Why Las Vegas is the nation’s true burger capital

The firecracker burger, available at Skybox at Aria.
Photo: Beverly Poppe
E.C. Gladstone

How do I put this gently? Sometimes readers can be downright clueless.

In the May issue of Travel + Leisure magazine, a reader survey picked America’s Best Burger Cities, a pretty extensive Top 20. And guess what? Las Vegas wasn’t even listed. San Antonio? Sure. Phoenix/Scottsdale? You bet. Savannah, Georgia, that burger-slinging burg, why of course!

Are you effin’ kidding me?

I’ve lived on both coasts and visited many places in between, and I have never seen anywhere so obsessed with burgers as Las Vegas. Ever since Kerry Simon won Iron Chef America with a hamburger and Hubert Keller opened Mandalay Place’s Burger Bar in 2005, hamburgers have become an ever-expanding obsession of visitors and locals alike.

Just look at how many restaurants dedicated to them are on the Strip—the aforementioned Burger Bar, Mirage’s BLT, Paris’ Le Burger Brasserie, Harrah’s KGB, Palazzo’s I Love Burgers and Cosmopolitan’s Holsteins, to name a few. Not to mention the high-end options available at nearly every steakhouse in town and the plethora of fast food blanketing the Valley, from Five Guys to In-N-Out. Even McDonald’s has a unique “Viva McDonalds” here and Burger King the flagship Whopper Bar at Rio.

I recently completed my second survey of Vegas’ best burgers for an online blog, and many of our top chefs are passionate about patties and buns. I’m talking about people who work at Comme Ça, Delmonico, Bradley Ogden and Carnevino. They create bites like the teensy thumb-burgers at Guy Savoy’s bubbles bar, the mouth-melting Firecracker burger (made with Bhut Jolokia chili pepper and chipotle salsa) at Aria’s Skybox or Bachi Burger’s habachi-grilled patties topped with yuzu aioli, lemongrass, kimchi, yamamomo peach or Ko Chu Jang mayo (whatever the heck that is).

In what other city can you spend $5,000 on a burger, like you can here at Fleur? (Okay, it’s “only” $75 without the pricey Petrus pairing.) And where else can you get into passionate discussions with star chefs about the merits of using Kobe/Wagyu, Prime, Certified Angus, New York, skirt and other cuts along with staples chuck and round? The Broadway Burger Bar at New York-New York brags that its beef comes from 100 percent grass-fed, free range cows from Uruguay. Carnevino claims its burgers are dry aged for at least 90 days.

And while it’s trendy to talk about grinding your beef in-house, Binion’s snack bar Downtown on Fremont Street has been doing that daily basically forever (for a patty that’s still hard to beat at $6).

If the folks in Savannah are putting this much time and energy into perfecting their hamburgers, I will fly there and sashay through Lafayette Square in my mama’s petticoats. Until then, America, if you think you have a burger that can beat what we’re grilling here in Las Vegas, I have two words: Order up.


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