Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2018

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Ben Vaughn: My Top Five burgers in Las Vegas

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Fukuburger is sliding south on the Strip, from F.A.M.E. at the Linq to the Hawaiian Marketplace, across from CityCenter on Las Vegas Boulevard.

What is it about the burger that has us foodies so captivated? Whose burger is the best?

I have a few theories as to why this simple creation is often compared on “best-of lists.” It’s an Everyman food, a sandwich you can make at home — and because of the simplicity and familiarity or how my wife’s Dad and probably one of your friends can cook one hell of a burger.

And, if you’re like me, you are perfectly practiced with the various home-run combinations of ingredients for 100 percent burger-town success in your kitchen. It makes the lists status simply because everyone has tried a great one and loves to share the story.

Or here is another thought: It’s a craving food like pizza, barbecue, French fries and Mexican food. It’s kind of naughty, a “no, no” food. We sure don’t see many “best of salads” lists floating around out there, or see many people gushing to their friends about the amazing asparagus they had last night.

When we crave a burger, it can only be satisfied with our favorite, the right balance of meat to cheese, bread to toppings and, of course, grease. It’s a regular conversation happening over the water cooler after the weekend, in a cab and via social media chatter:

Who really has the best burger?

The burger is a truly iconic American sandwich. I’m up for the challenge. I love a great burger, and I love the Las Vegas food scene. The endless list of the outstanding restaurants and chefs contributing to make Las Vegas a culinary destination only continues to grow.

From Michelin-star chefs, celebrity chefs and food truck heroes, I’m searching the streets of Las Vegas for the Best of Burgers. Here is my Top Five burger picks in Las Vegas — for right now.

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“The Frenchie” at DB Brasserie in the Venetian.

1. “The Frenchie,” DB Brasserie, the Venetian, @dbBrasserie, @DanielBoulud, @TheVenetian

Daniel Boulud’s “The Frenchie” burger at his delicious DB Brasserie sports a 7-ounce house grind beef patty and cheese selection that is brave and sends this burger into godly status immediately — yes, Morbier cheese is in the house.

Why not elevate the burger with a confit of pork belly, you ask? No worries. Pork belly confit challenge accepted. It’s in there. I agree with every choice so far, but balance is everything, and you will need acidic balance as you bite through the unctuous meat celebration.

By adding peppery arugula, tomato, onion relish, perky house-made mustard, well-balanced black pepper brioche bun and thinly sliced zippy little cornichons, you can close the books on this masterpiece. It’s the best burger in Las Vegas.

2. “Drive-Thru Burger,” B&B Ristorante, the Venetian, @MarioBatali, @JBastianich, @BandBRistorante, @TheVenetian

Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s B&B Ristorante at the Venetian serves a rendition of a drive-thru classic with their four-star take Drive-Thru Burger. Yes, it’s absolutely good enough to order two. In classic drive-thru form, the meat mountain enlists the help of two griddled patties, perfectly executed sesame seed bun, American cheese and homemade pickles.

Think of the B&B Drive-Thru Burger as a sucker punch because as you read the list of ingredients, and think this is going to be ordinary and uneventful, that’s when it smacks you in the mouth. It’s the understated ingredients that are familiar and perfectly executed combined with the years between the restaurateur duo executing on a high level of awesome.

The Drive-Thru Burger is a winner, and the fact that chefs are becoming brave and adding burgers to their menus or creating concepts exclusive to showcase the burger like B&B is proof to everyone that the burger is an American icon.

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“Buta Burger” at Fukuburger.

3. “Buta Burger,” Fukuburger, Hawaiian Marketplace, @Fukuburger

From the successful food truck in Las Vegas to an L.A. restaurant and now a restaurant inside Hawaiian Marketplace, Fukuburger knows burgers and is a local fan favorite. First problem I foresee is can I get past the “crack sauce”? It’s the house recipe dipping sauce for fries or anything else worth dunking. More or less, I’m basically using my fries as a vessel to secretly drink the crack sauce.

I have a favorite burger here, too, … wait for it … I present the “Buta Burger.” An all-beef Fuku patty, crispy apple-wood bacon, classic American cheese, pickled red onions and red ginger define this sandwich for sure with tart, sweet and umami. The Buta monster is finished with Japanese barbecue sauce, perfectly sized squishy bun and wasabi mayo.

From Venetian top chefs to Michelin-starred culinarians, there are no boundaries in the burger game, as this food truck hero Fukuburger drops a bomb with the Buta Burger.

4. “Butter Burger,” Carson Kitchen, downtown, @CarsonKitchen @KerrySimon

The fun and always-busy Carson Kitchen by chef Kerry Simon in DTLV does amazing things to ordinary ingredients. If I can pull myself away from the crispy chicken skins, I’ll tell you all about their signature burger. Let me just say it: I’m a fan. Carson Kitchen has done each one of my meals well, but this Top Five is less about wonderful meals and all about burgers.

First, with a golden brown brioche bun toasted from coast to coast, then Boursin cheese, cheddar, perfectly seared and seasoned beef patty, ice-cold lettuce and tomato, they round out the ultimate burger. Hands down this is the best burger in DTLV.

Carson Kitchen pays special attention to flavors, with the boldness of the cheeses, crunchy sear on the patty built with salt and pepper, and how they have added the lettuce and tomato to the bottom of the burger patty, and the cheeses to the top, this allows each bite its own combination of flavor and never a soggy bottom.

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The Double Double at In-N-Out.

5. Carnevino, Pub 1842 and In-N-Out Burger

Seems like with only five slots to fill in my Top Five Las Vegas Burgers list, I leave feeling like the other burgers I devoured were eaten, enjoyed and left without having a burger voice. I demolished 22 burgers from 22 restaurants, each one wonderful. There are a ton of great burgers out there, and for fifth place, it was undecided.

I nominate these three additional locations for my Best of Burgers Las Vegas. If I missed a burger, or didn’t mention one of your favorites, add it to the comments below, and follow on social @BenVaughn for more Best of Las Vegas Eats. It’s been a treat, and now I’m off to the treadmill to recover my pre-burger body.

“The Double Double,” In-N-Out Burger, @InNOutBurger

“Peanut Butter Crunch,” Pub 1842, MGM Grand, @Pub1842

“The Burger,” Carnevino, Palazzo, @MarioBatali

Ben Vaughn is a chef, author and TV personality widely known as a host for the Food Network. Ben’s latest book, “Southern Routes,” chronicles his journey to find the best-kept food secrets in the South from the Carolinas to Texas. “Southern Routes” is published by HarperCollins.

Ben resides in Tennessee and serves as CEO and culinary director for his restaurant group Fork Knife Spoon. Ben’s new brand of Southern Kitchen food trucks hit the streets in Las Vegas. Follow all the action from the mobile kitchen @SoKitchenLV. @BenVaughn also is the host of “The Breakfast Show,” a TV series that premieres in the fall.

Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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