Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon

Review by: Bruce Bilmes and Susan Boyle

We love to try the local cuisine when we travel — we’re Roadfooders, after all! — but it would be nice to have at our fingertips a list of the best burgers, dogs and, perhaps, pizza, wherever we might be. So, while we crave steamed crabs plastered with Old Bay, crab cakes with big pearlescent lumps, and Maryland crab soup with a kick, we also enjoy the occasional palate refresher when we’re in Baltimore, and a hunk of crusty, flame-cooked beef, as served at Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon, fits that bill perfectly. The trick is in finding it.

The Wagon’s schedule for the week is posted online, and you can also stay up-to-date through Twitter. As we write this, the schedule for the week has them at the University of Maryland on Wednesday, Mount Vernon (MDSHA) Thursday, Johns Hopkins Friday, and The Preakness Saturday. And right away you have probably identified one potential problem: the schedule may make sense to in-the-know locals, but we haven’t a clue what Mount Vernon (MDSHA) means. Some Google work may be necessary for tourists, as it was for us when we knew that they would be at MLC Day one recent Saturday. Some time at the keyboard uncovered the fact that MLC Day is a Maryland Lacrosse Club day at the Friends School. With GPS loaded, we were off!

It was lunchtime, and the Wagon line was long. The burgers are cooked over fire to order, so by the time we snaked to the front of the line, placed our order, and received our paper bag of food, perhaps 30-40 minutes had elapsed. The grass around the truck was dotted with folks tearing into hefty, drippy burgers.

The menu is split between Signature Angus Burgers, which come with set garnishes, and Build Your Burger, where you select from a menu of meats (or a veggie burger) and garnishes. You can choose one cheese, up to three toppings (among the options are black bean salsa and Baja slaw), and up to three sauces, all included in your $8 tariff. We also like the sound of the Signature MacGuiness, topped with apple-smoked bacon and cheddar, and Elvis Got the Blues, with that same bacon and Maytag blue.

The meat tastes of the fire and has the heft of a handmade burger from your backyard grill. The garnishes are fresh. We have but one quibble: all the beef burgers are cooked medium-well, which leaves the beef patties less juicy than we’d prefer, but the toppings and sauces should be ample compensation.

The truck is an offshoot of Kooper’s Tavern in the Fell’s Point neighborhood of the Charm City, and presumably the same burgers are available in air-conditioned comfort with tables and chairs and flagons of ale, but what fun is that when you can track down a food truck and eat on the grass surrounded by enthusiastic Baltimoreans?

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