Doodle and photos by Isadora Pennington

By Isadora Pennington

It’s rather a mystery, the popularity and masterpiece that is the hamburger. It’s one of those meals that can be a quick, late night, cheap eat from a fast food place, or a fine dining experience at a top-rated restaurant. At its root, a grilled meat patty between bread with some toppings doesn’t really sound all that glamourous. But there’s no denying it, burgers are a true American classic.

The juicy, flavorful, hot beef patty is perfectly matched with a buttery bun, the crispness of fresh lettuce, a juicy slice of tomato, and (for me, of course) ooey-gooey cheese melting down to unite them all. Dress it up, or dress it down, the burger is dang fine eats and has done its job pleasing folks since its inception way back in the 1880s.

The true origins of the burger are up for some debate. With ties that link back to Hamburg, Germany, this combination of grilled meat between bread has been a contentious invention from the start. Claims of origin and use of the term ‘hamburger’ can be traced back to Chicago, Boston, Connecticut, and the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where it was described as “the innovation of a food vendor on the pike” by the New York Tribune.

Hamburgers exploded in popularity, and fast food chains quickly caught on. Due to America’s contentious opinion of Germany post WWI, the first chain to sell a hamburger did so under the moniker ‘slider,’ at a small fast food restaurant by the name of White Castle in Wichita, Kansas back in 1921. In the next 20 years, fast food chains and restaurants quickly adapted this affordable, quick, and delicious meal, including McDonald’s, Krystal, and Big Boy.

These days, you can find a burger on the menu of most bars, pubs, and restaurants, plus nearly all fast food chains. So what’s to differentiate between them? How does one sit down and say, “This, this is the best burger?” For me, the distinction comes in the balance between the ingredients. Each of the burgers I sampled for this piece has it’s own unique personality, if you will. The flavorings of the beef, the sweetness of the bun – every attribute adds something to the overall effect of the meal. That, combined with an overall experience and atmosphere at the restaurant, is what makes these burgers stand out among the rest here in Atlanta.

What’s your favorite burger joint? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Grindhouse Killer Burgers
Beef Burger (Jr) One 1/4 lb. patty: $4.50
433 N. McDonough Street, Decatur


George’s Bar & Restaurant
The original 5 oz. ground chuck burger: $6.50
1041 N. Highland Ave.


H&F Burger – Ponce City Market
Double patty, bread and butter, pickles, red onion, American cheese: $12
675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE


Big Al’s Butter Made Burgers
The Original Butter Made Burger, lettuce, tomatoes, American cheese and Big Al’s gourmet sauce: $5.78
2221 Peachtree Road


The Vortex
Ground sirloin, lettuce, tomato, sweet red onion, American cheese: $10.15
438 Moreland Ave.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.