She curled her hair, spent an hour putting on makeup, chose to wear that dress you like so very much and wrapped herself in her most expensive perfume—the least you could do is take her out for a nice meal, despite how badly your belly is rumbling for a juicy cheeseburger. But you should realize that you can have your cheeseburger and eat it too, without settling for a place where her shoes will stick to the floor or there’s a high probability that a beer will be spilled on her by the drunken lout on the next bar stool.
Some of the best burgers in town can be found at places with white linen tablecloths and well-crafted cocktails, places where the server will bring you a new fork (likely not made of plastic) after you've dropped one on the floor. Not only will you be able to attack a decadent burger in the lap of luxury, but you’ll be able to do so without putting a hefty dent in your wallet. Besides, you’ll probably need to save all the money you can to cover the price of your date’s dish.
Although it’s actually a fairly casual restaurant, Toups’ Meatery in Mid-City is still an elegant yet extremely comfortable spot where you’ll fit in whether you’re dressed to the nines or slouching it in jeans and tennis shoes. But be forewarned: this is not a “burger joint.” Chef Isaac Toups has created a menu with everything from foie gras torchon and elaborate charcuterie boards to grilled quail and seared duck breast. So while your lunch date is doting on steamed mussels or raving about the confit chicken thighs, you can turn your attention to the totally awesome Toups’ Burger that features a juicy, hand-formed patty made from a perfect combination of ground beef and pork, topped with pickled squash slices, thick-cut smoky bacon, white cheddar and herb aioli and served on a buttery brioche bun (from Susan Spicer’s Wild Flour Breads). It’ll be difficult not to gobble down every last morsel on your plate, including the crispy, kettle-like potato chips. Just remember to swallow before you speak and wipe your mouth afterwards.
If you’re looking for something slightly shmancier (an amalgam of fancier and shmancy), cruise on over to La Petite Grocery on Magazine Street. Yes, Chef Justin Devillier has been nominated for a James Beard Award (twice) and has white linen tablecloths in his quaint, corner store–turned-bistro, but don’t doubt that you can also score an affordable, mouth-watering burger there. Dubbed the LPG Cheeseburger, this juicy ensemble features heady Gruyère cheese, house pickles, onion marmalade, peppery arugula, whole-grain mustard and aioli. Plus, this $16 beauty is served with Chef Devillier’s stellar hand-cut french fries.
A bit further down Magazine, almost 20 blocks further, you’ll stumble upon Coquette, an über-popular eatery on the corner of Washington Avenue. Reservations for their Friday lunches are pretty much mandatory, and getting gussied up will likely earn approval from your date as well as a nod from the elite Uptown ladies who lunch there on a regular basis. No one will sneer if you opt for their cheeseburger, while your date orders the cochon de lait. In fact, they might be a bit jealous. Chef Michael Stoltzfus offers an all-beef burger topped with house-cured bacon and Hook’s sharp cheddar sandwiched between pastry chef Zak Miller’s sumptuous egg bun.
Since we’re talking beef, it’s hard to find a better place for a burger than a steakhouse (or a “Meatery,” for that matter). Located on Iberville Street in the French Quarter, you’ll find Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse, one of the city’s most iconic, meat-centered restaurants that’s more than a half-century old. One can’t feel anything but pampered in their sophisticated dining room with warm lighting and well-cushioned chairs, but you’ll think they’ve mistaken you for a celebrity when you try the Steakhouse Bacon Cheeseburger that’s only $15! 100% USDA Prime ground beef is grilled to order and topped with thick-cut bacon, cheddar or bleu cheese (decisions, decisions) and red onion jam and served with garlic aioli and fries.
Heck, after ogling any one of these supreme burgers, it’s likely that next time your date will order the burger before you do!