Standing before the Brandenburger Gate
What’s more emblematic of America than the classic hamburger? Competition for the title likely includes apple pie, muscle cars, America’s favorite past-time, that one Springsteen song, Charlie Kelly, and of course the climax of Rocky IV, when Sly Stalone, garbed in the recently departed Apollo Creed’s thigh-high, Old Glory emblazoned trunks, slays the Soviet, Ivan Drago, while even the Commies cheer, “Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!” … probably because they knew a Balboa “W” meant a golden “M” would follow shortly behind it. And if YouTube videos on hamburger history have taught me anything, it’s that the real reason the Soviet Union fell was … hamburger envy.
Most people agree hamburgers are pretty great, but disagreement over which burger joint offers the best preparation, customization, and pairings spans from sea to shining sea. Ask 100 people from the U.S. where to find the best burger, and you will likely get 100 different answers. Similar to religion, your favorite burger joint probably depends more on where you were born as people tend to remain regionally partial to their fave cholesterol rich classic. If you’re from the West Coast, I assume your go-to is In-N-Out. Dip into the South, I expect the answer to be Whataburger. Head to NYC and I expect you to tell me something bougie like the Luger Burger from Peter Lugers.
One thing I know for certain, a good burger is hard to beat; and while some are better than others, I have never met one I didn’t like. Billings is blessed with an embarrassment of burger riches, located smack dab in the middle of cattle country. With bountiful burger options and no East Coast vs. West Coast allegiances, I offer my two favorite places to get the best burgers in Billings. And once you’ve sampled the best that Billings has to offer, check out Visit Southeast Montana’s Burger Trail Map to find more amazing burgers in our region.
The Burger Dive 114 N. 27th Street
I know what you are all thinking, “Real original, Ryan”. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for nearly a decade, you know that The Burger Dive is hands down the best burger in Billings. And for my money, one of the best spots in the entire state. I was hesitant to write about these titans of beef because it seemed so obvious; but sometimes you just gotta pay your respect. When you win the World Food Championships, the Food Festival Burger Bash, the Masters of the Barbecue Challenge, and host the television show “Man V. Food”, you get recognition on my blog.
If you are craving a burger, run, don’t walk, and order one of their 19 options (that includes their Spicy Tuna, and Veggie burgers) ....it will be one of the best burgers you’ve ever tried. The ambiance is reminiscent of a classic 1950’s burger stands, equipped with checkerboard tile flooring, vinyl seating, and vintage signage throughout. For me, it is all about their award-winning sauces. The “I’m Your Huckleberry Burger”, which won the World Food Championships is covered with Chef Brad’s huckleberry hatch chili barbecue sauce, bacon, goat cheese, arugula and roasted red pepper mayo. These ingredients combine perfectly to create an unforgettable flavor profile. With nearly 20 burger options to try, you don't have to be a super foody and love goat cheese on your burger to find something that meets your palate’s desires. After all, we're in cattle country, not wine country. Like I mentioned above, I've never met a burger I didn't like; even The Burger Dive's classic Cheeseburger, paired with their garlic fries is delectable enough to make you plan your next visit as soon as you exit onto 27th street.
Suggested order: “I’m Your Huckleberry Burger.” If you don’t care to try the exotic nature of goat cheese and huckleberry on your burger stick with the classic Cheeseburger…and fries for good measure.
Kings Hat 105 S. 37th Street
I must admit that I hadn’t tried Kings Hat until I was in my 30s. Friends of mine who grew up on the South Side talked about it as if it was a burger Mecca. It wasn’t until I began working downtown that I truly understood the cult-like appeal of this tiny drive thru. If you’ve ever driven down 1st Avenue South between the hours of 11am and 5pm you will understand. Cars literally back up 10 deep into the street, often causing traffic issues. If you are a true fan of greasy fast food burger joints, this should be your go-to.
While they boast a menu that serves 8 different burgers, hot dogs, fish sandwiches, sloppy joes, and some of the best fries and onion rings in the city, it’s their specialty “Flying Burger” that keeps everyone coming back. There is something so familiar about this creation. Just think about an “uncrustable”, you know, the frozen PB&J sandwiches with the crust cut off that every child craves. That is essentially what the flying burger is, just replace the peanut butter and jelly with a patty and all the fixings, and there you go…perfection.
I will note that you absolutely get what you pay for. This isn’t a 1/3-pound, hell, even a ¼ pound burger. But at $2 a pop, how can you go wrong? I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the double bacon cheese, and pizza burgers as well. For less than what you will spend on one burger at pretty much any sit down joint, you can enjoy all three along with onion rings and a drink. You had better not be watching your figure when you go to a place like this. So, go nuts, order a half dozen items. Your waist may not thank you, but your stomach will.
Suggested order: Flying Cheeseburger, Double Bacon Cheeseburger, Pizza Burger, Onion Rings