Thursday, February 14, 2019

Brewsta's Burgers 2018

"Hamburgers! The corner-stone of any nutritious breakfast." - Quentin Tarantino
I've traveled the world in search of good burgers, but Prague is home for me. My hunger for burger knowledge here has never been satisfied.

Over the last 11 years, I've ranked 202 burgers in and around the Czech capital. In this 12th year, I'm adding another 27 to that total.

That said, I need to scale back in the year ahead for my own health and for that of the planet. I'm not saying I'm going cold turkey... burgers. Not yet. But change has gotta come.

As always, this is not a "best" burger list. What's best for me can never tick all boxes for everyone. And remember, restaurants don't cook the same way every night over the course of a year. This is a list of my personal favorites, based on what I consider important.

So what's on my checklist? I prefer fresh, high-quality beef, coarsely ground, cooked medium, with a fat content around 20 percent. 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 or dry), smoked bacon.

Well-balanced construction is important. I'm not interested in how much can be shoveled onto a bun. Balance helps contribute to good taste and makes it easier to pick up and bite a burger. Lettuce sticking out all over the place is particularly annoying.

A bun that is light, not dense, and holds it all together, start to finish, can make or break a burger. Brioche-style is a favorite. They should be toasted or grilled. An oven-warmed bun is going to get all flaky on you.

The burgers were rated as I experienced them. If they got better or worse the week after I visited, 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.

Ten burgers on this list were new to me. There are some good ones I've heard about but didn't have time for this year. I also crossed off previous losers. I'd have the top 20 or so again, and forget about the rest.

Here now are Brewsta’s Burgers 2018, from worst to first:

27. Booze and Food at Vnitroblock

If there's one word I'd use to describe the flavor of this bacon cheeseburger, I'd say "gray." This was the loser of the year, which surprised me because it was quite popular with others. I did an Instagram poll before announcing my own verdict. Thumbs up won 102-42. I was firmly in the thumbs down camp It looked good from the outside. My main problem was the patty. I cut it in half, which illustrated the issues: The grind was too fine, it was too tightly packed, too dense, cooked all the way through, the ground beef was over-salted throughout, and it was dry. I could not finish it. After I posted about it, they sent me a message saying they had had a bad day, and I should give them another chance. I'm going to be very selective about what I eat in the next years. We'll see. 170 CZK, fries not included.

26. Maso Je Maso
The burger here was deliciously smoky thanks to their Big Green Egg grills. I wouldn't fault them so much on flavor. But the incredibly rubbery texture of the patty ruined it for me. I haven’t had such an oddly squeaky patty since I tried Peter’s Burger Pub several years ago. It can be red in the middle and yet cooked all the way through. One explanation I was given is that this happens when salt is mixed directly into the raw ground beef, which "cooks" it while it waits for actual grilling. I'd never eat this again without a radical change to the patty texture. It was also too tall and messy. The barbecue sauce was odd, with a sweet cherry flavor. The over-abundance of dark, curly lettuce on the bottom detracted from the visual appeal and eatability. The smoked bacon was very good. 215 CZK, fries not included.

25. Jacob's Restaurant
Jacob’s Restaurant specializes in burgers but a classic bacon-cheeseburger was not an option. I thought the Grand Burger needed improvement. The ground beef was dry and cooked through. Fat content needed to be higher. There was way too much lettuce. That’s not a side salad in the photo. The guacamole seemed to be mixed with a ton of mayo, but I wasn't quite sure how it got that way. The bacon was soft and ham-like. The bun was fairly stale. The young servers at this new spot were friendly, and it was quite busy. But I had no interest in going back. 190 CZK fries not included.

24. Beef Bar

The bacon cheeseburger at Beef Bar near Národní nothing special. I got the 100g patty, which was like a tall slider. The problem, again, was that the meat was salted all the way through, so it had that rubbery texture. It’s a shame because they have quality beef and a smoky flame grill. They used excellent cheddar, and I liked the caramelized onions. The bun was scorched on the bottom and stiff, so it was hard to bite. It fell apart and made a mess. The bacon had good flavor, but it was hammy. The homemade fries were OK. It came with ketchup and spicy mayo. 175 CZK including fries. The large 200g burger was 295 CZK.

23. McDonald's

On past lists, I used to include Burger King as the "control" in the rankings. However, as I mentioned last year, I've come to loathe BK. So for the first time in the history of Brewsta's Burgers, I switched to McDonald's. There's a method in this madness: Fast food burgers are a universally known quality (or lack thereof). If I like a Big Mac more than the offering at a real, full-service restaurant, the owners and cooks should rethink what they are doing. It's my new version of the Big Mac Index.  It is also on the list to troll the witless people who only look at the pictures and don't get the point. So, how was the Big Mac? Sweet. I mean that literally. The patties were the usual dry disks. There's a ton of sugar in the bun. If there's one thing I kind of like about these things, it's the sweet and tangy special sauce and the contrast of the sour pickles. The sodium content makes my heart flutter and not in a good way. 85 CZK without fries.

22. Domyno Burger Bar
I tried the original Domyno Burger Bar out in Prague 4 a few years ago and didn't like it much. I felt the same about the new #2 outlet on Vodičkova. Their burger had soft, hammy, smoky bacon. The lettuce sticking out from the sides really hurt the looks. There was lots of mayo, tasty cheddar, sautéed onion, and sour pickles. The chewy ground beef was too dense – a real flaw. I also had an issue with the bun, which was too bready and too big for the patty. It was better than fast food, but not by much. 199 CZK, no fries. Extra ketchup was free, but it was not Heinz.

21. George Prime Burger

I’m downgrading the Bacon Cheese Burger at George Prime Burger. The beef may be good-quality, but the grind was just too fine for me, and the patty had a dense, slightly rubbery texture. I'm not sure if they put salt in it prior to cooking. Although I mentioned this issue in my 2017 review, it bothered me more this year. It was cooked to medium. The saving grace was the amazing maple-glazed, smoked bacon that boosted each bite. Construction was balanced except for too much lettuce. I had to remove some. The bland, chewy bun was not really toasted. Thankfully, they have Heinz ketchup. It normally comes with a lemon-Dijon aioli that I found overpowering. There were also tomatoes and pickles. 240 CZK, fries not included.

20. Café Sladkovský

The Slider Taster Set at Café Sladkovsky in Vršovice came with three variations: bacon, barbecue, and chipotle. The meat quality was good, cooked medium, but the patties were bland and needed salt. The bun tops were stale and hard. The bacon burger was good and smoky, the barbecue burger was dull, and the chipotle salsa had a hint of heat. On two of the three, the flavor of the thick tomato slice dominated. 210 CZK, fries not included. Next time, I’d get the regular burger, which I've enjoyed in the past.

19. Nejen Bistro
The Black Angus Burger was good, but I didn't like it as much as previous years. The ground beef was excellent, picking up smoke from their Josper grill. It came with sweet, caramelized onions, smoky cheddar, lots of mayonnaise with chopped pickle, tomato, and mixed leaf. It had fruity, sweet homemade ketchup. It was tall and hard to bite, even after compressing with my palm. Juices dripped all over the place. I added salt, which really elevated the flavor. It was cooked perfectly medium. The toasted bun was too chewy.  Loved the homemade fries with skin. 258 CZK plus I had to pay 35 CZK for extra ketchup.

18. Café Palanda
The Royal Bacon Cheeseburger dropped in my esteem this year. The quality ground beef and light brioche bun were still top notch. But cold, dry, hard-to-chew bacon brought it down. Dull, processed cheese wasn’t fully melted. I really liked the caramelized onions. The long pickle slices could be more sour. Worcestershire-influenced ketchup always struck me as odd and not a classic flavor. It was still a burger that keeps the restaurant packed, but it was not the best it could be. 189 CZK without fries.

17. Kaiser Franz
The Bacon Cheeseburger had excellent ground beef that was cooked medium, I hit it with some salt, which got the flavor just right. It had smoky but soft bacon, lettuce, tomato, and raw red onion. Overall, I liked it a lot. I'd only take away some points for the bun, which was way too big and bready, and there was too much mayo. 180 CZK with fries and slaw, but the fries were on the soft side.

16. Sweet and Pepper Days

Very good sliders. They were fairly large, and made with excellent ground beef, quality buns, real cheddar, crisp salty bacon, and red onion. I thought they could be even better with pickles or more ketchup to give them balancing tartness. The only problem here was too much shredded lettuce mixed with bland mayo. It made for a dull slaw. 109 CZK for one, 199 CZK for two, fries not included.

15. Zlý časy
OK, the bun was awkwardly large on the bottom. And maybe there was a benefit from low expectations. But I enjoyed every bite of this burger. The thick patty had a nice crumbly texture and rich, beefy flavor. Good meat. However, it was cooked all the way through (they didn't ask how I wanted it). I’d prefer medium. The burger had crispy bacon, caramelized onions, thick-sliced sour pickles, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. 179 CZK without fries. And of course, lots of great beers there that you don’t see in too many other places.

14. Naše Maso

The ground beef at this tiny, eat-in butcher shop had fantastic flavor and a top-quality crumble. It always bugged me that they served it on a lame, little Czech roll. It was prepared with mustard, pickles, and red onions. It's better when you ask them to add their homemade ketchup, which was a little sweet and not sour enough. The burger came out five minutes after ordering and was rare. I'd prefer a little more time on the grill, but the place was so damn busy (and uncomfortable), perhaps they want things to move along as fast as possible. I can only go there at odd times when the crowds are smaller. This burger would have ranked much higher, but it had a flaw that I've found here often in the past: gristle! Unchewable pieces of meat greatly detract from what would otherwise be an excellent eating experience. 205 CZK, no fries available.

13. Meat and Greet Burgerhouse

The Crispy Burger was very good overall. It had crunchy, smoky bacon, and crispy onions mixed with tangy, distinctive barbecue sauce. The quality ground beef was cooked perfectly medium, with a good grind and fat content. There was too much salt. The toasted bun was quite small, stale, and chewy on top. Chili cheddar and jalapeño-coriander gave it a unique and spicy flavor. There were also diced tomatoes and shredded lettuce. 205 CZK, fries not included.

12. Hillbilly
Very good burger, though I didn’t love it as much as last year, when it ranked #2. The peppery ground beef was a pleasure, and the crisp bacon was tasty, but it was not easy to bite this tall beast. There was an over-abundance of sweet, Hillbilly dressing, like Thousand Island, mixed with chopped pickles. It dripped out all over the plate. The big, fluffy bun was nicely toasted but couldn’t stand up to the strain and fell apart at the end. There was also red onion, tomato, pickles, and rucola, which I don't love on burgers. Overall, quite a mess to eat but fine flavors. 189 CZK without fries.

11. Salt 'n' Pepa Kitchen
The Salt 'n' Pepa Burger was made with aged beef and included cheddar, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce, tartar sauce, and barbecue sauce. There was smoky, soft bacon. The ground beef, cooked medium, had just the right texture and fat content. It needed a bit more salt. The sour pickles balanced the flavors, and it all sat on a quality, toasted bun. The barbecue sauce was not distinctive but, overall, this was a delicious and very respectable burger from a well-run kitchen. 185 CZK plus 20 CZK to add bacon.

10. DISH {fine burger bistro}

I had the Smoky Dish. It featured well-constructed, good ground beef done medium, well-cooked, salty bacon, sweet BBQ sauce, sour pickles, crispy onions, spicy red pepper mayo, and sturdy but bready bun. I enjoyed it much more this year after it dropped on last year’s ranking. There was one big flaw: pink juice covered the plate and soaked the bottom of the bun before I even picked it up. You can see it in the photo. 225 CZK without fries.

9. Bad Jeff's Barbeque
The bacon cheeseburger had a lot of good going on. The high-quality, peppery beef, ground in-house and cooked medium, was the star. Presentation was excellent: I loved the separate lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and pickles. Hot side hot, cool side cool. It was a balanced beauty. Bacon was crisp and smoky, but dried out. One big flaw held this burger back from pure greatness. The bun was too soft and Wonderbread-like for me and pink patty juice seeped into the bottom (see photo, bottom right). That turned part of the bread into an unholy mush. The burger comes with mustard and mayo, but I deleted the mustard. They’ll give you a bottle of Heinz, no extra charge, and I added some. Flaws aside, it was a classic burger that tasted great. And I love eating at the bar: super friendly, cool folks there. 289 CZK including good curly fries.

8. Jam and Co.
This was the least conventional but one of the most delicious burgers I had this year. It's hard to categorize, and it's not on the menu all year. They do different variations, but this particular version at this Asian fusion restaurant came with bone marrow on top, and the bun was completely covered in decadent, pan-dripping mushroom gravy. This bugged me on the first visit, because it couldn’t be picked up. I had to knife and fork it, which felt very wrong. But that sauce was incredible – sticky, savory, fatty love – one of the best I’ve tasted in a long time. I wised up on later visits and ordered the gravy on the side. It was made with excellent beef, ground just right, cooked medium. There was an assertive, melted Emmental and a ravishing red onion chutney, bursting with the flavor of red wine. I jokingly called it a French onion soup burger. So damn delicious, I had it four times before they took it off the menu. And it was so unusual, it may not be to everyone's taste. I wanted to hate it, but I loved it. 225 CZK, no fries.

7. Pohostinec Monarch

The USDA beef burger was excellent and expensive. There was a big buttery flavor in that toasted brioche bun. The smokiness of the crisp bacon influenced the flavor of the cheddar. The mayo, also smoked, had a spicy bite. The patty, cooked medium, was topped with sour pickles, pickled onions, and lettuce. The only thing holding it back from the top-tier was the too-fine grind. The imported American beef wasn’t packed too tightly, the fat content was good, but the texture was off. This burger was the priciest on this year's list at 395 CZK. That's close to the price of a burger at Union Square Cafe in NYC. I liked the Monarch burger a lot, and it’s a great-looking restaurant with top steakhouse aspirations. But 45 CZK for a small dish of extra ketchup? That’s insane. It was only 4 CZK less than what they charged for a half-liter of Pilsner. I'll end on a more positive note: The included fries were terrific.

6. Meat Beer

This place opened in the summer of 2018 and wasn't on my radar until recently. But their burger vaulted quickly toward the top of the list. The gorgeous ground beef, cooked medium, picked up big smokiness from their Big Green Egg grill. The grind was a little fine for me, but the patty was so tender. It had great fat content. Sticking a fork into the medium-cooked patty sent up a geyser of juice. I was warned by a friend that their dry-aged burger special was drier. The crisp bacon had that super smoke. The basic yellow cheese got a flavor boost from the grill. Mayo was also smoked. I love smoky burgers so this was exponentially excellent for me. On the light but sturdy bun, there was ketchup, pickled onion, and wilted dark leaf lettuce. The tomatoes were cut too thick, so I pulled them off. I shouldn’t have been too surprised at the burger quality in this steak restaurant. One chef, Jirka Hrachový, worked at Kampa Park, Grand Cru, Zátiší Group and helped open Nejen Bistro. I discovered Meat Beer because I liked its sister restaurant in the Kolektiv group, Vyčep. I’d compare the Meat Beer burger to one I had at Gordon Ramsay Burger in Las Vegas. It came with fries for 248 CZK.

5. Mikrofarma
They have a top-notch burger at this little butcher shop at Jiřího z Poděbrad. Tender, peppery ground beef, smoky bacon, thinly sliced tomato, onion, and mayo were on the soft, good quality, toasted bun. The thick patty had the right fat content, a good rough texture, and was cooked medium. It was drippy, messy, and delicious. Rucola is not my favorite addition, with its own peppery flavor. But this is a straightforward, unpretentious, delicous burger. It's proof that sometimes simple quality can be the best quality. 168 CZK, no fries.

4. Blackdog Cantina
The American Dream Burger was a beauty with fantastic looks. Some say the sister restaurant in Beroun does it better, but this burger was terrific. The great ground beef, cooked medium-rare, was close to perfect. It had a seductively smoky flavor picked up from the grill and the soft bacon. The cheese captured some of that, too. I loved the light heat from the Sriracha mayo. It had thin but assertive sour pickle slices. The tomatoes were too thick, and the shredded lettuce and red onions were awkwardly placed. The burger was a sloppy to eat, with onion slipping out. Overall, it had balanced construction on a sturdy but easily bite-able bun. The taste was American classic. The small 140g patty I got was 215 CZK without fries. The 200g patty cost 255 CZK.

3. U Kurelů
It ain't just all about the bacon here, but damn, there was a lot of smoky, porky greatness on top of that beautiful ground beef. The Tavern Classic Bacon Cheddar Burger at U Kurelů was a glorious mess. It wasn't easy to eat, and construction and balance could be better. I had to break up and reposition the very generous portion of long bacon strips on top. Otherwise, they could pork your eye out. There was too much mayo and shredded lettuce for me. But it was so damn tasty! The combination of their savory meats with their sour pickles and pillowy soft bun inspired love. The burgers come with mustard, ketchup, and mayo, but I always tell them to leave off the mustard. When it comes to condiments on a burger, three's a crowd. The burgers here and at The Tavern (same American owners) remind me a little of Shake Shack, but better. And that's no small thing. 229 CZK without fries.

2. Mr. HotDog
The last two years, these sliders here were my number one favorite. And they were still totally great. They were also magnificent bacon bombs, with an abundance of crisp, crunchy, smoky goodness. Their pickles and sweet, tart slider sauce evened out the saltiness. Shredded lettuce and chopped onions stayed firmly in place under their perfect and pliant buns. I wouldn't rate their ground beef as the best, but it's very good. There was just something about the quality construction, the proportion of each ingredient placed in just the right balance that made each bite a pleasure, start to finish. You feel the love and thought that went into designing and building this burger. Mr. HotDog has been a home away from home, and one of the burger places I visited most last year. Their bacon cheese sliders, which were not small, could qualify as a small burger. 99 CZK, great McD-like fries not included.

1. Kantýna
If the number of visits per year helps determines the winner, Kantýna and Mr. HotDog were close to a tie. But the fact is, the quality of the burgers here was almost off the charts. Their grilled ground beef is world class. Last year, I spent close to $40 for a Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern, one of the best in New York City. Kantýna's burgers compare very well for a third of the price and with far less pretentiousness. Many a time, I braved the meat-mauling crowds at this butcher shop restaurant to sample every burger variation from their kitchen. Some versions were only offered on random occasions, so you had to be lucky. Every single one was a winner that could and does top this list. Their buns were nothing special, the toppings were varied and not always classic, the foil wrapping was annoying, but the ground beef was the absolute prize-winning star. The burgers had the most marvelous seared crust and char, with smoky flavor from their grill. The patties had a redolent richness inside, always cooked to medium. They had fabulous fat content to give them the right amount of moisture, with a coarse grind, but still held together perfectly. I usually asked them to add ketchup to my burgers, though theirs is homemade and tomato sauce-like. And now I'll rank the best of the best of their burger variations: 1. Wagyu Burger 2. Veal Burger 3. Dry-Aged Beef 4. Regular Beef. I always had to go at off-peak times or I'd get too frustrated with the hectic nature of the restaurant. But after every burger, I've left feeling very lucky, indeed. We are very fortunate to have such a burger in our city.

That’s my list for 2018. Feel free to agree, disagree, and/or share your own rankings in the comments or on Facebook. I'll be lurking around to answer questions, defend decisions, or just enjoy the debate.

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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.

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