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Best Burger: Preserving that road-shack culture 

Val's Burgers

Much as we admire the pristine, artisan-bacon-topped beauties available for serious cash at tablecloth restaurants, they kind of miss the point: To our way of thinking, the perfect burger drips with American road-shack charm. That's an apt description of the burgers at Val's, a knotty-pine-and-sparkly-Formica-clad shrine to the burly simplicity of hashed meat on a factory bun. Go for the half-pound Mama Burger and ask for it medium-rare or redder, then cut it in half mom-style and watch the juices seep. Consider that distillation a condiment and dab the burger's cut face into the little pink puddle on your plate. Forgo all but a couple of slices of tomato and, of course, the shiny orange Cheddar fused to the patty's charred surface like a plastic bread bag melted onto the face of a hot toaster: The meaty taste adds up to a blend of complex acidity and the tallowy richness of beef fat. Even a twelve-buck burger solemnly served by some tie-clad waiter couldn't pack more primal beauty.
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)

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