043 (207) 967-2321