It was a puzzling scene: a full parking lot at Atria on a recent Sunday night, but dimmed lights in the upstairs dining room. The room was completely empty, even though the tables were set for dinner service.

A couple walked up the steps of the restaurant and, once inside, turned to the right, disappearing down a flight of stairs, where glasses clinked and a low murmur of chat and laughter could be heard. A secret winter hideaway, maybe, but judging by the crowd downstairs two-for-one burger night at Atria is a poorly kept secret.

Cozy ambiance, tasty burgers draw big off-season crowd at State Road. — Ivy Ashe

One surefire antidote to the gray days of winter is a taste of summer — a hamburger with all the fixings, a side of crisp truffle fries, an ice cream sundae. Mix that with a dash of Island community spirit, and you have a winning formula. Atria’s Brick Cellar is not the only longstanding winter destination for burgers and camaraderie. At the other end of the Island, State Road Restaurant has created its own hot spot, with burgers served up on both Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Atria has tons of regulars at burger night, manager and wine director Sam Decker said. “Most people, you know their first names. You do get people who are kind of surprised you need a reservation in the middle of winter.”

“In the offseason, we sort of become a neighborhood restaurant,” said State Road manager Maura Martin just before a Thursday rush began. “The customers all know each other.” Not ten minutes later, two groups walked in, greeted Ms. Martin (“Hi, Maura!”) and then turned to greet each other before hanging up their coats.

“It's family night,” explained Sam Dunn, who took a seat in the front room with three others. “Sometimes three people come, sometimes eight. It's whoever decides to show.”

State Road burgers are large and the meat is ground in-house. — Ivy Ashe

“It's cozy, it's friendly, you know everyone here,” said Emily Coulter of Vineyard Haven, as she spooned through dessert with Elizabeth Patterson and Jocelyn Filley. The trio had come the week before, which was Ms. Patterson's first time at burger night. The turkey burger she had then was so delicious, she said with only a hint of hyperbole, it brought tears to her eyes. She ordered the turkey burger on her next visit, too.

These are not your average hamburgers. State Road’s burgers are enormous; the meat is ground in-house, sourced from the Grey Barn, the Farm Institute, and the Northeast Family Farm in Woburn, and cooked on a wood-fired grill.

“We take the whole chuck, that's the big key,” State Road chef Sean Yancey said. The sirloin burger is the most popular choice, he said, but he's partial to the lamb burger, with its garnishes of feta and tapenade. There's a bratwurst offering, with a side of “really mean bourbon baked beans,” and a chick pea and black bean veggie burger.

“The veggie is the most complex recipe we have,” Mr. Yancey said.

An order for a sirloin and a lamb burger came in.

“We did about 60 on Wednesday, and we'll do close to 100 tonight,” Mr. Yancey estimated. “It's a place to meet now. You may not come here in the summertime, but you can in the off-season.”

About 80 per cent of Atria's offseason business comes from burgers. — Ivy Ashe

At Atria, burger nights started as a way to combat the recession. They were also a way to give back to the year-round community, chef de cuisine Noah Kincaide said.

“We used to be closed during the winter,” he said. “Burgers made it work for us.” He estimated that about 80 percent of Atria's offseason business comes from the burgers, which are available on the menu all week but two for one on Sundays. The restaurant took the basic formula of “meat on a bun” and gave it an international spin. There are fourteen options on the menu, including a pork banh mi burger based on the Vietnamese sandwich and a seared tuna steak sandwich. The kitchen experimented with a chicken burger for a time but now uses a chicken breast instead.

“We’ve had a lot of success with different meats,” said Mr. Kincaide. “It’s a wider dimension of what a burger could be.” He's partial to the brisket option.

A great burger is the sum of its parts, and the same is true of burger night itself: the cozy, rustic spaces of State Road and Atria's Brick Cellar are the perfect spots to spend a chilly winter night.

“You need energy, and if you've got energy in a room, you're good to go,” Mr. Kincaide said.

In the Brick Cellar, people raised cocktails in toasts, and dug into their burgers with forks and knives. Waiters balanced the rectangular plates on their arms as they maneuvered up and down the stairs (the kitchen is upstairs at Atria).

At a back table, Alyssa Dubin celebrated her birthday with three of her friends. The group was deciding whether or not to upgrade to truffle fries.

Elizabeth Jims pored over her menu, trying to decide on the right choice before opting for the “tried and true” Atria classic — a beef burger with cheddar, accompanied by sauteed onions, roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, and smoked bacon.

“We always have a good time,” Ms. Dubin said.