Arkansas angler and fishing expert Billy Murray shares his extensive knowledge of the Diamond Lakes of Arkansas
Central Arkansas loves its burger joints. Whether the patty is smashed, hand-formed or rounded; char-grilled or griddle-fried; whether the buns are seeded or split-topped or buttered and toasted, there's a burger for every preference.
Arkansas Burger Co. The Rock ($6.50 with a bag of chips) is the burger to order here. It's two hand-formed patties with a nice light burger crust, flavored with a little salt, pepper and burger seasoning, split by a slice of cheese. The sesame-seed bun is buttered and toasted. You'll need two hands and a big mouth and appetite. 7410 Cantrell Road. 663-0600. CC. Beer and wine. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Buffalo Grill Try the cheeseburger ($6.29 with potato chips). The lightly charred, hand-formed patty is seasoned with salt and pepper and served on a toasted sesame-seed bun. You'll never be able to eat all the chips. 1611 Rebsamen Park Road. 296-9535. 400 N. Bowman Road. 224-0012. CC. Full bar. 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Capital Bar and Grill This could easily be the best burger in the state. Fresh chopped Creekstone beef, a house-made bun and pickles highlight the expert care put into assembling Capital burger ($9 with Parmesan fries). It's usually cooked just right, too. Add pimento cheese for a real treat. 111 W. Markham. 374-7474. CC. Full bar. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.
Cotham's in the City While the Hubcap Burger has achieved a certain level of fame, the regular cheeseburger ($7.29 with fries) is probably a more reasonable choice. Half the size of the hubcab, the griddle-charred beauty comes with melted-on cheese, purple onion, iceberg shreds, tomato and pickles under a seedless bun. The excellent house seasoning is available for sale. 1401 W. Third St. 370-9177. CC. No alcohol. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
EJ's Eats and Drinks A bright, paprika-seasoned, smashed, half-pound patty is the basis for the EJ's Burger ($6.50 with homemade chips). It and every other burger on the menu come with cheese, and the default condiment is mayonnaise on a split top bun. Green leaf lettuce, tomato slices and paper-thin ringlets of purple onion provide the freshness. The house potato chips are outstanding, especially the BBQ chips. 523 Center St. 666-3700. CC. Beer and wine. 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.
Frontier Diner The World Famous ½ Pound Cheeseburger ($4.99 with chips) is Central Arkansas’s workingman burger — a half pound of tightly packed, heavily griddle-charred beef on a seedless, barely toasted white bun with green leaf lettuce, flat pickles and a lot of white onion. You’ll want some of the paper towels on the table. 10424 Interstate 30 (westbound access road). 565-6414. CC. No alcohol. 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 6 a.m.-1 p.m. Sat.
Frostop Go for the Big Daddy ($7.95, $10.95 combo with fries and drink) here. Served on a seeded, specially made eight-inch bun, buttered on the inside, the smashed burger is Greek-seasoned, likely by Cavender's, and big enough that they probably flip it with a spatula the size of a tennis racket. Pickles and mayo on the bottom give the burger a distinctive flavor, and there's a generous amount of cheese melted on top of the patty. Iceberg lettuce, a full layer of tomato slices and onion ringlets fill it out. 4517 JFK Blvd., NLR. 758-4535. CC. No alcohol. 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat., noon-6 p.m. Sun.
The House Any burger touting itself as "great" needs to live up to the name. Fortunately, The House's signature burger ($9.50 with side item) does just that, with a tight-packed lean Wynn Farms beef patty served with a special house mayo on a Boulevard Bread Company bun with fresh lettuce, tomato, sweet red onion and pickles. 722 North Palm. 663-4500. CC. Beer and wine. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Thu., 11 a.m.-midnight Fri., 10 a.m.-midnight Sat., 10 a.m.- 11 p.m. Sun.
Hunka Pie Though the Bombay Burger with its deep garam masala flavors charms and the Asian Turkey Burger with its cashews and slaw intrigues, the real winner here is the Worchestershire-and-onion flavored traditional Hunka burger ($4.50 with chips) that owner (and often sole operator) Chris Monroe expertly serves up from the griddle. The bonus is the particularly buttery signature buns from Boulevard Bread Company, which give the juicy, thick, smashed burgers an amazing flavor. The Whole Shebang ($9) gets you a burger, fries, drink and a slice from the marvelous, ever-changing pie selection. 7706 Cantrell Road. 224-1104. No CC. No alcohol. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Jerry B’s Bar & Grill The Fiesta Burger ($6.50 with fries) could easily be called a Kitchen Sink burger. It includes all sorts of things most burgers don’t. The patty is barely seasoned, but put combined with white cheddar, grilled onions and red and yellow bell peppers, avocado slices, adisc of purple onion, crunchy Vlassic style hamburger dills, tomato and green leaf lettuce and you’ve got something special. 27 Rahling Road. 821-1814. CC. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. daily (switches to Gaucho’s at 4 p.m.).
Lulav Not content to settle with one or two house burgers, Lulav Modern Eatery has 15 (!) different ground steak sliders ($2.75 each with a side), meant to be ordered en masse for a table's worth to try. Two are more than filling. Among the favorites, the Santa Fe with roasted red bell peppers, jack cheese and chipotle mayo; the Monte Carlo with lump crabmeat and pina chile sauce, and the El Greco with olives, figs and Feta. 220 West 6th. 374-5100. Full bar. CC. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri.,. 5 p.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Markham Street Grill & Pub While Markham Street’s regular burger is a doozy, we recommend the Black and Blue ($7.95 with chips). It takes it to the next level with not just blue cheese but a blue cheese dressing to boot. The hand-formed, heavily charred patty is hardly spiced at all but it doesn’t need to be with the tart and salty layers of blue cheese. An onion ring on top gives a little added texture and sweetness. Not for the light of tongue. 11321 West Markham. 224-2010. CC. Full bar. 11 a.m. -2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.
Midtown Billiards Brave the smoke and strangeness for one of Arkansas' best burgers ($6). The atmosphere may be questionable at times but the griddle is spotless and the cumin-laden burger patties are drool-worthy. The seedless is buttered heavily and Romaine lettuce pieces, tomato, hamburger dills and white onion ringlets come standard. Don't get fancy, just order yours with everything and pick off what you don't want. Side items are truly superfluous. 1316 Main St. 372-9990. CC. Full bar. 3 p.m.-5 a.m. daily.
Pig 'N-Chik BBQ This barbecue joint's char grilled half-pounder ($5.75) has a smoky flavor to it not found at any of these other places. Unlike most places, the iceberg lettuce shreds, paper-thin tomato slices, onions and pickles all go on the bottom. After you take a bite, try some with the house spicy sauce, a cayenne and honey based barbecue sauce with plenty of sweetness. 7824 Highway 107, Sherwood. 834-5456. CC. Beer. 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Sat.
Purple Cow The griddle-fried patties at Purple Cow are substantial enough to satisfy the burger-and-a-shake craving. Green iceberg lettuce, tomato, purple onion and hamburger dill pickles are served on the side and the bun is seedless and dry toasted. 8026 Cantrell Road. 221-3555. 11602 Chenal Parkway. 224-4433. Full bar. CC.11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat.
Starlite Diner The Original ($5.25 with fries, $6.25 with cheese) is a classic diner burger, a splendidly formed slightly onion-y patty served up on a heavily seeded dry toasted bun. We can almost forgive the individually wrapped American cheese slice thanks to the delicious crusty patty. Green leaf lettuce, ridged dills, white onions and tomatoes come on the side, as do condiments that arrive at the table in bottles. 250 East Military Drive (North Little Rock). 353-0465. CC. No alcohol. 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 6 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sun.
Town Pump One of the best-conceived burgers in Little Rock, the thick Pump Burger ($5.95 with homemade chips) is a cooked-to-order (and usually a little rare) patty that's served on a seedless bun coated in Swiss and Cheddar cheeses and a generous handful of black olives. For best effect, ignore the onion ringlets, romaine lettuce and pickles and enjoy the Remoulade-style sauce on the other side of the bun. 1321 Rebsamen Park Road. 663-9802. CC. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat., 11 a.m.-midnight Sun.
Zack’s Place Here they specialize in a pub burger in its truest form — a half pound of thick meat slowly cooked to perfection with an rich brown crust formed around it. Green leaf lettuce, tomato, purple onions and hamburger dills come on the side, and mayo and mustard come standard. Smoking allowed. 1400 South University. 664-6444. CC. Full bar. 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Sat.