It may be America's greatest export: the hamburger. Wherever I go around the globe, it seems to be the unbeatable rising food trend. On the facade of a small brick building near São Paulo’s financial district, Faria Lima, I saw spelled out “The Best Burger in the World.” In London, a line stretched down Commercial Street in Shoreditch to try a Smokey Bandit burger. I’ve seen men in Hong Kong get into a fistfight over which burger they believe best. It’s a subject that arouses strong passions, complex charts, and even economic indicators. Here are a few of my favorites. Please don’t punch me.
Bleecker St.: A roving pop-up in Spitalfields Market soon to have a permanent home. The higher-than-usual fat content makes for a nice gloppy, juicy mess. They use aged beef, which also adds a deeper layer of flavor. Only downside: The burgers are smaller than many, so you may be sorely tempted to eat two.
Bar Boulud: From Chef Daniel Boulud, so expect more refinement and higher prices. Get the Frenchie, which comes with sautéed onions, Morbier cheese, peppery arugula, and a tomato cooked until it's almost jammy.
MeatLiquor: Part of the MeatMission empire, this is the best among the fast-casual options. Go for the Dead Hippie: two patties cooked medium rare and served on a bed of chopped lettuce, the better to soak up their tangy secret sauce.
21 Club: This is the classic business lunch option. Eat a burger and do a deal. Still one of the best because it adheres to the classic model: a thick, no frills, hand-formed patty, served up however you ask. Bonus points for the historic glamour of the place.
J.G. Melon: An Upper East Side standard that remains firmly rooted in its determination not to change or expand. You could take your friends, your parents, or your nanny here. The Melon burger is closest to the old-New York diner model. I stick to the classic cheeseburger (American, naturally) with pickles and red onions.
Minetta Tavern: The "21" burger for the modern age. Get the Black Label. Meat master Pat LaFrieda supplies the blend, which is a state secret (one whispered with the heady tang of aged steak). The joy comes from the clarified butter drizzled over the top and perfectly sautéed onions.
The Butchers Club: Crowds of business folk waiting in the heat for a reason: It's a splendid quality burger made from aged Australian beef.
Caliburger: A leader in the fast-casual department for its combination of flavor and price—you'd be shamed to compare it with McDonald's (so I won't). Its tangy sauce and almost mechanical simplicity are what fuel the passions of hungry traders here. Get the wings, too.
Burger Circus: A trip to 1950s Ohio under the stairs on Hollywood Road. (Think kitsch Shake Shack.) The burger here is a thin, cheese-drizzled slab of beef with lettuce, tomato, and onion, with BBQ and bacon if you're feeling wild. The kicker comes in the malted shakes, ice cream floats, and cocktails.
Meats: Classically American with exotic side dishes and Sampa-approved toppings such as wasabi-honey and a sweet green-apple sauce. Although I preferred to keep it classic to savor the difference in patties made from quality Brazilian and Argentinian beef.
Z Deli: A real Jewish deli, so you get NYC-style gruff service, crowds, and a perfect burger in line with the J.G. Melon model on which it's designed. Translation: no frills, covered in American cheese, bacon, and iceberg lettuce. The only difference is the palm trees outside.
Burger Table: Chef Manuel Coelho is obsessed with meat quality, fat content, and preparation. This was my favorite burger in Brazil because it tasted like the burgers I like to make at home: lightly packed, so they don't feel like hockey pucks, and expertly cooked on a proper charcoal grill.