May is National Burger Month, but not all burgers are created equal. In fact, some burgers are more assembled than created, built the exact same way, burger after burger, customer after customer. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as there isn’t always time for artisanal blends of the finest meats, ground by hand and grilled by Bobby Flay himself. Sometimes, we need a burger we can eat with one hand as we navigate Long Island traffic at rush hour.
All American Hamburger Massapequa
This staple of Long Island burger nostalgia has been around since 1963 and in that time, the cash only drive-in has built up a fair amount of goodwill among residents. But while sentimentality is fine for wistful conversations between friends, it is not the main ingredient in a remarkable burger. All American’s collection of double headers (double hamburger), double doubles (double cheeseburger) and quarter pounders are fine fare for the after-school sect and are perfect for quickly scarfing down in a pinch—although the thin burgers tend to fall flat in the flavor department. Regardless, pulling up to this old-fashioned hamburger stand transports its fans back in time to an era when a quick-service burger wrapped in foil amounted to space-age technology. Childhood memories passed down from generation to generation have kept All American in the business of burger slinging and while the taste isn’t memorable, the experience will continue to lure in Long Islanders for years to come.
What to order: Double-Double, fries, vanilla shake
When Dairy Queen opened its first Long Island outpost since the 1970s in Massapequa, customers lined up for hours to get a taste of the sweet treats and burgers from the popular fast-food chain. And for weeks after that first day, cars waiting in line at the drive-thru caused numerous traffic delays along that stretch of Sunrise Highway. Customers still crowd DQ for a signature Blizzard, served upside down to prove its decadent fortitude. This particular DQ also boasts a Grill & Chill menu, with burgers, fries, wraps and chicken sandwiches. One of these items includes the FlameThrower GrillBurger, a daunting burger with two patties, melted pepper jack cheese, jalapeño bacon and something called FlameThrower sauce on a warm, toasted bun. The FlameThrower sauce, clearly a Tabasco/mayo concoction, won’t change the way you think of fast-food burgers, but it does add a measure of welcomed spice to the unimpressive burger patties.
What to order: FlameThrower GrillBurger, literally any Blizzard
Westbury, Hempstead, Elmont
Checkers stays true to its racecar-inspired roots, offering two drive-up windows along with walk-up service. This chain is as quick-and-dirty as it gets in the fast-food burger business. With offerings like Steakzilla (steak) and Baconzilla (bacon), Checkers pushes its calorie counts to shameless heights, almost daring the eater to polish off one of these monstrosities on their own. The Big Buford burger is the signature item, a seasoned double cheeseburger with all the fixins. However, “big” is a bit of a misnomer—two of these thin patties add up to less than a decently sized burger. And then there’s the Fry Lovers Burger, which purports to satisfy customers’ craving for Checkers’ seasoned fries, but disappoints immensely by topping the burger with a measly six to eight French fries. You’re better off grabbing a greasy small order of fries and dumping it onto the burger yourself. Checkers’ current specialty offering, the Buttery Steak Burger, is a good bet with savory steak butter, Philly steak, Swiss and fried onions.
What to order: Buttery Steak Burger, available for a limited time
The last stop on this driver-friendly burger tour takes us to Burger City. Located in a shopping center parking lot on Hempstead Turnpike, this small shack slings burgers, hot dogs and knishes along with a killer black & white shake. The burgers—fresh, never frozen—are affordable (about $2) with chopped onions, thick-cut pickles and ketchup. These burgers won’t knock you out with flavor but they are tasty and served on potato buns—the perfect vehicle for any burger. The onion rings are crisp and well seasoned—they also render the bag clear from grease, which is always a good sign to any discernible fan of onion rings. Burger City’s fries are not all that special and could use some work, but they are no worse than most quick-burger joint fries. The black & white shake is a must-order, coalescing into a chocolate/vanilla swirl as it melts.
What to order: Double Cheeseburger, onion rings, black & white shake