Gone are the days when we only had Zip's and Quatman's as entries into the great burger debate. Both restaurants still have passionate, loyal followings.
But we have restaurants in every corner of the Tri-State that have excellent burgers — everything from farm-to-table patties with specialty toppings and hand-baked buns, to simple choices that go back to the classic burger roots.
Here are our picks for the best burgers in the Tri-State (no national chains allowed):
Best West and North
Flipdaddy's (Multiple Locations): Whether you want simple burger with the traditional toppings or a gut-buster like the Mac Daddy (which includes griddled mac and cheese), Flipdaddy's has it. It's friendly enough for kids to enjoy themselves, but mom and dad can get a local beer to go along with their burgers, too. Their Mason location (they have others in Mariemont and Newport) is a welcome respite along I-71.
Wildflower Cafe (Mason): Organic, locally-sourced beef? Check. Killer bun? Check. Your choice of cheese? You got it. A sublime burger choice? For sure. This burger has been at the top of local lists for years, and for good reason: shaved onion, smoked bacon and a pretzel bun make it one of the top in the city.
Price Hill Chili (Price Hill): How west side can you get? Though it has chili in its name, PHC's burger devotees are legion, and many loyalists come from across the city to get their fix. This is a simple burger: griddled patty, Kaiser roll and traditional toppings. It's the burger your grandpa used to eat, and it's a nice bit of (delicious) nostalgia every time you bite into one.
Best Central and East
Senate (Over-the-Rhine): For your money, this is the best burger in the city. Sure, everyone orders the hot dogs, but the burger is a simple stunner. It's simple with excellent ingredients: brioche bun, house-made pickles, cheddar cheese and onions. Delicious, a little haute, and goes great with truffle fries.
Terry's Turf Club (East End): This is the sandwich that changed the face of Cincinnati burgers. Terry's Turf Club showed us we could have toppings beyond the standard lettuce, onion, tomato, cheese and bacon, but still taste absolutely delicious. My favorite? Curry and goat cheese.
Arthur's (Hyde Park): Arthur's has one of the best burger deals in town, their Burger Madness on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. You get a choice of burgers (including turkey and black bean) with your choice of toppings, ranging from barbecue sauce to caramelized onions, to a variety of cheeses and fries for $7.99. The only request is that you limit yourself to six kinds of cheese. I think we can manage.
Best Northern Kentucky
Mad Mike's (Newport): Mad Mike's reasonably priced burgers are a standout in Newport. These guys give you choices. Plain burger? They've got it. Hand-pattied chicken? They can do that, too. Crazy themed burgers like the Greek-inspired gyro burger or the Hawaii Five-O (with pineapple, of course)? Got it. Grab a sack to-go (they have a walk-up window) or eat in the dining room.
Zola Pub and Grill (Covington): Zola's has the best burger special in Northern Kentucky: $6 for a burger with five toppings and a side on Wednesdays. The rest of the time, the restaurant serves its full burger menu — classic, Mo Town (with barbecue sauce and onions), a Creole burger and an excellent patty melt. It's a great stop after bar hopping in Mainstrasse.
Bouquet (Covington): Stephen Williams is proud of his local vendors, so his fine dining-worthy burger represents the region well: Butcher Bettie's beef, Sixteen Bricks bread, house-made pickles and mustard, all served with truffle fries. You might have come to Bouquet for a romantic dinner, but trust me, burgers can be romantic, too, especially if it's this one.