Is there any foodstuff more versatile — more customizable — than the hamburger? One minute it’s as humble and no-nonsense as can be, wearing just a slather of mustard, ketchup and mayo, and maybe a pickle or two on a simple steamed bun. The next it’s gotten gussied up with carefully aged melted cheeses, roasted onions, avocado or any of countless secret sauces, and presented like an exquisite gift on an artisanal roll. The burger, in other words, always becomes whatever you want it to be.

And it isn’t just the toppings that make an enormous difference. Meat grade quality is key, as is treatment and handling. Were the cows grass fed? Was the meat hand ground? How fresh is it, and is it cooked exactly the way you like it? After all, even the best-quality patty can be easily ruined if it’s too raw or overcooked for your personal preferences.

And all of the above, of course, determines what it costs. But no matter how fancy or spartan you like your burger, you should be able to find one that’s both delicious and affordable. Here are three excellent picks that are just that.

• Cheap: Roy’s All Steak Hamburgers 

After the breakfast crowds file out of this bare-bones, sit-down joint, in come the burger fans. They line up for the beef patties (ground in-house daily) that ring in at $2.40 (cheeseburgers are $2.65), that come with mustard, relish and smothered or raw onions at no extra cost. Lettuce and tomato are 50 cents extra, grilled mushrooms are an additional dollar, and it all comes on a steamed bun. Note: There are two Roy’s locations — one is part burger restaurant, part golf center and it’s open seasonally; the other location is this spot, which is open year-round and takes cash only.

WHAT: Roy’s All Steak Hamburgers

WHERE: 5 Washington St. N., Auburn

HOURS: Daily, 5 a.m. – 8 p.m.

INFO: 207-783-4304

• Moderate: Cowbell Grill & Tap 

Let the name be your first hint that bells and whistles are in the mix here; the place has no less than 25 specialty burgers, multiple regular theme nights, and most notably for your wallet and palate, a happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Monday through Friday. That includes a plate of three sliders for $5 — your choice of pork, veggie or Angus beef, all of which arrive on a cutting board with a side of lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle.

WHAT: Cowbell Grill & Tap

WHERE: 49 Lisbon St., Lewiston

HOURS: Daily, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.

INFO: 207-333-5188, cowbellgrillandtap.com, @cowbellgrillandtap on Facebook, @cowbellgrillandtap on Instagram.

• Expensive: Butcher Burger

Every specialty burger created in the Butcher Burger kitchen starts with the impressive house patty (a six-ounce mix of beef ground in-house and bacon), but one in particular takes it over the top. The $19 Surf & Turf Burger crowns it with lobster almost literally right off the boat, from Portland’s Linda Kate Lobster — a half portion of what they use in their lobster roll. Then that’s topped with lettuce, tomato and mayo, and nestled on a toasted King’s Hawaiian bun.

WHAT: Butcher Burger

WHERE: 188 Main St., Bethel

HOURS: Daily, 11:30a.m.-9p.m.

INFO: 207-824-1171, @ButcherBurgerMaine on Facebook, @butcherburgermaine on Instagram

Alexandra Hall is a longtime New England lifestyle writer who recently moved to Maine.


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