Not to go full hipster on you, but the title of best fast food burger in America now belongs to a place most people have likely never heard of (this includes myself, before writing this post).
Consumer Reports' recent fast food rankings (culled from customer surveys of 96,208 meals at 65 chains) revealed some things we already knew,* some things we didn't,** and some things that don't make any sense from a rankings perspective.*** But perhaps the most surprising piece of information contained in those rankings is that the number one burger in America isn't In-N-Out, Five Guys, or Fuddruckers (though all three are in the top five) — it's a chain called Habit Burger Grill.
If you don't have much of a connection to the state of California, chances are you've never heard of Habit Burger. It's an oddly-named chain, perhaps evocative of ground beef addiction — but while there's a place called "Carl's Jr.," nowhere else is going to claim the ridiculously-named fast food throne. It was started in 1969 in Santa Barbara and slowly expanded until being taken over in 2007 by private equity firm KarpReilly — now, it has over 100 locations, including some in Arizona and Utah.
Its signature burger the Charburger, meanwhile, is simple but classic: cheese, mayo, pickle, tomato, lettuce, and caramelized onions. The onions might be the secret here — anyone who tells you that caramelized onions aren't delicious on a burger is not to be trusted — but it's also no surprise that simpler is better; Five Guys' wild success with possibly the most simple menu in existence proves that Americans don't seek complexity as much as execution. In fact, outside of the Sub category (people apparently REALLY love subs — there are five places with an 8+ rating, none of which I've ever even heard of), Habit Burger's 8.1 rating is one of only three 8+ ratings in the entire survey, the other two being In-N-Out (8.0) and Chik-Fil-A (8.1).
Given that I live roughly 80 bajillion miles away from California (my grasp of relative geography is less than ideal), I've never had a chance to try Habit Burger, so I'll have to rely on my California readers to tell me how true this is. What do you guys think?
* McDonald's has the worst burgers, Subway (whose rating, if the universe was just, shouldn't have been numeric but via a picture of cat vomit) has some of the worst subs, KFC has the worst chicken (fucking duh), and Chipotle has the best burritos — none of that is surprising. McDonald's burgers, at a 5.8, deserve special attention here, though: discounting Taco Bell's bizarre miscategorization (we'll get there in a minute), no other food in any category ranked below a 6.6.
** Burger King below Wendy's? Has anyone involved in these rankings ever eaten at either of those places? Also, Hardee's still exists?!
*** Why the hell would you judge Taco Bell by their burritos? Does anyone actually eat their burritos? It isn't called Burrito Bell. That's like listing McDonald's under "chicken" because McNuggets are a thing.
Also, there's no conceivable universe in which Baja Fresh is better than Taco Bell. Baja Fresh tastes like someone boiled chipmunk carcasses and tossed them inside a tortilla made of solidified aspartame. Fuck Baja Fresh.