He Said/She Said: With cheese, please

Russ: Everyone knows the usual suspects when it comes to getting a good cheeseburger in St. Louis.
Kathy: Yeah, but who wants the usual over and over again?
R: You know, with lettuce, tomato and onions on top, a cheeseburger includes a fruit and vegetables as well as meat, dairy and grains. It’s a veritable food pyramid in your hand.
K: Oh, sure. And next you’re going to find a way to justify corn dogs as nutritionally sound.
R: Don’t stand between me and my dreams, woman!

Kathy’s cheeseburger profile: A real backyard burger is hard to beat, rushed to the table still hot and juicy.
Russ’ cheeseburger profile: Pink in the middle with tangy cheese as a counterpoint.

Newstead Tower Public House
4353 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.535.7771
Tue. to Thu. – 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. and Sat. – 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. – 3 to
9 p.m.

R: OK, this is the antithesis of the fast-food burger. This is like … the supermodel of cheeseburgers.
K: How do you get that?
R: Think about what a fast-food burger looks like in an ad. Compare that with what it looks like when you actually order one.
K: Stepped on.
R: Exactly. But this is just so perfectly constructed: a gorgeous, hearty roll; a thick, perfectly cooked patty; cheese and caramelized onions neatly piled on. It’s just the perfect picture of what a cheeseburger should look like.
K: The blue cheese on mine was pretty potent, but it still ran second to the bold beef taste. I’d go so far as to say this burger was exceptionally cow-flavored.
R: The grass-fed beef does make a difference. Rookie diners may not be prepared for this much beefy goodness.

Northside Dairy Haven
1902 N. Main St., Edwardsville, 618.656.9233
Mon. to Sat. – 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sun. – noon to 9 p.m.

K: This little burger stand reminds me of a similar place in my hometown: gravel parking lot, walk-up counter and a constant stream of regulars.
R: It’s classic Midwest Americana – the roadside ice cream and burger stand. Would there even be fast food without it?
K: And yet for such a tiny little place, the menu is amazingly extensive.
R: Including the burgers. There’s a regular burger, which is slightly bigger than a slider; a quarter-pound burger; and then there’s the Charco Burger.
K: It lives up to the name, that’s for sure, with its distinct charcoal flavor. Not quite backyard grill flavor, just a bit different.
R: Compared with the regular burger – which is cooked on the flattop grill – it’s got a lot more panache.
K: Charco Burgers remind me of the burgers my mom would broil in the oven. They’re just about the same size, and piled with toppings. Dining outside like this, with a cheeseburger and a huge root-beer float, is the perfect summer night.

The Royale Food & Spirits
3132 S. Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis, 314.772.3600
Mon. to Thu. – 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (bar – until 1:30 a.m.), Fri. and Sat. – 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. (bar – until 1:30 a.m.), Sun. – 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (bar – until midnight)

K: We have to come here more often. Inside the dining room, the only smoke around is what’s coming off the grill, and the patio feels more like a backyard than a restaurant.
R: There’s definitely a neighborhood party vibe – everyone casually sipping cocktails from highball glasses and watching the burgers sizzle on the grill.
K: The grill guy just needs a “kiss the cook” apron and the scene would be perfect.
R: Practically perfect is good enough. Even before the first bite, there’s an inherent coolness in ordering the Royale With Cheese. Any film buff should get a thrill from ordering this burger.
K: I ordered the bison burger, so my thrill had to wait till the first bite. Topped with Cheddar and bacon – you can’t go wrong.
R: The Royale is a gargantuan slab of Australian-raised Wagyu Kobe beef. “Wagyu” may translate as “Japanese cow,” but to me, it will always mean “luscious burger that melts in your mouth.”

Chuck-A-Burger Drive-In
9025 St. Charles Rock Road, St. John, 314.428.5009
Mon. and Tue. – 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wed. and Thu. – 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fri. – 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sat. – 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sun. – 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

R: Well, we may need to get tailfins retrofitted on to our Jetta next time we …
K: Look, skip the fancy-schmancy stuff. One word: Wow.
R: Yeah, I liked …
K: Talking, here. Cars should be lined up back onto Rock Road before this place opens every day. If you haven’t been here, you don’t know what you’re missing.
R: So I …
K: The burger. The Vintage Melt. Fabulous. Tasty. Dripping with sauce. Crispy at the edges. Mainly, though, it’s the flavor.
R: You know, this column’s called “He Said …
K: And the pineapple shake. The waitress just said, “We have good shakes.” I would order shakes all the time if they were this good.
R: So you liked it, is what I’m hearing?
K: Strike whatever I said earlier – this is my cheeseburger profile.