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History's most influential burgers? Really?

Posted by: Rick Nelson under Restaurant news Updated: January 15, 2014 - 3:34 PM

Time magazine, taking a breather from examining the Syrian situation and other similarly weighty subjects, has tapped an unidentified number of experts to scour the nation to determine the most influential examples -- on both diners, and the industry at large -- of the all-American burger. Seventeen turned out to be the magic number.

At No. 10 is Minneapolis' own Jucy Lucy (the Matt's Bar version, pictured above, in a Star Tribune file photo). "Although this twist on the cheeseburger—in which the cheese is melted inside the patty—was reportedly invented in the 1920s, when chefs were still experimenting with the burger, it gained national attention in 2008, thanks to a feud between two Minneapolis bars that both claim to have “invented” it," says the story. "Since then, there have been numerous imitators, proving that a little innovation and a dash of hype is all it takes to reinvigorate enthusiasm for a classic."

As for the No. 1 placeholder, it's not the straight-up McDonald's hamburger (No. 2) or the Burger King Whopper (No. 5), but the  White Castle slider, "the first burger to spawn a fast-food empire," notes Time. The company may have started in Witchita, Kan., but it flourished in the 1920s and 1930s in the Twin Cities (pictured, above, on Washington Av. SE. between Walnut and Harvard Streets, near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, in a 1929 photo, courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society). And here ends the desperate-to-find-a-local-connection portion of our blog post.

Although I never thought I'd enter into a discussion regarding the landmarks of the burger pantheon, I would argue that while many on Time's list seem tailored to the exercise (2009's Umami Burger, for example, which hit No. 14 on the countdown), a significant percentage don't exactly possess the maturity (or, dare I say, gravitas) to have earned the "most influential burgers of all time" mantle.

At No. 9, the Lab-Grown Burger is certainly a talker, but at this point, the repercussions of this 2013 invention (the beef comes from lab-nurtured cow stems cells) are purely theoretical, as it is not available commercially. 

The Ramen Burger (No. 12) skyrocketed to attention about 20 minutes ago, a few seconds behind the Cronut, placing its fate in the history books in limbo. Chicago's Ghost Burger (No. 16) debuted in October, so it might be prudent to wait a while to determine if a burger topped with a non-consecreated Communion wafer is going to develop culinary legs. Ditto the "Simpson's"-inspired Crusty Burger (No. 17), which was first served in 2013 at a Florida theme park.

Instead, I would argue that the Culver's Butter Burger belongs on this list. Or that the A&W family of burgers -- the Papa Burger, Mama Burger, Teen Burger and Baby Burger -- might have potential.

What belongs, or doesn't belong, on this list? Use the comments section below to chime in.

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