If you love a good burger, you might think George Motz has the best job ever. He crisscrosses the country as the host of Travel Channel's new series Burger Land (10 p.m. Mondays), looking for the best burgers in America.
He consumed 70 burgers in the three months it took to shoot the first season, exercising regularly to accommodate his indulgence. Now he's temporarily staying away from burgers to give his system a break. Still, he said in a recent interview, "I crave a burger every single day."
One thing he stressed, however, is that all burgers are not created equal.
"One of the greatest dividing lines is the frozen patty versus the fresh meat burger," said Motz. "It is very difficult for restaurants to keep fresh meat in the house, so the restaurants that are making hamburgers with fresh ground beef, it's not easy and they're doing the right thing."
He also says there's a lot of regional variety in burgers. Here are a few of his favorites from different parts of the United States.
"They have these things called the Slugburger or a doughburger. There's actually some kind of breading mixed into the meat, which is a throwback to the Depression and meat-rationing during World War II, where people would have to put something into the meat to extend it, whether it was onions or day-old bread, to make the meat go further, and those burgers are still available in parts of the South, especially northern Mississippi."
"You have the green chile cheeseburger, (it) is a cheeseburger with green chile on top. They're hot and they're so good. You can only find them in West Texas, south Colorado and the entire state of New Mexico. It's the state burger."
"There's a phenomenon known as the Steam Cheeseburger. It's a chunk of ground beef put into a steaming cabinet and the cheese is steamed right next to it and poured on like a molten goo. It's very unique only to Connecticut."
"If you're in Los Angeles there's Irv's Burgers. If you're new to Northern California, there's a place called Val's Burgers in Hayward. It's unbelievable."
"Chicago is a great burger town. People love to eat in Chicago and they're not shy about expressing their love for food. They've got the famous Billy Goat. You've got to get the triple with cheese. Edzo's is a new place doing an old-school burger in Evanston and Lincoln Park, Ill. There's the famous Kuma's Corner in Chicago."
"There is a very famous place called the Tune Inn. The hamburger is unique because it's a classic cheeseburger. No crazy toppings. You're blocks from the Capitol building. There's also Ben's Chili Bowl. They're very famous for their half-smoked with chili on top but the real reason to go there for me is to get the chili cheeseburger."
"New York has a very fractured hamburger identity. True to its name of being the melting pot of America, you can find just about any kind of hamburger you want. There really is no true hamburger identity in New York other than there's so much to choose from."
"Dallas has a good burger culture as well. There are a few places. One is called Keller's. It's a drive-in, (you) order a great burger and a beer from the driver's seat of your car. That's heaven to me. There's also a great place called Jack's Burger House with a few locations in the Dallas area. They're Greek-owned and they have a Greek spice they put on the burger."