Based on Rigorous Science
First of all, let me preface this by stating that we have thought long and hard about this. We’ve even done a little extra research to give you our top five favorite burgers in Downtown Savannah. We realize that the best burgers in Savannah is a pretty hotly contested topic, which is why this isn’t some sort of definitive ranking. This is just a list of our favorite places to get burgers, based on a variety of factors such as service, atmosphere, and, of course, the burgers. Also, we refined our boundary of burger tasting to North of Gaston. Again, this list is in no particular order, so don’t fret if your favorite place is near the bottom of the page.
We’ll start with a place that according to many Savannians has THE best burgers in Savannah: The Crystal Beer Parlor. Even though this place is nestled in its own little corner off of Jefferson Street, (it’s close to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and I-16), folks still manage to find it and keep it busy. On the weekend you can encounter a wait as long as 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of your party. The reason for this is a large food and beer menu. While the list of available beers is constantly changing (it’s updated daily), the food quality is excellent and consistent; and in Savannah, consistency matters. The burger selections offered run the gamut from the fancy-schmancy Au Poivre Burger to the Classic Crystal Burger. The Spicy Avocado Burger, the Greek Lamb Burger, and the N.O.G.S. (North of Gaston) are all delicious options, and if you’re not a red meat lover, I highly recommend the Fresh Salmon Burger. Any one of these comes with your choice of a side. The substantial house cut fries are considered one of the free sides. Onion rings are an up charge and worth the extra buck or two. You can sample any of the 26 beers on tap to decide which one will be accompany your burger of choice. For a beer and a burger that won’t break the bank — the burgers range from $9-$13 — this is ours and many other locals go-to spot.
In light of the sad news that Liberty Street Grill has closed its doors indefinitely, we have decided to amend our list of our favorite burgers available downtown. After our initial post about our favorite burgers, we had several friends and acquaintances tell us that we needed to give the burger at Collins Quarter a try.
The Collins Quarter boasts an “8 oz. Brisket Burger on a Brioche Bun” on their menu. The brisket is ground in house. No cookie-cutter perfect patties here. The rich beef flavor from using brisket is what gets the Collins Quarter burger on our list. Our burger, ordered medium rare, was slightly overcooked, but it was still juicy and flavorful thanks to the brisket. The house-made brioche bun was the perfect stage for the brisket. The burger comes topped with cheddar cheese and mustard aioli, and to be honest, Collins Quarter nailed it with these condiments. You don’t need anything else added to this burger. Accompanying the burger are a dijon slaw, which is absolutely lovely, and supposedly hand-cut fries. Now, something must have been lost in translation with our order. We definitely did not get the hand-cut fries. We are fairly certain we saw several orders arrive around us with the house cut fries but we received frozen shoestring fries. They were tasty but not what was expected. Perhaps we received different fries because the burger was split? Or because they were out due the the high demand of this delicious burger? Either way, we considered the lack of a heads up a bit of a slip up.
One of my favorite things about Collins Quarter is the labor that went into the transformation of this space from an unremarkable corner retail space into an inviting and nearly ethereal dining space is clearly evident. Even after several visits, it’s nearly impossible to not be impressed by the interior design and atmosphere. This is one of those places where if you do have to wait for your food, you don’t mind too much because you can’t stop admiring the craftsmanship surrounding you.
The Public Kitchen and Bar made our list for a couple of reasons: they have outdoor seating for top-notch people watching (the section along Liberty Street is for diners with dogs), and they have pretzel buns for their burgers. What they do not have, unfortunately, is a fryer, and I’m one of those masochistic people who believes that if you’re getting a burger then you might as well get the fries. Potato chips belong with sandwiches; the only time they are acceptable as a side for a burger is at a cook-out (i.e. “free food”). Another drawback is that the kitchen only cooks the burgers medium well, at least according to the website and the in-house menu. I’ve heard tales (and seen photos) that lend evidence to the contrary, so I suppose it’s worth asking on each visit, on the off chance you wind up with a chef who is willing to bend the rules. Otherwise, be prepared for medium well meat. Temperature confusion and potato chips aside, the Public is reasonably priced for both burgers and beverages, tasty, and the service and setting are both consistently pleasant.
The New Guy.
The Ordinary Pub opened on Broughton Street midsummer, and like most places in Savannah, has faced the daunting obstacle of obtaining a liquor license. But fret no more — as of Wednesday, September 2nd, they have their liquor license and are now serving beer, wine and liquor. The interior of The Ordinary also fills the void left by a lack of fries; it is brightly lit, full of varnished wood, stained glass, and white walls. The effect is less of Broughton Street basement and more of a cozy hideaway. And of course, the burger itself is also worth checking out, even without the enticements of booze and fries. The Bacon Pesto Burger is topped with a woven mat of bacon, pesto, mozzarella cheese and a fried green tomato. The bacon mat is genius — no more bacon sliding around and off your burger when you bite into it. Genius. This innovation makes up for the lack of fries offered on the menu. The available sides are unusual, but they are all made in house: sweets ‘n’ beets (sweet potato and beet chips), jalapeño and jicama slaw, and pickled veggies.
Circa 1875 is a French bistro and pub; while I’m sure that the bistro side is lovely, the pub is where we go to get one of our favorite burgers in town. Circa is unpretentious and cozy, even when it’s bustling with activity. The wine is delicious and reasonably priced (plenty of varieties for under $10 a glass), and the food is consistently satisfying. The 1875 Hamburger Au Poivre is a treat — just be sure to order the green peppercorn brandy mustard sauce on the side, and dip your burger into it. You can upgrade to truffle fries for a couple of extra bucks, and believe me, it’s worth it. Depending on your mood and your budget, you can also add, for a small charge, such tasty toppings as a poached egg, gruyere, sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese and for a truly sinful addition — fois. The burger is fine as is, but the toppings take it to the next level. This place is the closest to us, which gives it a slight edge, but even if we had to walk or bike a little further, the atmosphere and the consistent high quality of the food at Circa 1875 would still put it at the top of our list.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it — as I said earlier, this is by no means a definitive list of the best burgers in Savannah, and we didn’t use a set standard to judge all of the places that we’ve tried. Instead, we looked for what tasted good, sides offered, bun, price point and the atmosphere in which they were served. Simply put, we wanted to share our favorite places to enjoy one of our favorite foods. But don’t take our word for it — get out and try these places for yourself and see what you think. Decide which place has your favorite burger in Downtown Savannah.