Q: I heard that it was just National Cheeseburger Day. What restaurants do you recommend for hamburgers?
A: I’d first recommend not paying too much attention to National This or That Day, since the idea of letting marketing boards dictate your food choices is a little sad. (It’s also a more complicated endeavor than you might imagine, since July 28 is Hamburger Day; Sept. 15 is National Double Cheeseburger Day; Sept. 18 is National Cheeseburger Day and May 28 is National Hamburger Day — except that it’s also National Brisket Day.)
So, better to eat what you want, when you want it, even if it’s a burger every day. Outside of Charleston, the now-$15 burger at Little Jack’s Tavern is probably the most famous burger in town, but savvy local eaters know the very best burger comes from Pub Fare, Jarrod Gass’ roving burger-only operation.
The Pub Fare double-patty is beefier, juicier and saltier than the burgers served by folks who get shy about flavor when stationed at the grill. Not only is the meat beautifully seasoned, but it’s smoothed out by American cheese and vitalized by pickles and tangy sauce. (Check instagram.com/pubfarechs to learn where you can find one.)
Burger options don’t end with Pub Fare, though. Many of the Charleston area’s other leading burgers are hiding out in places you might not associate with burgers. In short, none of these places are apt to put a National Cheeseburger Day sign in the window.
But don’t let that discourage you from ordering the $10 burger at The Darling Oyster Bar. Like many of the city’s other standout burgers, it owes a debt to Shake Shack, but the crusted patty tastes more delicious than derivative.
The Darling’s neighbor-in-waiting, Pink Bellies, took inspiration from In-N-Out, which means its burger is juicy, messy and mustard-forward. Owner Thai Phi hasn’t yet said whether the burger will be granted a permanent menu spot when he opens next year at the corner of King and Spring streets, but it’s a favorite of his pop-up customers.
If Pink Bellies ends up serving its burger, any decent burger stroll to there from The Darling should probably include a stop at Felix, where the coarsely ground burger is blanketed with rich raclette.
On the other side of the Cooper River, H&R Sweet Shop serves an onion-topped cheeseburger that’s greasy in the most gratifying way. And, over on James Island, Martin’s Bar-B-Que serves a terrific one-third-pounder that’s beautifully charred. Don’t wait for Hamburger Day to try it.