Hilton Head Island’s Best Burger: Part 2By Todd • Jun 12th, 2009 • Category: Burger Blog
Looking for Hilton Head’s Best Burger?
- Hilton Head Island’s Best Burger: Part 1
- Hilton Head Island’s Best Burger: Part 2
- Hilton Head Island’s Best Burger: Part 3
Tourist traps. Every vacation hotspot has them. It’s kind of an unfairly nasty name, I suppose, since many of the most popular places with visitors also happen to be pretty decent. Some of them are, in fact, wildly popular with very good reason. But the unfortunate reality is that there are an awful lot of joints where more effort is spent on the T-shirts in the window than on the food on the menu. Following the sunburned out-of-towners is easy. If you really want to track down the best food in a city, ask the locals where they like to eat.
That’s what I did in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, looking for the best cheeseburger in town. One name came up over and over, with literally every single person I asked. But that place didn’t show up in any of the local restaurant guides. It doesn’t have a website. You can’t make reservations. And if you don’t know where you’re going around here, you won’t even find it.
Does that look like the home of one the best burgers on the planet? Look to the right of the Exxon sign. To the left of the gas pumps. See that little building in the background with no signage whatsoever? That’s Harold’s Diner, and it honestly deserves a place near or at the top of every true burger fanatic’s Must-Eat List.
Harold’s is a small diner car. And I mean small. There are a grand total of 21 seats, 13 of them on stools at the bar about 5 feet across from the kitchen. If you’re skilled enough to even find Harold’s, there’s absolutely no guarantee that they’ll be open. The hours are plainly posted on the door: Most Days 7:00-3:00. That’s not just a funny sign. It’s not uncommon to pull up to Harold’s at 10am on a random Tuesday and find the place dark and locked up tight for no reason other than that they didn’t feel like opening that day.
You fill out your own ticket on an order pad at Harold’s, checking the boxes of what you want. You write your name at the bottom, hand it in, and wait for your name to be called.
Chuck (the owner) and his staff run a tight ship. If you write in a special order, you will be yelled at. If you don’t answer when your name is called, you will be yelled at. If you try to pay with a credit card, you will be yelled at on your way over to the ATM next door. If you complain or cause a ruckus or have the audacity to ask for a drink refill, there’s a good chance you will be yelled at.
They were standing 4 deep at the door when I got there today. Someone held the door open too long, and all of the not-air-conditioning was apparently escaping, because Chuck yelled out, “Shut the damn door, woman!” at a prospective customer. It’s that kind of place. Now, it’s all in fun, and most diners are either already in on the joke or quickly adapt and play along.
But if you can find it, if they’re open, and if you don’t get drummed out of the place for being an idiot, Harold’s serves a ridiculously phenomenal burger. Their regular patty is a monster. The Big H is two of them, and it is heavy.
I got mine with bacon, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. Everything was flawless. It was the kind of burger where you find yourself making little moaning and groaning noises with each mouthful. Grilled to juicy perfection, just the right proportion of toppings, loads of melted cheesy goodness, and a kick-ass bun that held it together all the way down to the last bite.
When you finish a Big H, Chuck asks if you want a second one. Rumor has it that if you polish off #2, he tears up your check. I have to admit, I thought about it long and hard. A free meal is nice, but what I really wanted was just to savor another one of these masterpieces. I’ll have to prepare better next time.
Not only am I ready to call Harold’s Big H the Best Burger on Hilton Head Island, I’m here to tell you it gives my B.C.O.M.L. an honest-to-God run for its money. If you come to Hilton Head, go ahead and buy a T-shirt from whatever tourist trap you want.
But get the burger from Harold’s.