By Kevin Shalin | Photography by Jamison Mosley
Celebrate National Beef Month with some of the very best burgers the Little Rock area has to offer.
Cheeseburger at Doe’s Eat Place
While Little Rock’s most iconic steakhouse is best known for its 3-pound porterhouse steak served family-style with potatoes, Texas toast, French fries and soaked salad, many lunchtime diners will tell you Doe’s cheeseburger is their preferred choice. A patty of 80/20 fresh ground beef is topped with cheese and comes with all the fixings like pickles, tomato and iceberg lettuce, all served on a basic, white bread bun. The burger is hearty but not gut-busting, making it an ideal option for folks not looking to slip into a mid-day food coma often associated with Doe’s mammoth steaks.
Leo Burger at Leo’s Greek Castle
This namesake burger at one of Hillcrest neighborhood’s longest mainstays is pure stick-to-your-ribs deliciousness. Loaded with 10 ounces of hand-patted beef which is split between two seasoned patties, the unpretentious Leo Burger comes with American cheese dripping down all sides. Both equal parts juicy and greasy, it’s the little things about this burger, like the perfectly buttered, then toasted buns, that make a big difference. Order one with a side of onion rings and a PBR, and sit outside on Leo’s cozy patio during a nice spring day.
Jumbo Cheeseburger at K Hall & Sons Produce
At a pre-tax cost of $4.79, K Hall’s Jumbo Cheeseburger combines taste and value. Dressed with the typical cast of characters, like lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, mustard and Miracle Whip, the centerpiece of the burger is the fresh, never frozen, half pound of hand-patted beef. A wonderful grill job, which creates the patty’s beautiful crust along with a buttered and toasted bun, are what set this burger apart from many others in Little Rock. Gluttonous folks can even add an extra patty to their burger for $1.49. Seating is almost non-existent at K Hall, so make sure to grab plenty of napkins, as things tend to get a little messy while eating this cheeseburger in the confines of your car.
Cheeseburger at Midtown Billiards
Midtown Billiards’ cheeseburger is one of the most well-known food items in town, due in large part to the iconic bar setting in which it’s served. But atmosphere aside, the burger’s greatness – achieved through simple, yet perfect execution – speaks for itself. The white bread bun and all of the traditional toppings are nice touches, but so is the grill master’s decision to cut the burger right down the middle before serving, exposing the patty’s faint line of pink that runs throughout. This cheeseburger is substantial but not overwhelmingly large and is best eaten at 2 a.m., or so I’ve been told.
Single Burger with Cheese at David’s Burgers
David’s has become Little Rock’s go-to, fast-casual burger shop with numerous locations throughout the area. While known for its friendly service and an endless supply of piping hot fries, David’s signature item is still the single burger with cheese, a traditional thin patty offering, best topped with onion, mayonnaise, pickles and American cheese. My favorite attribute of this burger is the fresh, plain white bread bun that’s grilled just a bit on top before hitting the table. Heartier appetites can opt to make it a double patty for a couple more bucks. Either way, be sure not to totally fill up on those addictive, complimentary fries.
The Ciao Baci Burger at Ciao Baci
With a menu full of more sophisticated seasonal fare like braised lamb shank pot roast and bourbon maple glazed Atlantic salmon, it is often easy to forget about Ciao Baci’s humble cheeseburger. Served on a brioche bun, this burger includes a seven-ounce patty of fresh ground beef and melted American cheese, along with traditional toppings and a “fancy sauce.” One look at this tall, mouth-watering, pub-style burger conjures up thoughts of how it will even fit in one’s mouth, yet somehow it always does after a good squeeze. Add a side of fries, which are also some of the best in town.
Smokey Burger at Rebel Kettle Brewing Co.
Beef reigns supreme during the month of May, but the true highlight of Rebel Kettle’s Smokey Burger is the bacon. Cured, smoked and sliced all in-house, this thick-cut bacon is the perfect topper for an eight-ounce beef patty. Get it cooked to a nice medium and enjoy the juicy interior and crispy edges. Smoked cheddar seals the deal, as does a fried egg for the more adventurous burger-topping lovers. Wash it all down with a Rob Gnarly sour beer while enjoying a beautiful evening on the brewery’s patio. And, if you have room, add an order of the pork rinds. They hit the table still popping.
Double Beef Cheddar Bomb at Flyway Brewing
Flyway Brewing will surely quell any negative thoughts you may have about sliders with their Double Beef Cheddar Bomb. Orders include two sizeable mini burgers, each with a double, 2-ounce patty. All told, it’s a half-pound of 80/20 ground beef covered in an eye-popping, crisp cheddar skirt that extends far and wide. Two soft, sourdough buns and a couple of pats of house-made chili mayo seal the deal on these wonderful, handheld bar bites. A Bluewing or Honeybird beer pairs well with the burger, as does an order of the duck confit nachos, Gina’s gumbo cheese fries and a platter of pickled vegetables. Flyway Brewing was also recently featured in an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”