I had dinner last night with a colleague who's trying to work his way through the 15 "best burgers" identified by Birmingham magazine recently.
He said he went a bit off the menu and came up with what he thinks is the perfect burger at Rogue Tavern, with fried onions, jalapenos and provolone cheese. Flip Burger Boutique was good, too, he said, although for his taste smoked gouda was perhaps overwhelmed the meat a bit. Velma's and Billy's, he thought, were overrated.
Some of the other burgers on the list he's looking forward to trying are the mini-Kobe burgers at Jinsei, the burgers at Dram Whiskey Bar and Chez FonFon, and an old-fashioned soda fountain burger at Green Valley Drugs.
For a chain, I personally think Five Guys has pretty darn good burgers. And apparently a lot of folks agree with me, because when it came to the Birmingham's Best as voted by Birmingham Magazine readers (http://bhammag.com/bhammag/sept_best_of_bham.aspx), it won Best Burgers (and best fries!). Runners-up were Flip Burger and Hamburger Heaven.
Interestingly, one that did not make the list is Harry's Place, which won the Birmingham News' "Best Burger Around" contest a number of years ago. I think that's likely due to a combination of Harry's perhaps going a big downhill (they've added a lot to their menu and I think it's diluted the attention paid to the burgers), and a lot of new burger options that weren't even around at that time, such as Jinsei, Rogue, Dram and Flip.