A few years ago, an Axios Charlotte reader named Angela and her family embarked on an ambitious yearlong adventure: They tried the burgers on our best burgers list.
- They made a weekly tradition of trying a burger at (almost) each spot, even when they were tempted to order something else. They took photos of their meals.
Why it matters: For Angela’s family, the burger experience was a bonding opportunity, and a way to experience Charlotte during an otherwise challenging personal time.
Of note: Several of the burger joints in our 2021 best burger list have since closed. They include: Zacks, The Stanley, Crepe Cellar, Halcyon and Mr. K’s.
We’re sharing Angela’s experience below. Read on to see which spot her family all agreed had the best burger.
- We’ve lightly edited her story for clarity and brevity.
[Go deeper: 21 best burgers in Charlotte]
In early 2021, my dad conquered pancreatic cancer through surgery and very rough chemotherapy. An avid Axios Charlotte reader with time on his hands, my dad saw the article listing the top 25 burger, and it gave him an idea. Having just learned firsthand that you never know how long you may have to enjoy life, he was inspired to visit some of the burger locations. The recent sting of watching my dad, Tom Koch, fight for his life made me jump at the chance to spend time with him – and it didn’t hurt that I love food, burgers and exploring Charlotte.
- Before we started what would become a yearlong burger tour, Tom went to the first location on his own in February of 2021 – Zack’s Hamburgers. The vintage look, friendly staff and classic hamburger reinforced his desire to tackle the list and our unofficial top 25 burger tour began.
My cousin and Tom’s niece, Melissa Kellen, had recently moved to Charlotte and was excited to join in on the fun, quality family time. Our first stop was Ace No. 3 in Belmont on March 9, 2021. Spoiler alert: This ultimately ranked as our favorite burger.
Over the next year, we visited 22 restaurants on the top 25 burger list, ending with The Stanley on March 13, 2022.
- We had to stay organized in order to reach our goal, scheduling around two full time jobs, restaurant hours and home locations in Matthews, SouthPark and Cornelius.
- Burger Tuesday lunches were born and we ordered the burger(s) recommended in the Axios Charlotte list. For the locations only open at dinner, we planned ahead for a night out.
- Along the way we soaked up the ambience of each restaurant, treated ourselves to an ice cream flight, enjoyed craft cocktails, shared our story with restaurant staff and debated burger quality characteristics. More than once we were tempted to order something else on the menu because there were so many yummy options.
There were some bumps in the road on our tour.
- When we ate at Bang Bang Burgers, we forgot to take a picture.
- Tom went to Midwood Smokehouse and had a burger without us, plus did not take a picture. Mr. K’s and Halcyon closed before we started our quest, so we excluded them and added Bae’s Burgers food truck to the 22 we visited together.
The three of us agreed on Ace No. 3 as our top ranked burger.
- We loved the taste of the patty combined with pickles and special sauce. My dad and I each ranked the remaining burgers, but ultimately it was the journey, not the destination, that we value and talk about the most.
In the summer of 2022, Axios Charlotte updated the burger list to include three new restaurants. At this point, Melissa had already moved out of Charlotte, so we visited Rusty’s Deli & Grill and Romeo’s Vegan Burger on our own. Growler’s Pourhouse burger is on the updated list, but it is the same owners and burger as former Crepe Cellar – which ranked in our top three.