Top photo by Evan Henningsen 

A juicy, seasoned patty of beef wedged between cool, crisp leaves of lettuce with freshly sliced tomato … the classic American hamburger is a customer favorite that’s prominent on restaurant menus everywhere. But there are myriad ways to prepare and eat a burger, and somebody is always adding something new. The possibilities are endless.

Bite into a slider—a mini-size burger—or a dressed-up classic single patty. Stack your options with double or triple patties or even a Dagwood-type sandwich, a towering mountain of multiple patties with extras such as slaw, chili, mozzarella sticks, and even onion rings. But don’t stop there: you still have condiment choices to make. Toppings have evolved far past the traditional ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise; restaurants are now concocting their own elaborate creations in-house that complement any burger.

These Missouri places are giving burgers new looks—and new tastes.

The ECCO Lounge kitchen churns out more than 100 handmade burger patties a day in Jefferson City’s oldest restaurant.

Ecco Lounge • Jefferson City

703 Jefferson Street • 573-636-8751 •

Jefferson City’s oldest restaurant and lounge is still going strong, long after it opened as a bar/saloon in 1860; it became the ECCO Lounge in 1945. Four generations of some families visit. “It’s a place where people had their first Shirley Temple kiddy cocktail as a child,” says Sally Powell, who has owned the ECCO with Mark and Anna Ewers since 2009.

The building, which went up in 1858, has many original features, including the tin ceiling and vintage artifacts that create a cozy atmosphere. Beer memorabilia, a jukebox, and food made fresh to order are a few reasons why customers return. No frozen boxed food is served; items are handmade and hand-breaded. All dressings and sauces at the ECCO are made from scratch.

Must-Try: The ECCO Burger The owners inherited the namesake burger, known for its mound of bleu cheese.

What Makes It Special: The burgers are an 80/20 beef/fat ratio, hand-fashioned into never-frozen, 7-ounce patties.

Other Flavorful Options: Try the Moose Burger, topped with shaved prime rib, sautéed portobello mushrooms, and provolone cheese. Bacon, cheddar, barbecue sauce, and an onion ring top the Cowboy Burger. The Abiy Burger, topped with hot sauce, sautéed onions, mushrooms, pepperoncinis, and provel cheese, is a tribute to a customer who liked “hot and spicy.”

All Wrapped Up: Customers often order the burgers without buns or use lettuce to hold the sandwich together. Wraps are also available as lunch specials.

Hoppers Pub reflects its Route 66 roots and other local history while serving burgers for brunch, lunch, and dinner.

Hopper’s Pub • Waynesville

318 Historic Route 66 East • 573-774-0135 •

Things are really hopping at Hoppers. From Monday night bingo to Wednesday trivia to Thursday karaoke, there is always excitement here. Filled with Route 66 decor and a bit of Waynesville history, Hoppers Pub is known for burgers and family-friendly atmosphere.

Opened by Ursula and Jake Lebioda in 2010, the pub features a special weekend brunch until 2 žŸ that includes the Good Morning sandwich, a burger topped with American cheese, egg, and bacon, served on slices of French toast with maple syrup.

Must-Try: Jam Burger This beef burger has pepper jack cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, and the Hoppers signature sweet and spicy jam.

What Makes It Special: The jam sauce, a sweet but mildly spicy tomato jam that complements the burger, is a secret recipe. Other Flavorful Options: The BBQ Guinness features cheddar cheese, onion petals, and lettuce, topped with homemade barbecue sauce made with Guinness beer.

All Wrapped Up: Hoppers serves all burgers on brioche buns, but low-carb or gluten-free burger options are available.

The Stacked STL menu boasts more than 50 creatively named burgers.

Stacked STL • St. Louis

7637 Ivory Avenue • 314-544-4900 •

Stacked STL is a thriving part of St. Louis’s Carondelet neighborhood. The hot-spot eatery is located in the UthoŽ building, built in 1876. One of the last remaining horse troughs in St. Louis is right outside the restaurant in the Ivory Triangle; it’s now a fountain. Matt and Laura Windisch and Sam Siebenman originally took ownership of the restaurant—then called Ivory Coast Bistro—in May 2012. After briefly closing to make decor and menu changes, the eatery reopened as a build-your-own burger restaurant under the name Stacked STL in 2013.

The Burger of the Month is a customer favorite. “The most popular burger is typically whatever the BOTM is, followed by the En Fuego,” says Laura, owner/chef. A recent BOTM feature was Greener Pastors, a ground-chuck burger on brioche bun with house-made pork al pastor, pineapple pico, and salsa verde, created by kitchen manager Tim Cosentino. Another BOTM favorite is a beef patty with deviled egg spread, glazed ham, fried green tomato, spring mix, and sriracha mayo.

Must-Try: Build-Your-Own Burger Customers create the burger of their dreams from local grass-fed beef, pork, turkey, and even black-bean patties. Options include slaw, pickled onions, roasted red peppers, fried pickles, cheeses and brioche buns.

What Makes It Special: Any burger is customizable.

Other Flavorful Options: The Big Kahuna has a tropical taste, with grilled pineapple, ham, fontina cheese, and barbecue sauce on a ground-chuck patty. The Wet Nap is beef smothered with barbecue brisket, house-made three-cheese sauce, and crispy onions on brioche.

All Wrapped Up: Gluten-free bun options include lettuce wraps.

”Missouri made” is the byword for the offerings at Bailey’s Range in downtown St. Louis.

Bailey’s Range • St. Louis

920 Olive Street • 314-241-8121 •

A unique restaurant opened in downtown St. Louis in 2011. Inspiration for the restaurant’s name came from the fact that only Missouri-raised grass-fed—or “range fed”— beef, would be served. In addition, the burgers would be cooked on a range. And, of course, the owner’s name is Bailey.

The restaurant focuses on Missouri products and making the best burgers. The top-selling burger beyond the build-your-own option is The American, a thick beef patty with chipotle mayo, fried macaroni and cheese, chopped bacon, and housemade beer cheese sauce.

Must-Try: Carolina This over-the-top sandwich consists of a beef patty with pulled pork, coleslaw, pickle chips, and Carolina mustard barbecue sauce.

What Makes It Special: The pulled pork is smoked in-house, and the slaw gives the sandwich extra crunch. It’s a super-filling combination that is sweet and smoky. A local American Brown Ale from the Civil Life Brewery is used to make the beer buns fresh in the restaurant’s bakery daily. In addition, all sauces are made in-house from scratch, “right down to the ketchup,” says owner David Bailey.

Other Flavorful Options: The Stack It and Smash It, a spin on the classic American cheeseburger, consists of two thin-pressed smashed burgers layered with Colby, bacon, pickles, and fried onion ring. The PB&J is a bison patty with arugula pesto, fresh goat cheese, and house-made tomato jam from plum tomatoes flavored with ginger, molasses, and a hint of jalapeños. A ground chicken patty burger called the Buff‚alo is a topped with buff‚alo sauce, cheddar cheese, bacon, ranch, and celery. A house-made bean patty can be substituted for any of the meat burgers. All

Wrapped Up: The buns are vegan and made fresh every day with local beer so they are light and airy but also hold up to the large amount of food that is placed on them. Customers who want a dairy-free bun may request no added butter when toasting the bun. Gluten-free buns are available. “Ours toast up well, don’t crumble, and actually taste good,” David says.

Burger names at The Tattooed Dog reflect the chef’s flavor creations, such as the bold taste of this special, the Mastiff.

The Tattooed Dog • Wentzville

11 Wentzville Blu s Drive, Unit 109 • 636-887-2178 •

The food truck that Chef Josh Lemmon opened after culinary school evolved into The Tattooed Dog. Josh and his wife, Tara, o‚er “upscale dive grub” with twists on classics. “I’m trying to take burgers and things people are used to and kick it up just a notch,” Josh says.

Must-Try: The Maui The Maui features grilled pineapple, white American cheese, teriyaki wasabi glaze, roasted garlic aioli, and spring greens, served on a pretzel bun.

What Makes It Special: Burgers are seasoned with kosher salt.

Other Flavorful Options: The Porkonator is a certified-Angus burger with bacon, double American cheese, and greens on a kaiser bun. The Pit Bull is sweet and spicy with bacon tossed in maple glaze, sliced jalapeños, and cheddar. All

Wrapped Up: Anything on the menu can be custom-made, including serving burgers on a bed of greens.

Popular burgers at Bair’s include the mac and-cheese-topped Jake Burger (left) and the sweet but savory Cinnamon French Toast Burger (right).

Bair’s Sports Grill • Springfield

631 South Kimbrough Avenue • 417-866-2700 • 3821 South Campbell Avenue • 417-368-5919 • Republic: 1644 US 60 East • 417-732-5077 • Nixa: 105 West Sherman Way • 417-725-3777 •

The first Bair’s Sports Grill opened in 2007 in Republic. There are now four Bair’s locations—one each in Republic and Nixa, and two locations in Springfield. The sports-themed restaurant and bar boasts more than 50 di‰erent burger options. The burgers are cut, weighed, and handmade into patties daily from fresh, never-frozen beef and cooked to order. Chicken breast and vegetarian burgers are also available.

Assistant manager Chris Bricker says that even though the classic cheeseburger is a customer favorite, other creative combinations are also popular, such as the open-faced Horseshoe, an all-beef patty served on two slices of Texas toast with tater tots, chili, and queso cheese.

Must-Try: Mac Daddy Some customers treat this burger monstrosity as a challenge. The towering mass weighing nearly 5 pounds includes four 1-pound patties, 16 slices each of cheese and bacon, a pound of fries, and a custom bun. “Many have tried to conquer it and few have prevailed,” Chris says.

What Makes It Special: This single-plate feast can be split with a large group and costs around $50. The Road Block is a much smaller version, with mozzarella sticks substituted for the bacon on Texas toast.

Other Flavorful Options: The Track Side Melt has swiss cheese, grilled onions, and Boom-Boom sauce, which is similar to a spicy Thousand Island. The Cheese Monster surpasses all cheeseburgers with its 11 cheeses: American, swiss, jack-cheddar, gouda, cheddar, pepper jack, and five-cheese blend. The Surf and Turf has shrimp, cheese, and Boom Boom sauce. The Mac ’n Cheese Burger is nicknamed the “Jake Burger” after Jake Burger, a local athlete who went on to play for the Missouri State baseball team and was later drafted by the Chicago White Sox.

All Wrapped Up: Customers can substitute the bun for Texas toast, a tortilla, or bed of lettuce.

Spokes Pub & Grill, home of Farmington’s Original Mega Burger, features bison in several burgers.

Spokes Pub & Grill • Farmington

1627 West Columbia Street • 573-756-6220 •

Spokes Pub & Grill is a family-friendly place with plenty of tasty and kid-friendly food options during the day and live music and dancing during evenings and weekends.

Local wine and craft beers plus giant bison burgers are popular menu items. Specialty sodas are another customer favorite.

Must-Try: Always Sunny The Always Sunny burger is beef topped with Hermann Wurst Haus bacon, cheddar cheese, a fried egg, and house-made hot sauce.

What Makes It Special: You can substitute the beef with heart-healthy, lean bison.

Other Flavorful Options: The Bison Wrangler is a one-third-pound burger with swiss cheese, portobello mushrooms, and house-made sauce. The Bourbon BBQ Pastrami is a beef burger with beer-braised onions, bison pastrami, cheddar cheese, and house-made barbecue sauce.

All Wrapped Up: Guests can opt for no bun or choose a side salad instead.

The Eagle Drive-In • Joplin

4224 Hearnes Boulevard • 417-623-2228 • Facebook: The Joplin Eagle Drive-In

Customers won’t find boring burgers at Joplin’s The Eagle Drive-In. Although the drive-in has the old-school look on the outside, a very impressive menu with a creative burger lineup awaits hungry customers.

The Eagle Drive-In’s gourmet burger assortment includes beef, bison, elk, and lamb and have unique house-made sauces and toppings to make them over-the-top and unforgettable.

Must-Try: Eagle Burger This namesake sandwich features cheddar and swiss cheeses, mixed greens, tomato, onion, and pickle, topped with a fried quail egg and Eagle sauce (a house-made red sauce similar to a ketchup-and-mayonnaise combination with added seasonings).

What Makes It Special: The beef is delivered fresh three times a week from a local butcher. Manager Michelle Ferson believes the process used to season their meat is one reason why customers keep coming back for their gourmet burgers.

Other Flavorful Options: Joplin’s Spiciest, with jalapeño cheddar skirt, black bean corn salsa, and sriracha, is a customer favorite, and so is the Salted Caramel Bacon Burger with special caramel-salt glaze. The Bacon and Bleu also features the special Eagle sauce, plus crispy bacon and melted bleu cheese. The Poutine Burger is a burger-and-fry combo with beef patty, hand-cut fries, cheese curds and brown gravy.

Nonbeef options include the Buffalo Bill Burger with ground bison topped with blueberry barbecue sauce and mixed greens; the Lamb Juicy Lucy with feta cheese, tzatziki sauce, and veggies; Salmon Burger with mixed greens, tomato, and blueberry barbecue sauce; Falafel, a house-made patty topped with feta, red onion, tomato, and tzatziki sauce; and the #6, an elk burger with caramelized onions and swiss cheese.

Insider Secret: Customers can choose fries served with a special seasoning called Eagle dust as one of their gourmet sides. And dine-in customers won’t find paper plates or napkins at this restaurant. China and cloth napkins make it a memorable meal.

All Wrapped Up: Gluten-free buns and burgers served on a bed of greens are healthier options for customers with special dietary needs.

Mary Jane Burgers & Brew • Perryville

102 North Jackson Street • 573-547-6279 •

Carisa Stark’s grandmother was her inspiration for the food truck Mary Jane Street Food and then Mary Jane Burgers & Brew, which opened in October 2013. “Grandma represents strength, positivity and fierce independence,” Carissa says. Those qualities shine through Carisa and her staff as they greet guests with amazing service and delicious food at the downtown Perryville restaurant.

“I am quite often at the restaurant to greet my guests and visit with them and ensure that they are having an excellent experience,” Carisa says. She continues that first-class service by reading and responding to every online review of her restaurant.

Mary Jane partners with local businesses to purchase high-quality products, including freshly baked buns from Hoeckele’s Bakery.

Must-Try: PB-QUE
This unique creation is a beef patty with peanut butter, bacon, caramelized onions, and porter barbecue sauce.

What Makes It Special: The beef is all-natural ground chuck.

Other Flavorful Options: The Rooster, named for Chef Matt Ruesler, features smoked Gouda, crimini mushrooms, bacon, and house-made honey sriracha. The John Boy, named after Jackson Street BrewCo’s head brewer, has two beef patties, pepper jack cheese, bacon, fried onion petals, and chipotle aioli. The Barn includes beef, bacon, guacamole, and over-easy egg, and the War Pig has seasoned-to-order pork, pepper jack cheese, bacon, pulled pork, and barbecue sauce.

Then there is the Tricky Ricky, with swiss cheese, sautéed crimini mushrooms, and garlic aioli. The burger is named after Carisa’s dad’s character name he received during a local chili cook-off in which her family competed. The Monk, Carisa’s favorite burger, is beef topped with bacon, brown ale beer cheese dip, green onions, and on a locally baked pretzel bun.

Insider Secret: Mary Jane sells more than 75,000 burgers a year. Guests also love the house-made smoked ketchup.

All Wrapped Up: Chef Matt Ruesler talks with guests who have dietary restrictions and helps them choose options from the foods-from-scratch kitchen to create personalized dishes that best fit their needs.

Sebree’s • Greentop

202 US 63 • 660-949-2130 •

Owners Brian and Cindy Boultinghouse decided to name their Greentop restaurant Sebree’s after his great-great-great grandparents, who are buried in the town. They were the first Sebrees to arrive in the area from Sebree, Kentucky, in 1865.

The couple opened the business six years ago, and it has been going strong ever since. “We do just about everything we can from scratch using the highest quality and freshest ingredients, including all our dressings, sauces, soups, desserts and much more,” says Cindy. Sebree’s focuses on local meat and produce as much as possible, along with high-quality seafood. Daily specials can be found on the business’s Facebook page.

Must-Try: Bacon Cheeseburger
This half-pound juicy beef burger has melted cheese and bacon.

What Makes It Special: Brian cures and smokes the pork bellies from a local producer. The sandwich is served on a gourmet Bianca bun.

Other Flavorful Options: The Primmer Farms Pepper Jack Pork Burger is grilled local ground pork with melted pepper jack cheese and grilled onions. Sebree’s uses meat from local-pastured cows and hogs that are processed for fresh ground beef and pork.

Insider Secret: The business’s previous owners made the dining room floors out of about 750,000 pennies. Antiques cover the barn-wood walls to create a warm, relaxed atmosphere.

All Wrapped Up: A gluten-free bun is available.

Fric & Frac • Kansas City

1700 West 39th Street • 816-753-6102 •

Fric & Frac has been part of what’s known as 39th Street’s Restaurant Row since 1976. The eclectic neighborhood bar and grill is owned by the Ross family and has a full menu plus draft beer and cocktails.

Regulars are drawn to the local eatery for its welcoming and attentive staff, game room, and sidewalk service during summer months. But food is the main focus at Fric & Frac, says owner Max Ross. “Our burger list is mostly a suggestion; our customers can pretty much build their burger however they want.”

Must-Try: Italian Burger

What Makes It Special: This one-third-pound Angus beef patty is topped with grilled mushrooms, house-made basil marinara, and mozzarella cheese.

Other Flavorful Options: Fric & Frac serves Angus beef patties burgers on traditional sesame seed buns. The Blue Room Burger has blue cheese and grilled mushrooms. The Red Neck Burger sports bacon, barbecue sauce, grilled jalapeños and onions, and hot pepper jack cheese. A house-made gluten-free black bean burger is a spicy chipotle patty with veggie toppings and an oat-sprinkled wheat bun.

Insider Secret: The Big Max and Little Max burgers, half-pound and third-pound sandwiches, are named after Max. His parents also named The Kelly—a grilled turkey sandwich topped with chicken strips and hot pepper cheese on an onion bun—after his sister. “My parents just thought it would be fun to name sandwiches after us,” Max says.

All Wrapped Up: Fric & Frac’s house-made keto bun is low-carb and gluten-free.

Layla • St. Louis

4317 Manchester Avenue • 314-553-9252 •

Nonbeef burger options abound at Layla, a gourmet burger restaurant that focuses on fresh flavor in an eclectic atmosphere. Try the grilled lamb burger served atop fresh romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, and cucumber dill dressing. The Clarice is a seasoned lamb burger with Mediterranean pico, tzatziki, feta, and romaine. The Clear Conscience features a turkey burger with sumac-roasted apples, bleu cheese, fresh spring mix, and smoky mango sauce.

Fight Club is a turkey burger with hickory-smoked bacon, swiss cheese, romaine, sumac onions, tomato, and lemon garlic mayo. Jane Says, a vegetarian lentil and beet burger, sports Monterey Jack cheese, smoky mango sauce, flash-fried kale, tomato, and sumac onions, topped with lemon-garlic mayo. The Mean Green is a house-made falafel burger with chartreuse pickles, romaine, tomato, and tzatziki. The Buffalo Bill is, of course, a fresh-ground bison burger served on a pretzel bun with smoked poblano chilies, melted pepper jack cheese, smoky mango sauce, sumac onions, romaine, and chipotle mayo, topped with house-made chips.

All of the restaurant’s beef, pork, bread, ice cream, drafts, and seasonal produce are sourced from local growers and purveyors.

The Pirate’s Bone Kansas City test kitchen turns out unique, plant-based entrees such as the popular Beet Burger served on a charcoal bun.

Pirate’s Bone • Kansas City

645 East 59th Street • 816-287-1433 • PiratesBoneCoff

This immigrant-owned shop has vegan food and specialty drinks. Try the Beet Burger, topped with mayonnaise, super greens, tomato, avocado, pickled cabbage, and sesame seeds. The grilled marinated Eggplant Burger has tomato, capers, mayo, and super greens. A black bean and carrot option features house salsa, tomato, and avocado.

The FourWay • Cuba

102 West Washington • 573-885-3004 •

This restaurant was originally a modern, full-service filling station and now stands as a rich piece of Americana history along the famed Route 66. Try the Lamb Burger, an eight-ounce seasoned burger with feta, tzatziki sauce, red onion, lettuce, and tomato.

Room 39 • Kansas City

1719 West 39th Street • 816-753-3939 •

Room 39 is a farm-to-table restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try the Veggie Burger, a special patty of bulgur wheat, black beans, and vegetables topped with red pepper aioli, lettuce, and tomato.

Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen • Kansas City

1526 Walnut Street • 816-842-2660 •

The contemporary American cuisine here is seasonal and locally sourced. Try the Veggie Burger, made from butternut squash and jalapeño peppers, with grilled onions, cheddar cheese, arugula, tomato, and remoulade on an onion bun. Tannin also offers a large wine assortment, three-course tasting menu, cheese and charcuterie, and happy-hour specials.

The Scottish Arms • St. Louis

8 South Sarah Street • 314-535-0551 •

The Scottish Arms is a pub in the Central West End of St. Louis that offers a home away from home for those with a hankering for the true taste of Scottish fare. Try the Root + Holler Lamb Burger with fennel jam, goat cheese, and seasoned fries. The pub’s dishes are seasonal and made from locally sourced foods.

Big Sky Café • Webster Groves

47 South Old Orchard Avenue • 314-962-5757 •

Try Big Sky’s Salmon Burger with smoked tomato tartar sauce, tomato, and arugula. The Vegetarian Cheese Burger has charred red pepper jam, fresh avocado, and manchego cheese. The restaurant staff works closely with local partners who provide seafood and seasonal local produce.

Bishop’s Post • Chesterfield

16125 Chesterfield Parkway • 636-536-9404 •

Patrons enjoy timeless favorites with bold and defining flavors at Bishop’s Post. Menu items are the “best version of your favorite classics,” says founder Ben Bishop. Try the Turkey Burger, made from fresh-ground turkey breast and topped with fontina cheese and cranberry ketchup, served on a whole-grain bun.