Burger Kings: Classic

1. the 'pops' double

It doesn't get any more authentic than this. After brothers Frank and Charles Menches ran out of pork for their sandwiches at the 1885 Erie County Fair, they substituted beef for the meat and the hamburger was born. Today the chefs still use the same recipe, mixing half a cup of brown sugar and 60 ounces of cold coffee into every 20 pounds of ground beef. For a paired-down classic, try the "Pops" Double ($9.99), a hand-rolled double cheeseburger that barely fits on the bun. "You don't taste the coffee, and the caffeine is pretty much cooked out," says Linda Aleman, owner of the Uniontown location. "But the meat is smoother, softer, and the texture is better." 3700 Massillon Road, Uniontown, 330-896-2288; 235 Lincoln Way W., Massillon, 330-832-6200, menchesbros.net

2. Academy Burger

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's the mentality at Academy Tavern, where the old school Academy Burger ($9.50) has been a menu staple since the restaurant opened in 1939. Order one up for a plate full of childhood memories — it tastes just like the ones dad used to grill out back. A broiled Angus beef patty comes with a grilled bun, mayo, melted American or Swiss cheese and all the usual toppings on the side: lettuce, tomato and sliced white onions. "It's like revisting the past," says owner Thelma Halmas. "Nostalgia is defintely an ingredient in this burger." 12800 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, 216-229-1171

3. Galley Boy

The two special sauces that come on Swenson's Drive In Restaurant's Galley Boy ($3.05) are so secretive and yet so addictive that we've had to eat countless burgers to decipher what's in them. Our best guess is the red sauce uses sweet onions for a Southern-style barbecue flavor, while the white sauce comes close to the taste of a creamy tartar sauce. With beef that's ground in-house and a flaky bun that's baked daily, we'll happily continue to speculate. "When everything is as fresh as we prepare it, it's hard to go wrong with any combination of sauces," says manager Jeff Flowers. Various locations, swensonsdriveins.com

4. The Little Burger

The charmingly hidden Johnny's Little Bar may be off the Warehouse District's beaten path, but the Little Burger ($8) demands a slight detour. The chargrilled, half-pounder may appear unassuming just dressed with lettuce, tomato and onion. The taste, however, indicates a much loftier pedigree. Little Bar employs a trickle-down effect using Blue Ribbon steak scraps from its swanky big bro, Johnny's Downtown. "You get that good rib-eye fat in there," says chef Chris Truden. "That's where all the flavor comes from." 614 Frankfort Ave., Cleveland, 216-861-2166, johnnyscleveland.com

5. Double cheeseburger

Burgers as thick as doughnuts cooked to order on fancy grills have their place. But it's not at Midway Oh Boy in Elyria. Here, it all starts on the griddle, where 30 quarter-pound patties are cooked at a time before they're topped with the Oh Boy secret sauce that has captured the taste buds of locals. Though Midway Oh Boy owner David Disbrow won't tell us what's in the mayonnaise-based sauce, he does say it got its name 60 years ago when the original owner served it to her husband, who took a bite and declared, you guessed it, "Oh, boy!" 6620 Lake Ave., Elyria, 440-324-3711, midwayohboy.com

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