Like moths to a flame, Americans clamor for the ultimate sandwich on a bun. While there is debate on who exactly invented the cheeseburger, from claims of a Pasadena restaurant The Rite Spot in 1926 to Kaelin’s Restaurant of Louisville, Ky. in 1934, the trademark name “cheeseburger” was claimed in 1935 by Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In in Denver, Colo.
Now a ubiquitous name on the American landscape, the cheeseburger has captured the national heart and tummy for decades with its juicy and oh-so-oozy cheese profile. Restaurants are constantly exploring the wide range of flavor possibilities, plus the rise of plant-based diets is transforming the classic into another model of yummy goodness.
In honor of National Cheeseburger Day on Sept. 18 - or any day you get a burger craving - here are a few must-tries to put on your foodie list:
Mezé Greek Fusion: For a Mediterranean twist, try the Mezé Burger, made with a lamb and ground beef mixture, feta cheese, garlic, onion and mint. This flavorful patty is topped with sautéed onions, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, “fiery feta” and garlic aioli, and surrounded with hand cut fries tossed in garlic, fresh parsley and feta cheese. 345 6th Ave., Gaslamp. 619.550.1600, gaslampmeze.com
Crazee Burger: With over 30 options, this North Park locale is a veteran on the local burger scene. For unique selections, the list includes venison, gator, buffalo, ostrich, camel, elk, wild boar, duck and water buffalo. Seriously. Each of these come with their own unique toppings like poached red wine pear mushrooms, bacon, whipped cream and plum jelly on the venison and wild boar, and curry fruit tapenade on the gator. For more traditional meat with a cheesy topping, try the Fine Swine, with Angus beef, slow-roasted pulled pork sliced pork belly, pepper jack cheese and ginger BBQ sauce, or the Mexican-inspired Nopal Burger with Angus beef, grilled nopal patty, homemade green tomatillo, avocado salsa, queso fresco and Mexican crema. 3993 30th St., North Park. 619.282-6044, crazeeburger.com
Bleu Boheme: Make it a French affair with the Croque de Garçon, an open-face delight of Brie cheese, smoked ham, caramelized onions and a fried egg atop their house-ground steak patty, nestled on a brioche bun. Want to turn up the decadence factor? Executive Chef Ken Irvine recommends adding shaved black truffles for an aromatic and flavorsome upgrade. 4090 Adams Ave., Kensington. 619.255.4167, bleuboheme.com
Cucina Urbana: Speaking of decadent, splurge on the luscious (and pricey) Wagyu burger crowned with the uniquely stinky but beloved Taleggio cheese, porcini mushroom aioli, and port wine marinated onion on a brioche bun. 505 Laurel St., Bankers Hill. 619.239.2222, urbankitchengroup.com
Louisiana Purchase: Throw out the calorie counter for the ultimate indulgence, The District Donut Plate. A cheeseburger with crisp bacon and melted American cheese sits inside a donut, and is crowned like the King of Endymion with thick cut, deep fried onion rings. And that’s not all, the District Donut burger is seated on a throne of house-made potato and duck hash. Angioplasty, anyone? 2305 University Ave., North Park. 619.255.8278, louisianapurchasesd.com
Backyard Kitchen & Tap: The PB doesn’t just stand for Pacific Beach in this popular PB Burger. This unique take on the classic involves a ribeye-brisket blend for the patty, white cheddar, cherrywood smoked bacon, pickled jalapeños and here’s the triple entendre, house-made creamy peanut butter spread on - you guessed it - a pretzel bun. 832 Garnet Ave., Pacific Beach. 858.859.2593, backyardpb.com
Stuffed!: Want mac & cheese with your burger? No need to order separately, the Boom burger has all the gooeyness you can handle with an American cheese stuffed burger, topped with spicy mac and cheese, peppered smoked bacon, and Stuffed! Sauce. 2820 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station. 858.336.7418, stuffedsd.com
Barleymash: Joining land and sea in a mouthwatering marriage, executive chef Kevin Templeton presents the Surf N’ Turf burger, crafted with añejo -tequila and butter poached Maine lobster and grilled beef, along with cream cheese, baby arugula, whiskey-caramelized onions and white truffle aioli. 600 5th Ave., Gaslamp. 619.255.7373, barleymash.com
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse: Locals love the dry-aged selections at this locale, and the burger is a favorite. Forget regular lettuce and cheese, this specialty burger is topped with havarti, arugula, wild mushroom butter, and white barbecue sauce, all between a pillowy brioche bun. 901 Bayfront Court, Suite 105, downtown. 619. 272.5060, delfriscos.com
The Modern Vegan: Veggie lovers have their pick of six different “cheese”burger options, including The Snob with grilled portobello mushrooms, spinach, avocado, and vegan versions of smoked Gouda and tzatziki, The Cowboy with caramelized onions, cucumbers, BBQ sauce smoked Gouda, and vegan bacon, and the two regent options The King and The Queen, both with double patties, and a variety of toppings. 4332 30th St. #3, North Park. 619.310-5712, tmvrestaurants.com
WhipHand: No meat needed for a similar flavor punch with the Vegan dBLCheeseburger Wrap, made with ground Impossible beef and cashew cheese. This burger comes wrapped in bibb lettuce for those watching the carbs, or can be served with a vegan bun. 935 J St., downtown. 619.450.5515
Slater’s 50/50: For vegans and vegetarians eating out with their omnivorous friends and family, this burger spot has options for everyone at the table. While the meat eaters can decide between beef, bison, turkey, and their beef and bacon blend, plant-based customers can pick the Eat Your Veggies quinoa burger with roasted red peppers, avocado, cucumbers and garlic aioli, or substitute any of the options on the menu with an Impossible Burger. 2750 Dewey Road #193, Liberty Station. 619.398.2600, slaters5050.com