Burgers so beefy, they can't be rushed

Skip the drive-thru. The best burgers, those receiving a happy helping of TLC, are arguably found at sit-down restaurants. A few mustard and ketchup stains later, we have a list of five mighty meaty options.

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KIRKWOOD

Ann's Snack Bar

Since 1972, back when this once crime-ridden area was dubbed "Little Vietnam," Ann Price has been hand-shaping the massive patties found in her Ghetto Burger. Last year, the famous meal in a bun was called "the best burger in the country" by The Wall Street Journal. Regulars from the neighborhood begin lining up before Ann's opens, burger lovers drive across town for the experience, and tourists often drop in to see what's the fuss. The burger starts with two ground beef patties. We guess they're about a half-pound each. (Price says she doesn't know the weight, she just does it by "feel.") She tops them with bacon, chili, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup. It all comes stacked between a toasted bun. The counterpart is the Hood Burger, which features slaw instead of lettuce. Both are messy, indulgent and all-out glorious. But don't be in a hurry. This is Ann's world, and we just eat in it.

• 1615 Memorial Drive, Atlanta. 404-687-9207. • Map it and review it

REYNOLDSTOWN

The Depot

The former home of the long-defunct Atlanta & West Point Railroad freight depot comes back to life courtesy of Nightcap Food and Spirits, the minds behind Vickery's, Highland Tap and Fontaine's. A recent menu tweak found its over-the-top Train Wreck burger put out to pasture. But the Cow Catcher steals its glory. This bison burger gets a load of cheddar cheese, guacamole and some zingy house barbecue sauce. "Our chef John Wells is great about balancing ingredients," says waitress, bartender and trainer Kitty Deal. Although guacamole and barbecue sauce may sound like strange burger buddies, Deal says the guac cools down the spice found in the sauce and results in "fantastic flavor." She suggests really hungry diners might want to pair the burger with the Streamliner, a grilled foot-long hot dog packing onions, kraut and chili.

• 904 Memorial Drive, Atlanta. 404-577-1904. • Map it and review it

VIRGINIA-HIGHLAND

Atkins Park

For the past 25 years, Atkins Park has been serving the Bruno Burger. It sports Black Angus beef and a sautéed veggie bling consisting of mushrooms and onions. It's named after Warren Bruno, who gained ownership of Atkins Park in 1983. (It's now owned by the Bruno family and friend Kevin Drawe.) But the burger itself began in 1975 at the long-gone Aunt Charley's, Bruno's first restaurant. A big fan of 'shrooms and onions, Bruno would sauté the veggies with a stick of butter and a cup of sherry. The addition of provolone cheese is a nod to his Italian heritage. "The burger is just a staple of the neighborhood," says manager and bartender Crystal Brooks. "And it's never frozen." This Atkins Park location holds the title of the longest continuously licensed tavern in Atlanta. It began as a deli in 1922.

• 794 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. 404-876-7249, www.atkinspark.comMap it and review it

MIDTOWN

Gordon Biersch

This brew pub with its shimmering metal vat looming above the sidewalk strives for cut-above bar grub. On the menu, it stresses its burgers are made of steak — USDA choice beef, in fact. The basic cheeseburger comes with cheddar, lettuce and tomato served on a challah bun. Other burger options include the Märzen Barbecue Burger, which piles high smoked bacon, cheddar and the restaurant's own barbecue sauce. The sauce is made with Gordon Biersch's house Märzen brew, an auburn-colored lager. Then there's the Mushroom Swiss Burger with sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese. All of the burgers come with garlic fries on the side.

• 848 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 404-870-0805, www.gordonbiersch.comMap it and review it

BUCKHEAD

Morton's The Steakhouse

Sure, it's an upscale steak joint. But the Buckhead location of Morton's isn't above serving a plate of tiny burgers at the bar. Each of the USDA prime-aged beef burgers get a stacking of cheddar cheese, tomato, lettuce and onion. According to Morton's, the beef has a combined weight of more than a half-pound. Ketchup and mustard come on the side. This appetizer typically runs $10. But order it between 5-6:30 p.m. and 9:30-11 p.m. weekdays, and it's $5.

• 3379 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta. 404-816-6535, www.mortons.comMap it and review it

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