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Twelve to Try: Nashville’s Best Burgers

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Twelve to Try: Nashville’s Best Burgers
Emmy Squared; Photo Courtesy of Emily Bolles

It’s “summertime, summertime, sum, sum, summertime” and that means it’s prime burger season. Sure, you can get all hot and sweaty carbonizing some ground beef patties on the grill in your backyard, but why not treat yo’self and let somebody else do the cooking at one of these fine burger emporiums around Nashville?

There’s nothing fancy about Gabby’s, a tiny little burger joint on the edge of the burgeoning Wedgewood/Houston neighborhood. They’re only open for lunch except for dinner service on Fridays, but they get plenty of business thanks to some of the best burgers in town. Rolled into loose balls and smashed onto a hot flat top grill, the cooks at Gabby’s cook up the perfect combination of juicy burgers with just the right amount of crisp and savory exteriors. Their signature Gabby Burger is two grass-fed beef patties with oozy American cheese, but if that’s too much for you, opt for his little brother, The Seamus. 

Bare Bones Butcher; Photo courtesy of Maddie Teren Adams
Bare Bones Butcher; Photo courtesy of Maddie Teren Adams

Bare Bones Butcher is a whole-animal butcher shop in the Nations that provides high-quality meat to the neighborhood, but they keep just a little bit of the best of their beef to themselves. A tiny bar in the corner of the shop serves up craft beers and short menu of dishes made using their meats. Their double patty cheeseburger benefits from their grass-fed, grain-finished beef topped with American cheese and pickles they make in house. Plus you can take an extra pound of ground home with you.

Brown’s Diner serves Nashville’s most beloved prototypical diner burger. The delightfully ramshackle joint was originally built in an old trolley before they added a small dining room expansion, and it still boasts the city’s oldest beer license. Their cheeseburger comes hot off the ancient grilled topped with mayo, lettuce, tomato, pickles and raw onions for an extra little bite. Just remember to take out the toothpick before you take a bite or you’re in for a painful surprise.

Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint; Photo Courtesy of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint
Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint; Photo Courtesy of Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint

People often skip over the burger at Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint in favor of their legendary smoked meats, but do so at your own peril. Don’t miss out on their outrageous brisket burger, a ⅓ lb. ground beef patty with melted American cheese, grilled onions topped with smoked brisket and Martin’s signature Sweet Dixie sauce. You can just order some ribs to go for later if you must.

Dinos Restaurant; Photo credit: Andrea Behrends
Dinos Restaurant; Photo credit: Andrea Behrends

Sometimes you just need a greasy burger in a dive bar, and Dino’s Bar in East Nashville is there for you. This classic hangover helper comes with all the traditional toppings of lettuce, tomato, pickles,onions and cheddar cheese. If you feel the need to get all fancy, you can add bacon, avocado, grilled onions or a fried egg to tart up your order a little bit.

PM Nashville; Photo Courtesy of PM Nashville
PM Nashville; Photo Courtesy of PM Nashville

PM on Belmont Boulevard strives to offer a little bit of something for everyone with a menu that ranges from sushi to Thai fusion food to their neighborhood stalwart, the Char Grilled Burger. Served on a kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato and onions, this burger benefits from a sweet and savory sweet chili teriyaki glaze that puts it over the top. Order one with a side of sweet potato fries for a real deal of a meal.

When Sean Brock was the executive chef at Husk, he filled notebook after notebook with his research into creating the perfect cheeseburger. He may just have hit it on the nose with the acclaimed Husk Burger, named one of the best burgers in the nation by multiple publications and websites. It’s really just an elevated version of a Big Mac, but with each ingredient elevated to the extreme thanks to special care in the kitchen. From custom ground beef patties sourced from local Bear Creek Farm to their version of special sauce that includes God-knows-what, it’s an explosion of flavor that is perfectly complemented by a side of crispy potato wedges. 

Emmy Squared; Photo Courtesy of Emily Bolles
Emmy Squared; Photo Courtesy of Emily Bolles

A burger at a pizza joint? Yep, that’s the ticket at Emmy Squared, the upscale pizzeria specializing in Detroit-style pies. It’s not like Nashville was begging for a cheeseburger that clocks in at almost twenty bucks, but when “The Big Matt” (named after Emmy Squared founder Matt Hyland) hit the menu, we were convinced. Featuring a double-stack of Bear Creek Farms grass fed beef patties plus American cheese, greens, pickles, Sammy Sauce and a side of waffle fries, it’s worth the fare to take this trip!

M.L. Rose; Photo Courtesy of Alex Bodenheimer | A.Ray Hospitality
M.L.Rose; Photo Courtesy of Alex Bodenheimer | A.Ray Hospitality

M.L.Rose Craft Beer & Burgers pretty much puts it out their with the name of their restaurant. In addition to a lovely curated selection of local and regional craft brews, M.L.Rose offers some of the city’s best burger options. A person favorite is their Nash Vegas Burger, a perfectly-grilled patty served on a sweet potato bun topped with gooey melted pimento cheese, crispy tobacco onions to provide some crunch and a tangy barbecue sauce. Enjoy it with a pint of local beer for a true Nashville experience.

Hugh-Baby’s; Photo Courtesy of Hugh-Baby’s
Hugh-Baby’s; Photo Courtesy of Hugh-Baby’s

Hugh-Baby’s is a spin-off of Martin’s Bar-B-Que, and one of the more novel items on their tight menu is a memory of founder Par Martin’s youth in West Tennessee and Mississippi. Only available on Fridays, their Slug Burger is a regional classic from the days when poor residents of Northeast Mississippi recovering from the Great Depression sought to stretch out their meager meat supply with a mixture of ground beef, pork  and soy meal. The name comes from the fact that you used to be able to buy them for a “slug,” slang for a nickel, and they’re the kind of food item you bought by the sackful. Hugh Baby’s version of the Slug Burger is made from ground pork and soy meal deep-fried and served with pickles, chopped raw onions and mustard, the way God intended. It’s an addictive crunchy treat, so you might still want to buy a bag of them for a taste of Mississippi history.

The Impossible Burger has been getting a lot of press lately. Made from plant proteins and oils that give it a flavor and mouthfeel remarkably close to beef, the minds behind this innovative product are seeking to change the way the world eats. If you want to try one out for yourself, Hopdoddy was the first restaurant in Nashville to serve The Impossible Burger, and their version is still the best in town.

When M.L.Rose first opened, there was some confusion among locals when someone suggested meeting up at “The Melrose,” since Melrose Billiard Parlor was already a neighborhood institution. ML Rose owner Austin Ray fixed that by just buying the pool hall and fixing it up just a little bit so that you can’t really lose visiting either location. Melrose Billiard Parlor’s Double Cheeseburger is one of the best bargains in town, with a traditional double patty topped with American cheese, mayo, mustard, ketchup, onions and pickles wrapped old school-style in aluminum foil and served with a side of fried for under seven bucks. That should save you enough money to shoot a couple games of pool.