How do I judge a burger?
First thing I always do is eat just a piece of hamburger meat with nothing on it. Does the meat have its own flavor? Is it juicy? Is it cooked correctly at medium and no more than medium well (exception made for smash/slider)? Is the bun too dry or does it perform the job of sopping up juice and add flavor and depth to the burger? Do the condiments and add-ons actually add to the flavor or detract/distract from it?
Honestly, there are not a lot of great burgers in St. Joseph, so I had to include surrounding areas extended out to Kansas City, Topeka, Omaha, etc. A burger has to at least be great to make my list (an amazing will bump a great every time), but what I’m always on the lookout for is pure bliss, what I call a “hallelujah burger.” The burger that hits your mouth and sends you to that special place in your head where you’re at peace with yourself. It should be noted that not all the burgers are from exclusively “burger joints:” a great burger can come from anywhere.
I fully acknowledge that taste is subjective. I don’t think judging a burger on the quality of the meat, how it’s cooked, if it’s juicy and has flavor on its own is subjective, or whether the bun is too dry or performs its function is subjective, but once you get to condiments, and add-ons, then you enter subjective taste. I fully expect people to disagree with my list and that’s okay. I encourage you to post your own top burgers from the area!
So here is my list. It’s still growing since I only moved to the area in May of 2022. If you have a suggestion of a place that’s not on my list that you think I’d like, by all means let me know and I’ll try them!
- 10 Ford’s Drive In (St. Joseph)
- 5028 Lake Ave, St Joseph, MO 64504
- Ford’s is all sliders and those rarely make my list. Ford’s is one of those “don’t judge a book by its cover” places and you could easily drive by it: and you would be wrong to do so. Ford’s is vastly underrated. Their burgers are juicy and loaded with condiments. Get the double bacon cheeseburger and a shake! If you’re a larger person, seating will be uncomfortable, so you may want to get your food to go.
- 09 Vogel’s Burgers (St. Joseph)
- Vogel’s is a food truck, so check their FB page for daily locations.
- You’re going to wait for your burger as they are hand made to order. A variety of styles of burgers are available. Vogel’s locations and hours vary, so make sure you check their FB page ahead of time.
- 08 D&G (St. Joseph)
- 1918 Frederick Ave, St Joseph, MO 64501
- D&G is one of the few places in town open for lunch on Sunday and their rock & roll themed menu makes perfect sense if you know the quirks of the rock & rollers their items are named after, like the Elvis with peanut butter or the Lemmy with pulled pork on the burger. I recommend both for sure! While there, you can also try one of their amazing tenderloin sandwiches and I definitely recommend the hushpuppies as an appetizer!
- 07 Tay’s Burger Shack (Kansas City)
- 1019 Armour Rd, North Kansas City, MO 64116
- I love that their menu is simple: they make what they make and they’re good at it. It’s a matter of how much meat you want! The Triple is the perfect amount for me (I’m not sure I can get my mouth around the Homerun). These are smash burgers and they’re juicy and lots of delicious char in the grooves. I get grilled jalapenos and and bacon as an add-on to give that Triple some extra goodness. My only gripe is that I wish they seasoned the meat a bit more.
- 06 Sinful Burger Sports Grill (Bellevue)
- 4005 Twin Creek Dr #101, Bellevue, NE 68123
- Each of their burgers is named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins. The Wrath is my favorite, because I love the hot stuff! If you’re extra hungry, try the Gluttony!
- 05 First Ward House (St. Joseph)
- 2101 St Joseph Ave, St Joseph, MO 64505
- When I finally got around to trying this place I knew it was an instant on my list. The SJFD Fire Burger is absolutely phenomenal. From the perfectly seasoned meat, perfectly seared for those crunchy notches on the side with complimenting condiments, crunchy and flavorful bacon, and an amazing overall flavor profile. The excellent fries on the side are a bonus. I’m looking forward to trying their other burgers for sure! Bonus is they are open Sunday from lunch until late, so this will likely now be part of my Sunday routine.
- 04 RC’s Lunch Car (St. Joseph)
- 505 Francis St, St Joseph, MO 64501
- RC’s is 100% my favorite place to get a burger in St. Joseph. In addition to their normal burger, they offer specialty burgers almost every week that are absolutely worth trying. I basically eat dinner at RC’s every Friday night. Also worth trying is one of their hand-spun milkshakes and their BBQ Pork Tacos.
- 03 Beer Kitchen (Kansas City)
- 435 Westport Rd, Kansas City, MO 64111
- The Smokestack is probably their most sold burger and for a reason, a perfectly cooked (get it medium like you’re supposed to) and seasoned burger with burnt ends, jalapeno straws, smoked gouda, whiskey glaze, and chipotle aioli come together for a flavor extravaganza. Ask for a little extra chipotle aioli (trust me). Add that smoked chipotle and smoked bacon sauces for your fries as well. Definitely an amazing burger.
- 02 Pennant (Topeka)
- 915 S Kansas Ave, Topeka, KS 66612
- The Triple Threat is my favorite and if you like spicy, definitely give it a try: it’s a hallelujah burger for sure. Also check out the P.B.J. which uses Thai peanut butter sauce for some kick. Using Thai peanut butter sauce has been my recommendation over a regular peanut butter on burger for a long time and I was so happy to see a place using it on a burger. Also worth checking out is their tater tot nachos.
- 01 Brewer’s Kitchen (Kansas City)
- 3107 Gillham Road Suite 100, Kansas City, MO 64109
- Every one of their burgers is a hallelujah burger. My favorite by far is their Blueberry Stout Burger. It’s over-indulgent and I love everything about it. Bonus is that it’s situated in an area you should explore more of!
But What About?
Where are the standard ones you see on so many other lists from St. Joseph? A lot of the ones on those lists seem to be based more on nostalgia than taste. For example, I’m always going to get me some Town Topic burgers in Kansas City because of the nostalgia (and they’re good), but they’re not in the Top 10 unless you’re doing a nostalgia-based list. If I’m being honest, a lot of the ones on those lists are just not good. There’s one at the top of most people’s lists for St. Joseph that I don’t include because the burgers are always overcooked and as dry as a hockey puck. It doesn’t matter how good your condiments flavor profile is if your burger is a hockey puck.