Bacon, Cheese, Mushrooms: Build Your Own Burger in the D

By: Toni Cunningham | September 5, 2014
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The only thing more American than baseball and apple pie is a cheeseburger. These days, you can walk into just about any restaurant and order some variation of a burger. There are burgers stuck between a pretzel bun, burgers topped with deep fried onion rings, even burgers slathered with a thick smear of peanut butter.

Why? Because burgers are amazing, that’s why. Even the burger itself can be prepared dozens of different ways: with beef, bison, chicken, turkey, veggies and countless others. I’m a big fan of restaurants with house specialty burgers on their menus, ones topped with special sauce and whatever, but sometimes the best burger is one that comes from your very own imagination—through the process of building your own burger.

There are tons of build your own burger joints in the Metro Detroit area, so many in fact, that it was a difficult task to narrow down a list for this very article. However, I am a professional, so narrow down I did. Head to one of the following restaurants in the D for a “build your own burger” fix:

The Corner Brewery, 720 Norris St., Ypsilanti, has a build a burger option for a hamburger (a juicy one-third pound beef patty from local Steinhauser Farms), tempeh burger (made with non-GMO soy, brown rice and spices), black bean burger (a home-made vegan patty packed with Michigan black beans) and grilled chicken burger (a free range chicken breast).

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Each can be topped with a laundry list of toppings, including beer caramelized onions, salsa roja, jerk sauce, chipotle mayo, smoked Gouda, garlic goat cheese, herb-sautéed mushrooms, spicy tomato hummus and more. The toppings here certainly are eclectic, and if you go to a brewery and pass up the beer caramelized onions, there’s something wrong with you.

All burgers are served with potato chips and a pickle, or you can substitute fries, onion rings or veggies instead.

Basement Burger Bar, with locations in Canton and Farmington, allows you to BYOB (build your own burger) in one of the most fun formats around: you get to check everything you want on the laminated menu with a dry erase marker. Okay, it’s not that exciting, but the food here certainly is.

Your protein choices include beef, bison, kobe beef, turkey and grilled chicken, as well as vegetarian choices like black bean, portobello mushroom cap and falafel patties. I would highly recommend the pretzel bun, and then it’s time to move onto spreads, toppings and cheese.

Here, you can order your patty topped with everything from smoked barbecue ketchup to garlic mayo to pesto to Dijon mustard. They’ve got plain ol’ toppings like lettuce, tomato and red onion to choose from, in addition to more interesting options like dried cranberries and carrot strings. You’ve got nine different cheese choices to pick from, too!

Sides cost extra and include beer battered fries, tater tots and sweet potato fries served with cinnamon butter.

Freakin’ Unbelievable Burgers, located in Farmington Hills and Flint, has a Build Your Own Freakin’ Burger menu with three steps. First, pick your protein from options including ground beef, turkey, chicken breast, grilled salmon, grilled or fried portobello mushroom and black bean patties.

Then, move onto the toppings and sauces. Free toppings include shredded lettuce, jalapenos, pico de gallo, Swiss cheese, Boursin and Provolone. If you want to upgrade to premium toppings, your choices include black bean and corn salsa, roasted garlic onion jam, sliced avocado and drunken mushrooms.

If you have food allergies or are trying to eat a little lighter, order a gluten-free bun or wrap your burger in a lettuce leaf.

The Burger Joint, 28308 Telegraph Rd., Southfield, promises the best burger in town, and that includes the build your own. Your burger choices include ground chuck, ground turkey or prime steak, in either a half or quarter pound form.

A burger without cheese is like a day without sunshine, so try chipotle pepper, Cheddar, Swiss or American cheese atop your freshly, exclusively ground for The Burger Joint, patty. Additional burger toppings include Thai Sriracha sauce, chipotle ranch, burnt onions, garlic aioli, applewood smoked bacon, brew city onion rings and a fried egg. Each burger is served on a freshly toasted and buttered brioche bun.

Mt. Chalet, 32955 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak, has a kitchen that’s open until midnight or 1 a.m. depending on the day, so you can build your own burger at practically any time of the day.

Meat choices include the Classic Chalet with beef, Piedmontese beef and ground turkey, which can be served on a sesame bun, onion roll or pretzel roll. Muenster, yellow Cheddar, American, white Cheddar and Gorgonzola are all cheese options. There are several topping items including cole slaw, roasted red pepper, jalapeno blue cheese salsa, caramelized onion, Thai chili and Russian dressing.

Clubhouse BFD, 2265 Crooks Rd., Rochester Hills, has tons of premium burgers on its menu, including the create your own Custom-Suit Burger. The cooked to order beef patty is topped with lettuce, tomato and onion and whatever else your heart desires.

Try some aged Cheddar cheese, bacon, BFD sauce, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions or roasted garlic aioli on a brioche or pretzel bun. Thin cut fries, sweet potato tater tots and hand-cut chips are great side options for your meal.

Red Coat Tavern, 31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak, is a burger staple ‘round these parts, and any burger article would be incomplete without it. The Original Redcoat Special Hamburger is a half-pound beef patty served any way you want it.

Swiss cheese, Provolone cheese, bacon, guacamole, grilled onions, Dijon mustard, barbecue sauce and raw onion are all popular topping choices, and your burger can be served on a regular bun, baguette, rye bread or onion roll, to name a few. If you’d prefer a slightly leaner burger, order the Piedmontese beef.

Also, I would like to make a public service announcement: the onion rings here are to die for. I don’t care if you don’t like onions, just please try one anyways. They’re hand battered, fried to perfection, and huge.

Harry’s Detroit, 2482 Clifford St., Detroit, is a sports bar with a great rooftop view and an even better menu. Harry’s Build a Burger consists of a grilled angus steak burger served on a brioche bun and topped with cheese, even more meat, veggies and/or sauces, if you so choose.

Your topping options consist of Cheddar cheese, havarti pepper cheese, goat cheese, house smoked bacon, Wrigley’s corned beef, arugula, jalapeno roasted chilies, chipotle mayo, smoked onion jam and peanut butter. An order or fries or house breaded onion rings will complete your order quite nicely.

There you have it, burger lovers of Metro Detroit. This weekend, head out for a build your own burger in the D, and don’t be afraid to get creative!