Cheap Eats: Burgers

These great burger joints serve up a signature American meal for a pittance.

Arthur’s Tavern
(Morris Plains) The dangling plastic liquor bottles and the red-striped awning over the bar give off garish cheer; so does the happy crowd. Settle in with the ever-reliable $5.99 burger—add American, Swiss, cheddar or mozz for 75 cents, pepper jack or bleu for 95 cents—top with a $1.99 side of sautéed onions, and the hubbub becomes background. 700 Speedwell Ave, 973-455-9705,—EL

Next Door
(Montclair) In a blind tasting, a panel of meat mavens crowned Next Door’s 10-ounce burger with sharp white cheddar and caramelized onions on a Balthazar brioche roll the winner of our 2011 Great Burger Showdown. Chef Zod Arifai grinds his own blend of chuck, hanger steak and short rib. It’s still a two-fisted marvel ($12 at lunch, $14 at dinner). 556 Bloomfield Ave, 973-744-3600,—EL

Rocky Hill Inn
(Rocky Hill) For $13, chef/owner Evan Blomgren delivers a meal masquerading as a burger—a mix of strip steak, short rib and pancetta topped with cheddar, grilled onions, applewood-smoked bacon and a sunnyside-up egg on a brioche bun. Blomgren, a big fellow, believes in big portions. At $9, his decadent mac and cheese with the same bacon plus Maytag blue cheese defines bang-for-the-buck. All that, plus 17 beers on tap. 137 Washington St, 609-683-8930,—PT

White Rose
(Linden) Watching pricy pretensions like foie gras and short rib sliders proliferate, you may wonder what became of the genuine article. It’s alive and well here. Hop on a stool and see. A golf ball of fresh chopped meat is flattened on the griddle and topped with chopped onions. The fat sizzles nicely. The cook flips the patty and slaps on a slice of slippery American cheese. When it melts, he adds the bun. Five sliders with cheese, $6. A regular size cheeseburger is $3.50. Either way, a lesson in timelessness on a paper plate. 1301 E Elizabeth Ave, 908-486-9651,—EL

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