These are the Regional Burger Styles in the U.S.

The thing with Regional Burger Styles, they’re all around you, and you probably haven’t noticed.

Knowing the joints that helped shape burger history is a small part of the journey. There is much to learn about the diversity in America’s favorite sandwich styles.

In this post, I’m going to focus on regional burger styles. Folks in different parts of the country have made the burger their own, sometimes by adding a topping popular in their neighborhoods.

One last thing, just cause it’s a Regional Burger Style doesn’t mean you won’t encounter one in your neck of the woods, so keep an eye out.

If you’re in South Florida, check out my Regional Specialty Burger in Miami list.

California Burger

The California Burger comes typically with either avocado or its offspring, guacamole, and sometimes bacon.

Please do not confuse it with In-N-Out, even though that chain is synonymous with California burger culture. In some parts of Mississippi, a California Burger means you want lettuce, tomato, and onion.

The California burger isn’t too difficult to track down. I’ve seen the L.A. Burger with guac on Bobby’s Burger Palace menu and a guacamole and bacon burger on Denny’s expanded menu.

Colombian Comida Rapida Burger

Monster Burgers Food Truck "Monster Burger"
Monster Burger from the Monster Burgers Food Truck

One of the advantages of living in South Florida is the availability of comfort food from Central and South America. What was street food in Colombia has found a new life in Miami in the popular quick service and late-night restaurants of Miami.

It’s Comida Rapida, fast food.

If you like to pile on sauces, the Colombian-style burger is heaven on earth. The usual suspects—lettuce, tomato, and onion—top the burger. Then, the patty is covered in melted mozzarella cheese, crushed potato chips, and various sauces.

Why? Pineapple Sauce

The most popular sauces are creamy garlic mayo, pink sauce (a mix of ketchup and mayo), and pineapple sauce. I was wrong to think the pineapple sauce was.

It works in an indescribable way that you won’t understand until you eat one of these beauties. It can be a little overwhelming on the first try but stick with it as it gets tasty and addictive.

MAO, a tiny late-night spot, was my introduction to this Regional Burger Style. It was not far from my parent’s home but closed down in 2020.

My go-to for Colombian Comida Rapida is the Monster Burgers food truck, or on the brick-and-mortar side, Los Verdes, which has several locations in Spain, South Florida, New York, and Panama.

Connecticut Steamed Cheeseburger

A stainless-steel cabinet holds mini trays for the hamburger patty and the extra melty cheddar cheese. The steam rising from the basin full of water at the bottom of the box cooks the burgers and melts the cheese.

Steaming gives the burgers a meaty flavor and a texture similar to a loose meatloaf. After the patty is put on a bun, it is followed by gooey cheese.

Jack’s Lunch, from Middleton, Connecticut, is widely credited with creating the Steamed Cheeseburger in the late 1920s to early 1930s. Nowadays, Ted’s in Meriden, Connecticut, is considered by many to be the go-to spot to grab one.

Dominican Chimi Burger

Santo Domingo’s street food, Chimi, is a well-seasoned beef patty customarily shaped to the pan de agua (water roll) that houses it. The Dominican pan de agua is similar to a French baguette in texture.

The burger comes topped with tomato, cabbage, and salsa golf (golf sauce). While there is no clear explanation of how it ended up being called a Chimi (a shortened version of the favorite Argentinian sauce), there is a connection to that country.

What is Salsa Golf?

Salsa golf, the original ketchup and mayo-based sauce that’s all over fast food in Latin American countries, was the creation of Luis Federico Leloir of Argentina, the 1970 Nobel Prize winner for chemistry.

As the story goes, he created the sauce to accompany the prawns he was enjoying at a golf club back in 1925. The original version was equal parts mayonnaise and ketchup with drops of cognac and Tabasco sauce.

I first enjoyed a Chimi years ago in a dusty lot where the Chimi Churri Los Primos food trailer was set up for late-night eats. While I don’t often encounter Chimis on restaurant menus, they can readily be found on many food trucks in Miami, like Chimi El Tigre and Don Mofongo.

Frita Cubana

La Frita Original from El Rey de las Fritas in Miami, Florida
El Rey de las Fritas La Original Frita Cubana

The Frita or Frita Cubana is originally from Cuba, where it was street food. It is available primarily in Miami, Florida.

It’s a mix of ground beef (sometimes chorizo or pork is added) and spices, then topped with julienne cut potatoes or potato sticks, diced raw onions, and ketchup (rumored to be tomato paste, not ketchup in Cuba) on a roll of some sort. It’s cooked on a flat top and not grilled over an open flame.

When you visit my hometown of Miami, Florida, make sure to visit Morro Castle, Sergio’s, El Rey de las Fritas, El Mago de las Fritas, and Cuban Guys for a real deal Frita experience. The restaurants are listed according to when they were established, not alphabetically.

The entire history of the Frita Cubana is in my book All About the Burger.

Georgia Luther Burger

The Luther Burger is a bacon cheeseburger on glazed donuts instead of burger buns. The rumor is that this burger was created by singer Luther Vandross when he was all out of bread at home.

He was so starved that he chose the next best option: donuts. While this is a great story, there’s no proof that anyone ever asked him about how legit that tale was before he died.

There is a “FatKreme” burger pictured online in 2003 with Krispy Kreme Donuts as replacement buns. It’s the earliest documented proof of this burger that I have found.

While that may be true, the now-closed Mulligan’s out of Decatur, Georgia, seems to have been behind the creation’s name when they added the Luther Burger to their menu in 2006.

Iowa Loose Meat Sandwiches

Cheese-Rite Sandwich from Maid-Rite in Greenville, Ohio
Cheese Rite Sandwich from Maid-Rite

When David Heglin opened Ye Old Tavern in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1924, tavern burgers were on the menu. Unfortunately, Hardcore loose-meat sandwich eaters insist on calling it a Tavern or Tavern Sandwich.

The seasoned ground beef burgers came on wax paper. Then, two years later, Fred Angell opened up Maid-Rite and named the same dish a Maid-Rite.

These burgers are loose meat sandwiches. They come standard with onions, mustard, and pickles. You can find them all over Iowa, parts of Ohio and Kansas, and in Detroit, Michigan, as a loose hamburger.

Michigan Olive Burger

Olive Burger from Weston's Kewpee Sandwich Shop in Lansing, Michigan
Weston’s Kewpee Olive Burger

Kewpee is responsible for the popularity of the Olive Burger.

In the 1920s, Sam Blair and his Kewpee Hotel Hamburgs had hundreds of restaurant locations. Their Olive Burger caught on with their customers.

You can still find this version of the sandwich at Weston’s Kewpee in Lansing, Michigan, the direct descendant of Blair’s Kewpee restaurant locations. Two variations include an olive-based mayo spread and another with olives as a topping.

They are so popular in Michigan that in 1991, Burger King tested Olive Burgers in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Were you one of the lucky ones who tried the Burger King Olive Burger?

Minnesota Juicy Lucy

Juicy Blucy Burger from Blue Door Pub in Minnesota, Minneapolis
Juicy Blucy Burger from the Blue Door Pub

Juicy Lucy is a burger patty with melty cheese inside; most of the time, it’s American cheese. It would be best if you were extra careful when taking that first bite, as that molten hot magma cheese oozes out.

As the story goes, a customer at Matt’s Bar & Grill asked for two hamburgers with some cheese in the middle. “That’s one Juicy Lucy,” were his first words after biting into this new creation. Unfortunately, the name on their menu mistakenly left off the “i.”

Most Juicy Lucy purists feel that you need to enjoy them in Minnesota. So, whether you have a Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar & Grill or a Juicy Lucy at the 5–8 Club, both in Minneapolis, Minnesota, or having the Juicy Nookie Burger at The Nook in St. Paul, Minnesota, you will be spiritually fulfilled.

Juicy Lucys are now a popular burger style available all over the U.S.

Mississippi Slugburger or Dough Burger

Third-pound Cheeseburger from Phillips Grocery in Holly Springs, Mississippi
Phillips Grocery Cheeseburger

First of all, you will not find slugs in a Slugburger. The name comes from the slang term for a nickel, the cost of a burger in its heyday. Now, with that horrible thought out of the way, we can discuss it without prejudice.

Slugburgers or Dough Burgers use extenders mixed in with the meat, like bread crumbs, flour, or eggs. This is because the beef was too expensive to buy during World War I and the Great Depression.

Rations also spread meat thin across the country. These fillers allowed them to stretch the amount of beef they had.

I’m partial to the ones at Bill’s Hamburgers in Amory, Mississippi, which serve them with mustard and onion (cheese only by request). At Phillips Grocery in Holly Springs, Mississippi, mustard, onion, and pickle are the standard.

The yearly Slugburger Festival in Corinth, Mississippi, includes a Miss Slugburger pageant.

How to Cook a Slugburger

How to Cook a Slugburger with George Motz

Missouri Guber Burger

The burger style I hear the most groans about is the Guber Burger since it has a minimal appeal to most burger fanatics. Not familiar with it? Well, it’s a burger with peanut butter.

Missouri‘s The Wheel Inn Drive-In popularized the Guber Burger or Goober Burger (choose whichever spelling suits your fancy).

The Wheel Inn Drive-In‘s version involved ladling or spooning warm peanut butter sauce with an almost soup-like consistency. Unfortunately, they went out of business, and no other Guber Burger-centric restaurant has taken its place.

Some restaurants across the U.S. add a smear of peanut butter for a similar effect; others serve variations on the theme, like My Sister’s Place in Grand Marais, Minnesota. However, they kick it up a notch by topping the peanut butter with some mayo.

Travel Channel‘s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern featured the My Sister’s Place version of the Goober Burger.

Montana Nutburger

I’m not the biggest fan of salted peanuts, so the thought of salted peanuts mixed with Miracle Whip topping a burger is horrifying. Of course, some folks will try to sell you on its sweet, salty, crunchy, and soft appeal, but I’m not buying it.

Regardless of my thoughts, people love it. You can find this unusual burger style at Matt’s Place Drive-In in Butte, Montana.

New Jersey-style Slider

Slider from White Rose Diner in Linden, New Jersey
Slider from White Rose Diner in Linden, New Jersey

The origins of the New Jersey-style slider go back to a burger cooking method pioneered by White Castle‘s Walt Anderson. You take a ball of beef, smash it on the flat-top grill with a spatula, and top it with onions, which cook via the steam rising through the meat.

White Manna in Hackensack, New Jersey, cooks its half-ounce burgers this way. When you ask for a double, you don’t get two individual stacked patties. Instead, they smash two balls instead of one to make a three-ounce burger.

If you visit the White Rose Diner in Linden, New Jersey, you will see a larger two-ounce slider. They are also the originators of the Jersey Burger, which adds Taylor Ham, a bologna-esque sliced pork product popular in New Jersey.

New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger

The Green Chile Cheeseburger is a cheeseburger topped with chopped green chiles or a green chile sauce.

The most famous story involving the Green Chile Burger occurred in 1945 at the Owl Bar & Cafe in San Antonio, New Mexico. Scientists from the Manhattan Project would enjoy them nightly after long days working on the atomic bomb.

Its popularity has spawned a New Mexico Green Chile Cheese Trail. You can make your way around the state, sampling this specialty at various burger joints. And yes, the Owl Bar & Cafe is still around.

Oklahoma City Theta Burger

The Theta Burger was born between the 1930s and 1940 when the Town Tavern created a signature burger for the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority at the University of Oklahoma. The burger features a hickory BBQ sauce, pickles, mayonnaise, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Since Town Tavern closed its doors, it is now at The Mont near the university. But, of course, you can find a Theta Burger at The Mont and Johnnie’s Charcoal Broiler locations near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger

George Motz's Fried Onion Burger
George Motz‘s Fried Onion Burger

If you’re into grilled onions, the Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger has your name all over it. Ground beef was expensive during the Great Depression. At this time, burgers had just turned the corner after their revived popularity, sparked partially by White Castle.

According to John T. Edge, Ross Davis would smash onions into his burgers to give his customers more bang for their buck with a bigger patty. His restaurant, the Hamburger Inn, was located at the intersection of Route 66 and Highway 81 in Oklahoma.

Due to its proximity, other establishments in the El Reno area began serving the fried onion burger.

I know many folks swear by this burger style, including George Motz, who is responsible for the Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger‘s popularity which has launched a slew of burger pop-ups worldwide.

Making an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger

Making an Oklahoma Fried Onion Burger with George Motz

Patty Melt

A Patty Melt is the perfect example of a burger sandwich. Whether or not a Patty Melt is a burger is always a popular topic. I still feel that a Patty Melt is a burger, not so much a sandwich, if that makes any sense.

The “official” Patty Melt ingredients are simple: Burger patty, rye bread, Swiss cheese, and grilled onions.

I can’t say I ever remember eating a bad one anywhere, and I’ve had my fill of them in many cities and states. Assuming all the proper items are in place., it’s almost impossible to mess one up.

I encounter variations on the cheeses (American or cheddar), occasionally on the bread (sourdough or Texas toast), but rarely on the protein. However, I’ve tried a Turkey Patty Melt in the past.

Patty Melt Purists

Patty Melt from Jerry's Drive In in Pensacola, Florida
Patty Melt from Jerry’s Drive-In in Pensacola, Florida

Never toast the rye bread; it must cook on the griddle—at least, most purists believe that. The Patty Melt should taste like the combination of a great burger and a grilled cheese sandwich.

You can now find Patty Melts on menus across the U.S., but it was initially a California creation. Most folks consider Tiny Naylor to be the sandwich’s papa. In California, Tiny owned a chain of Biff’s and Tiny Naylor restaurants in the late 1940s and 1950s.

Tiny passed in 1959, but his son Biff (the restaurant namesake) now owns the Du-Par’s chain, which has a tasty Patty Melt on the menu. His granddaughter Jennifer, now a caterer, was formerly an executive chef for Wolfgang Puck.

Pimento Cheeseburger

Pimento Cheeseburger from OK Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia
Pimento Cheeseburger from OK Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia

Pimento Cheese, the beautiful marriage of shredded cheese, mayo, and diced pimento peppers, is a favorite topping on many foods in the South and, most importantly, on burgers.

Finding a restaurant serving a Pimento Cheeseburger can be as easy as just finding one with pimento cheese on the menu. Burgers will follow shortly after.

You’re more likely to encounter them when driving around the South in the U.S. I still fantasize about the fantastic Pimento Cheeseburger from Boyce General Store (R.I.P.) in Alvaton, Kentucky.

San Antonio Bean Burger

The San Antonio Bean Burger is mainly located in and around San Antonio, Texas. Cheez Whiz, refried beans, crushed Fritos, and diced onions top the best-known version of this burger.

Chris Madrid’s variation of the Bean Burger is the Tostada Burger which replaces Cheez Whiz with cheddar cheese, and the Fritos with homemade chips and freshly made salsa. This burger style is not my cup of tea.

Tennessee Deep Fried Burger

Dyer's Single Burger with Cheese
Dyer’s Single Burger with Cheese

When it comes to deep-fried burgers, Dyer’s in Memphis, Tennessee, is the first spot that comes to mind for most people.

Their claim to fame? They’ve never thrown out the grease they use to fry the burgers. Dyer’s strains the Vitamin G (vitamin grease) daily.

What they do at Dyer’s is smash down a patty until it’s wafer-thin, then drop it ever so gently into the prehistoric oil. It will sink and float to the top to signify that it’s good to go.

Boy, was I wrong to think it is the greasiest meat patty known to man? If you need more Vitamin G, you can ask to have it dunked, bread and all.

Watching the Dovie’s Fried Burger Magic

You will find Dovie’s just over the Tennessee border in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. They submerge their burgers in soybean oil, giving them a crispy exterior. Then, drop the term squozed to them, and they drain your patty of all the excess fat.

In May 2022, Arby’s released a wagyu burger where the beef patty is cooked via the sous vide method and then deep-fried.

Utah Pastrami Burger

Pastrami Burger from KUSH by Stephen's Deli in Hialeah, Florida
Pastrami Burger from Stephen’s Deli

Whoever thought of topping their cheeseburger with pastrami deserves a monument. There is no official creator.

However, in Salt Lake City, Utah, with Greek diners and restaurants, burgers covered with pastrami, thousand island dressing, and cheese do not sound out of the ordinary.

Crown Burgers was flying the flag for pastrami burgers in 1978 when they opened in Salt Lake City. Only a few sold each day back then, but now it’s their top-selling item.

Wisconsin Butter Burger

Butter Burger from the Wholesome Rollers Food Truck
Butter Burger from the Wholesome Rollers Food Truck

The first time I laid eyes on a Butter Burger, I innocently watched George Motz‘s documentary Hamburger America; he profiled Solly’s Grille (the original) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

I had never seen anything like it before. Like all great burger spots, they use a fresh, never-frozen beef patty.

After doing the traditional sandwich setup, they finish it with a massive smear of butter and then the crown (top bun). The butter melts and cascades down all the sides of this now sumptuous dish.

I may be overselling its beauty, but one viewing is not enough.

The Butter Burger is mostly an in-and-around Wisconsin thing, although the Culver’s chain has been spreading its name statewide.

How to make a Butter Burger varies. The Solly’s Grille method uses only butter as a topping on the burger or the butter on the burger patty itself.

The one tip I can leave you with when you encounter a Butter Burger is to eat it fast, or you’re going to have a giant mess on your hands. I’m also pretty sure it’s in the burger-eating handbook that all butter pooling on your plate automatically becomes a burger dipping sauce.

Wisconsin Poached Burger

The Poached Burger from Wisconsin is another Regional Burger Style. Pete’s Hamburgers has served this delicacy since 1909 in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

Pete’s is only open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from May to October. The exact day of the month they open varies by the year based on the weather.

Here’s how to make a Wisconsin Poached Burger. First, you smash a four-ounce ball of beef on a deep flat-top grill partially filled with water and onions.

The patty cooks as the onions in the water boil. The end product is a very juicy patty. Your only options for toppings are with or without onions, with no cheese whatsoever.

Learn about Pete’s Hamburgers

Boiled Burgers from Pete’s Hamburgers

I love burgers, and I’m sure that statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. My earliest memories of enjoying them are tied to Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s.

However, my deeper appreciation for the hamburger sandwich grew from stopping on road trips and vacations at diners, drive-ins, and luncheonettes. So, you need to get out there and explore your community.

These little hidden gems are out there and waiting for you.

Lil' History about Diners, Drive-Ins and Luncheonettes
Lil’ History…Diners, Drive-Ins, and Luncheonettes

*No, this chapter isn’t about a particular show, but about some of the types of eating establishments that helped popularize the majestic burger.


Diners are usually small restaurants with a laid-back atmosphere. They serve comfort food. Diners should have counter seating and booths where you can enjoy music from tabletop jukeboxes while you wait for your food.

I just described my ideal version of one, but yours might differ slightly. Typically, only one or two short-order cooks handle all the cooking, which is impressive to see up close.

All good diners are open twenty-four hours or at least into the wee hours of the night. I lump coffee shops into the same group as diners.

Many folks believe that the original diners were the lunch wagons of the late 1800s. Eventually, as the need for more seating arose, lunch wagons switched to prefabricated buildings.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and the advent of highways crisscrossing the United States that diners took off nationwide. Before this, most diners could be found in small towns and urban areas.

A Trio of Diners

Burger Beast Approved - Angel's Dining Car
Angel’s Dining Car in Palatka is Florida’s Oldest Diner
Reececliff Family Diner - Lakeland, Florida
Reececliff Family Diner in Lakeland, Florida
Starlite Coney Island & Diner in Burton, Michigan
Starlite Coney Island & Diner in Burton, Michigan

Drive-in Restaurants

The drive-ins I’m referring to weren’t the theater kind. At a drive-in restaurant, you would park your car, and a member of their staff would come out to meet you at your vehicle, take your order, and then return with your food.

Depending on the efficiency of the spot, you might have a quick meal or a drawn-out affair. Drive-ins rose to prominence as car culture took over America during the 1950s and 1960s; as folks got more comfortable using their cars for traveling from point A to point B, their “wheels” also started to become an extension of who they were.

Drive-ins are commonly associated with women skating around from hot rod to jalopy in the parking lot, but most, if not all, of the original carhops were fellas or “tray boys.” It wasn’t until after World War II that women replaced men after American males were called up to join the military.

While it’s true that having a pretty girl serve you food increased sales, in the long run, it created problems with fellas loitering. McDonald’s found a way to streamline food service and cut out the problems with drive-in service.

Once that new system spread to restaurants nationwide, drive-ins‘ popularity began to wane. But it was the even more popular drive-thru service that would significantly damage them.

I wasn’t around to experience the original drive-in. My first taste of it was watching Happy Days on TV. I dreamed of eating and hanging out at Arnold’s Drive-In, which was featured on the program.

Believe it or not, there are a few hundred drive-ins still around where you can have your in-car eating experience. To find a list of all active drive-in restaurants with carhops, go HERE.

A Few Drive-in Restaurants

Luncheonettes or Lunch Counters

Lunch counters or luncheonettes were initially just that, a counter where you could sit down on a stool to enjoy lunch. Waitresses would tend to the customers while a cook prepared the dish.

Lunch counters were popularized inside five-and-dime stores, which had two reasons for being there: Hungry customers could stop and grab something to eat, and someone who had just dropped in for a bite might end up in the store buying something.

The menu kept it simple, with items that could be cooked on a flat-top grill, such as hamburgers, sandwiches, soups, and desserts. Breakfast was a favorite at most lunch counters. Specials like meatloaf or hot turkey were available daily.

Fast Food fever in the United States has immensely hurt lunch counters. Unlike drive-ins, which have been able to carve out a living in smaller towns, lunch counters, and luncheonettes have been wiped from existence.

Luncheonettes I’ve Enjoyed

*This post contains excerpts from my book, All About the Burger.

3 thoughts on “These are the Regional Burger Styles in the U.S.”

  1. What about what I call a southern sauce burger? Served at Biff Burger, Kennys, Pals, Insta Burger King and poss Kellys et system. A ketchup,mustard relish mixture. Also The Carolina burger. Mustard slaw chilie and onions


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