The Top 5

This post was originally posted at WRAL Out and About.

The Straight Beef is pleased to announce its Top 5 Triangle-area burgers so far (well, 6, actually—there was a tie for 5th), including excerpts from each review.

Each burger is rated on a scale of 1 to 5; an asterisk denotes a tie.

5. JOHNSON’S (Siler City) Average score: 4.50*

“Do yourself a favor, my friends. Go to Johnson’s soon. Get there early. Get that classic, humble, beautiful, delicious, American, quintessential cheeseburger and wash it down with a Pepsi. Savor the melted Velveeta. Then drive among the pastures and fields along Highway 64. Get yourself one of these 4.5s and live the American dream. I implore you.” (John)

5. BARRY’S CAFÉ (Raleigh) Average score: 4.50*

“Barry’s continues to get it right, with very nice American cheese, very fresh veggies, the very build order required, a very nice and traditional bun, and very nice attention to proportions and assembly to bring all of the very nice flavors together….This is a very, very, VERY good burger, people. Which is why I am resisting any urge to replace the word ‘very’ with ‘Barry,’ which would have been juvenile.” (John)

4. DRAFT (Raleigh) Average score: 4.58

A haiku: The Blazin’ Asian / Draft approaches perfection / Rating four point five (Michael)

3. BUNS (Chapel Hill) Average score: 4.67

“I suspected that the burger would be good, just not this good. Every bite of the exquisite Buns burger was a Dionysian commingling of flavors and juices that rang bells of delight through the hallowed annals of burgiatry, elevating me to a level of burgiatric pleasure seldom imagined. It was, simply, a celebration of life.” (Scott)

2. MOJOE’S (Raleigh) Average score: 4.83

“Wow. Yum. Man, that’s a good burger. Wow. Is this burger amazing, or is it just me? Yum num num. [Sigh.] Whew. Man, there’s just not a lot wrong with this burger. Yum num num. Yum num num num num. This has got to be a five. I mean, if this isn’t a great burger, what is? Yum.” (Scott)

1. CHUCK’S (Raleigh) Average score: 5.00

“Seekers on the path to enlightenment must pursue the Four Noble Truths. It can be very time-consuming. I suggest that those in search of enlightenment simply visit Chuck’s, where four other, easier, noble truths are posted on the menu: (1) half-pound 100% chuck, (2) house ground, (3) flat-top seared, (4) on a potato roll….This burger led this burgiatrist to true enlightenment.” (Michael)

Review #7: Johnson’s (Siler City)

  • Joint: Johnson’s
  • Burger: Cheeseburger
  • Burger Category: Classic Rocks

Scott’s Review

This review is a tale of two photographs. The first is of Michael’s daughter Chloe (right), who famously eats nothing but waffles and bacon. Check out this photo. See the delight. See the intensity. See the unbridled joy. This photo embodies the burger greatness of Johnson’s Restaurant in Siler City.


It’s quite possible, I thought upon witnessing Chloe’s culinary epiphany, that her brain will forever associate the highest echelon of pure food enjoyment with that burger. If so, I can’t blame her. I might be a few years older, but my experience was not dissimilar.


Which brings us to the second photograph (below), of my daughter, Eve,also undergoing a transformative experience: the first time she witnessed her father devolve into a brainless, burger-ravishing lunatic. Her eyes tell the whole story, a story she will recount for a therapist thirty years hence.


I refused to settle on a rating until the next day. It was between a 4.5 and a 5, that much I knew, but the decision was too important not to sleep on it, to let it sizzle on the juicy flatgrill of memory.


In the end, I’m going with a 4.5, but only because I didn’t love the slab of Velveeta as much as I loved the other components, and for me it thwarted the burger’s otherwise sterling pursuit of brilliance.

But man, what a great burger.

Michael’s Review

Johnson’s Restaurant in Siler City might represent the farthest The Straight Beef will travel for an official review. So why travel so far? Well, its reputation is legendary. Because the beef is delivered fresh and the place closes when it runs out, we decided to head out early with our families and get there when it opened at 10 a.m. We arrived at 9:55, with already about ten people ahead of us, waiting patiently by the door. We crammed into the last available booth.

The menu was simple: hamburger, cheeseburger, grilled cheese, hot dog, and a lettuce and tomato sandwich. I ordered a cheeseburger with the works, which included slaw, chili, and onions. The order of the build saw the toppings hiding beneath the patty, and a hunk of Velveeta melted on top. The patty clearly was made immediately before being fried on the griddle. It was medium to medium-well. The bun was tremendous, cooked on the griddle with the meat. The kicker was that it was buttered. A very nice touch.

The flavor of the beef was perfect. The toppings were just enough to give it a little zip without being overpowering. Unfortunately, the over-processed aftertaste of the Velveeta kept it from being the perfect cheeseburger.

It was excellent. I’m giving it a 4.5.

John’s Review

Burgiatrists sometimes disagree. It’s a fact. And while the diversity of professional analyses and conclusions serves only to elevate our collective value to the burger-loving world, sometimes a single burgiatrist is so moved by salient truth that he must risk offending his respected colleagues by most vehemently—and publicly—disagreeing. He must do so for the good of humankind (at least the portion that lives for a good cheeseburger), and you fail to lend credence to this lone wolf burgiatrist at your own peril.

At this moment, I am compelled to be that lone wolf, and to howl at the moon until you disregard the derogatory comments my TSB peers have issued regarding the use of Velveeta on the Johnson’s burger. Listen to reason now…This is a hand-pattied hunk of the freshest ground chuck (not prissy Kobe beef), and its high-fat (70/30 at a minimum) flavor is trapped within the ultimately juicy patty by frying it fast on a sizzling hot and time-seasoned flat grill, leaving just the right amount of crispy, flavorful char on its outermost layer.

What do you put on a patty like that? Vermont cheddar? Goat cheese? No! You put classic American cheese on it, whether pulled from a thin fold of cellophane or hacked off a big block the size, shape, and weight of a good brick! This is no Snooty Beauty. On the contrary, this is perhaps the most classic of the Classic Rocks genus! An American cheeseburger at its most fresh and pure, with school-bus-yellow, artery-clogging cheese all gooey over the patty, intermingling with the fatty grease, and so perfectly pressed between two steamy and greasy white bread buns. (A tear now…please bear with me a moment. There. I’m okay now. My apologies.)

Do yourself a favor, my friends. Go to Johnson’s soon. Get there early. Get that classic, humble, beautiful, delicious, American, quintessential cheeseburger and wash it down with a Pepsi. Savor the melted Velveeta. Then drive back to the Triangle among the pastures and fields along Highway 64. Get yourself one of these 4.5s and live the American dream. I implore you.

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