The Harbinger Online

Worth-It Burgers

photos by Maddie Smiley

Burgers. Need I say more? I’ve had a love affair with any and every type of burger for as long as I can remember, and I’m glad my true passion made it to print. I’ve noticed, though, that burgers can vary from $1.50 to $17 or more. While devouring my burgers, I often ask myself if is it really worth it to eat a $15 burger when another burger awaits for $5 down the road? So that led me on a burger quest to find a mouth-watering patty with the best value. I found three local places with burgers varying from expensive to cheap. My “worth it” criteria was based on the price tag, quality of ingredients, overall taste and the vibe of each restaurant.

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Single from Town Topic- $3.70

Town Topic is an authentic diner that could have been teleported from the past.The white siding seemed untouched by the 21st century, the vintage logo popping against the rest of the block’s cohesive suburban look. My stomach rumbled as I stepped across the gray, black and red-checkered floor and headed toward the wooden sign with the words “order here” carved in red.

The burger was just like the decor: overwhelmingly classic. When this authentic American diner first opened in 1937, I could’ve bought my burger for a nickel.  Since then, prices have risen to $3.70 for a cheeseburger with all the fixings. I could taste the freshness and quality of the ingredients with each bite. The lettuce and thick tomato slices crunched in my mouth. The bun remained a little spongy and soft from grease, a sure sign of a quality diner-burger. At two ounces, the patty, cooked to perfection, was a little thicker than a steak burger. The steamed bun helped pull together the medley of flavors. The only drawback was the forceful, flavorful onions.

When I first tasted the burger, I was overwhelmed by the strong flavor of the caramelized, stringy onions. As a fan of onions, I happened to be glad they packed such a punch of flavor. However, it soon came back to bite me. The onion’s robust flavor left such a lasting taste that not even two rounds of Listerine could take it away. My mom’s car still reeked of onion three days after I got my to go order. Yes, the onions perfectly complimented the grainy texture of the patty, but it wasn’t worth scrubbing my teeth until my gums bled to get rid of that stubborn taste.

The fries were kind of disappointing. They were piping hot and tasted fresh, but lacked salt and seasoning. All fries are good fries, but these weren’t the best I tasted on my burger adventure compared to the ones at the other location.

Overall, it turned out to be an OK burger, but it wasn’t memorable. You get what you pay for at $3.70, which is kind of nice in a way. Nothing flashy and no surprise, just a burger and fries.

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Mini Market Burger from Westport Flea Market-$8

Next stop on the burger train: the Westport Flea Market. They claim to have the best burger in Kansas City. Not the first time I’ve heard that one, so I had to judge for myself. I knew I had picked the right place for a burger when I saw the famous burger-mobile parked out front.

The bar is cash-only in order to keep your burger buying anonymous, if that is something you’re into. The bar is stubbornly classic and cool in a different way than Town Topic because they aren’t going for one specific vibe. This isn’t the modernized bar you want to fit the aesthetic of your Instagram. The Flea isn’t changing its old-school 80s decor and business ways, hipsters and millennials be damned. Eavesdropping on conversations between bartenders and regular customers, it felt like a place where everybody knows your name.

The vibrant neon beer signs and the wall-to-wall arcade games filled the dimly-lit bar with a little light and comfort. I couldn’t help but feel a tad out of place at the bar with my mom at 3 o’clock on a Thursday, but I knew I found my place when I smelled the aroma of fried goodness.

I got the mini market burger for $8, but at 5.5 ounces it wasn’t exactly “mini.” Once I got the burger, I went through the condiment bar so I could dress my burger to perfection and make it exactly how I like it.

The second I tasted it, I was in love. From the soft-yet-sturdy sesame seed bun to the mouth-watering burger, it was an explosion of flavors. Needless to say my taste buds were ecstatic. The burger was juicy all the way through, and words can’t describe the dance my taste buds did with each bite. I wasn’t even hungry walking into the bar, but after polishing off my first burger I easily could have scarfed down another one. The high quality of the beef, which came straight from the local McGonigle’s market, was what made the burger.

This dive had much more than just burgers. There were ginormous cookies the size of my face by the cash register that settled my sweet-tooth cravings. The sweet iced tea that came in a mason jar with lemon also put me in a good pre-burger mood. To put this burger joint over the top, the meal also came with curly fries. I repeat, curly fries. If that isn’t a plus to you, then I don’t know what is. If you are in the market for a medium-priced burger, I recommend making the drive to Westport to stop by the Flea.

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House Burger from Gram and Dun- $17

My last stop on this burger venture was Gram and Dun. The outdoor patio looking out to the Brush Creek with the roaring fire might be the best outdoor seating on the Plaza. The light-hued natural wood and the antique, buff leather chairs made the whole room feel warm. The dark lighting was relaxing and pulled together the elegantly mellow vibe. The room felt sophisticated, yet it had a casual ambiance.

I had the house burger for $17, and it was exquisite. Every component of the burger was cooked with special care in order to make the best burger imaginable. The onions were grilled in Coke to get a sweet flavor. The bacon was executed flawlessly; marbleized, soft and about the thickest cut I’ve ever had on a burger. The local bakery Farm to Market Bread Company provided the buns for the burger, so needless to say it was scrumptious.

This burger lingers on as one of the best bites I’ve ever had because each ingredient had its own distinct flavor, but they all worked together well to form a harmonious bite. The pickles were as thick as a stack of ten quarters, and had such a firm crunch you could hear it across the restaurant, which is a definite perk. The cheese perfectly melted with the burger, and held it’s flavor. The burger was packed with kobe beef from Japan, which is about the highest quality you can get. The flavors mixed smoothly together to make the perfect bite.

Each bite was better than the next, the flavors building with every morsel. If you have the means to acquire this $17 burger, I highly recommend it. I can’t imagine any way to make it better. The secret sauce tasted like a fancier version of Freddy’s sauce that added to the multitude of flavors.

I’m only judging the burgers, but hands down the fries at Gram and Dun were the best. The playful seasoning and the hand-crafted crunch is what put the fries over the top. The true key to a proper fry is the salt-to-fry ratio, and Gram and Dun delivered.

One of the best parts of the evening was getting the check. It came in a little vintage book where you could write your name and a little message on the pages. My brother excitedly grabbed the pen and flipped through the book to find a “good page.” He then wrote with the handwriting of a kindergartner “the real George William Ballew” in tall, skinny letters across an almost empty page. If you make the trip to Gram and Dun and the check comes in a little red book that is called A Cat on Jingle Bell Rock, feel free to find the pages that my family wrote in.

Sometimes $17 is hard to justify spending on a burger. It also didn’t feel like a burger joint; it was too fancy. At a burger place, you should feel comfortable, like you could let out a belch. You shouldn’t feel like you need to put on an uncomfortable pair of shoes to enjoy a burger. Gram and Dun is my new favorite restaurant on the Plaza all because of the burger. It’s sure to be an appetizing burger with quality ingredients, but flavor comes at a price.


 

Each place had something that made their burger unique, but it all boils down to which place has the most worth-it burger. Town Topic continues to be staple burger in Kansas City, but it was just good. Gram and Dun ensures a mind-blowing burger experience, but it came with a hefty price tag. I would eat at Gram and Dun again, but only if I’m not paying. Westport Flea Market wins “the most worth-it burger at its price challenge.” For only $8, I can eat a fantastic burger in a judgment-free zone. Finding a burger that met all my criteria was difficult considering each burger holds its own tasty attributes, but overall Westport Flea Market is what you want from a burger joint.



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Elizabeth Ballew

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Elizabeth Ballew is a junior at East and this will be her second year on staff as a writer and page designer. She is also in the IB program and hopes to volunteer a lot this year. Outside of stressing over Harbie deadlines, Elizabeth enjoys getting queso with friends and endless walks with her labradoodle. She is pumped for this upcoming year and can’t wait to get to work. Read Full »

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