THE BURGER. Does any other dish better embody the “greater than the sum of its parts” principle? Sure, that grilled ground beef is OK on its own, but it’s nothing earthshaking. Ditto for the cheese, the lettuce, the tomato, the onion, the bun and the condiments.

So what animates our burger lust? Balance. Great burgers possess a meaty heft, with the primal appeal of beef cooked over fire, but they’re also layered and complex, with textural counterpoints that come from the lettuce and onions and a sweet note sung by the ripe tomato. A toasted bun adds nuttiness. A smear of mayo rounds it all out.

There’s magic in that mix, a whirl of sensations powerful enough to jolt you back to Proustian memories. That first date, when you nuzzled noses over cheap, fresh-from-the-flattop patties at the local dive. That backyard barbecue, when you manned the grill and clinked beer necks while the kids zoomed down the Slip ’n Slide. That camping trip, when the meat was a little burnt, a little dry, but could not have tasted better.

This list—our first-ever ranking of the region’s greatest hamburgers—is a tribute to an American icon.

In This Feature:

The Best Burgers in Sarasota-Manatee

From brilliant mash-ups to simple classics, these are the 12 best burgers you can get your hands on right now.

06/27/2017 By Cooper Levey-Baker

The French Fry Hall of Fame

Almost any fry is a good fry. But these are all-time greats.

06/27/2017 By Megan McDonald

Here's the Secret to Council's Bradenton Recreation's Famous Burgers

Owners and cooks come and go. The grill at Council’s Bradenton Recreation remains.

06/27/2017 By Cooper Levey-Baker

What Condiments Take a Good Burger Over the Top?

Four local chefs share their favorites.

06/27/2017 Photography by Pam Daniel

Burger Breakdown: Shakespeare's Famous Caramelized Onion and Brie Burger

Here's how Shakespeare's puts together its famous burger.

06/27/2017 By Emma Burke