Chattanooga–Urban Stack Burger Lounge
The Scene: Mike and Taylor Monen both "love burgers and bourbon," so they created a restaurant based on those two Tennessee staples. Last year, the couple opened this spot in the restored 1868 Southern Railway Freight Depot and came up with a menu of burgers made from locally sourced, all-natural ingredients, as well as the city's largest selections of bourbons.
Burger to Try: The Strauss. This healthy (but hearty) burger features freshly ground turkey, lettuce, avocado, bacon, tomato, and homemade blue cheese spread, all topped with a fried egg.
While You're There: Try an Orange Crush, a mouth-tingling mixture of Rebel Yell Bourbon, St. Germain liqueur, and fresh orange. Living up to the "Lounge" in its name, Urban Stack offers more than 100 different bourbons, whiskeys, and beers.
12 West 13th St.; urbanstack.com or 423/475-5350
Knoxville–Litton's Market, Restaurant & Bakery
The Scene: For years, University of Tennessee students, as well as Knoxville residents and visitors, have made the 5-mile trip north to the suburb of Fountain City to get some of the state's best burgers. "My grandfather, Eldrige Litton, opened the business as a meat market in 1946," owner Barry Litton says. "So we've been doing this for a while." Barry retains that family-run flavor at his comfortable restaurant where waitresses treat customers like long-lost relatives.
Burger to Try: The Thunder Road. This big seller (the meat is ground and the buns are baked on-site daily) is topped with homemade pimiento cheese and sweet sautéed onions.
While You're There: Don't leave without ordering a heavenly serving of Baby Jane strawberry shortcake.
2803 Essary Road; littonsburgers.com or 865/688-0429
The Scene: This busy burger joint sits near the center of Nashville's happily hip 12 South neighborhood. Owner Miranda Pontes ran the popular Frothy Monkey coffee shop and cafe before switching to burgers last year, so she knows something about Music City attitudes and appetites. Now she welcomes families, friends, and total strangers who sit elbow-to-elbow at communal tables, digging into gourmet burgers, innovative appetizers, and fresh-from-the-farm salads.
Burger to Try: The Bison. If you've never taken a bite of buffalo, you'll be surprised how tender and tasty it can be, especially when covered with white Cheddar, fried red onion, jalapeño, tomato, and honey Dijon aïoli.
While You're There: Enjoy an in-season appetizer. This past summer we had the crispy fried oysters served with a spicy lemon-lime rémoulade.
2901 12th Avenue South; burger-up.com or 615/279-3767