So I’ve finally reached the moment of naming my choice of the best burgers of SWLA. I’ve been working on this for almost a year, and I’ve eaten enough hamburgers to last a lifetime, but that’s the sacrifice you make for your craft.
I’ve reviewed all the burgers on this list except one; it was too new. What I’ll do is share the input from the gentlemen who helped me make the final version of my list.
Now, I picked the Top 5 finalists. But I then took the judges who helped me to each location; they helped me put the Top 5 in order. We all had different views on what made a great burger, and the burgers on this list were all a different type of burger. But we all agreed hands-down on the No. 1 burger.
The judges were Stephen Almond, P.J. Wells and Barrett Smith. Here are the judges’ comments on the burgers that made the list of my Top 5 burgers:
No. 5. Nina P’s
Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger
Wells: I’m not a fan of bleu cheese, but I made an exception for Mario and have to admit I was impressed. The ingredients worked well together, and the bleu cheese wasn’t overpowering or pungent enough to take away from the other flavors. It ended up being a much better burger than I expected. It had arguably the best bun of the bunch.
Smith: I’m not a huge fan of bleu cheese, but I stepped outside the box and I’m glad I did. This burger was great; the bleu cheese wasn’t overpowering. The bun also made the burger stand out; it was fresh and had a hint of sweetness that complemented the bleu cheese nicely. Oh, I can’t forget about the bacon, which had a good smoky flavor.
Almond: The meat was well-seasoned, but a little overworked. The thick, chewy bacon suited the burger. The wheat sourdough bun had the right soft-to-toasted ratio. I liked the fact that the cook used bleu cheese dressing and crumbles. The sweet bun and salty bleu cheese went together perfectly, setting it apart from other bacon-bleu burgers I’ve had.
No. 4. The Country Club at The Golden Nugget
Often, if a cook piles too much stuff on a burger, a lot of the flavors end up getting lost and you just end up with a mess in your hands. But this burger doesn’t have that problem. The barbecue sauce is just the right amount to add to the flavors of the thick-cut bacon, fried onion rings, melted cheese and fresh jalapenos. You can taste all the ingredients. As Mario would say, “It’s the bomb.com.” The only problem the diner has with this burger is figuring out how to fit it in his mouth.
Smith: [This burger is] huge. The first thing I thought was, “double meat, double cheese, onion rings, barbecue sauce and a fresh-baked bun.” Can I say, ‘wow’? Betta bring ya appetite. Everything seemed to work well together. I could taste that the ground beef they used was fresh. Awesome burger.
Almond: [This burger had] double meat [which I’m not a fan of] and nice, thick bacon. The components were fresh and tasted homemade.
[It is a] two-handed burger.
No. 3 Loggerheads
Bacon Cheddar Jalapeno
Wells: I’ve had the Bacon Cheddar Jalapeno Burger more than any burger on this list. There are often problems with restaurants’ consistency; some days are better than others. But that’s not the case with this burger; it’s amazing every time. The fresh ingredients — thick bacon, grilled onions and jalapenos — all come together and make for an incredible burger that’s worth the drive to Loggerheads.
Smith: Can I say, “Spicy party in your mouth”? You could smell the fresh-grilled jalapenos. It was a nice added touch, because most burger joints use pickled jalapenos. The burger had the perfect amount of heat and flavor. The beef had a great flavor and was cooked perfectly. It was premium bacon. The aged cheddar just seemed to top off the whole thing.
Almond: The meat was nicely grilled. The burger had a great beef flavor. It was hardy sized. It had high-quality bacon and cheese. All the components meshed well.
No. 2 Cotten’s Downtown
Old-Fashioned with Caramelized Onions and Bacon
Wells: This cheeseburger doesn’t need all the over-the-top add-ons to make it a hit; just classic ingredients with grilled onions, which make for one of the best and cheapest burgers in Lake Charles. Thanks to Katie Cotton for keeping the old Mary Ann’s Café location going and taking the famous Cotten’s burger to another level. If you’re craving a simple, diner-style burger, definitely put this at the top of your list.
Smith: Old-fashioned burgers are hard to find, and I think I found one of the best in town. Simple is sometimes the best solution. But in this case, the added grilled onions were the game-changer. The Old Fashioned has a patty of the perfect size — not too big or small. It’s cooked on a flat top that’s probably 100 years old. It’s a great, great burger, with simple, fresh ingredients.
Almond: This one uses an old school bun, like the ones you had as a kid. The patty has a nice beef flavor. The onions had that flat top-grilled flavor; they were diced and I tasted them in every bite. The burger was like a blast back to childhood; it was reminiscent of ballpark burgers.
No. 1. Jack Daniel’s at L’Auberge
The Pimento Cheese Bacon Jam Burger
Wells: This is one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. The soft yet crispy bun; high-quality, perfectly cooked meat; and the combination of the salty, sweet and savory flavors make for an unbelievable burger that you don’t want to stop eating. I was a little leery of the pimento spread at first, but it’s not at all overpowering — it just blends in with all the other flavors; when mixed with the “bacon jam,” it creates a sauce that will leave you imagining all the other things that you’d love to eat it with.
Smith: A pimento and cheese with bacon burger — who would ever have thought? How can I describe what was going on in my mouth? I’m not a huge fan of pimento and cheese, but wow — with the “bacon jam” with big hunks of bacon and the prime ground beef cooked to perfection, it was for sure the bomb.com. It was just awesome. The bun was on point — soft and warm on the outside and grilled on the other side. It was a very nice touch. Little things like that made this burger stand out.
Almond: The bun was nice and soft on the outside and toasted enough on the inside to hold up to the condiments. The patty was cooked to a perfect medium and had a nice beef flavor. The pimento cheese had a nice southwestern spice flavor. The “bacon jam” had good, man-sized pieces of bacon. The pimento and “bacon jam” paired extremely well, creating a magic mixture of goodness that would be awesome on pretty much anything.
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The Pimento Cheese Bacon Jam Burger chef Lyle prepared was a flavor explosion. We all kept talking about how the components worked so well together. The judges were texting me the next morning, talking about how they wished they had one for breakfast.
We also kept talking about how good the pimento cheese “bacon jam” combo would work in many other applications.
I know my list won’t sit well with some people. That’s fine, because just because you’ve been a good burger doesn’t mean your burger will always be good. I think some of the places in town that have been known for great burgers have just gotten too comfortable, and the things that made them great have fallen by the wayside.
I’m fully aware that the quality of a restaurant’s product is in the hands of regular employees who may not care about the quality. That hurts the people who created the burger to begin with. But at the end of the day, it’s the owner’s or chef’s job to control that.
One of the burgers on this list lacked something because the owners weren’t there the night we went in. You could see the difference in quality. But because this burger had been eaten several times, and had been made under that direct supervision the previous times we ate it, the burger was able to hold its position.
So, chef Lyle Broussard is the heavyweight champion of my list of the best burgers around. Congrats, chef, from the burger crew.