A great burger is a beautiful thing. It's a dish that absolutely relies on the quality of the ingredients, from the fresh-ground meat to the glorious bun, with enough structural integrity to withstand the juiciness of the patty and toppings without hurting the roof of your mouth.

Nearly every week sees the launch of yet another amazing new burger place in the East Bay, where the beef is grass-fed, the toppings are genius and the ambience decidedly hip. Of course, not everyone evaluates burgers based on steer provenance and umami flavor vectors. Sometimes, you just want a good, honest burger, with minimum frills.

So we're offering up a mix with a little something for everyone, a list that includes Oakland's over-the-top Umami, Albany's creative Grazzy and Walnut Creek's all-American Habit.

Grazzy

Address: 747 San Pablo Ave., Albany

Contact: 510-526-2999; http://grazzyburgers.com

Hours: Open for lunch and dinner daily

Burger tab: $40.10 for two burgers with fries, a salad and a soda


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Grazzy is the type of casual field-to-fork eatery where you can pop in for burgers at lunch or linger over appetizers and ambience. That's because it's a bright, airy sit-down joint with walls covered in scenic photos of America's greatest natural wonders. There's also a taproom with 32 local beers and another 100 by the bottle. We'll leave the brews for another review.

What you need to know about the grub: Grazzy sources only organic grass-fed beef, organic turkey and cage-free chickens for its one-third pounders and offers gluten-free buns for an additional $1.50. They use rice bran oil in their fryers, which might explain the clean crispy-crunch of their Dino Chips, a mix of kale and potato chips ($4), and french fries ($4). Order any one of the nine burgers ($8.50-$10), and you get fries as well.

Standouts on our visit were the Merguez Lamb Burger ($10) made with Moroccan spices and, oddly enough, an 80:20 ratio of beef to lamb. We loved how the yogurt mint sauce complemented the heat from the harissa ketchup. The Bacon & Blue Burger ($10) was also delish: a beef (or turkey) patty topped with crumbly blue cheese, bacon, crisp butter leaf lettuce, tomatoes and caramelized onions with lemon garlic aioli. Both burgers arrived piping hot, but the wait was a little long for a quick lunch.

The Hatch Burger -- a hamburger, served medium rare with roasted green chiles, house American cheese and roasted garlic aioli -- at Umami Burger in Oakland
The Hatch Burger -- a hamburger, served medium rare with roasted green chiles, house American cheese and roasted garlic aioli -- at Umami Burger in Oakland is shown July 29, 2014. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

For people who don't eat red meat, they have a good selection of burgers: chicken, salmon, portobello and one we'll definitely try next time called Black Bean Fiesta ($9), a vegetarian patty made with black beans, sweet potato and brown rice topped with pico de gallo, preserved lemon, guacamole and cilantro lime aioli. Yum.

If you're feeling salad-y, Grazzy offers six ($6 half; $9 whole), including a cabbage and jicama slaw with a Southeast Asian vinaigrette. You can wash it down with one of their old-fashioned sodas ($3), such as the sweet Butterscotch Sasparilla, a 16-ounce organic Straus milkshake ($6.50) or homemade kombucha on tap ($4). Lunching late? You can order from the taproom menu, which includes everything from mini lamb tacos to spicy chicken wings, starting at 3:30 p.m.

-- J. Yadegaran

Umami Burger

Address: 2100 Franklin St., Suite 2190, Oakland

Contact: 510-899-8626, www.umamiburger.com

Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner

Burger tab: $32.50 for two burgers and smothered fries

Umami Burger, a growing chain founded by Adam Fleischman five years ago in Southern California, takes its name from the unofficial fifth flavor group -- the savory flavor found in meats, cheeses, mushrooms and cooked tomatoes.

These are pricey burgers -- the cheapest is $11 -- but for that money, you can be sure you're going to get a belly full of flavor. Start with the Original ($12), which gives you all the umami flavor you can handle with a six-ounce patty, shiitake mushrooms and roasted tomatoes, with a parmesan crisp and caramelized onions to boot.

The Hatch Burger ($11) has roasted green chiles and a garlic aioli, but both flavors were a bit muted by the strong beef flavor of the patty. If you're looking for a spicy sandwich, it may leave you reaching for the hot sauce to kick it up a notch.

Unfazed by the gender-specific name, my wife polished off the Manly Burger ($12), stacked with beer cheddar, bacon lardons and smoked-salt onion strings. Consider ordering your burger a bit more well done than you're used to; we both asked for medium and got burgers that were completely pink in the middle.

Where Umami really shines is in its trio of Truffle'd burgers. The Truffle Especiale ($14) is a heavenly concoction with truffle butter, truffled arugula, a parmesan crisp and a fried egg. No burger is complete without fries; a standard plate of Thin Fries ($3.50), enough for two, can be topped with add-ons such as truffle fondue and short ribs and gravy. Alternatives include onion rings ($4.50), sweet potato fries ($4) or fried pickles ($6.)

If you're craving an elite burger experience that'll stretch your expectations of what a burger can be, Umami Burger will give you something to savor.

-- D. Jimenez

The Habit

Address: 1504 Geary Road, Walnut Creek and other locations

Contact: 925-296-9672, www.habitburger.com

Hours: Open daily for lunch and dinner

Burger tab: $18.61 for burgers, fries and sodas for two

It seems odd to talk about a Habit charburger immediately after an Umami creation. But if you recoiled at the very thought of a truffle butter-topped burger, this one's for you.

Of course, if you didn't grow up in Santa Barbara, you may be eyeing the word "charburger" with some trepidation, too. It's a thing back in my hometown. Basically, they're grilled burgers. Done badly, of course, they are indeed charred burgers. Fortunately, the Habit Burger Grill, a Santa Barbara-based chain, does those charburgers as the gods of surf, sand and sea intended: simply, honestly and topped with fresh lettuce, caramelized onions, melty cheese and a tad too much mayo.

We're not talking gourmet burgers here. There's no grass-fed beef, arugula or aioli -- it's not Roam Artisan Burger (personal fave). But if you're a fan of, say, In-N-Out or Five Guys Burger and Fries, looking for a reasonably priced all-American burger, this is a good one. In fact, it narrowly edged out both chains in a recent Consumer Reports survey of the nation's best fast-food burgers.

The Habit's claim to fame is the Char Meal ($7.05), a straightforward charburger, fries and soda. It's perfectly fine. Well, avoid the Minute Maid pomegranate lemonade at the soda squirter; it's vile. But the burger is fine -- and the Santa Barbara variation ($5.75), a double char with avocado on grilled sourdough, is even better. They do other variations on the theme, including a barbecue bacon, a mushroom Swiss and a teriyaki charburger with grilled pineapple. Don't eat red meat? There are veggie, chicken and tuna steak charburgers, too. And like any self-respecting burger joint, they do fries -- regular or sweet potato ($2.65) -- which are nicely crisp but underseasoned, much like In-N-Out's, where ketchup isn't a condiment, it's a requirement.

Bottom line? If In-N-Out is your idea of burger heaven, you'll love this.

-- J. Burrell