Variations on a Hamburger

While it takes its name from a German city, there are few foods more quintessentially American than the hamburger. But from sea to shining sea, there are tons of variations on the old meat patty between two buns. After all, America is a big country, and the land of ingenuity.  

Smash Burger 

While the rest of the country got hit hard by the Great Depression in the 1930s, Oklahoma took it even harder, enduring both that economic tragedy along with the natural disaster that was the Dust Bowl. Little money meant needing to stretch a dollar, which is why the Hamburger Inn in Ardmore, Oklahoma, invented this onion-fried burger. A proper burger in this style is more than 50 percent onions, which is far cheaper than beef. How they’re made: A thin beef patty is placed on a griddle, and a handful of onions are “smashed” into it. Then it’s over so the meat can cook and the onions can caramelize. 

Butter Burger 

Where else but Wisconsin, the dairy capital of American could produce a burger that’s loaded up with butter? Invented at Solly’s Grille in Milwaukee in 1936, this is a burger for people who love butter—so much so that it feels like the beef patty gets in the way. Butter burgers can be prepared with butter-soaked buns, a chunk of butter dropped onto a patty as it cooks, or with butter stuffed inside of the patty before it’s grilled. Or, you know, all three. 

Slugburger 

A northeastern Mississippi hamburger stand operator named John Weeks introduced the Weeksburger (wonder where he got the name?) in 1917. It’s amazing that this didn’t gain widespread popularity outside of the Deep South, because a Weeksburger sounds like it would appeal to the American palette: It’s a burger patty mixed with flour (and soymeal) and then pan-fried. They came to be known as slugburgers during the Great Depression because hamburger stands charged a nickel for one, and the style at the time was to call nickels “slugs.” (So no, this doesn’t contain actual slugs.) 

Pastrami Burger 

Technically, this is a splendid matrimony of a Reuben sandwich with a hamburger. Did it originate in the deli-dotted metropolis of New York City? It did not—Crown Burgers in Salt Lake City Utah introduced the Pastrami Burger in 1978, taking a patty and putting pastrami, cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on top to create the world’s messiest food you’re supposed to eat with your hands. 

Nutburger 

Butte, Montana’s Matt’s Place, an old-fashioned drive-in hamburger stand still in operation, can claim to have created this nutty culinary creation. It’s a hamburger topped with a peanut butter…of sorts. That sauce consists of roughly chopped peanuts held together with Miracle Whip. It’s a burger topped with a strange peanut butter of sorts, roughly chopped peanuts held together with Miracle Whip. It reportedly provides a nice mix of sweet, savory, salty, chewy, and crunchy.