We've made a national obsession out of a sandwich that originated as beef tartare in the Baltic province of Russia. In the 1800s, the story goes, German sailors brought back the strange dish to Hamburg, a seaport town, where somebody was inspired to roll up a handful, flatten it and cook it. The burger as we know it debuted at the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.
Our town is blessed with hamburgers. Big burgers, little burgers (sliders), Wagyu beef burgers, hand-formed burgers, fully loaded burgers, half-pound burgers, steakhouse burgers (think Morton's, Land Ocean and Chops) and even a burger made from ground Niman Ranch shortrib meat. That one is at Maranello in Fair Oaks, and is topped with manchego cheese, Little Gem lettuce, tomato confit, onion straws and a "dijonnaise" of house-made mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, with a side of skinny twice-cooked fries (916-241-9365, www.maranellorestaurant.com).
Raley Field was packed with burger-lovers last September, when Elk Grove website designer Rodney Blackwell (www.burgerjunkies.com) organized the inaugural Sacramento Burger Battle. Fifteen restaurants flipped their best offerings in a sizzling judged throwdown. When the smoke cleared, the winner was the Chef's Table of Rocklin (916-771-5656, www.chefdavidstable.com).
For a great burger at a bargain price, our vote goes to the prime-beef burger with fries (pictured) served during Ruth's Chris steakhouse's happy hour, dubbed "Sizzle, Swizzle & Swirl." The thick, juicy burger normally goes for $13.50, but it's yours for $7 from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays, in the bar area.
Where: In the Pavilions center on Fair Oaks Boulevard near Howe Avenue, (916) 286-2702; and in Roseville in the Galleria center on Galleria Boulevard, (916) 780-6910. Visit www.ruthschris.com.
So, what's your favorite burger and/or burger deal? Share your picks in "Comments" below.