I tried the growing cult-favorite California chain that makes the 'best burger in America' - here's the verdict

Habit burger grill full mealIrene Jiang / Business Insider

I hadn't heard of Habit Burger Grill until I stumbled across the name in an article on underrated fast-food chains.

Apparently, the California-based burger chain I'd never heard of has earned numerous accolades and a diehard fan following. It was even voted the best regional fast-food chain in a 2019 USA Today reader's survey.

Habit's Charburger was voted the best-tasting burger in America in 2014, and the chain continues to rank as one of America's favorite restaurants, according to Consumer Reports.

It's also growing at breakneck speed.

Read more: I tried the signature burgers from 5 major fast-food chains, and the winner was obvious

Founded in 1969, Habit Burger Grill has increased its number of locations by over 60% in the last two years. From 172 restaurants in 2017 to 278 locations worldwide in 2019, Habit is continuing its rapid growth with another 35 restaurants opening in 2019.

Lots of those new locations are outside of Habit's native California. The chain now has locations in 13 states and six restaurants in China.

I decided to visit the Habit Burger Grill in Teterboro, New Jersey, to see what all the fuss was about, as well as to try the so-called best-tasting burger in America:

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The exterior looked like an updated set from Nickelodeon teen comedy-drama "Zoey 101."

The exterior looked like an updated set from Nickelodeon teen comedy-drama "Zoey 101."

So did the interior.

So did the interior.

Fake tropical plants sprung from every nook and cranny.

Fake tropical plants sprung from every nook and cranny.

The decor was trying very, very hard to be "California." It wasn't failing.

The decor was trying very, very hard to be "California." It wasn't failing.

Brightly colored paintings of beaches, SoCal locales, and surfers riding waves adorned the walls. On the nose? Maybe a little, but it works.

Brightly colored paintings of beaches, SoCal locales, and surfers riding waves adorned the walls. On the nose? Maybe a little, but it works.

The open kitchen was right behind the ordering counter, so I could see my food being prepared.

The open kitchen was right behind the ordering counter, so I could see my food being prepared.

I was given a buzzer to notify me when my food would be ready.

I was given a buzzer to notify me when my food would be ready.

Meanwhile, there was a plethora of pickled and spicy accoutrements available at the condiment stand.

Meanwhile, there was a plethora of pickled and spicy accoutrements available at the condiment stand.

I ordered an Oreo malt shake, onion rings, tempura green beans, a garden salad with ahi, and a guacamole crunch Charburger. I was going to order a normal Charburger but saw an advertisement at the counter for the guac crunch Charburger, and, like a true millennial, I couldn't say no to the avocado.

I ordered an Oreo malt shake, onion rings, tempura green beans, a garden salad with ahi, and a guacamole crunch Charburger. I was going to order a normal Charburger but saw an advertisement at the counter for the guac crunch Charburger, and, like a true millennial, I couldn't say no to the avocado.

The salad didn't look like anything too special. But I was excited for the promised medium-rare sushi-quality tuna.

The salad didn't look like anything too special. But I was excited for the promised medium-rare sushi-quality tuna.

I chose a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

I chose a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

The tuna was soft and flaky. The salad was fresh enough. The dressing was light and tart, and it added just enough flavor to the otherwise plain vegetables.

The tuna was soft and flaky. The salad was fresh enough. The dressing was light and tart, and it added just enough flavor to the otherwise plain vegetables.

The tuna was a little well-done for my liking, even though the cashier had warned me that it would be medium-rare. It wasn't particularly flavorful, but it had a great tender texture.

The tuna was a little well-done for my liking, even though the cashier had warned me that it would be medium-rare. It wasn't particularly flavorful, but it had a great tender texture.

I couldn't wait to try these giant golden loops of piping hot happiness.

I couldn't wait to try these giant golden loops of piping hot happiness.

The ring held its shape. The crust was perfect.

The ring held its shape. The crust was perfect.

The onion rings came with ranch dipping sauce.

The onion rings came with ranch dipping sauce.

An immaculately crispy shell of golden flour encased soft and fresh onion slices. They weren't too salty — ideal for dipping with the ranch.

An immaculately crispy shell of golden flour encased soft and fresh onion slices. They weren't too salty — ideal for dipping with the ranch.

Being able to buy tempura vegetables at a burger grill is so California. It also brings joy to the Asian-American in me.

Being able to buy tempura vegetables at a burger grill is so California. It also brings joy to the Asian-American in me.

I'd heard good things about the tempura green beans, so I was excited to try them.

I'd heard good things about the tempura green beans, so I was excited to try them.

They, too, went in the ranch sauce.

They, too, went in the ranch sauce.

Delicious. Less breaded and crunchy, and more vegetal than the onion rings, these were fairly light and a great vehicle for ranch. I'd love to see some more house dipping sauces to pair with these, such as a sweet-and-savory tentsuyu tempura sauce.

Delicious. Less breaded and crunchy, and more vegetal than the onion rings, these were fairly light and a great vehicle for ranch. I'd love to see some more house dipping sauces to pair with these, such as a sweet-and-savory tentsuyu tempura sauce.

Any burger that comes with an extra bun or bun proxy in the middle is unnecessarily complicating things. Still, there was both guac and avocado slices on this baby. And a beautiful baby it was.

Any burger that comes with an extra bun or bun proxy in the middle is unnecessarily complicating things. Still, there was both guac and avocado slices on this baby. And a beautiful baby it was.

The original Charburger, which won the "best burger in America" award, doesn't have a tortilla in the middle. Unfortunately, the guac crunch burger does. The tortilla added a disconcerting crunch to an otherwise adequate burger. True to its name, the meat itself tasted of char, but not much else. It wasn't particularly juicy or flavorful, although the burger's other elements were just fine.

The original Charburger, which won the "best burger in America" award, doesn't have a tortilla in the middle. Unfortunately, the guac crunch burger does. The tortilla added a disconcerting crunch to an otherwise adequate burger. True to its name, the meat itself tasted of char, but not much else. It wasn't particularly juicy or flavorful, although the burger's other elements were just fine.

Time for dessert. Oreos plus ice cream almost always equals magic. It's hard to mess up an Oreo shake.

Time for dessert. Oreos plus ice cream almost always equals magic. It's hard to mess up an Oreo shake.

And this one did not disappoint. Chunky and thick with a puff of whipped cream on top, this Oreo shake was positively addicting.

And this one did not disappoint. Chunky and thick with a puff of whipped cream on top, this Oreo shake was positively addicting.

There were several standout items in this meal, but sadly the burger wasn't one of them. I would cross oceans (or at least the Hudson River) for the onion rings and the tempura green beans. The salad was just fine. The Oreo shake was delicious, but I wager I could get a similar dessert at just about any other burger chain. Still, the chain's vibrant interior design and creative menu offerings make it a welcome addition to any mall.

There were several standout items in this meal, but sadly the burger wasn't one of them. I would cross oceans (or at least the Hudson River) for the onion rings and the tempura green beans. The salad was just fine. The Oreo shake was delicious, but I wager I could get a similar dessert at just about any other burger chain. Still, the chain's vibrant interior design and creative menu offerings make it a welcome addition to any mall.
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