Some people say the symbol of America is the Statue of Liberty. Some say it’s the White House or the Washington Monument. Others believe it’s the Grand Canyon or the mighty Mississippi. They are all wrong.

It’s the hamburger.

Yes, that humble disc of ground beef nestled in a butter-soft bun, topped with neon American cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion is the real symbol of our great nation. For too long, however, we’ve treated this icon of American gastronomy with a shameful lack of respect, relegating it to junk-food status.

No more.

Over the past several years, savvy chefs and restaurateurs in our area have applied their white-tablecloth talents to this blue-collar classic, opening a growing number of burger-centric spots. Chefs like Allen Susser, restaurateurs like Carmine Giardini, investors like Vic & Angelo’s John Rosatti and young entrepreneurs like Daniel and Desiree Tobin have given burgers the star treatment. Not to mention Shula Burger (as in former Dolphins coach Don Shula), which is coming to west Delray Beach, and the legion of fine dining restaurants that feature a “gourmet” burger on their menus.

Why the burger boom?

Lots of reasons, say our experts. For one, it’s a growth industry, especially in the market segment dominated by Five Guys, which is a step above the Mc-franchises of the world. At anywhere from $5 to $12, quality burgers also are an affordable luxury. Plus, the burger suits Americans’ preference for familiar dishes that don’t require a culinary school degree to understand.

All are reasons to peer more deeply into our own burger universe. We looked at a half-dozen purveyors of upscale patties, from counter-service “fast casual” eateries like BurgerFi, CG Burgers and Relish to places like Burger Bar, Grease and Moran’s that offer table service and a more restaurant-like experience.

No matter how you bite down on it, though, it’s a burger world. And we’re just eating in it...

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