Imagine the anatomy of a classic American hamburger: sesame bun, tomatoes, lettuce, sliced cheese, condiments, and a perfectly grill-marked beef patty. Simple, easy to assemble, and almost impossible to go wrong. Since it was introduced to North America nearly a century ago, the burger is now everywhere -- bars, restaurant chains, diners, and even pizza joints. This beloved fast food staple enjoys endless variations the world over, from Denmark to Serbia and Cuba to Bora Bora.
To celebrate National Hamburger Day on May 28, we let the grill do the talking and take a look at how different countries make their burgers. Here are the 10 best burgers from around the world:
A burger that packs a cheesy wallop in its patty, Jucy Lucy is a melt in your mouth twist on the classic cheeseburger. But rather than having sliced cheese as a topping, it’s rolled into the centre of the raw patty as a filling. Since the 1950s, diners in Minneapolis flocked to either Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club for the original cheddar-filled burger. While both bars claim they invented the Jucy Lucy, its popularity took off over the decades with restaurants across North America now offering their own take on this timeless sandwich.
If a plain cheeseburger on a sesame seed bun feels rather, well, plain, switch it up with a Patty Melt. Despite having all the makings of a classic American burger, the Patty Melt rebels against boring buns with sliced rye bread, sourdough, Texas or marbled toast. Besides having a thick stack of patties in the middle, Patty Melt comes layered in caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and bacon. Mix it up even more with jalapeño, sautéed mushrooms, and Gruyère, and you got in your hands on an unbeatable burger spinoff.
Give Filet-O-Fish the boot and opt for a real fish burger with mahi mahi, swordfish, or salmon steak instead. From Florida and Hawaii to the Caribbean and South Pacific islands you’ll find fresh, catch of the day fish steaks replacing beef patties at many burger joints. In places like Maui and Bora Bora, beachside food trucks or shacks offer some of the world’s best Mahi Mahi burgers. And while in Barbados, try lining up at Cuz’s Fish Stand by Pebbles Beach for its legendary marlin burger that quickly sells out by mid-afternoon.
The Cubans know how to make a sandwich, and in Frita, you’ll find a hamburger amped up with fries on top. Like the iconic Cubano, Frita is another sandwich recipe that proliferated South Florida’s food scene since it was introduced by Cuban immigrants in the 1960s. Now a popular grab and go lunch menu item in Miami, Tampa, and Key West, Frita comes in different varieties. Most versions are made with Cuban buns filled with either a ground pork or beef patty mixed with chorizo, topped with raw onions, and generous heaps of shoestring potatoes drizzled with spiced ketchup.
Same carbs, different day? Fugetaboutit. With rice burgers, not only do you go bunless, you get to ditch the greasy patty too. Introduced by Japan’s burger chain, MOS Burger, in 1987, rice burgers are made of two compressed steam rice cakes in place of regular bread buns. The original MOS Burger recipe uses teriyaki beef strips or pork strips instead of ground beef patties. Now highly popular in other Asian countries like Vietnam, South Korea, and China, rice burgers have evolved to include toppings like fried chicken, tempura fritters, kimchi, and grilled salmon.
Although popularly known as “bao bun” in the west, Gua Bao is the proper name for this traditional steam bun sandwich from Fujian, China. The modern version of Gua Bao, however, was developed in Taiwan and flourished as a street food staple. A typical sandwich is stuffed with thick slices of succulent, fatty pork belly, pickled mustard greens, chopped coriander and a dash of crushed peanuts. Over the years, Gua Bao received a minor gourmet food status in the west, with some variations containing fried chicken, fish, beef strips, and Peking duck.
As its name suggests, the Slopper is one messy sandwich. Take a regular cheeseburger, smother it in green or red chilli, topped with avocado slices, chopped onions, or fries, and you got yourself a soupy, slimy, monstrosity. The only way to tackle one is with an arsenal of fork, knife, spoon, and maybe some napkins. This wet and wild burger originated in Pueblo, Colorado, around the 1970s, when restaurants in town began serving burgers steeped in soup made from the region’s most abundant agriculture: green chilli peppers. Today, almost every eatery from Pueblo to Colorado Springs has its version of the Slopper, some with wacky names like “Thunder Humper”, “Green Giant”, and “Mad Slopper”.
The Danish equivalent of a Slopper, the Bøfsandwich is a burger resting in a pool of gravy, sprinkled with crispy roasted onions. Piping hot on a plate and dripping with gravy and sauces, Bøfsandwich is a beast of a burger overstuffed with raw onions, sautéed onions, fried onions and slathered with rémoulade and ketchup. In Jutland, you’ll find this burger-shaped swamp monster emerging from its gravy bath with pickled vegetables, red cabbage, and beetroots.
A burger where the bread is optional, Pljeskavica (ples-kah-vee-tsah) is a Serbian grilled meat patty dish made from a mixture of ground lamb, pork, and beef shaped into thin, large steak. Typically served on a plate alongside fries, salad, kajmak cheese, and ajvar relish, Pljeskavica can also be eaten with flatbreads like a sandwich. In recent years, this dish has been transformed by restaurants across Europe to look more burger-like, with some made into specialty cheeseburgers on toasted buns.
Have you ever looked upon a glazed donut and wondered why it didn’t have more calories? Well, then you’re missing out on the calorie bomb that is the Luther Burger. This 800-1500 calories burger was supposedly named after R&B singer and songwriter, Luther Vandross, with some legends claiming he invented it after running out of burger buns and substituted them with donuts instead. Although mostly a novelty sandwich offered at county fairs, state fairs, and some ballparks in the U.S., some restaurants have begun serving Luther Burgers as a regular menu item. You’ll find this heart attack-bait usually comes with toasted or deep-fried Krispy Kreme donuts, stacked with an Angus beef patty, melted cheese, strips of bacon (sometimes chocolate-covered), and optionally, some lettuce.