When you eat your way across the Metroplex -- 32 great burger joints in six weeks -- it's impossible to contain your affections to just one great burger. So we happily present the Burgies, our alternative awards for the cheesiest, greasiest and avocado-creamiest extras in town.
Best pickle that'll smoke your unsuspecting a$#, H2 Gourmet Burger Co.: Lying there nonchalantly, next to your fine gourmet burger from H2, is a harmless-looking pickle spear. But, oh, it will set your mouth aflame. H2's pickle spears are pickled in-house, in a white wine vinegar that also contains a few where's-my-water ingredients, such as garlic and, gulp, Red Savina habanero peppers, one of the hottest habaneros out there. Hurts. So. Good.
Most bodacious bacon, Pop's: As thick as a leather belt, the bacon at Pop's is smoky, chewy and lightly peppered. Delicious enough to be a meal on its own, the bacon also plays a starring role in Pop's masterful old-school bacon cheeseburger.
Best use of avocados, OC: The California burger, with giant hunks of creamy avocados and a lightly spiced special sauce, will transport you to a beachside shack somewhere in Southern Cali. All that green peeking out over the chargrilled patties might even give the impression that this burger is healthy, but you know better.
Most glorious mess, Maple & Motor: The Austin-esque burger joint in Dallas delivers a big patty with an impressive list of add-ons. We couldn't resist the fried egg, which was silky and flavorful, but after one bite it painted our fingers yellow. No yolk! The result was a finger-lickin' good burger.
Best onion rings, Charley's: Putting to shame all those ORs that are clad in thick, gummy bands of meal-textured crusts, the rings made fresh daily at Charley's are worth a trip unto themselves. Cut nearly an inch wide from sweet yellow onions, these golden bangles wear thin batter jackets that flake away with a crisp break as you bite into them.
Longest wait for a burger, In-N-Out: With monstrous drive-through lines and lines outside (outside!) the restaurant, we had to wait a good 20 minutes before we even ordered our burger. Thankfully, once the order was placed, it was a matter of minutes before we sunk our teeth into the double-double, animal-style.
Best icy beverage, Charley's: Exceptional fresh lemonade, hand-squeezed and served with just a hint of sugar. This is the kinda stuff Grandma used to make.
Best atmosphere , tie, Fred's and Twisted Root: Both places go for the kitchen-sink design approach, with Twisted Root's warped sense of humor showing through and Fred's lovably grungy decor (think taxidermy and mismatched seats) competing for our affections.
Best potato chips, Chop House Burgers: Unlike a lot of house-made chips, these are crisp and not greasy, with a good mix of salty tang and mild peppery heat. Addictive even when you know you have a lot of burger-eating ahead of you.
Best buns, Dutch's: We love a Dutch's burger, but frankly, those two heavnely pillows of sweet, yeasty goodness can be enjoyed naked. This November, we might even take some to Thanksgiving with us.
Best shake, Smashburger's Nutter Butter: Chocolate, strawberry, vanilla -- yawn. The best shake we sampled during our burger expedition was this one, made with vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream and crumbled Nutter Butter cookies. Try dipping your Smashfries in it, too. Seriously.