Sunday, January 6, 2019

Brewsta's Burgers 2017

Welcome to my 10th annual ranking of the burgers of Prague. Let's dig in.

Every year, I must explain that this is not a list of "the best." That's a subjective distinction others may presume to make.

This is a ranking based on the personal tastes and opinions of someone who has traveled the planet in search of great ground beef on a bun. In 2017, I consumed 30 different burgers around Prague, many of them more than once.

So, what do I look for? High-quality beef, coarsely ground, cooked medium, with a fat content around 20 percent is a good starting point. I prefer a patty that is flame-grilled or griddled with a seared crust, and liberally salted on the exterior. I want lightly crisp (but not brittle), smoked bacon. Toppings are better on the top or the side and should be sliced thin. On the bottom, they get warm and soggy.

Well-balanced construction doesn't just make a burger look good. It also helps it taste good and makes it easier to pick up and bite. It's no fun to have half your meal fall out the back side of the bun. Awkward lettuce is particularly annoying. Shredded is preferred.

Don't underestimate the importance of buns. They should be toasted or grilled rather than baked. They must maintain structural integrity from first bite to last, but also be light, not dense.

The burgers were rated as I experienced them. If they got better or worse the week after I was there, and you have a different opinion, that’s great. I'd love to hear it. But remember, you didn’t eat the burger I ate on the day I was there.

Twelve burgers on this list were new to me. This year, I crossed off some previous losers and didn’t get to a few good ones. The idea of eating more than 30 seemed unwise.

Here now are Brewsta’s Burgers 2017, from worst to first:

30. Bejzment

This burger was automatically demoted to last place because of the restaurant's horrifying health inspection fail in October. The photos and descriptions in this report are not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. The owner said he was shocked – shocked – discover that his employees had been so careless. He claimed to have fired everyone and gone back into the kitchen himself – attempting to dodge personal responsibility. And this was the guy who started Prague's lucrative annual Burgerfest, now sponsored by Jack Daniels. Bejzment burgers were always hit and miss. This year, D Bejkn Čyz Burger (269 CZK without fries) was mediocre, with overground, oversalted beef, undersized bacon, and sad, wilted onions. It would have been in the lower middle of the burger pack, but the fact remains that I ate here before this dire health situation was revealed. I can't uneat that burger, and I can't unsee that disturbing report. It's unforgivable. Bejzment is forever banished.

29. Croq 'N' Roll
Slick photos on Instagram lured me for this burger, but IRL, it was terrible. The ground beef was super dense and chewy, and yet bright red inside. I'm not sure how they achieved that. The bun was surprisingly hard to bite. The meat slid out as I tried to eat it. My notes say "nasty." To their credit, they announced a total revamp of their burger after I posted about it back in March, but I have not been back since. 95 CZK without fries. According to their website, their new burger is 155 CZK and includes fries.

28. Agave
I like some of the Mexican food at Agave. I like their bar's style and cool lighting and sometimes enjoy a frozen margarita there. Since the place is American owned, I thought their Hamburguesa might be good, but my high hopes were laid low by the rubbery, dense, salty patty. It tasted OK, but the texture was all wrong. The huge patty, cooked medium, was served on a non-standard, crumbly bun. It gradually fell apart in my hands, turning into a big mess. It was served with good, tangy guacamole, grilled onions, lettuce tomato, Monterey Jack, and jalapeños. The spicy pickle on top was an odd choice. It was served with soft sweet potato fries for 275 CZK.

27. Kavarna Velryba
While the taste was OK, the Royal Cheese Burger represented another patty texture fail. The beef was ground too finely, and it was much too chewy. I think the fat content was too low. A lot of red juice squirted on the first rubbery bite. There was not enough smoky pancetta. It also had spicy mayo, lettuce, tomato, and a large amount of fried, sweet red onions. The salty cheddar melted into the patty. There was also raw red onion and a whole pickle sliced in half. 189 CZK, served with potato chips.

26. Burger King
Every year, Burger King is on the list and not because it is good. Among fast food burgers, I used to prefer it. Now, I'm beginning to loathe it. Here, it acts as a “control.” It’s a known quantity, though perhaps not quality. My point is this: If I like a BK burger more than the offering at a real, full-service restaurant, the owners and cooks should rethink what they are doing. It is also on the list to annoy the humorless people who take these things too seriously. This year, I got the Bacon King. The beef was overground, and the smoke flavor tasted fake. It was on a crappy, mushy, untoasted bun. It looked absolutely nothing like the photo on the overhead menu. Bleh. 139 CZK.

25. Hot Pepper Pub
I ordered the House Classic but was served The Hot Pepper burger with its signature red bun. The salty, peppery ground beef was cooked all the way through instead of medium, but had a good grind. The processed cheese was not well melted. It came with unremarkable bacon, pickles, tomatoes, jalapenos, and dressing. The fried onions with too much vinegar were unpleasant. It was tall and stiff. 185 CZK, served with decent fries and, oddly, Mexican-style salsa.

24. Sad Man's Tongue
The Sailor Jerry Bacon Jam Burger featured good beef with a good grind. However, it was dense, overcooked, too tightly packed, and needed more salt. The bun was cold and doughy, not toasted. The cheddar/Eidam on top was not fully melted. The star here was the smoky bacon jam. It really elevated the whole thing. The burger also had lettuce, tomato, and raw red onions. The fries were a disaster. The potatoes glistened with hot grease and were not properly cooked through, with a snappy, veggie texture. This burger has many fans, but I am not one of them. My notes on the burger say: "Needs improvement." They served it with a bottle of Heinz ketchup, which is a great thing that all places should do. 248 CZK.

23. T-Anker
Last things first: It took almost an hour for my order to be delivered to the table. When it finally arrived, the burger had a dense patty with overground beef, but decent flavor. It came with quite basic cheese and hammy, smoky bacon, plus lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The bun was baked rather than toasted, which resulted in crumbling. It was cooked all the way through, not medium. My notes say: "Not bad, but not worth 299 CZK." However, the view of Old Town from their terrace in the summer is priceless.

22. The Craft

The Craft Burger came with great smoky bacon. There was lots of mayo and mustard, with a strong Dijon kick on the nicely toasted bun. The caramelized onions were quite sweet. Although it tasted good overall, the patty was very loosely packed and had a disconcertingly mushy texture. I had asked for it to be cooked medium, but it was almost like tartare. It was very messy to eat. 219 CZK with annoyingly stubby rosemary fries. They need to cut them longer.

21 Argument at Kulaťák farmers market
On a past list, I gave a good rating to the burger at their restaurant, Argument. The burger they did at the Dejvice farmer's market on Saturdays was a different animal, so to speak. Although not as good as the restaurant's version, it was satisfying on a cold, rainy day in March. The salty patty had an enticing smoky flavor from the griddle, though it was rubbery from too fine a grind. It came with mayo, onion, red lettuce, and tomato. There was one strip of hammy bacon and tangy cheese on a good bun. While the restaurant's superior burger costs 335 CZK, the outdoor version was just 100 CZK.

20. George Prime Steak
This is a high-end restaurant, serving a high-end burger for a high-end price. So why is it on the lower half of the list? The fine grind and low fat content of the beef hurt the texture. Aside from a strong hit of salt, the flavor of the meat was dull. The brioche bun was unpleasantly dense and the bottom was soaked through with juices. The loss of liquid left the patty on the dry side. The burger was too heavy and hard to hold together. The highlight was the delicious, maple-glazed bacon. There was great, sharp cheddar. It was also topped with chipotle aioli, tomato, lots of shaved red onion, pickles, and lettuce. It came with beautifully-cut, light and crispy fries. The price weighed in at 395 CZK. I liked this burger better in previous years.

19. Želva Beers and Burgers
There was good beef with a great, coarse grind, cooked medium. The smoky bacon was overcooked to a brittle state, but it did add lots of flavor, along with very salty cheese. Their special sauce was rather sweet. The main weakness here was the very tall bun. It had the fattest bottom half I have ever seen. Top and bottom were not well-toasted. A better bun would be a big improvement. I had the large burger with the 170g patty for 119 CZK –- fries not included.

18. Regal Burger
The peppery patty, with a grind too fine, was topped with really tasty, smoky, crispy bacon. Dusted with a red seasoning mix, it was cooked all the way through on their press grill, not medium. The Classic Burger came with an anise-flavored barbecue sauce, mayo, sliced red onion, tomato, and pickles. The quality bun was not just toasted but baked, which dried out the exterior. Bun flakes flew everywhere when I picked it up. Quite a mess. It was a tall burger and not so easy to bite in the middle. The price was 145 CZK, plus an extra 20 CZK to add bacon, and it does not come with fries.

17. DISH {fine burger bistro}
Dish has topped my list twice over the years, but this year, they lost a step or two. The thin patty was cooked medium, but was bland. Toppings dominated: tons of garlic confit aioli, strong sour pickles, homemade ketchup reminiscent of tomato sauce, lettuce, salty bacon, and white cheddar. I'm not a fan of the bready roll they serve the burger on, but Dish always gets points for balanced construction. The patty leaked a lot of red juice onto the plate, which I didn't like. 215 CZK without fries. I recommend adding the "Fitness Fries" with bacon and maple syrup for 75 CZK.

16. Sweet and Pepper Days
The "Cheesebacon" slider's beef had a top-notch grind, and the patty was cooked medium. It was topped with remarkably-good, melted cheddar. It came with crisp but not smoky bacon, lettuce, red onion, ketchup, and homemade mayo. It rode in on a quality bun, but suffered from sloppy construction 189 CZK for two, no fries available.

15. Meat and Greet Burgerhouse
The MAG Burger had high-quality ground beef cooked medium, served on an excellent, toasted bun. It had crispy, smoky bacon, and top build quality. On the downside, their green onion mayo with a sharp kick overwhelmed most of the other flavors. Their homemade ketchup also reminded me of tomato sauce. There were bits of chewy gristle in the patty. It cost 189 CZK, and I added their great sweet potato fries for 79 CZK. Sriracha mayo was a whopping 29 CZK.

14. Bad Jeff's Barbeque
Top points here for the great ground beef, cooked medium, topped with crispy, smoky bacon. There was also the best quality layout and construction: the cool, fresh toppings placed on the plate, avoiding the heat of the meat until the last minute, awaiting closure. Two things have changed since last year's model. The restaurant's flame grill was gone due to ventilation issues. I missed the extra smokiness. The bun was also changed and, in my view, not for the better. The texture was less bready, more mushy, like Wonder Bread. It also got soggy on one side due to the juiciness of the burger. I didn't detect much toasting. The bun knocked this burger down the list for me. It cost 289 CZK, with curly fries included.

13. Nejen Bistro
I had the 180g Beef Black Angus burger with caramelized onions, tangy cheddar, tomato, and lettuce. The incredibly tasty patty, tall but not too wide, was made with perfectly-ground, smoky beef on their Josper grill. It was pink in the middle, with lots of salt, but there was also some gristle. It doesn't come with bacon, but the meat was so smoky and delicious, they can get away with that. Because of its height and build, it was hard to pick up and eat, but it became more manageable once I got a good grip on it. The bun was soft but strong enough. The burger came with terrific fries. To their credit, they brought a Heinz ketchup bottle for the fries, though the burger was made with tomatoey homemade ketchup that was not too tart or sweet. The main drawbacks: way too much cucumber mayo dripping down the sides, and it was a total mess to eat. 229 CZK.

12. The James Joyce Irish Pub
This was a big, hefty burger with good ground beef, cooked medium. The one slab of Irish bacon was salty and thick, but had no smokiness. It wasn't a classic taste for a burger, hey, they had to make it Irish. The salty cheddar was unremarkable, and it had a thin slice of tomato and mixed lettuce. The bun holds this tall, weighty beast together, but it was hard to pick up and bite. There was lots of mayo on the top and bottom. Excellent crispy fries come with it, plus a bottle of Heinz ketchup, which is always a plus. One of the more expensive burgers in town at 315 CZK, but quite satisfying.

11. George Prime Burger
George Prime Burger, a less-costly cousin of George Prime Steak, opened on Vodičkova in 2017. The Bacon Cheese Burger had quality ground beef, cooked past the requested medium, terrific maple-glazed bacon, and a perfectly-toasted soft, light bun with the strength to hold it all together. It was also topped with lettuce, tomato, and very sour pickles. There was too much Dijon-aioli for me. Some might like it, but the mustard flavor was too strong. On a later visit, I had them swap it out for ketchup, which was a big improvement. The grind of the beef was too fine, and the fat content could be higher, which would improve the patty. This burger benefited from a good balance and construction quotient. 240 CZK. Excellent sweet potato fries and herb-yogurt sauce were 95 CZK. The regular fries were 55 CZK.

10. The Tavern
The Classic Bacon Cheddar had a relatively thin but tightly-packed patty, cooked medium. Their ground beef was full of flavor, and the crispy bacon was super. I liked their tangy English cheddar and nice sour pickles for contrast. The shredded lettuce helped with build quality. They served red onion on the side. There was too much ketchup and mayo. The Classic also comes with mustard, but I always ask them to leave it off. Three's a condiment crowd. The patty and the bacon were not as hot as should be. The soft, sturdy bun held together well, but was not really toasted. 229 CZK, fries not included.

9. Mikrofarma
I had the large burger with bacon and cheddar at this bistro/butcher shop that opened in 2017. The clearly quality beef had an excellent, coarse grind and was cooked medium rare. It was topped with smoky, hammy bacon that tasted almost like chorizo. There was red onion, shredded lettuce, a touch of mayo, some dull pickle slices, and one small tomato slice. The cheese picked up some flavor from the grill and melted into the patty. Pepper was a little too dominant in the meat. There was a very nice bun. I asked for ketchup and got a homemade version, served in a dish, that tasted like tomato sauce. 159 CZK, fries not included.

8. Ginger and Fred
Sitting on their spectacular terrace overlooking Prague Castle was a nice way to spend a warm summer evening. Though the most expensive one on the list, the Ginger and Fred Burger was a good choice among the fancier, even pricier fare on this menu. It was on the small side, but had a thick patty of terrific, smoky beef with a just-right grind. The beef rib meat was marinated in Coca-Cola. I can't say I tasted the Coke, but it was delicious. The meat's salt level was good. It was cooked medium rare and was moist-juicy good. The burger was topped with mustard-mayo, mixed-leaf lettuce, and sweet, fried onions. The bun was light, springy, and colored red. The included fries were crispy and cut right. The burger was a chart-topping 398 CZK, but their website has the price now at 415 CZK.

7. Maso a Kobliha
The "Dirty" Burger was delicious and unlike most others in town. The difference was its dry-aged Angus, cooked medium, with a unique, beefy flavor from hanging around in a climate-controlled fridge. The meat had a proper, coarse grind. The burger was topped with thick, salty bacon, assertive, tangy cheese, and sour pickle slices, plus a special sauce with a kick to it. I was glad it didn't have lettuce or tomato to clutter up the taste. I loved the square potato bun, which was rich and weighty, with a hint of sweetness. It all gave way easily to a bite. The fried string potatoes were hard to pick up and eat. I could live without those. 220 CZK.

6. U Kurelů
I had The Tavern Classic Bacon-Cheddar burger. The American owners also run The Tavern restaurant mentioned earlier on the list. This one wins the bacon prize with top-level quality and certainly the greatest quantity. The ninja-star bacon placement was awkward. Someone could get porked in the eye (sorry, couldn't resist). In all seriousness, it was a pain to break the ends off and put all the bacon under the bun where it belonged. But in this case, taste beats looks and convenience. The salty patty, with a good grind, was not as tightly-packed as The Tavern's version. U Kurelů's had better balance overall. The burger had two slices of English cheddar. I loved the soft, light bun and great sour pickles. It comes with mustard, mayo, and ketchup, but I always tell them to delete the mustard. It cost 219 CZK without fries.

5. BlackDog Cantina
I got the smaller 140g American Dream burger rather than the 200g version. Great beef, great grind, cooked a perfect medium. Excellent chewy, smoky bacon was hidden under the melted cheese. The toasted bun was good quality, but it was too big for the smaller patty, giving it an awkward look. I enjoyed the slow burn of the Sriracha mayo and liked the taste of the cucumber-like half-sour pickles. The toppings were scattered rather haphazardly, but the classic flavors mixed together well. 195 CZK, without fries, which cost 55 CZK extra. Ketchup was 10 CZK extra, and it wasn't even Heinz. Annoyances aside, my notes do say, "One of the best patties in town."

4. Café Palanda
Start to finish, I enjoyed every bite of the Royal Bacon Cheeseburger. Crispy, smoky bacon topped a medium-cooked 170g patty packed with flavor. There were delicious, freshly-grilled, sweet caramelized onions contrasting with crunchy sour pickles. The cheese had a smoky tang. It was all wrapped up in a big but light and fluffy toasted bun. I didn't miss lettuce or tomatoes. It was not easy to bite, but not messy at all to eat –- no dripping, slipping, or sliding. As always, the homemade ketchup was offbeat, with its strong Worcestershire sauce influence. The patty was tightly-packed, and there was a lot of mayo. 189 CZK without fries, or 229 CZK with fries, coleslaw, and parsley mayo. I always go without. Their big burger and a beer is more than enough for me.

3.‎ Kantýna
Their aged beef burger with cheese was wonderful. This beautiful butcher's palace opened in 2017, and I went back for the burger three times. The patty was thick, with a perfect grind and a satisfying, seared crust from the grill. With a hint of smoke and the right amount of salt and fat, it had the best beef flavor of any burger I had this year. The patty was juicy but not messy. It was served on a decent toasted bun, but nothing fancy. The burger was topped with long-cut sweet/sour pickles and strong red onions. Normally, it comes with mustard, but I always insist they change it for their homemade ketchup. This burger could be number one, except for one big and consistent flaw: gristle. There were many unchewable pieces in every burger. It was a mark of how great the taste was that I'd still rate it this high. I must add that the restaurant, though good-looking, would get so unpleasantly busy that it reminded me of a bus station. The burger was 218 CZK, and fries were not an option.

2. Hillbilly
What a difference a year makes. I don't know what went wrong last year, but it was not good on a number of levels. The 2017 visit was like night and day. The Hillbilly Burger's 160g tender patty had the right grind, was cooked medium, and was easy to bite. Just the right amount of salt brought up the flavor. Some of the salty bacon was overcooked and chewy. There was an amazing, buttery, perfectly-toasted bun. It was soft on top and crunchy on the inside. It was a master class on how a bun should be done. The burger was topped with cheddar, rucola, lots of onions, a tasty, sweet mayo, and ketchup combo, mixed with chopped pickles. It all combined into a classic package that keeps this place constantly packed. 180 CZK, plus 40 CZK for very good, crispy steak fries. They charged an extra 20 CZK for a dish of Heinz ketchup to dip my fries in.

1. Mr. HotDog
Mr. HotDog, how do I love thee? Let me count the visits. I've probably been there at least 10 times this year, more than any other place, by far. That's my metric for judging my favorite. My obsession with their Bacon Cheese Slider has not waned since last year, making Mr. HotDog the second two-time winner in the history of this list. I hesitate to call it a slider as they do. It's really too large for slider status. It's a small burger. The bacon was great – crunchy, chewy in a good way, smoky – and there was lots of it. Their buns are a work of art – pleasing to both the eye and the palate. The beef, though ground a little finely for my taste, is usually cooked medium and tastes wonderful. I love their sour pickles and tangy slider sauce. They keep it all in harmony with chopped onions and shredded lettuce tucked neatly inside the bun. This is well-balanced construction. For me, it's just the perfect burger package for 99 CZK, fries not included. I also love their hot dogs, McDonald's-like fries, onion rings, ice tea, coriander martinis, and sea dogs made with delicately-fried cod. Special dishes they offer, like soups and desserts, show that this is not just a fast food spot. These people are serious cooks, and they'll be tough to beat in 2018. Thanks to Bohemian Foodgasm for the great photo.

That’s my list for 2017. Feel free to agree, disagree, and/or share your own rankings in the comments.

Read the full post

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Brewsta's Burgers 2016

"I always say, 'Eat clean to stay fit, have a burger to stay sane.'" Gigi Hadid
Like pizza and sushi, burgers are one of those far-flung foods. They're just one of those easy to eat creations that hit a lot of pleasure points and are adopted as fast, fun fare around the globe. And I've traveled the world to try them.

One of my earliest fast food memories was eating at White Castle (of Harold and Kumar fame) in New York. I've sampled the famously expensive DB Burger by Daniel Boulud, the BLT Burgers by Laurent Tourondel, and the classics at Shake Shack's original location. In Washington, I ate countless times at Five Guys and BRGR. In California, I hit Umami Burger and In-N-Out Burger. In London, I tried Byron (before it got all controversial). In Vegas, I enjoyed Gordon Ramsay's BURGR.

Prague is a burgeoning burger town, and I tried 30 for 2016. It was the best year yet for quality, and I can recommend the top 17 from my list below. As I present my ninth annual burger ranking, I'll do my best to explain what sets one above another for me.

It must always be pointed out that there is no such thing as "the best" for everyone. This is a subjective endeavor, based on my personal tastes and a hell of a lot of obsession-driven experience.

I prefer beef that is flame-grilled or griddled with a seared crust, cooked medium, and liberally salted. I like lightly crisp, smoked bacon. Toppings are better on the top or the side and should be sliced thin. On the bottom, they get warm and soggy.

Buns are important. They must be toasted and hold together but not too dense. Well-balanced construction counts. The most important factor is the right quality and grind of beef -- coarse, not too fine -- with a fat content of at least 20 percent.

If the burgers got better, worse, or changed significantly the week after I was there, that's too bad. They are rated as eaten. If you have a different opinion, that's great, but remember, you didn't eat the burger I ate on the day I was there.

Almost half of the burgers on this list were new to me. Some from previous years had to be skipped for reasons of time, space, and health (my cholesterol hit "borderline high" this year). This year, I crossed off previous losers and didn't get to a few good ones, mainly for lack of time.

Here now are Brewsta's Burgers 2016, from worst to first:

30. Hot Pepper Pub
This place opened in Vršovice early in 2016.  The bun was a travesty, and it wasn't just ugly. The toppings were tossed on haphazardly. The patty tasted like meatloaf. After I posted about it on Facebook, the restaurant's owner wrote to say that their regular chef wasn't working the night I went, so the burger was all wrong. That may be, but they charged me 175 CZK just the same. I was urged to return and have it prepared properly, but I never made it back.

29. Next Door By Imperial
The Organic Burger with Parmesan sounds fancy. And they charge a fancy price. It was 260 CZK, plus 65 CZK for fries. One expects excellence from a famous chef like Zdeněk Pohlreich. But this pretentious burger had no true charm. I sent the first one back because the meat was barely room temperature, and the bun was cold. Even if I consider only the second burger, which was warm, but not hot, I did not like it. The patty was dry and underseasoned. It may be high-quality ground beef, but it lacked the fat content to give it the right texture and flavor. The patty dripped juice, but was dry inside. The tomato confit was similar to sun-dried tomato spread. There was scattering of cheese that looked more like a few little snowflakes. The whole thing was bland. I added so many twists from the salt and pepper grinders, I felt a case of carpal tunnel coming on. The large bun was dense and spongy. I got bored with all the chewing and did not finish it. The only real positive: the fries were great. For this kind of money, I expect to smile at more than just the fancy room.

28. Havana Grill
I LOVE the steak sandwich at Havana Grill. I highly recommend you check out this hole-in-the wall South American meat spot near Náměstí Míru. One of the best quick, cheap beef bites in town. But the burger? No love. The beef-pork patty had a decent flavor but also a rubbery texture. I can't abide rubbery. I'm not a big fan of hammy bacon either. 155 CZK.

27. Blue Burger Bar
There are a lot of food options if you are hanging out along the river at Žluté lázně. I'd recommend you skip this one. The biggest problem was the chalky texture and acrid flavor of the ground beef. The processed cheese had no character. There was lots of mayo and a small amount of crisp bacon, but they didn't cover up the sins of their Classic Burger. It did have a good, buttery bun. It would be better if you were drunk. 185 CZK with decent curly fries.

26. Sale and Pepe
This burger was served at the Sale and Pepe food stand during a festival at Naplavka. The main positive here was the smoky, grilled flavor of the meat. The main negative was that the patty was seriously overcooked, too dense, and chewy. The bacon was undercooked. I don't recall the price.

25. Tobruk
The Beef Bacon Burger's patty was packed too tightly, overground and rubbery. I liked the smoky, crisp bacon and the tangy cheddar. It had quite sweet caramelized onions, celery-caper mayo, lettuce, and tomato. The homemade bun was a bit stale. A friend recommended this cute neighborhood bistro, but I left disappointed. 190 CZK with fries.

24. Burger King
You will find Burger King on this list every year. In the science of burger rankings, this is what is known as a "control." It's a known quantity and quality (or lack thereof). My annual point is this: If I like a BK burger more than the offering at a real, full-service restaurant, the owners and cooks should rethink what they are doing. It is also on the list to annoy the humorless people who take these things too seriously. Outraged comments about the inclusion of Burger King on the list amuse me greatly. I went for the Angus XT again this year. And again, I did not like it much. The patty was mushy and dry. The barbecue sauce was cloying. The bun was crumbly. 189 CZK with fries and a Coke.

23. Hillbilly
A recommendation brought me to Holešovice to try the Hillbilly Burger. The place was packed and had a modern, friendly vibe. The peppery patty was tall, not so wide, and draped in tangy melted cheese. The ground beef had big, chewy pieces in it and was cooked barely medium. It was a sloppy thing to eat. Lots of juices squirted out on the first bite, but the interior was on the dry side. The bacon was rather burnt. I'm not a big fan of rucola on burgers. The pickles were great, but the raw onion was overpowering. 159 CZK with good fries. Thanks to Sandra Trávničková for donating her photo of the burger here -- I forgot to take one.

22. Mozaika Burger and Co.
I had the Bacon Cheeseburger, which I believe used to be called the Krystal. It had a thick patty, with a good grind, but I don't think the fat content was high enough. The beef was tightly packed, chewy, and I thought the salt levels were too high. It was cooked medium. The bun was too dense. I loved the sweet and sour pickles on it, and their crispy bacon was incredibly good. There was lots of mayo, plus shredded lettuce. It was very messy to eat. I asked for additional ketchup. It was homemade, which was OK but not as good as Heinz in my book (nothing is). The condiment cost a soul-crushing 35 CZK. The burger was 214 CZK, and fries were an extra 49 CZK. The place was packed when I was there, and lots of people clearly like it, but it just didn’t do it for me.

21. T-Anker 
This rooftop spot, accessed via a grungy, small elevator next to the Kotva department store, has one of the best views of Prague's Old Town. In the warm-weather months, it is hard to get table up there without a reservation. Their burger was cooked over flame, giving it a lovely backyard barbecue flavor. Unfortunately, the ground beef was not of the highest quality, and quite chewy. At 269 CZK with fries, it wasn't cheap, but I'd get it again next summer.

20. Restaurace Jáma
I had the 200-gram burger earlier this year (though the internet menu now lists the burger weights at 180 grams and 270 grams). The bacon was cooked properly and was crispy but not smoky. The gooey cheese didn't have much flavor beyond salt. The patty was also very salty and had an odd seasoning I couldn't identify. Adding ketchup helped balance it out. There was lots of mayo. The lettuce wilted under the hot meat. The bun was nice, but it was not well-toasted. It was super messy to eat. 195 CZK including fries.

19. Summa Cum Laude 
The burger was well-constructed. It was made with good ground beef, seasoned with salt. However, the patty was too dense and chewy. The toasted bun was a bit stale, but it held everything together well. The melted yellow cheese slice didn't have much character. The bacon was soft and hammy, but it did have a good smoky flavor. There was a ketchup-mayo sauce on it, and I really liked the sliced pickles. 185 CZK  plus 55 CZK, for the fries but I really didn't like those. They tasted like they were fried in old oil.

18. Mad Dog Bistro
This burger and dog spot took a summer break and never came back. It's too bad, because they made a tasty, well-constructed burger. The cheese melted into the patty. It was made with great beef, which was tender, but the grind was a little too fine. Enjoyed the crispy, chewy bacon. The onion and tomato were sliced thin, for easy eating. The bun was a little too tall and bready. It was 144 CZK, but it is no longer available. The space on Vinohradska was taken over by WingHaus.

17. Naše maso
This tiny butchery is popular with locals and tourists alike. Just getting in the door can be a challenge at peak times. I bought ground beef patties there and made amazing burgers on my grill at home. I'm just not a huge fan of the burger they serve in the cramped shop. Their meat is generally excellent, but my burger came out pretty rare, with a cool center and a big piece of gristle. It's not very large. They served it, as always, on a small Czech poppy roll, not a burger bun. It was topped with onion, and I swapped their standard mustard for their fairly bland homemade ketchup. Overall, it's worth trying, but I just can't feel big love.

16. Beef Bar
The dedicated beef restaurant opened this year near the Tesco at Národní. The flame-grilled flavor of the meat was my favorite part of the experience. The high-quality beef had a good, coarse grind. The thin patty was cooked medium. The large brioche-style bun was spongy. The cheese was rather bland. There was lettuce, chopped onion, mustard, and a tiny bit of ketchup. They charged for the extra ketchup I got. The pickles were cut too thick and they threw the lettuce on in a haphazard way. The 100-gram burger was 165 CZK with fries. They also do a 200-gram burger for 265 CZK.

15. Sweet and Pepper Days
I had the "mini burgers" here. They also have full-sized burgers, but I prefer the smaller size. The ones I had at the beginning of the year were just OK. The one I had in November was much better. So consistency was an issue. The last one had a good coarse grind on the beef, which picked up nice flavor from the grill. It was cooked all the way through, not medium. It was a bit dry inside. The bun was baked, not toasted, so it was also dry, and the outside flaked. There was lots of mayo. There was lovely, crispy, salty bacon. I really liked the sharp, tangy cheddar. It also had red onion, tomato, and lettuce. Construction could be better -- lettuce sometime stuck out awkwardly. 89 CZK for one, 169 CZK for two.

14. Beckett's Irish Pub
I give extra credit to burgers that taste like they've touched flame, and this one had it. It was cooked a perfect medium, though the grind was too fine and the fat content too low. Still, it was tender and easy to bite. The cheddar picked up some of the smoke from the meat. There was excellent smoky, crispy bacon. The burger came with an onion jam that I found a little too sweet. Adding the salty mayo-based sauce on the side balanced it a bit. They gave me a bottle of Heinz ketchup, but I didn't want to add to the sweetness. They didn't serve it with frills like lettuce, tomatoes, or pickles. The thing that set this burger back most was that the top of the bun was charred black underneath. It cost 245 CZK, including homemade fries that were undercooked and soft. I went another time, and they were crunchy and much better.

13. Burger Bar
The Cheeseburger here was one of my top favorites last year. This year's version had less of a grilled flavor I loved so much. Still, they make it with quality beef and a proper, coarse grind. The relatively thin patty was cooked medium. The bacon was smoky but soft and hammy. It had mustard and a tiny bit of ketchup, plus chopped onion, and pickles sliced too thick. The brioche bun was large and spongy. Cheddar was listed as the cheese, but it was fairly bland. Overall, pretty good. 145 CZK, with an extra charge of 45 CZK for fries and a small salad. Ketchup costs extra.

12. Meat and Greet Burgerhouse
This place was started by alumni from Dish. I had the MAG Burger. The well-salted patty was very juicy and cooked medium. The very soft bun held together throughout. The bacon had some crispness, though a burger I had earlier in the year had more ham-like bacon. The "gratinated" tomatoes gave it a lightly sweet note. Their homemade ketchup was more like sweet tomato sauce. There was garlic mayo. The heavy saltiness had me wishing for tart pickles to balance it. The MAG Burger was 185 CZK. Fries were 45 CZK extra. Ordering extra ketchup to go with fries cost 29 CZK.

11. Maso a Kobliha
The Dirty Burger was a Saturday night special and not on the regular menu. It had two outstanding things going for it. One was the great, funky flavor of the dry-aged ground beef from Real Meat Society, which is also owned by Chef Paul Day. The other was the pillowy, toasted potato roll. I'm still dreaming about its buttery goodness. The patty was cooked medium, and the grind was just right. It was topped with melted cheddar, chopped, fried onion, pickles, and soft bacon. I wished the flavors of the bacon and pickles were more assertive. I added a touch of ketchup to give the burger some tangy sweetness. Size-wise, I'd say it was a small burger or a large slider. It was served in a paper bag with fried potato strings that weren't so easy to eat. 195 CZK.

10. BlackDog Cantina Prague
I had the American Dream Burger. There was high-quality ground beef with the right grind. The patty had a peppery flavor. When combined with the Sriracha mayo, there was a spicy kick. The meat was cooked all the way through, not medium as requested. This burger dripped quite a lot on the plate. They used a buttery bun that was well-toasted and held the hefty burger together. It had shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion, and long pickle slices. The very smoky bacon was delicious. I didn't write down the price, and it was not listed on the Prague online menu. But it said their burgers were between 185 CZK and 255 CZK.

9. The Tavern
The Classic Bacon-Cheddar was good and messy. First, let me say, their bacon was awesome -- crispy and smoky. They use good, tangy cheddar. Their patty was loosely packed, ground coarsely, and easy to bite. The thin patty was cooked medium. It normally comes with mustard, ketchup, and mayo, which was always too much for me. This year, I remembered that and had them leave off the mustard. There was still a ton of mayo, though. Shredded lettuce helped balance the construction -- no awkward lettuce sticking out. The bun was better and didn't seem heavily steamed as it did before. Great pickles on there. 219 CZK plus 49 CZK for fries.

8. Urban Stay Cafe
The burger was built beautifully. The blend of chuck, brisket, and rib meat from Czech Angus was ground in-house. The thin patty had a great sear from the grill, keeping it juicy on the inside. The bacon was crisp, the tomato was sliced super thin, and the cheddar was sharp. The brioche bun was made on the premises. The hint of star anise in the onion chutney didn't work for me, and the burger wasn't hot enough the first time I was there. Both of those issues were corrected on later visits. Sad to say, Urban Stay Cafe went away at the end of 2016. I'm a real fan of Chef Luigi Falcone. He's a master of the kitchen, who clearly puts creativity, passion, and hard work into his food. You can taste the love. I hope he'll do something else in Prague someday.

7. Nejen Bistro
The star attraction of their Black Angus Burger was the intensely smoked flavor of the ground beef prepared on their Josper grill. The loosely packed, coarsely ground patty had the right fat content. The only issue was it was cooked well done instead of the requested medium. There was seasoning in the meat that I couldn't identify and that made the flavor less classic. They used great cheddar and a quality bun. It was topped with sweet, caramelized onions, and a little too much salty mayo. This tall burger was very messy to eat. As good as it was, I still thought it could be better with bacon, which was not an option. It was 195 CZK when I had it early in 2016, but the online menu says it is now 229 CZK. Comes with great fries.

6. Cafe Palanda
This place is super popular, and I was turned away once for lack of a reservation. That was how I ended up at Next Door by Imperial, and you know how that ended. The Royal Bacon Cheeseburger had top-notch bacon, crispy and smoky. And there was plenty of it. It was really good, except for one cold strip that slipped out from under the bun. The patty had a satisfying, coarse grind, and the clear, beefy flavor was brought up by the right salt levels. It had a well-made, toasted brioche bun, but the outside flaked off a bit, like it had been warmed up in the oven. They didn't go overboard with the herb mayo or the homemade ketchup. There was just enough. The cheese didn't make much of an impression, but the assertive sour pickles did. The burger didn't come with lettuce or tomato, and I didn't miss them. It did include crispy, fried onions that were overcooked and chewy. 175 CZK for just the burger, 209 CZK with fries and slaw included.

5. George Prime Steak
The GPS Burger, available only in the bar, was the most expensive of the year. It was also very good. It was well-constructed, everything in balance, resulting in a handsome burger. The toppings -- sour pickles, tomato, and onion -- were thinly-sliced. The grind of the beef was too fine, but the patty was tender, not too tightly-packed, with nice fat content. It was juicy. I wished for more flavor from the grill, which was present in last year's burger. The chipotle mayo caused a satisfying heat to build. The cheddar was sharp, and the buttery brioche bun held it all together. The bacon was glazed with maple syrup, giving it a terrific sweet and salty character. The price was 375 CZK, which included my favorite fries of the year.

4. Dish Fine Burger Bistro
I think the owner of dish has traveled the world in search of great burgers. Their offerings remind me a lot of Umami Burger, which originated in California. The Dish Burger's relatively thin patty was cooked medium. I've sat at the bar many times, watched the raw patties being thrown on the grill, and seen that they had good levels of fat mixed in there. The grind was coarse, and there was no gristle like I've had there in previous years. The patty, with a hint of char from the grill, dripped quite a lot of juices on the plate but remained moist inside. It had tomatoey homemade ketchup and too much garlicky mayo, which overshadows the flavor of the beef. Their crispy, salty bacon had a lightly smoked flavor. The very melted cheese didn't stand out much. They always place their lettuce carefully so it looks good and doesn't stick out too much. I really liked the sweet and sour pickles they use, which cut through the saltiness of the burger. Overall, it was the most balanced, well-built, and easy-to-eat burger. It was 209 CZK when I had it, but the online menu now says 215 CZK.

3. U Kurelů
Ironically, I liked the Tavern Classic Bacon-Cheddar Burger here more than I did at The Tavern. They're both owned by the same American couple, and both burgers were good. This one was just more satisfying. It was certainly not the prettiest, with all that bacon sticking out everywhere. But oh, what great bacon it was. And it might have been the most bacon I'd had on any burger. I had to break the long strips in half and place them in a more orderly way on the burger, which was a messy business. But once done, it was a bacon burger bomb. The cheese was also the most cheddary I can recall. I got it without the usual mustard -- just ketchup and mayo. The quality ground beef, with a respectable fat content, was cooked medium. Sour pickles punched up the flavor. Except for the bacon and an excess of mayo, the construction was good. The poppy seed bun was a good one, but needed a better toasting. The patty sat on shredded lettuce, and there was raw red onion on the side. 219 CZK and fries were 45 CZK extra.

2. Bad Jeff's Barbeque
A lot of thought and love went into the creation of this burger. The custom blend of beef is ground in-house. The patty, cooked medium, picked up great flavor from the grill. The aged cheddar did not have a strong flavor on its own, but picked up some smokiness from the meat. The fat content was at least 20 percent, making it quite juicy and tender, but also very drippy while eating. The coarse grind was on the mark. The bacon was perfectly crispy. The brioche bun was just right. There was mayo on the bottom and mustard on the top. I really liked that the cool toppings -- shredded lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and pickles -- were prepared in proper proportions, and kept separate from the hot meat. They put a bottle of Heinz ketchup on the table for you, no extra charge. I added some. The cost was 269 CZK, and included nice curly fries.

1. Mr. HotDog
One big factor helps me decide on my favorite burger or, in this case, a slider. And that is how often I return for more. Burger fatigue set in many times, and yet I found myself craving Mr. HotDog's offerings on a regular basis -- more than any other burger. Even though I live on the other side of town, time and distance did not deter me. Their Bacon Cheese Slider was just so classic, I found it addictive. The ground beef had a great grind, juicy fat content, and the right salt levels. The salty cheese melted off the side of the patty, forming a little crust. The combination of their tangy slider sauce and sour pickle slices balanced the savory side. Shredded lettuce and diced red onions added crunch and punch. They bake their lovely little buns in-house. I added a little ketchup, provided gratis in a red squeeze bottle. I also like their snappy dogs and special offers, including Thai soups and occasional lobster roll Sundays. I think it's a cool place run by people who know how to cook. And they make some killer cocktails for around 100 CZK. It's not big, it's not fancy, but it was my infatuation this year. One Bacon Cheese Slider was 89 CZK, two were 169 CZK, and three were 219 CZK. A side of good, McDonald's-style fries costs 39 CZK, and a full basket was 79 CZK.

That's my list for 2016. Feel free to agree, disagree, and/or share your own rankings in the comments.

Read the full post