Five restaurants face off in Burger Smashdown


— What red-blooded American doesn’t enjoy a delicious burger?

Al’s Burger Shack – This great little joint on Chapel Hill’s West Franklin Street serves burgers from Carolina pasture-raised beef, as well as hot dogs and breakfast sandwiches. As toppings go, do not miss the savory and sweet house-made bacon-onion jam. Al’s also offers a daily special sandwich and cleverly named “sweet burgers” for dessert: a heaping scoop of Maple View Farms ice cream deliciously smushed between two cookies.

Buns – Near the corner of Franklin Street and North Columbia Street in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill, this spot appeals to more than just the college crowd. Order one of the signature creations from the menu, or design your own, with up to three patties and your choice of house sauces, which range from traditional ketchup to foodie favorites like wasabi mayo. There are also dipping sauces for the heaping order of fries – get the split basket of regular and sweet potato.

Mattie B’s Public House – This Durham public house – brought to you by the Six Plates family – serves generously sized burgers on brioche buns from Guglhupf Bakery. Choose the Mattie Melt with caramelized onions, bacon, pimento cheese and chipotle ranch. Or the Carolina burger with chili, mustard, cole slaw and American cheese. A veggie burger can be substituted for beef at your request, and the house-made chips that come on the side can be upgraded to one of their signature combos. Choose a pint of cold beer, and you’ve got yourself a great pub meal.

OnlyBurger – Whether you order from the truck or one of two brick-and-mortar locations (one at Shannon Road in Durham and one on the American Tobacco Campus), you’ve got some decisions to make. Of course, OnlyBurger can make you an “OnlyBurger,” with certified Piedmontese beef on a butter-toasted bun. For smaller appetites, perhaps pick a slider made with chuck, turkey, or lamb. The fried green tomato burger swaps out the beef for a thick slice of tomato smothered in melting pimento cheese. Sides include hand-cut fries, onion rings and pickle chips, and orders can be customized with a slew of sauces, cheeses and toppings.                                                                                                                                                                                               Tyler’s Restaurant and Taproom – For a juicy burger before a Bulls game or a performance at DPAC, pull up a chair at Tyler’s at the American Tobacco Campus. (There are also Tyler’s locations in Raleigh, Carrboro and Apex.) With a half-pound of beef or turkey, they’re sure to keep you satisfied through a night out. Try the bacon blue burger; the blue cheese is house-smoked. If you prefer, Tyler’s also offers a gluten-free bun and veggie patty for any of its sandwiches.

Editor’s Note: All five of these burger makers will be facing off at a Burger Smashdown at Fullsteam in Durham on April 25 at 12:30 p.m. They’ll create one of their favorite burger and side duos for you (and a panel of celebrity judges) to eat and vote on. Sean Lilly Wilson of Fullsteam will personally pair his flavorful beers with each burger/side combo (two-ounce pours for each burger). Plus enjoy live music and darts, ping pong and the games that you always love at Fullsteam. This is a family-friendly event. Tickets are on sale now at

A portion of proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Durham Branch of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

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