Ask five friends who’s got the best burger in town, and you’ll hear five different answers. (Assuming, that is, you instruct your pals to exclude perennial top picks Ajax Tavern and the J-Bar, as we did here.) Choosing one depends as much on personal preference—thick and rare? thin and crispy?—as on mood, cravings, and whether or not you’re ready to slip into a food coma. Here six fine twists on the American classic, napkins not included.
 

0514 grill scouting rustique yjzydd

YOU’RE AN AMERICAN DREAMING OF PARIS

Known in-house as the “French Onion Soup Burger,” the bar-menu RUSTIQUE BURGER ($17) nods to the crock classic while slaying American appetites. Slow-caramelized onions top bubbly Gruyère; the burger is finished with garlic aioli on fluffy potato rolls, both made fresh. Salty pommes frites round out this sweet, substantial meal, served with a side of cornichons. 216 S. Monarch St., Aspen, 970-920-2555, rustiquebistro.com

0514 grill scouting justice snows eautuz

YOU ONLY HAVE $10—AND WANT FRIES, TOO

Justice Snow’s chef Jonathan Leichliter’s secret to a great burger? The beef. He handpicks steer from Cap-K Ranch in Basalt, which he’ll use in various cuts over the year. Not only is Leichliter’s JS BURGER ($10) prepared with aged cheddar, crispy onions, and grainy mustard sauce, but accompanied by a mountain of hand-cut fries or dressed greens, it’s the best deal in town. 328 E. Hyman Ave., Aspen, 970-429-8192, justicesnows.com 

0514 grill scouting white house tavern exswwh

YOU HAVE A DOUBLE-JOINTED JAW

The WHITE HOUSE TAVERN HONOR BURGER ($16) is a two-hands-required pile of yum. Griddled ground chuck and brisket are cloaked with white cheddar and tomato; a spicy slaw beneath the patty sop up juices before they hit the house-made brioche. This tower will fall apart; no shame in using a fork and knife. 302 E. Hopkins Ave., Aspen, 970-925-1007, aspenwhitehouse.com

0514 grill scouting 520 grill zz7c95

YOU WANT A FAST, FILLING LUNCH

Quash hunger pangs with the 520 GRILL BISON B&B ($11). Topped with cheese (try zingy pepper jack), the usual fresh suspects, and add-ons including fried egg and avocado, the B&B is hearty, smoky, and good for the road, thanks to chopped bacon mixed into the meat. 520 East Cooper Ave., Aspen, 970-925-9788, 520grill.com

0514 grill scouting fatbelly qukzah

YOU CRAVE THAT HOT GRIDDLE CRUNCH

Burger cognoscenti know that In-N-Out owes its addictive appeal to the Maillard Reaction, the phenomenon that turns proteins brown and crispy and only increases when a smooshed patty meets an extra-hot griddle. Charred edges are a hallmark of the FATBELLY STANDARD ($6.18), oozing with American cheese, diced onion, crinkle pickles, and sauce on a soft white bun. 220 Main St., Carbondale, 970-963-1569, fatbellyburgers.com

0514 grill scouting milagro ranch xnkugh

YOU FEEL LIKE A PICNIC—AT THE ABC

Fridays at lunchtime, the unmistakable scent of a backyard barbecue lingers at Louis Swiss Pastry. The owner’s own MILAGRO RANCH GRASS-FED BEEF BURGERS ($8.50) are cooked on the grill outside and topped how you like (chopped crispy bacon, gorgonzola or mozzarella, pickled jalapeños) on chewy, yeasty, straight-from-the-oven kaiser rolls. 400 Aspen Airport Business Center, Aspen, 970-925-8592

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