Although hamburgers reign as the quintessential American meal, eaten everywhere from backyard barbecues to funky diners to posh restaurants, the burger traces its origins — according to some food historians — back to raw meat eaten by 12th-century Mongols.
Genghis Khan’s army, according to the story, packed bits of ground meat (usually mutton) in their saddles to eat as they conquered the world. The Russians adopted the idea, renaming it “befszyk tatarski” — steak tatar, or tartare (they called the Mongols Tatars). German traders are credited with bringing steak tartare back to their own country, then on to America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Somewhere along the line, people started cooking it, and it became known as “Hamburg steak” after the major German port city of that name.
If you’re cooking burgers — or conventional steaks — on the grill this summer, be sure to check these tips for the perfect barbecue from the experts.
Who invented the hamburger as we know it today? That’s a subject of some controversy. The famed Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City listed Hamburg steak on its menu in 1873 — the oldest reference to it in English — but it wasn’t a sandwich.
Restaurant owners from Wisconsin to Connecticut, Ohio to Texas, have variously claimed to have first put the ground meat patty into sandwich form, sometime in the late 19th century, though most of those early burger kings sold their burgers between two slices of bread or toast. (One early claimant, Louis’ Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut, serves their burgers on toast to this day.)
Oscar Weber Bilby, who had a stand in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is believed to have been the first to use a classic bun, back in 1891. Cheeseburgers came on the scene in the early 1900s. Burgers are a standby choice at the best roadside restaurants in America.
Yelp’s list of the top 25 burgers in the U.S. was compiled by identifying all the businesses in the burger category across the site, then ranking them using several factors, including total volume of reviews and rating scores. In the interests of geographical diversity, they included a maximum of two burger joints per state. All businesses listed were marked open on Yelp as of April 26, 2021.
24/7 Tempo’s list of the top burgers in the country (meaning the best places to get burgers, not the best specific burger variations) is based on reader reviews and ratings from Yelp. Everybody has his or her favorite burger joints, of course, and yours might not be on this list — but it’s a safe bet that every one of these places serves a burger worth eating.