By Meaghan Casey
Jimmy Buffet enjoys his cheeseburger in paradise. Bob Kraft likes his topped with four onion rings (one for each of the Patriots’ Super Bowl wins). Greg Bates, the self-named “burger master” of the North Shore,” prefers his in Lynn.
Bates, a Beverly resident, created a Facebook page under the burger master name and quickly attracted nearly 2,500 group members.
“I started it as a hobby and figured maybe 50 people would join, but it was up to 2,300 members after four months,” said Bates, who is still in awe at how many other burger lovers are in the area.
He regularly posts with updates on local burger specials, reviews, photos and polls, and has even involved local businesses to offer up gift cards. He’s also scheduled “meat-ups” for members at different restaurants.
“People love sharing their own photos and the owners and chefs have had some fun interacting with the members,” said Bates.
Chris Pike, who has been the chef and manager at the Lazy Dog in Lynn for six years, said their numbers have soared since Bates’ Facebook page gained some popularity.
“I’ve seen a big jump,” said Pike. “We’ve been getting a lot of new patrons in the door— people from Marblehead or Beverly Farms who’ve now heard about us—and we’ve even had more of our regulars ordering the burger.”
The Lazy Dog ranks among Bates’ top 5 burgers in the area—the others being Fibber McGee’s Bar and Grill in Beverly, Rossetti Restaurant in Lynn, Barrel House American Bar in Beverly and the Barrelman in Marblehead.
“Our customers love the burger,” said Pike. “We use the best meat and always cook it fresh, never frozen.”
Pike, a Saugus resident, is the visionary behind the Lazy Dog’s Reuben burger—a combination of lean corned beef, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and sauerkraut, anchored by nine ounces of Angus beef.
“I had added pastrami to a burger one day and thought, why not try a Reuben,” said Pike. “It was more or less an experiment, but we’ve be selling them every day since.”
Bates calls the burger “a bit of a religious experience.” He also has high praise for Lynn’s other options for pub burgers—naming Rolly’s Tavern on the Square and Four Winds Pub and Grill, also both in Wyoma Square (70 feet and two-tenths of a mile, respectively, from the Lazy Dog), as well as Brickyard Bar and Grill and R.F. O’Sullivan’s.
“Every town in the North Shore has one to two good places, but Lynn is loaded,” said Bates, who has declared Lynn the burger capital of the North Shore. “You could take any place in Lynn and put it in another town and they’d be voted number 1 or 2.”
As it is, Bates’ poll for the best pub burger in Lynn was neck and neck for the top spot, with the Lazy Dog earning 111 votes and Rolly’s earning 108, followed by Brickyard with 39 votes and O’Sullivan’s with 31.
“Most of these places are grinding their own beef into custom blends, and all of them have the passion that their burger is the best,” Bates said. “Salem has their witches, Ipswich their clams and Essex their antiques, but Lynn has their burgers.”
At R.F. O’Sullivan’s—which had a much- anticipated opening in downtown Lynn in 2015— owner Richard Sullivan’s number-one rule for cooking great burgers is never to press down on the half-pound ground sirloin. Using a charcoal grill, each burger has a smoky flavor and remains juicy enough to need a napkin.
And Brickyard might be the only place in the area where you can get a delicious burger, made with a pound of house-ground beef, for just $3. That tasty deal is available Monday through Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m., but don’t worry—the price only jumps up to $5.50 all other times.
If you’re willing to invest a few more dollars in your burger, Bates recommends one of his other favorites—Rossetti’s burger, which is made with its own special blend of beef, topped with aged Vermont cheddar, crispy bacon and balsamic caramelized onions and served on a grilled brioche bun alongside truffle fries.
Chris Rossetti, the restaurant’s co-owner and general manager, says the restaurant tried 17 different combinations before coming up with the perfect blend of filet mignon, short rib and wagyu beef chuck.
“I still don’t even consider that perfect, but it is absolutely fantastic,” said Rossetti. “People love it, and it’s unexpected at an Italian restaurant.”
Down the road, Chef Matt O’Neil at The Blue Ox was named champion of Boston Magazine’s Battle of the Burger for three years running. He had to retire his crown this year after reaching the quota for wins. His “sin burger” is hand-packed and served with applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese and truffle aioli on a brioche bun with truffle fries.
Welcome to Lynn. Come hungry, leave happy.
Photos: Sean Browne, Meaghan Casey, Reba Saldanha and Mark Sutherland