The midwinter burger battles: Who’s the best?

January 24, 2012
Like a hungry anaconda, certain burger lovers can unhinge their jaws to devour colossal double-deckers. BY REHOBOTHFOODIE PHOTO

Bundle up and break out the four-wheeler! It may be cold and windy, but it’s wintertime and that can mean only one thing: Cheap hamburgers! Careful analysis of one of Rehoboth’s more brilliantly conceived online specials lists uncovered a remarkable fact: People like burgers! Further study revealed that they like them even more at discount prices.

Our vast network of spies, moles and operatives here at The Business of Eating fanned out over the countryside (at great personal risk) to contrast and compare what the Land of Burgerdom has to offer. The returns are trickling in, and trends are beginning to surface.

One of the longest-running burger specials is Monday night at The Summer House. Freshly ground chuck perches proudly on a yeasty bun with a generous choice of toppings. The roll is identical to the one served at the mothership, Big Fish Grill. Soft and eggy with a shiny top, it snuggles the patty like a Sealy Posturepedic, except with bacon and cheese.

And then there’s that eternal question: Five Guys or Jake’s Wayback Burgers? Both are so reasonably priced that specials would send them spiraling into bankruptcy. Jake’s slightly lower grill temperature produces a plump, juicy burger with minimal shrinkage. The Guys (all five of them) appear to have a hotter grill that sears patties to a firmer finish. Both are never frozen and are cooked to order.

How are the buns, you ask? (Wow, it’s been a long time since anybody asked me that.) Five Guys’ burgers are wrapped in foil, so the bread essentially steams, absorbing the flavors within. Jake’s starts with a slightly softer roll, then swaddles the sizzling sandwich in wax paper. Both end up making you happy.

So which one wins? Jake's triumphs for a juicier burger. Five Guys conquers for a more darkly caramelized patty. Take your choice. Equal opportunity is all the rage nowadays, so why not alternate?

Though not officially in Rehoboth, we can’t ignore Kindle’s Wednesday half-price burger in Lewes. A plush and buttery brioche cradles its flame-grilled, half-pound contents decorated with bacon and Gruyere. The firm roll retains its identity and doesn’t get too involved with the fillings. Another contender in this bluster over brioche is Nage. Though not part of a special, its prime rib burger has been a hit since the day the place opened. Chef Hari Cameron lovingly adorns it with smoked onions and Gouda.

So is it the proud brioche, standing tall in the face of savory juices and tangy toppings, or is it the supple and forgiving bun, yielding to the shape of its contents to eliminate that pesky knife and fork dilemma? The envelope, please…. (Now do you really think I’m going to take sides right here in newsprint? I have to live here too, y’know.) Go. Enjoy. Decide for yourself.

The award for the biggest buns in town certainly goes to Purple Parrot. Weighing in at a full pound, the Mumbo-Jumbo will set you back $6.75 on Mondays after 5. Bring a designated driver! Burger Wednesdays in Rehoboth belong to MIXX. Choose from seven varieties (including bison and short rib) for eight bucks and wash ‘em down with half-price martinis. Ahh, that flawless combination of martinis and … well, just about anything.

So many burgers, so little space! Build your own for five bucks on Mondays at Port in Dewey Beach. JAM Bistro tops Kobe beef with bacon, onion jam and cheddar. (The Japanese word “Kobe” loosely translates to “scrumptious, but not cheap,” so sorry, no discounts on this one.) Pungent manchego from contented sheep crowns the half-pound-plus hamburger at Shorebreak Lodge. Even Applebee’s gets in on the act with about 500 different toppings for two massive, never-frozen burgers (plus an appetizer). All for 20 bucks.

Did I include everybody? No, I probably didn’t. But you get the idea. Nothing sticks to your ribs like a succulent burger on a cold winter’s night. Find your favorite. If it’s on special, great. If not, order it anyway. Nothing lasts forever, and in a few months you’ll be standing in line for this stuff.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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