If tourism officials ever decide to designate a burger trail through the Chattanooga area, identifying restaurants with the best hamburgers, Times Free Press readers can recommend plenty of places to chow down. Indeed, the quest to try them all would take nearly two months to complete -- and that's only counting the restaurants, many of which have more than one burger option on the menu.
To map out a just-for-fun burger trail, we asked readers which area restaurants serve hamburgers good enough to impress not just the locals but tourists looking for local flavor. Nearly 50 places were suggested, with several garnering multiple mentions.
The 10 restaurants receiving three or more recommendations from readers were Tremont Tavern, Armando's (various locations), Main Street Meats, Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint, Merv's, Urban Stack, Zarzour's Cafe, Dub's Place, Lo Main and Slick's Burgers.
If you were to hit all of the locations, including the Armando's Main Street location, you could complete a 10- mile Chattanooga burger trail from Red Bank to Main Street.
Topping the list was Tremont Tavern. Even in an unofficial, unscientific survey, these results are worth noting since Tremont Tavern also won a spring contest by the Times Free Press to determine Chattanooga's most iconic food. In that bracket-style competition, the house burger at Tremont Tavern, established in 2006, bested such icons as Chattanooga Bakery's MoonPies, invented in 1919, and Krystal hamburgers, which were first sold in 1932.
Owner Dustin Choate says he believes there are several factors that put Tremont Tavern on the map.
"One is the high quality of the meat and the unique grinding process that our proprietary burgers are made with," he says. "I can't share the specifics on that, but it allows our burgers to retain a steak-like taste and texture."
Choate also credits the kitchen crew, whose grill experience is key.
"Cooking a burger to a (certain) temperature is quite difficult, and I commend our crew in the back for their skill and dedication," he says. "We sell over 80,000 burgers a year, so they get a lot of reps on perfecting the technique."
Finally, his frontline crew "does a great job of setting the stage for that burger to be received by our guests," he says. "I believe a lot can be said about food being more enjoyable when you are in an atmosphere that is welcoming and the service is on point."
A classic Tremont Burger, made with a half-pound of Angus beef, a Niedlov's artisan roll and a choice of traditional fixings is the best seller.
Some more unique burger options include:
— The spicy Jalapeno Jack Burger from Tremont.
— The Murder Burger from Lo Main, which is two smashed beef patties, American cheese, diced onions, lettuce, garam masala mayonnaise and blackened seasoning on a brioche bun.
— The Original Dubs Crumble Burger from Dub's Place, which includes mustard, pickle and onion.
— A Dr. Gonzo from Jack Brown's. It's a burger topped with sautéed shrooms, caramelized Guinness onions, Applewood smoked bacon and and Swiss cheese.
— A Fried Green Tomato Burger from Urban Stack on certified angus beef with a fried green tomato, sharp yellow cheddar, lettuce, white vinegar, mayo and remoulade with Benton's bacon on top.
Several places that made the list also took part in spring's Chattanooga Burger Week, billed as a way to "explore Chattanooga in a whole new way, eating your way through (the) Scenic City with $6 burger deals at hot local restaurants."
Broader in scope than a weeklong calendar entry, trail designations exist for all sorts of favorite foods, not just burgers. It's possible to chase down everything from tenderloin sandwiches in Iowa to bourbon in Kentucky to Buffalo wings in New York.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281.
Here's the full list of reader suggestions for the Chattanooga area's best burgers:
-- 3rd Deck Burger Bar
-- Bad Daddy's Burger Bar
-- Boathouse Rotisserie & Raw Bar
-- Boo-Coes Sports Bar & Grill
-- Burger Republic
-- Choo Choo Bar-B-Que
-- Dub's Place (Red Bank)
-- Fat Boys's Roadside Eats (Ooltewah)
-- Five Guys
-- Hello Monty
-- Innside Restaurant
-- J. Alexander's
-- Jack Brown's Beer & Burger Joint
-- Kevin Brown Burgers
-- Lakeshore Grille
-- Lo Main
-- Longhorn Steakhouse
-- Main Street Meats
-- Mike's Tavern
-- Mimi's Deli
-- Monkey Town Brewing Co.
-- Park Place Restaurant (Fort Oglethorpe)
-- Parkway Pourhouse
-- Public House
-- Purple Daisy Picnic Cafe
-- Rallo's Bar & Grill
-- River Drifters Restaurant
-- Slick's Burgers
-- Southern Burger Co.
-- Spek Artisan Meats (Ooltewah)
-- State of Confusion
-- The Tap House
-- Tremont Tavern
-- Universal Joint
-- Urban Stack
-- Walden Club
-- Willie's Famous Burger & Fries (Dalton)
-- Wimpies Country Restaurant (Soddy-Daisy)
-- Zarzour's Cafe