from left, the classic double at mac's local eats and the st. lunatic burger at hi-pointe drive-in photo by julia calleo

STL's favorite burgers span the spectrum from classic to extreme

A burger is never just a burger. A burger is a canvas where one can act out their most insane culinary fantasies or push traditional ideas to heavenly perfection. No condiment is off limits, and no topping is faux pas while, at the same time, few are required with a perfectly cooked patty, as this year’s Readers’ Choice winners prove.

On one end of the spectrum, we find bombastic, culture-blending concoctions measured by how many flavors can be packed vertically into a leaning tower of madness. Here, Hi-Pointe Drive-In reigns supreme with menu items like the Arch D-Lux – a double burger, American cheese, pepper bacon, ketchup, D-Lux sauce, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle) and a sesame seed bun – and specials like the Sweet Baby Cheesus, which contains a double cheeseburger, bacon, fried egg and LTOP between two grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Also toward the more extreme end is Stacked STL, where burgers like the En Fuego overlook the competition from above with pepper jack cheese, crispy jalapenos, roasted corn guacamole and chipotle aioli.

On the quieter side lies O’Connell’s Pub, whose burger list contains two options: hamburger and cheeseburger. O’Connell’s beloved burgers come with minimal toppings and have a backyard cookout feel, right down to the paper plates they’re served on. 

Also on this end is Mac’s Local Eats, which blows minds with its classic burger, available with one, two, three or four patties and sporting only ketchup, mustard, pickles, onion and American cheese. To be sure, Mac’s has some pretty wild options as well (check out the Dirty Sancho), but the classic double is its most popular, according to owner Chris “Mac” McKenzie.

Read More // Mac's Local Eats will open a location inside Bluewood Brewing

The extra: Hi-Pointe Drive-In’s St. Lunatic Burger
“The biggest reach we did was probably the St. Lunatic burger. We actually did that out of St. Charles at Sugarfire, but that’s probably the craziest burger we’ve ever done. It got like 1,500 shares [on Facebook] in an hour or something like that. 

"We did a regular bacon cheeseburger, but we made everything St. Louis, so we put a barbecue pork steak on it, toasted ravioli, Provel cheese sauce and then we used Imo’s pizzas for buns.” – executive chef Adam Pritchett

The archetype: Mac’s Local Eats’ Classic Double
“What we do is dry-age the cow, the whole thing, for four weeks. And then they turn the whole cow into ground beef. All of the meat: the chuck, the rib, the short loin, the tenderloin. 

"I always look at it like if you go to another burger joint, a lot of times, it’s about the stack of flavors. You’ve got some goat cheese, some sauteed onions, whatever. But here, we’re trying to complement the meat and let the meat stand on its own. Toppings are great and everything, but the truth is … just get a cheeseburger. It’s so damn good. Just a cheeseburger.” – chef-owner Chris “Mac” McKenzie

Adam Rothbarth is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine.