This list is going to get me in a lot of trouble. It’s completely subjective, based on my own experiences and trials.
Now, I eat a lot of hamburgers. You only have to glance at me to know I probably know my way around a hamburger. So I feel I have some authority I can bring to this party, and come up with a list of this magnitude.
But if you’re going to visit my city in the Month of May, and you’re looking for the best burgers in Indianapolis, who the hell are you going to ask, a skinny person? A vegetarian?
No, because they’re going to try to convince you a black bean burger is “just as good” as a regular burger.
(“Just as good” is vegetarian talk for “I hate you.”)
So, in no particular order, here are my picks for the five best burgers in Indianapolis:
1. Tie Dye Grill – Shadeland Ave., 1300 block
Take I-70 east, exit on Shadeland, and head south. This place is in a little strip mall, and you’ll miss it if you’re not paying attention. But it’s worth the drive from the west side. One of my two favoritest hamburgers in the city, Shayne and Jan Dye serve up some of the gro-o-o-o-viest burgers in the city. My personal favorite is the ZZ Top Burger (pepper jack cheese, jalapeños, onion crisps, and chipotle ranch). A good friend raves about their bacon relish too. Take note however, the Tie Dye Grill is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
2. Boogie Burger – Broad Ripple and Keystone Ave.
This is my other favoritest hamburger, and I’m a sucker for the Rise and Shine, a regular burger with a fried egg on it. For a little extra pick-me-up, I have them add some serrano peppers to make life a little interesting. I also make a lot of people come here for lunch meetings, so owner Mark is always happy to see me. Mark also mans his own Twitter account, so if you tweet @BoogieBurger and you get an answer, it’s Mark taking a break from the grill. If you stop by, tell him I sent you.
In 2011, Jeremy Williams, formerly of Indiana Tourism, and I reviewed the Boogie Monster for the Super 46 Sandwich list in honor of the Super Bowl appearing in Indy that year. We each managed to eat one and didn’t eat again until late that night.
3. Scotty’s Brewhouse — Downtown, 96th Ave.
Scotty’s is the only chain on the list, and that’s because he’s worked hard to grow it. He originally started at my alma mater, Ball State University, and has since grown it to six locations, including two in Indianapolis (plus Thr3e Wise Men, his own micro-brewery, which also makes awesome pizza, but that’s another blog post).
But it’s burgers and tater tots that rule the day at Scotty’s. My personal preference is the Shewman, a burger with peanut butter on it.
Now, before you go all E-W-W-W-W!! on me, you need to try it. This isn’t that sweetened crap that choosy moms choose. This is more like a peanut butter you would get on Asian food. It’s quite awesome, and the burger that keeps me coming back.
4. Working Man’s Friend – Near West Side
You might drive past this place thinking it’s your ordinary, run-of-the-mill neighborhood diner. And it may be. But it has some of the best hamburgers in the city. These are flat, crispy hamburgers like you might find at a national chain whose headquarters are here in Indianapolis. (Steak and Shake, alright! I’m talking about Steak and Shake! How much more subtle can I be?!) Be sure to order a double cheeseburger, because the patties are kind of flat. But if you like. . . the other guys’ burger (really? We’re still doing that?), you’ll like Working Man’s Friend. But get there early in the month, because experts tell me they head out of town in May, because they don’t need the money, and they get tired of the crowds.
5. Bru Burger – Mass Ave.
This is the only burger I haven’t tried personally, but everyone I talk to raves about it. Not just “meh, it’s pretty good.” They are passionate about Bru. And there are a lot of different fancy, bistro-style burgers available — garlic three cheese burger, lamb burger, and the Provençal, which has basil aioli, red onion jam, herbed goat cheese, and sauteéd mushrooms.
6. Bub’s Burgers – Carmel
Okay, I threw in an extra one. Bub’s Burgers in Carmel, which is straight north of the city (take US 31 North to Carmel, hang a right on Main Street, and drive right into downtown Carmel). They make some excellent burgers, and they even have an elk burger for the slightly healthier crowd. Also, their burgers come in 1/4, 1/2, and 1 pound weights, after they’ve been cooked. Other burger places brag about their quarter pound or half pound burger, but that’s the pre-cooked weight. They lose a few ounces during cooking. At Bub’s, the weight they tell you is the weight they give you. Oh, and if you eat a one pounder — the Big Ugly — they’ll take your picture and put it on the wall.
I wanted to mention Chef JJ’s on the list, but they’re only open for reservations. However, if they were a regular restaurant, I would have gladly added them. One of my most heavenly burger experiences happened at a special Chef JJ’s burger flight tasting, and it’s never been recreated. If you happen to work for one of those big fancy race car teams or their sponsors, I highly recommend you hold your next sponsor party at Chef JJ’s.
So did I miss anyone? Anyone you would disagree with? Who are your picks for the best burger in Indianapolis? Leave a comment and let me know if there’s anyone else I need to try.