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Posted on Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 10:30 a.m.

The quest for the best burger in Ann Arbor - what's your favorite?

By Jessica Webster


The Poutine Burger at Grange Kitchen & Bar.

Jessica Webster |

I was looking through the pictures on my camera the other day, and realized that I take a lot - I mean a lot - of pictures of hamburgers. This led to two epiphanies. First, I realized that this burger eating might be one of the reasons that all my trips to the gym aren't budging the scale, but that's a tale for another time. The other epiphany I had while looking through my phone pictures is that I appear to be on a quest to find the best hamburger in Ann Arbor.

Burger places are popping up in Ann Arbor at a semi-alarming rate, with @Burger scheduled to open on Saturday and Five Guys Burgers on the schedule for early fall. The question becomes not whether to have a burger, but where to have a burger.

With that in mind, I have redoubled my efforts. Further threatening my waistline (and compensating with more hours at the gym), I have been trying out burgers all over town. I've tasted townie favorites and fancy upscale burgers and even some of those chains. I was happily surprised by some for whom I had low expectations and sadly disappointed by others whose burgers didn't live up to the hype.

My favorites: Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger prices vary, fries are extra If you are going to talk about hamburgers in Ann Arbor, you have to start with Blimpy Burger. Profiled everywhere from the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" to the recent segment on WGN America's Sky Dives, Blimpy is a true Ann Arbor institution. The burgers, ground fresh daily, are greasy but delicious. According to a sign in the restaurant, there are 2,147,483,648 different Blimpy combinations, but beware: if you don't follow the ordering etiquette, you may get scolded.

zing burger 1.jpg

Zingerman's Roadhouse burger with pimento cheese.

Jessica Webster |

Zingerman's Roadhouse Pimento Cheeseburger $12.95 (includes unlimited fries) I have a hard time not ordering this burger when I eat at the Roadhouse. The meat comes from the fabled Niman Ranch, known for its sustainable and humane livestock practices, and it's topped with Zingerman's own pimento cheese, made from Grafton Village 2-year cheddar and Hellmann's mayo. The burger is served with lettuce, tomato, onion and delicious crunchy pickle slices.

The Roadhouse also offers a Cornman Farms burger, from grass-fed cattle raised on Chef Alex Young's farm. With pimento cheese, the burger runs $15.95, but it can be had with a salad for $13.95 on Burger Mondays.

Poutine burger from Grange Kitchen & Bar. $14 (includes fries) Chef Brandon John's take on the French-Canadian specialty is delicious. The grilled grass-fed burger was in perfect proportion to the fresh bun, and the Grassfield aged cheddar added a subtle tang. But the real star of the show was the poutine that topped it: french fries and creamy cheese curd in a duck confit gravy was almost too decadent. Almost, but not quite. I'm still dreaming about this burger, which was paired perfectly with Grange's signature GGGinger cocktail. The poutine burger is on hiatus for the summer, but the bar menu is now offering a hamburger with a bacon jam and blue cheese.


Jolly Pumpkin's grass-fed JP Burger is topped with cambozola cheese.

Jessica Webster |

Jolly Pumpkin JP Burger $13 (includes fries) What's not to love about this grass-fed burger? A generous slice of melted cambozola cheese, crimini mushrooms and bacon, all on a tasty challah bun. The shoe-string fries are tasty, and can be made even tastier with truffle salt and fresh rosemary (for an additional $2). Ask for the sambal mayonnaise or the garlic aioli - both are great on the burger or as a dip for your fries.

Habana Burger from Café Habana $9 (includes boniato chips) Made from local, grass-fed beef and topped with bacon, swiss cheese, grilled onions and avocado, this burger impressed me more than anything else I have eaten at Café Habana. The burger was expertly grilled, and the onions were advertised as "grilled" but came deliciously caramelized. My only complaint was that the bacon almost seemed like overkill - the burger would be just as good, if not better, without it.

The burgers that didn't make the cut

Here are the burgers that, for a variety of reasons, didn't impress me.

  • The Train Wreck burger from Bagger Dave's: Redolent of Big Macs, but even less flavorful.
  • Red Robin Gourmet Burgers: I loved the option of being able to order my burger as a lettuce wrap, but the grease-to-flavor ratio was way off. The burger just didn't taste like anything.
  • Red Hawk burger: This was my biggest disappointment. Red Hawk used to be on my short list of burger destinations, but the one I ordered recently had the texture and (lack of) flavor of a prefab frozen patty. I'm hoping it was just an off night, but I'm not sure I'll ever order another one to find out.

Worth a mention: Casey's Tavern burgers often get mentioned as among the best in town. $8.75 gets you a 7-ounce patty on an onion bun with your pick of three toppings and a portion of tasty steak fries. It's a perfect post-softball game burger stop.

Great Plains Burger Company's slogan proclaims that they do one thing and do it well, and I am not inclined to disagree. Fresh, natural, locally sourced beef or turkey, served on Zingerman's buns, with your choice of gratis toppings, all for $4.50 (cheese and fries are extra). The Guernsey milkshakes are pretty delicious, too.

Kosmo Deli in Kerrytown may be better known for their Bi Bim Bop, but I'm a sucker for their Kosmo burger. There's something anachronistically pleasing about ordering a classic double cheeseburger with all the trimmings at a busy lunch counter. The burger runs $4.99, and fries are extra.

In the end, I didn't find one favorite burger, but I did find that Ann Arbor has an extraordinary selection of excellent burger offerings. How about you? Where do you go to satisfy your burger cravings? Is it the patty, the toppings or the bun that makes the burger? Chime in below, or e-mail me at

Jessica Webster will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today and leads the Food & Drink section for the community team. You can reach her at



Fri, May 27, 2011 : 2:55 a.m.

Years ago Stivers, out by Chelsea, had GREAT sirloin burgers, cheap. Good drinks too.


Tue, Oct 26, 2010 : 3:18 p.m.

When people come to Ypsi they need to venture outside of Depot Town. By far the best burger in Ypsi is the Taproom Burger. Blows sidetracks away!


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 2:15 p.m.

After living in the area for eight years, I finally went to Blimpy's last summer - and was completely underwhelmed. Just your basic, greasy hash-house burger smashed flat and served on a bun as bland as McDonald's. And the toppings were less than impressive as well. Frankly, I think the whole appeal is just the college-town grunge thing - saying that Blimpy's offers good burgers is like saying the Fleetwood offers fine dining.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 1:46 p.m.

There are burgers, then there are sandwiches that happen to contain ground beef. Most of those listed are sandwiches but good options are listed for both (Casey's for the former, Blimpy for the latter). I've been searching for the burger of my dreams around AA, but I'm afraid that the meat might just be better as one goes deeper into the midwest. In Ann Arbor we have Old Town, Cubs AC (a bowling alley, I know), and Casey's as my current favorites probably in that order. I would put Sidetracks in Ypsi at just under these, as I find their meat to be too unpacked. I would agree that Knight's provides the best meat in the immediate area, but I have yet to convince myself to avoid ordering a prime rip or steak when I'm there. My perfect burger is medium-rare, 2-3 rings of white onion, 1-2 tomato slices, sometimes lettuce, less frequently cheese, shouldn't need ketchup. Millers is nostagic and very good but overrated. I have yet to try Red Coat but can't wait. So far the Westport Flea Market burger in Kansas City is the burger to which all others are compared.


Wed, Sep 15, 2010 : 8:15 a.m.

Just outside of Ann Arbor, let me add Roy's Barbeque and Hamburgers in Milan. Their "Big One" burger is grilled over onions and fantastic.


Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 8:10 a.m.

Zingerman's Roadhouse makes the worst burgers in town. Don't get me wrong, I love the place and they have lots of good stuff, but the burgers are not among the best in AA. Buns are bad too. My favorites are 1. Blimpy 2. Side Track (Ypsi) 3. Knights


Tue, Jul 20, 2010 : 10:50 a.m.

AnnArbor: Casey's, Old Towne Tavern, Grizzly Peak Ypsi/Saline: Dan's Downtown Tavern, Sidetrack, Brecon Grille If a restaurant won't cook a burger to your liking (i.e., medium-rare) they should be automatically disqualified!!!


Sun, Jul 18, 2010 : 12:57 p.m.

For the burger/ff combo: 1. Polo Fields 2. Sidetrack 3. Casey's


Sun, Jul 18, 2010 : 11:58 a.m.

BLUE TRACTOR makes some fine ones...bison esp., as it can be a non-guilty pleasure calorie-wise( except for the dead bison issue) and VINOLOGY's sliders are also a treat...with multiple house made ketchups.. at the other end of the spectrum WHITE CASTLE keeps depression-era food aesthetics does anything where you're urged to buy a 'bagful'...and can afford to!


Sun, Jul 18, 2010 : 11:38 a.m.

In the A2 area you need to include Dan's Downtown Tavern in Saline. Awsome burgers and their fries are the best. You get a massive 1/2 pounder and a basket of fries for under 8 bucks. I love the burger with Ham,bacon and a fried egg on top!


Sat, Jul 17, 2010 : 8:40 p.m.

@ Don Bee, Knights is in Ann Arbor proper


Sat, Jul 17, 2010 : 3:21 p.m.

JP Burger is the best in town. I miss the burgers from the BP gas station on Main and Packard...very tasty for only $1.


Sat, Jul 17, 2010 : 2:21 p.m.

Ann Arbor Proper: 1) Casey's 2) Dimo's 3) Blimpy's 4) Zingerman's Roadhouse 5) Broken Egg Ann Arbor/Ypsi Area 1) Knight's 2) Sidetrack 3) Casey' 4) Dimo's 5) Blimpy's


Sat, Jul 17, 2010 : 8:50 a.m.

The rankings: 1. Crazy Jims 2. Sidetrack 3. Knights 4. Caseys 5. Bagger Daves All time favorite is Millers Bar in Dearborn. The benchmark to measure all others.


Sat, Jul 17, 2010 : 7:25 a.m.

Hands down "burger joint" smaller burgers simply offer a much better proportion of texture and taste than the massive meat bombs the traditional restaurants force down. I threw out "Ann Arbor only" designation and instead went for a regional list. God Tier: Blimpy's, Roy's (mini's) & Halo Burger Demigod Tier: Casey's, Five Guys, Knights Good Tier: In & Out, Sonic, Zingermans Roadhouse Crap Tier: McD, BK, Culvers, Bagger Dave's (all overcooked/suck) Heading off to Great Plains to try em out!

Some Guy in 734

Sat, Jul 17, 2010 : 5:30 a.m.

Eric P--Red Hawk's mentioned twice. Once in the comments (misspelled) and once in the sidebar. I had my share of Kosmo Burgers in my time. Loved 'em. I can't quite wrap my head around the idea of a Kosmo being a double burger. That was a perfectly balanced concoction. I can only recommend one change to it: Young once recommended I try putting a little kimchi on it and OH. MAN. That was some eating. Years later, when she ran YBS Deli, she made it no secret that she didn't think much of the Kosmo Burger's current incarnation. Her non-Kosmo Kosmo was a major trip down memory lane.

J. Sorensen

Sat, Jul 17, 2010 : 3:33 a.m.

I agree with hotsam- it would be nice if someone could re-create Del Rio's Detburger, and I also agree Blimpy's are merely mediocre, it's the atmosphere that's fun, and Zingermans is far too overpriced for the actual product you get.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 8:41 p.m.

Its in the beef.I dont care about the other toppings and junk on it.The best beef comes from Knights and for the guy that likes Frazers thats where they get their beef from also.I dont want weird toppings and I'm not paying ten bucks because no burger is worth that.Zingermans price for those little burgers is so over the top.Charge way to much so people will think its better


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 4:36 p.m.

Big Sky in Ypsilanti makes a great burger. If I don't make it myself? Then I go here. I do agree with Kosmo burgers. Haven't had one in years. Especially Blimpies. Now I am hungry.

Eric P

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 3:55 p.m.

I have yet to see Red Hawk on State mentioned, I find them to be at the level of Casey's (which I dig). I haven't had a Kosmo burger in decades, but back when I was at CHS I would get their BLT when I could afford it.

John Hritz

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 1:03 p.m.

I'll second the vote for Dimo's. I also like the Sidetrack, Kosmo, Blimpy and for a road trip, Doyle's Tavern in Plymouth (better than the Box Bar IMHO).


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 12:52 p.m.

Any consideration for Buffalo Burgers at Carson's??? Too Dry? How about the Cubbie at CubsAC?? Knight's is my personal favorite, anytime of the day. Really appreciate the no smoking law in all of AA restaurants.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 12:39 p.m.

When 5 guys opens up they will be on this list watch...and yes they are a chain but darnit they make a good burger!

Hot Sam

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 11:29 a.m.

I miss Detburgers...


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 10:34 a.m.

Bagger Dave's is not good at all. Ugh. They need to figure out how to season the beef. Immediately. I am partial to Checkers or Rallys... I know, I know... they aren't in Ann Arbor. If they were I would move to y'all city.

Some Guy in 734

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:47 a.m.

Vivienne--if you want to talk about overkill, try the aptly-named Fat City at the Wheat & Rye in Allen Park. A huge burger, with bun, in a paper-lined basket, then smothered with chili nachos.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

Jessica, I have to throw my vote in for the Grizz Burger at the Peak, with gruyere, grilled onions, avocado, bacon always a nice additive also.... but then paired with Sweet Potato Fries with the Jalepeno dressing dipping sauce on the side... and Ummm, I'm hungry of course, throw some Bear Paw Porter in and Whalla!!

Ypsi Gizmo

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:45 a.m.

Hands down, Sidetrack is the best burger around. Always consistently good with great ingredients. Pair the burger with sweet potato fries (served with a clancy's fancy mixed condiment) or onion rings & a craft beer & you'll be in heaven. Their salads and tempeh are also wonderful.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 9:05 a.m.

Blimpy Burgers are SO overrated. Plus I just can't fathom why so many people find their habit of abusing customers to be so charming. I'll take polite over that any day.

Allan E

Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 8:50 a.m.

Try Vinology's lunch menu! Lots of great burgers there.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 6:19 a.m.

You missed the best Berger in town, the Kobi Beef Berger at Cafe Zola Ann Arbor


Mon, Jun 3, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

It might be good, but it's certainly not real Kobe. Cafe Zola charges $15 for a 1/2 pound burger, while real Kobe beef would run you a couple hundred dollars for those 8 ounces -- if you could even find any, since it's imported in tiny amounts, mostly for high-end steakhouses in major cities.


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 3:24 a.m.

Ate at Krazy Jims recently, and as a born-n-raised Ann Arborite, they've gone downhill. Burger was bland, even the onion rings needed salty enhancement (if I'm going to eat all that grease, it should come with flavor). Any place that serves Knight's meat is a winner. Even Cubs AC uses Knights and a burger won't cost you arm & leg! I may be in a minority here, but it seems anything with the name "Zingermans" attached is just audciously overpriced! Think of how much ground beef you could buy at Knight's market for $13 and the specialty burger BBQ you could host!


Fri, Jul 16, 2010 : 1:45 a.m.

Big 2nd on the Old Town burger. I can't believe it flies so low beneath the radar..... Blimpy's is great but I put them more in the sliders category.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

I have two favorites. Krazy Jim's, the burger joint of my childhood, and Casey's. I love them both. They are almost different types of food but both are great. I remember Ruby working the grill at Krazy Jim's. She could remember the names of most regulars.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 8:23 p.m.

I know you want to limit this to the Ann Arbor area but I have to say The Dockside - on Torch Lake has an awesome burger...

David Briegel

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

Whenever I go to the Zoo or am in that neighborhood, I love the Red Coat Tavern on E side of Woodward N of 13 Mi. Great burger, wonderful clam chowder and fabulous onion rings. Sidetrack in Ypsi is a great burger and brew joint. In A2, Knights, Jolly Pumpkin, Caseys are a cut above most other places. How fortunate we are!! I miss Frey's cafe on Washington Street with my Grandfather and Father on payday. Rye bread, grilled onions and mustard. What else was there? 50's! Bagger Dave's was McD's with beer (beer is good!)! Look forward to trying a Great Plains burger! I remember taking my folks for a "burger" to Millers. My Mom was pretty upset that they had no menu! (you have to know her) I said "but Mom, I asked if you wanted a burger! I think she got over it! Burger stories are sure a wonderful spark for conversation!!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 7:35 p.m.

Krazy Jims then everyone else.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 6:20 p.m.

Casey's for me....if you can get a table. I'll admit I've never ordered anything but a burger there.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 4:09 p.m.

Red Hawke has the best burger in town by far - always cooked perfectly to order and their fries are great.

Lorrie Shaw

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 3:42 p.m.

Mmmm around these parts, Blimpy gets my vote. Great Plains is good, too. (Juno, I agree in Wayne County, Miller's is awesome, right down to the waxed paper.)

Jessica Levine

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 3:05 p.m.

Your burger pics make me hungry!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 2:45 p.m.

I need to try Quickie Burger again. I ate there when it first opened, and it felt to processed. Like the burger was already made and had been sitting around. But the owner was really nice and I had a good time.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 2 p.m.

None of your burgers had sauteed mushrooms, green olives, tomatoes and bleu cheese on it so you have yet to have the best burger in town. Locally, Blimpy is by far the best, but is a different kind of burger. The piedmontese burger at Red Coat Tavern in Royal Oak is the best traditional burger in SE Michigan.

Atticus F.

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

Any place that specializes in a burger with cheddar cheese, is automatically disqualified in my book...Kind of like serving chinese food over mashed potatoes, or Bolognese sauce over rice. It takes a better understanding of cheese texture and how certain cheeses melt to comprehend this.

Brian Bundesen

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 1:36 p.m.

Great article Jess, and let the debate continue. My votes go to Great Plains, Sidetracks and Casey's 1, 2 & 3. I have not had a few on your list. I'm not cheap, but you won't find me paying more than $10 for a burger. I'm now hungry too.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 1:34 p.m.

Probably not the best, but afforadable is Dimo's on Stadium. Knights meat, fries and a drink for under $8.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

"No burger recalls youth, folly, drunken nights and 3 AM like the double cheeseburger at White Castle." That cannot be denied. Although I fancied Hot 'N Now a little more...but of course they weren't open as late.

Top Cat

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

No burger recalls youth, folly, drunken nights and 3 AM like the double cheeseburger at White Castle.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 12:28 p.m.

This article sent me straight to Dimo's on Stadium. Knight's beef on toasted home-made bread. Great burger,great staff. Check them out!

Burt Reynolds

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 12:05 p.m.

Jessica, if you try Frasers, you MUST have the Black and Bleu. Delicioso!!!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:47 a.m.

My mouth is watering and I want a burger now!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

I know you stuck with Ann Arbor but I don't think any of those beats Sidetrack

Burt Reynolds

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:21 a.m.

I will never understand how Frasers goes overlooked. The best burger I've had in the County...

Scott Erickson

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:20 a.m.

I'm surprised that Old Town's burger isn't listed. Pretty sure they use local beef (from Knight's); they're as good if not better than Casey's burgers. In fact, that was the biggest reason I was so happy the smoking ban finally arrived -- so I can enjoy an Old Town burger without bathing in smoke.

Barb Roether

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:19 a.m.

Great fun article Jessica! I had my first Blimpy's this year and just don't get the hype. Now the burger at Great Plains is fabulous.They have a great choice of toppings and the price is right. We are also regulars of Casey's burgers. The Ann Arbor hamburger wars are just beginning!!


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:07 a.m.

The Great Plains Burger Co. on Plymouth Road makes a delicious burger. My favorite comes topped with swiss cheese and mushrooms. I'm also a fan of Blimpy Burgers (who wouldn't be?!). Oh joy, now I've made myself hungry. Ok, I'll take fries with that!

David Bardallis

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 11:06 a.m.

I am definitely in the Casey's camp, and would add that I think their fries (steak cut, crisp outside, mushy inside) are also the best in town. (I'm gradually losing interest in French fries altogether, but I always eat all my Casey's fries.) Damn, now I'm hungry.

Some Guy in 734

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 10:52 a.m.

I still have to shrug at the "humane" claims of Niman et al. "Yep. We are AWESOME to our livestock the whole way through. With one major notable exception, though. For that specific moment, yeah, I guess we are right b*****ds to them." I'm a devout omnivore, by the way. And I do think good treatment is better than bad. I just think it's a bizarre selling point. (Now, Halo Burger? Gotta give them props for telling it like it is. "Hi! I have a halo because I'm a cow angel, because I'm dead, because you're eating me.")

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

I was surprised too, to have Knight's omitted. Those serve as the benchmark to me. Obviously taste varies as to what makes a good burger. I winced at the thought of the poutine burger concept - talk about overkill. My husband enjoys a burger with cheese and grilled onions but to me a perfectly cooked (well-done) burger on a good bun (lightly toasted) with a minimum of toppings (raw onion usually, maybe lettuce) is what I'm looking for. I don't want too much - 1/3 pound is plenty. (OK, more than I need but this is a treat.) I hate the burgers that are close to equal in height and diameter - flat, please. There are two species - the burger cooked on a breakfast grill, well-squeezed (Blimpy's is the king of this type) or charcoal grilled. Other than Knight's, one of the best burgers I've had in this area was at the Uptown Coney on Jackson.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 10:31 a.m.

Jeepers, you should win a prize for eating ground beef from such a high horse. A "burger" does not cost more than $10. Le bouef hache may, but really, Casey's is the best "burger" in town.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 10:27 a.m.

I have to agree on the Zingerman's burger. Usually I only visit there for brunch, but the regular Roadhouse Burger (no cheese) including fries is only $9.95... definitely worth it. Although I usually spring for the sweet potato fries. :) Also a fan of Grizzly Peak, of course, and somewhat surprisingly the Broken Egg serves a really solid burger at a fair price.

Sheila C. Murphy

Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 7:43 a.m.

As a reader of A Hamburger Today ( and longtime fan of both Five Guys (east coast tops) and In & Out, I've gotta comment here. Great Plains is uneven. But really, where is Knight's Restaurant on your list? They supply half the places listed with their meat and their burger is all business, no pretense. I still miss the old Jefferson Market burger. Oh and what about best veggie burger? Arbor Brewing? And Sidetrack deserves a mention too, in both carnivore and herbivore varieties.


Thu, Jul 15, 2010 : 6:45 a.m.

It's all about the patty, no doubt. Bad beef=bad burger. And as far as favorites go, Wayne County rules supreme with places like Miller's and Doyle's. Just saying...