Farm Burger champions all things local: grass-fed beef raised near Athens, area produce, even a dining room built with wood from a nearby cotton mill.
Order: The Burger Banh Mi, a feisty Vietnamese twist with pickled carrots, daikon radish, jalapeños, cilantro, and house-made pork pâté ($10). farmburger.net
Green Truck Pub
The menu headlines burgers made from grass-fed beef from Hunter Cattle Company, a family ranch in Brooklet, about an hour away.
Order: The Whole Farm, a bacon and Cheddar burger that boasts an extra punch of protein—and flavor—with the addition of a perfectly fried egg ($12.50). greentruckpub.com
In the heart of Athens, the state’s most renowned vegetarian spot has served meat-free comfort foods for nearly three decades. (Fun fact: Michael Stipe of R.E.M. is the landlord.)
Order: The Burger of the Day, which rotates among patties of black beans, white beans, or (the best) red beans tinged with Creole seasonings ($7). thegrit.com
Chef Todd Ginsberg’s upscale riff on a drive-in burger has become a favorite among the city’s most finicky foodies.
Order: The Burger Stack with two patties (a blend of chuck, brisket, and short-rib meat), melted American cheese, and house-made bread-and-butter pickles ($9 at lunch, $12 with fries at dinner). bocadoatlanta.com
A&A Restaurant and Grocery
Tiny Allentown is home to this friendly country diner where locals gather for juicy burgers dressed with the basics.
Order: The deliciously disheveled Double Bacon Cheeseburger—slathered with ketchup, mustard, and mayo on request. It conjures the ultimate summertime backyard cookout. Ask for the bun toasted—and for a knife and fork($5). 478/962-3500
Grill, Vote, or Play For a Chance to Win 1 of 2 Ford F-150s. www.SmithfieldThrowdown.com
Ann’s Snack Bar
The eight-seat shack in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood has become as famous for the posted rules of “Ms. Ann” Price (“do not sit or stand babies on counter”) as for the massive, misshapen burgers.
Order: The Ghetto Burger—two patties grilled with plenty of onion mashed in and topped with American cheese, bacon, chili, lettuce, and tomato ($8). 404/687-9207
Neon signage, fire engine red booths, and campy movie posters evoke bygone small-town diners at this cozy haunt. It offers several creative burgers (best is seared tuna dappled with a honey-wasabi sauce), but we’re most enthralled by the meaty two-fisters of locally raised beef. Variations include a protein-packed combo of peanut butter and bacon.
Order: The Ring of Fire—spiked with jalapeño peppers, chipotle mayo, and pepper Jack cheese ($8). clockeddiner.com
Crystal Beer Parlor
Savoring a ground chuck beauty perched in a plush red leather banquette here can spoil you for other burger joints. Opened in 1933, Savannah’s second-oldest restaurant is the kind of saloon that makes you crave a cold Dixie Lager. Its setting may be old-fashioned, but the burgers include such modern options as bison.
Order: A succulent, mildly gamy Greek Lamb Burger gilded with homemade tzatziki (herbed yogurt sauce), an homage to the Greek heritage of the current Crystal owner, John Nichols ($10). crystalbeerparlor.com
The Hickory Pig
Phil Beaubien amiably chats up visitors to his small joint that turns out some of the finest barbecue in North Georgia. Though he’s best known for his ribs, Phil’s burgers have their own devoted following.
Order: The smoky Hickory Hamburger. It isn’t on the menu, but Phil will grill one for you and serve it simply with ketchup, mustard, pickle, and optional Jack cheese ($3). thehickorypig.com
Kevin Rathbun Steak
This powerhouse chef set his modern chophouse in a former factory at the edge of leafy Inman Park. Steaks hog the spotlight, but the kitchen devised a burger extravagant enough to make you stray from filet mignon.
Order: The 12-ounce Prime Wagyu Ribeye Burger, ground to order and crowned with apple-wood-smoked bacon, Tillamook Cheddar, and a delicate fried egg ($18). kevinrathbunsteak.com