If a hamburger represents the quintessential American food, it is certainly ill-served by fast-food joints around the country. A good burger should be thick but never dry. It may be topped with all manner of garnishes, but the beef should be the main event. The bun is just as important as the burger itself, and the sides — French fries, onion rings, coleslaw — must be of the same unstinting quality. Visit the establishments at right to see just how good a real burger can be.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA: At The Beverly Hills Hotel’s Fountain Coffee Room (9641 Sunset Blvd.; 310-276-2251), just about every non-
vegan Hollywood celebrity has dug into the half-inch-thick burger that’s splayed over a fresh, warm bun and lavished with whatever toppings you may desire.

NEW YORK: To discover just how good a burger can be, try the famous signature item at the Big Apple’s ‘21’ (21 W. 52nd St.; 212-582-7200), a massive testament to a hardy appetite.

PHOENIX: Try Mark Tarbell’s “Rich Man’s Burger” at Barmouche (3131 E. Camelback Rd.; 602-956-6900) — a mighty slab of grilled black Angus beef with thick English bacon and luscious Stilton cheese.

SAN FRANCISCO: If you want what most chefs consider the best meat in America, from Niman Ranch, have it on a bun at Stars Bars & Dining (555 Golden Gate Ave.; 415-861-7827).