God bless the USA, and God bless all its burger-loving citizens. What’s more American than a hot, juicy cheeseburger? Nothing. Heck, the Declaration of Independence was practically penned in burger grease. It’s no secret that central Arkansas has a hearty helping of outstanding burgers—burgers that could easily stack up with any others around the country. We’ve got a lot to be proud of in The Natural State. We love our beef and we wear it proudly. But is it possible to definitively name “the best” burgers in central Arkansas? Why yes…it most certainly is possible, and here they are:
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These burgers might not surprise anyone—odds are, you’ve at least heard of them and probably dreamed of wrapping your lips around them. But nonetheless, it’s important that we, once and for all, boldly declare the 3 best burgers in town (in no particular order).
1. The cheeseburger from The Root: When you bite into the burger at The Root, a magical thing happens. The freshness and gentle flavor make one feel as though they’re eating on an open-aired porch on a quaint, family-owned farm—chickens cluck in the distance, the family dog naps under the table, cows moo approvingly in the field. There aren’t many burgers like it in Arkansas. The Root’s burger has an almost earthy, grassy nature to it. Not like you’re choking down a mouthful of weeds or anything, but there’s a certain organic nature to the whole experience that makes it a lighter, tastier, more rustic experience. It’s simply adorned with housemade aioli, ripe red tomato, sweetly caramelized grilled white onion, and thinly-sliced housemade dill pickles. Of course, they’re using locally sourced, pasture- raised beef, ground fresh and cheese sourced from the local Daley Dairy, producers of the fine Honeysuckle Lane yellow cheddar. As the cheese melts across the beef, it softly wraps the burger like a velvety blanket, gently cascading down its sides. Lastly, a Boulevard Bread bun, lightly grilled, chewy and soft. A real American masterpiece.
2. The HAMburger from Hillcrest Artisan Meats: We have extolled the virtues of this Hillcrest landmark almost ad nauseam here at Eat Arkansas. Why? It ain’t because they’re paying us. It’s because they are, without a doubt, one of the most important institutions in the state of Arkansas—and their food is basically incredible. While it was probably long overdue, they only started serving burgers within the last few months. But once they started dishing them out, there was really no question as to whether they would be exceptional. They’re only served on Fridays, in very limited quantities (about 30 per day), and as the word of their exquisiteness has spread, they’ve become increasingly difficult to get your hands on. They start with freshly-ground, local beef from Ratchford Farms—and thank the heavens, they know how to properly cook their beef. You ask for medium (and why would you ask for anything else?) and they deliver a tender, juicy, flavorful slab of cow, blushing slightly in the middle with a nice sear on top and bottom. The beef here is leaner than some, but manages to retain enough flavor and fat to gently coat the tongue with savory cow juice. Condiments change regularly, but you’re sure to be treated to the freshest produce (lettuce, tomato, onion, greens, herbs) and locally-produced cheeses. Everything sits on a slightly sweet, golden brown challah bun, the perfect throne for such a majestic burger.
3. The white truffle and pecorino burger from Big Orange: I have a confession to make about this burger—it is one of the biggest reasons I came to Arkansas. You see, while I was looking for locations to settle down for a while, Arkansas was on the radar. There were many attractive aspects to this state that enticed me to join the happy throng of Arkansans, but it wasn’t until I ate my first Big Orange burger that I thought, “Yeah, I can see myself here…especially if there’s more of this in my future.” What impresses me most about this burger is not so much the beef (which, admittedly, I’ve had served to me slightly overcooked on occasion), but the exceptional balance of flavors which support it. Sweet, savory, bitter, and salty—all in their proper proportions—dance across the tongue with each bite. The bite of fresh, peppery arugula paired with the pungent, unmistakable flavor of truffle and rich, creamy mayo. The sweet fig jam countered by salty pecorino cheese. It’s a beautiful slow dance of flavors, each step intricately coordinated and executed, and it all works together swimmingly. Not to mention, you can enjoy this burger with some of the best fried potatoes in existence, making every meal at Big Orange a momentous occasion.