You said the burgers at this Downtown Utica staple are the best -- so we tried them

The search for the best Metro Detroit burger continues

The next round of Local 4's Burger Breakdown covers Shamrock Pub in Utica. We're on the hunt for the best burger in Metro Detroit, and we're bringing you along. (WDIV)

UTICA, Mich. – We are on the hunt for the very best hamburger in Metro Detroit.

Like you, we’re sick of these “top 10 burgers” lists put out by every news organization and their mother. That’s why Carmichael Cruz and I, Cassidy Johncox, are putting our arteries at risk as we taste our way through the burgers of Southeast Michigan.

Together, we’re going to try every burger we possibly can to narrow down the best of the best of Metro Detroit. And we’re taking you along for the ride.

We’ve visited spots like Miller’s Bar, Grey Ghost, Redcoat Tavern and more. Now, we’re stopping at the ever-famous Shamrock Pub in Downtown Utica.

Next stop: Shamrock Pub, Utica

You wouldn’t believe how many people have asked us to taste the burgers at the longtime beloved Shamrock Pub in Downtown Utica -- maybe you’re one of them!

Well, we finally made the trek from Wayne County to mid-Macomb County to try the staple that so many rave about.

The pub has been “serving Utica since before you were born,” as their website so aptly puts it. The no-frills bar opened in 1935 and is literally known for their burgers.

Excited as can be, Carmichael and I walked in one Wednesday afternoon and sat right down. (We are getting really lucky about wait times, lately.) We barely glanced at the menu on the wall before politely declaring our intentions: Two cheeseburgers, please.

We were, rather quickly, served our two cheeseburgers with all the fixings on top and on the side. The patty came with American cheese on top, and the open bun top included shredded lettuce, a tomato slice, and some mayo. On the plate were rings of raw white onions, pickle slices, and pepperoncinis.

We added some onions and pickles to our burgers before their final assembly, leaving the pepperoncinis off for the sake of consistency. The cheeseburgers cost $8.50 each, and did not come with any sides.

We attached little microphones to our shirts so we could record our reactions while eating. To spare you from the gross chewing sounds, we’ve written out the conversation for you to read, instead.

Here’s how it went.

The cheeseburger at Shamrock Pub in Utica, Michigan. (Cassidy Johncox/WDIV)

Chewing the fat

Cassidy: Right off the bat: This is very attractive. Even for being served on a paper plate!

Carmichael: YES!

Cassidy: My mouth is watering as I smell this.

We literally can’t wait a minute before diving in. Of course, “mmms” commence.

Carmichael: The char on the burger is excellent.

Cassidy: This tastes like beef. This is one of the first burgers we’ve had that tastes like ******* beef.

Carmichael: There are still a lot of other flavors, too. But yeah, absolutely.

We take more bites. We’ve learned to get about halfway through the burger before we assess too much.

Cassidy: I like this.

Carmichael: I do, too. This is probably the most solid burger we’ve had. Nothing is overpowering anything else.

Cassidy: Right! It’s so balanced. I can taste everything. Nothing’s getting lost. Even with the mayo ... I can taste the mayo! It’s not just added for moisture.

Carmichael: Like I said: sol-id. And you can still taste the beef.

Cassidy: I love how thin the patty is while still being a good, satisfying bite. You can taste the char every bite.

Carmichael: I don’t think we’ve had a burger yet that’s had this good of a char on it.

Cassidy: Not this good. And the whole thing is really nice and moist, but not greasy at all.

Carmichael: Everything holds up well.

Carmichael: You know the most wild part? There’s only one slice of cheese -- and I don’t think it needs any more. It would maybe be nice to have another one, but this burger still feels and tastes cheesy.

Cassidy: I was literally just thinking the same thing! For those who do want to taste more cheese, you could totally add a cheddar or something here to make it stand out more. We just went the traditional route with American.

More chewing. We’re eating pretty quickly, here.

Cassidy: You can even taste the bun. The bun has good flavor. It’s not just the bread-y vehicle for the burger; it actually adds something.

Carmichael: There’s a sweetness to it. A sponginess you can feel. It’s good.

Cassidy: There’s a bitterness coming from somewhere that I can’t put my finger on. But I like it.

Carmichael: I get it, people! I get it.

Cassidy: The people were right on this one. And the proportions are exactly right.

Carmichael: It is just a clean burger. Clean and fresh. And we haven’t even talked about price yet! It’s $8.50 for this burger. And it’s a big burger.

Cassidy: For the price, for not being in a high-end place working with crazy flavors or special sauces -- this is, bare bones, the most traditional burger and toppings, and everything tastes exactly how you want it to.

Carmichael: I could see myself eating this every day, and not feeling bad after.

Cassidy: Or during.


The cheeseburger at Shamrock Pub in Utica, Michigan. (Cassidy Johncox/WDIV)

Overall rating

As we taste more and more burgers, our ratings may change in the future. Until our final results are published, all of our ratings will be considered preliminary. Still, we have established a baseline, and where the burgers fall on our grading scale is becoming clearer and clearer.

For Shamrock Pub: We both agree that this is the most solid traditional burger we’ve had. The cheeseburger was classically made and served with classic toppings, and it was delicious on all fronts. If you’re looking for a great standard burger, go here. We would happily come back anytime to devour more of these well-priced burgers. For everyone who suggested it: Thank you! We finally understand.

Our ratings are as follows (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best):

  • Carmichael’s rating: 8.7
  • Cassidy’s rating: 9.1

Find all Burger Breakdowns here

Why are we doing this?

After trying countless hamburgers in our lives, we are on the hunt for the very best burger Metro Detroit has to offer. We’re selecting restaurants from viewer submissions, the most common “top burger” lists, and from our own lists, and tasting them all to see which is really the greatest.

When asking viewers where the best Metro Detroit burger is, we received over 600 responses. While we can’t try 600 burgers (I don’t think we’d survive), we’re going to get through as many as we can.

In short, we’re on the hunt for the moment when we can say: “Now, that’s the best burger I’ve ever had,” and we’re reporting on what we find. We’re both huge lovers of food, cooking, and the social scene, and we’re frequently trying new food and places throughout Southeast Michigan.

This journey will take us to many different restaurants that cater to different budgets. While we can’t get to every Metro Detroit restaurant and burger, we aren’t excluding any specific type of establishment from our search -- save for chains that aren’t specifically local.

As we hunt for the very best burger around, we will stop in at some dives, some higher-end spots, and everything in between. Our criteria will be the same for everyone, and we won’t be rating the more expensive burgers higher for any reason -- they’ll be graded for their quality and value just the same.

Have a spot you think we absolutely have to try? Let us know in an email or in the comments below, and we may add it to our list! Again, we’re avoiding chains, unless they’re local.

About the Authors

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

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