The 101 Best Burgers in America
The building that houses Earnestine's & Hazel's supposedly started as a pharmacy in the ‘30s and was owned by Abe Plough, the man who would invent Coppertone suntan lotion. Rich from his invention, Plough gave the building to two hairstylists (sisters) operating upstairs who used another of his products to straighten hair. Their names? Earnestine and Hazel. They turned the spot into a café, one said to be visited by musicians like B.B. King, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry after gigs at a nearby club. Food wasn't the only thing people stopped in for — there was also supposedly a brothel upstairs. After being boarded up in the 1970s, it was reopened in 1993 by Russell George, who until he died last year, hosted an amazing atmosphere with a fantastic jukebox in a bar whose every step creaks, and whose every inch holds the tantalizing smell of the incredible slow-cooked “soul burgers” the joint is known for. Thin, perfectly seared, and served on a soft white bun, it’s given a couple squirts of Worcestershire-kicked sauce as it cooks, and is the perfect accompaniment to a night out.
Yelp/ Eric S
All-American Lower Haight restaurant RickyBobby’s beef and bacon burger puts a slight spin on the standard bacon burger by grinding beef and bacon together in an act of meaty, high-calorie harmony. The mouthwatering results, served on a brioche bun with American and Cheddar cheese, and then smothered with ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, will quickly dispel any notion you have that this all-in-one burger is any kind of food gimmick.
Yelp/ Kathleen N
This vintage 10-seat diner in the California capital has been serving classic, old-style burgers to everyone from farm workers to politicians since the mid-1930s. For the Superburger, the bready, no-frills bun encloses a griddled patty, well-done but still at least a little juicy, dressed with mustard and mayo and layered with the usual tomato and lettuce. Nothing fancy, just a real burger.
Yelp/ Nick Piggott
Dyer's Burgers is a Memphis institution, one of the places that anyone visiting should make a point of checking out. Opened in 1912 by Elmer "Doc" Dyer, this Beale Street burger joint is famous for its cooking grease. Burgers are cooked in a large skillet — hold that, sure they're cooked, but fried by being immersed in oil is more accurate.
Make sure you sit at the counter, and keep in mind that the double cheeseburger is the suggested move here. If you try to order one patty, you'll likely get the response: "You sho, honey? Our patties are pretty small." Once you acquiesce, watch the process. The short order cook uses a spatula to lift a patty out, covers it with a slice of cheese, immerses the cheese-topped patty back in the grease to melt it, raises it up again, tops it with another fried patty, and repeats the process before laying it on a shiny bun that almost looks like it was given the same treatment but just acquires the shine from being in contact with the process.
Locals swear it's been the same grease (strained daily) used throughout the years going back to Doc Dyer's times. That's a scary thought and doubtful, but it's a fine burger indeed.
Being greeted by the eager-to-please Hong family that owns Irv's, and are known to draw up personalized doodles on their plates and bags, is a big part of this West Hollywood spot's attraction. But another huge factor, of course, is the juicy, old-fashioned burgers. Angelenos recently breathed a savory sigh of relief when Irv's reopened in a new location after losing their lease in 2013, partially thanks to a local community group calling themselves The Burger Brigade, dedicated to saving their beloved burger institution. Now that's dedication.
Hunter House, a small, throwback, white porcelain diner located outside of Detroit, features slider-sized sweet-onion-infused patties that have made the establishment a local institution since 1952, and will quickly wipe the words "White Castle" out of your vocabulary. The double hamburger, with ketchup, mustard, and dill pickles on top, is a house favorite that will run you all of $2.85. However, we recommend ordering several of these a la carte mini-burgers at a time.
Yelp/ Chris Richards
Anchor Bar and Grill's menu cuts right to the chase with its three food categories: One-Third-Pound Burgers, Bigger Burgers, and Other Grub. That is to say, you can order something besides a burger, but they don't really recommend it. The cashew burger, which will run you just $4.25, is one of those one-third pounders. The flavor, however, is anything but small. Topped with cheese, onions, and raw cashews, the combination of burger grease and cashew crunch in every bite makes it a truly unique menu item.
Yelp/ Sara W
All you need to do is get a glimpse at the 5-8 Club's menu to realize that the Juicy Lucy is no by-the-numbers burger menu item. The establishment features their most famous menu item smack in the center in bold, noting that their Lucy has been featured on Man vs. Food and Food Wars, and won a whole host of Twin City burger accolades. So what's the secret? A mouth-watering, cooked-to-order half pound patty, stuffed with your choice of cheese that melts in the center and mingles with the meat’s natural flavors. Just one look at this molten, mammoth burger creation is enough to kick in some serious burger and cheese cravings.
Sitting in a sprawling, fully refurbished turn of the century printing building, Schlafly's name implies the star of the show here is beer — of which there is plenty — but the real menu gem is the ground sirloin tap room burger, featuring burger slaw, white Cheddar, and an English muffin bun. Burger adventurers can also go with the equally delicious Mediterranean-style lamb burger with feta and cucumber sauce, served on a ciabatta bun.
Dating back to 1937, when burgers were slung from behind the counter for five cents apiece, Town Topic has since evolved into a Kansas City institution. Their 80/20 ground chuck cheeseburger served up on a soft bun is fresh, simple, and lets the greasy flavors do the talking. If you've really worked up an appetite, we suggest topping the cheeseburger off with hash browns and washing it down with a root beer float. It'll transport you back to a simpler time before we, as a nation, were preoccupied with the dangers of saturated fats.
Tucked away in Portsmouth, New Hampshire is a complete innocuous-looking diner cart with a menu of burgers, hot dogs, and fries — almost everything is under five bucks. But don't be fooled by Gilley's nonchalant appearance: inside you'll find their no-frills but transcendent bacon double cheeseburger, featuring fresh ground pattied chuck loin on simple toasted white bun. It's elegant in its simplicity. Hey, there’s a reason this greasy spoon has been in business since 1940.
J.M. Curley's Angus burger is a straightforward approach that steers clear of burger gimmicks — this is 9 ounces of perfectly seasoned and cooked beef topped with Cheddar, grilled onions, pickles, and house Russian dressing, known for its plate-lickable excess grease drippings. The Burger won this unpretentious dinner and after-bar eatery Best Burger honors from Boston Magazine in 2013.
Springfield is generally known as the birthplace of basketball (local phys-ed teacher James Naismith supposedly invented it to fill the gap between football and baseball seasons). West Springfield doesn’t have quite as strong a claim when it comes to national recognition, but it deserves a nod for being the home to one of the country’s best burgers: the cheeseburger with fried onions at White Hut. White Hut has been through several different owners and generations, and it has the whole “White” reference that speaks to the success burger joints experienced when relabeling themselves with that adjective in the ‘20s in the wake of the uproar around meatpacking practices caused by Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle.” However, there’s really only one thing you need to know about this spot. The burgers are legit, squashed cheesy affairs — the kind of cheeseburgers where the cheese is not just a topping, but an integral part of the cooking process, and as important an ingredient (or at least close to it) as the patty. Some might scoff at this. Scoff all you like, but that won’t change the facts. White Hut and its sweet, caramelized onions, squishy bun, and juicy patty cooked on an open griddle in front of the customer counter are delights made almost better by the authenticity and confidence of this unheralded gem’s just-off-prickly but genuinely local and good-hearted servers.
With three city locations, a Fenway Park outpost, and a roving burger truck, it’s fair to say that if you're in Boston, a Tasty Burger is never too far away. It's a good thing, too, considering their '50s drive-in style burgers are some of the best in Beantown. The menu has specialty options, like a Hawaiian-style teriyaki option and a "butta burger" topped with creamy butter and onion. But our pick is their succulent trademark Big Tasty, with all the classic fixin’s and specialty Tasty sauce.
A bun should never steal the burger show, but the fresh, toasted challah loaf bun at Manhattan's The Lambs Club comes pretty close. But the sirloin burger has plenty more going for it, including Cabot sharp Cheddar, shallot, and just about the highest quality beef burger you can find. Not to mention the perfect speared pickle on top.
The Lambs Club
Chef Mitch Prensky’s modern American spot delivers the upscale burger goods with their Supper Burger. The gourmet ground beef creation is a hulking 10 ounces of dry-aged LaFrieda beef on a brioche bun, kicked into another gear with crisp ham, cheddar, tomatoes, caramelized onions, and house pickles on top. This is the kind of huge, juicy patty that will leave the bottom bun saturated with burger drippings, to mouthwatering effect.
Yelp/ Marissa C
This Federal Hill neighborhood burger destination’s menu includes locally raised beef burgers, as well as bison, wild boar, elk, and kangaroo burgers for anyone looking to stumble off the beaten burger path. Our focus, however, is on their trademark Baltimore burger, which features applewood bacon and Cheddar cheese, and becomes a Baltimore masterpiece once the homemade crab dip is added on top. For the full Abbey Burger Bistro experience, stop by for the specials during an Arsenal F.C. game — Abbey is Maryland's official Arsenal America outpost.
Abbey Burger Bistro
Who says sustainable foods have to lack huge flavor, or huge calorie counts? Farmers Fishers Bakers is a green-focused eatery intent on delivering the best of what's local, fresh, and delicious, as proven by their near-perfect bacon-onion blue cheeseburger, which hits the tongue with a tangy array of flavors that help bring out the fresh patty's flavors. You can grab fresh-cut fries on the side, or go with more interesting fare, like peanut-cider slaw or pickled veggie potato salad.
Farmers Fishers Bakers
Honesty is the best policy, and the Heart Attack Grill, with their Bypass Burgers, lives by that motto. Their double bypass burger is a celebration of carnivorous gluttony, stacked high with cheese, two burger patties, ten slices of bacon, and the option of adding on chili. But the double bypass is hardly the greatest abomination against health on the menu. That honor goes to the octuple bypass burger, with its eight patties and burgers and forty slices of bacon. Please don't order the octuple bypass burger.
Flickr/Pablo Martin Fernandez
This Georgetown gourmet burger establishment doesn't have a crown jewel burger, but offers one of the best customizable burger experiences in the country. A "Thunder Burger" order will give you your base, which you can customize with an endless array of add-ons, including basics like grilled red onion and jalapeño, of course. But if you're looking to go next level, get creative with toppings like pineapple salsa, triple cream brie, pulled pork, foie gras, and, well, the list goes on.
Italian gastropub Alla Spina has only been open for two years, but has already gained a loyal fan base that includes Burgamo diehards, looking to wrap their mouths around this high-stacked, two-pattied Philly burger favorite. The double cheeseburger is made with LaFrieda beef, Cheddar, lettuce, onion, pickles, and topped with a special sauce on a house made, sesame seeded potato bun. Molto bene, as they say.
Living up to its name, Laura's Little Burger Joint isn't much more than a standalone shack located outside of Decatur. But it also more than lives up to the "burger" portion of its name with the Chapman Burger, which features two 7-ounce patties with pepper Jack cheese, bacon, and grilled onions, topped off with ketchup, mustard, pickle, and onions.
Yelp/ George S
Hidden on an upscale American, French, and Mediterranean menu in the affluent Washington, DC suburb Falls Church is the lunch-only All American burger, which makes the metro ride from Downtown worth the trip. This is a straightforward beef burger, topped with melted Cheddar, lettuce, onion, and tomato on an olive oil bun. But don't let the simplicity fool you: these are simple, fresh ingredients working together in beautiful flavor harmony.
There are plenty of basic, let-the-meat-speak-for-itself burgers on this list. Butcher's Cut at Atlanta's Flip Burger Boutique isn't one of them. This Jengatower of a sandwich is stacked high with a juicy beef patty, crumbled blue cheese, caramelized onions, soy truffle vinaigrette, frisée, pickled shallots, and red wine jam. But even with all those fancy words involved, this melt-in-your-mouth upscale take on an American classic will only run you $8.
No corner is cut at Hopdoddy Burger Bar in Austin, where hormone and antibiotic-free black Angus beef is ground in-house, buns are baked from scratch, and only the freshest vegetables are allowed anywhere near their burger creations. There’s a near-endless menu of specialty burgers, but our pick is the Classic, topped off with red leaf lettuce, onion, beefsteak tomato, bacon, cheese, and house "sassy sauce" — a combination of horseradish, mustard, and mayonnaise, aimed at bringing out the fresh patty's natural flavors.
Flickr/ Sean Davis
This popular Miami restaurant (with an outpost on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman) serves its first-rate burger only at lunchtime, but it's beefy enough to make a substantial dinner. The beef is house-ground Black Angus from California's Harris Ranch and the bun is brioche. Optional accompaniments include house-smoked bacon and blue or Vermont white Cheddar cheese.
Jackie Sayet/ The Genuine Hospitality Group
Nashville's Burger Up serves burgers and pretty much nothing else (not that there’s anything wrong with that). And anyway, there's a huge range of burgers for every type of palate, including bison, lamb, and salmon. The star of their impressive burger menu, however, is the Woodstock, a heavenly combination of sweet and savory burger goodness topped with Benton’s bacon, Tennessee Sweetwater white Cheddar, Jack Daniels maple ketchup, with beef from a local cattle farmer. For the perfectly paired full burger meal, go for truffle fries or a fried Vidalia onion tower on the side.
When food insiders see something called the John T Burger, they’re likely to get both excited and skeptical. “A burger in Memphis named for the head of the Southern Foodways Alliance,” you can almost hear them muse, “Hmm. This could either be really good or really bad.” It’s a lot of hype. Then you see the restaurant and the chefs behind it — and well, with chefs Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer involved, you just know there’s no need to worry — this is going to be awesome. And it really, really is. An Oklahoma-style onion rendition crisp-cooked on a flat-top was inspired by Edge on a visit while the duo was trying to come up with this signature menu item. Hudman and Ticer grind the meat from local rancher Claybrook Farm medium-coarse and smash it on their flat-top with pepper, salt, and garlic powder they make themselves (who makes their own garlic powder?), steaming it briefly to a medium-rare finish and layering it on a toasted Wonder Bread roll with mustard and shredded lettuce dressed in pickle juice. That’s fancy talk for a supremely satisfying burger. This is the kind of unassuming burgers whose flavors and textures are compressed into something handheld that doesn’t have extra flourishes and demonstrates why it shouldn’t have to have them. The meat gets all burnt-edge and crispy, but the center is still medium-rare with a perfect cheese-to-meat ratio. All that combined allows for both lip-smacking satisfaction and gooey-salty indulgence. Don’t quite get it? You need to have a few drinks out on the porch and then enjoy one of these yourself before playing some bocce outside the restaurant. The complete experience is what makes it. Trust us.
Hog and Hominy
At half a pound, Fat Mo's self-titled burger is mammoth, yes, but size alone isn't enough to land a burger on our list. Drive-thru and walk-up only, Fat Mo's burgers are a huge cut above regular fast food — everything is fresh and cooked to order, the portions are enormous, and you'll never walk away with your pockets folded out. Fat Mo's is also a favorite for the non-carnivorous among us — the falafel burger gets high marks from Nashville's vegetarian crowd.
Who couldn't use more cowbell? (Sorry, had to.) This New Orleans burger joint, headed up with a focus on handmade, high-quality burgers by chef Brack May, is a Big Easy favorite. Their "Locally World Famous Cowbell Burger" includes a natural beef patty on a toasted potato roll with lettuce and tomato and onion. It all sounds pretty by-the-numbers, but when you see — and more importantly, taste — the results, you'll know why Cowbell gets a name check in pretty much every New Orleans “best of” burgers list.
Since opening Gabby's Burger and Fries in 2009, husband and wife team Doug and Coreen Havron have been delivering the greasy goods to enthusiastic customers looking for grass-fed burgers, fresh cut fries, and other American favorites done with care and top ingredients. The Gabby Burger, featuring two patties and a liberal smothering of melted American cheese, has helped Gabby's take home Nashville’s Best Burger honors from Nashville Scene in the past.
The Company Burger chef/owner Adam Biderman set out to create the perfect double-cheeseburger, and one bite will tell you that he hit the nail right on the head. His flagship Company Burger starts with two 3.25 ounce patties, which get a light crust on the flat-top before being topped with red onion and high-quality American-style cheese and then stacked. A couple pickle chips and a toasted white-bread bun complete it. You’re left to your own devices at the expansive condiment bar, which includes Creole honey mustard, basil mayo, and pickled jalapeños. Before getting creative, though, make sure you try the burger as-is; you might be compelled not to mess with perfection.
The Company Burger
This big, unassuming, friendly place serves terrific Angus prime or Wagyu burgers, ranging from 8 to 10 ounces in heft (not to mention the 10-pound "Motherburger"), with all kinds of inspired accompaniments. Choosing just one to typify the place is a challenge, but ultimately we probably have to go with the Mustang Sally: 8 ounces of very juicy, very flavorful Wagyu with red onion marmalade, melted Brie, and prosciutto on a shiny-top brioche bun, with skinny fries on the side. There's nothing classic about this concoction; it's just a generous serving.
Burger & Beer Joint
There’s a great burger lurking in this sleepy Orange County town, and it has a secret ingredient: horseradish sauce. The burger patty itself is fresh-ground and a little under an inch thick, and if you’re wondering what the B.B. stands for, that would be brisket and applewood-smoked bacon. Along with caramelized onions, Cheddar, and that horseradish sauce, there’s an interplay of flavors that you won’t soon forget. Top it off with some corn-and-bacon-studded macaroni and cheese, and you’ll be ready for a very contented nap.
That One Spot
This burger and beer mecca turns out some wild burger combinations, but the most delicious of all is the Hog Wild burger, which is a half-pound hand-formed patty topped with chopped pork, bacon, caramelized onions, barbecue sauce, a giant onion ring, and Cheddar on a local brioche bun. While it might sound like overload, in reality it’s a well-balanced, smoky, porky, beefy concoction that doesn’t feel excessive at all, even though it probably is.
There's all kinds of good stuff on the menu at Cindy Pawlcyn's ever-popular wine country bistro (crispy calamari with curried slaw, seafood tostada, Mongolian pork chop…) but the cheeseburger (Maytag Blue is an optional choice, and one well worth making) is just so big and juicy and tasty that it's hard to resist. The house-made pickles and impeccable fries don't hurt, either.
If you like your burger big and bold, the sirloin burger sold at this converted gas station about a half-hour’s drive from Miami is worth seeking out. The place will be crowded, you’ll most likely wait for more than an hour for your order, and when you leave you’ll smell like smoke, but it’ll all be worth it as soon as you see the 13-ounce, hand-formed, fresh-ground grilled burger hit your table. It’s a behemoth, sure, but the crowds don’t lie: this burger is a thing of beauty.
It’s not because The Varsity claims to be the world’s largest drive-in, or that it’s one of the few restaurants in America that still employs carhops. No, neither is it The Varsity’s staying power (founder Frank Gordy launched it with a $2,000 nest egg and "million dollar taste buds" in 1928) and its expansion to some eight locations in the greater Atlanta and Athens areas. Nope, it’s about one of the country’s most idiosyncratic burgers: the double chili cheeseburger. There’s something going on with the buns ‘round these parts — they get condensed and sweeter. Make no mistake, this is a greasy cheeseburger, more compact than most double cheeseburgers, but one whose sloppy, cheesy, saltiness all comes together in a solid, but proportionately fluid burger, both texturally and flavor-wise. No wonder it’s one of America’s best burgers (and for just $2.83).
Flickr/Ice Cream Man
You won’t find many customers nursing only a beer at this circa-1949 sports bar; people come here for the food. Namely, the burger known only as “The Special:” a big toasted bun topped with a quarter-pound of fresh-ground chuck, ham, bacon, a fried egg, cheese, red onion, lettuce, and tomato, finished off with mayo, mustard, and vinegary burger relish. It’s a step back in time, and a legendary burger.
Yelp/ Sarah C
Open since 2008, the Hubcap Grill, which now has two locations in Houston, isn’t for the faint of heart. To make their popular Decker, two deeply seared fresh-ground hand-formed burger patties (with a slice of Texas toast in the middle for good measure) get topped with American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions, and a mayo-based “special sauce” perfected by owner Ricky Craig’s father Richard, who runs the popular nearby Craiganale’s Italian Deli. You can pile on more patties if you like, but save the stomach space for some of their perfectly-seasoned fries.
When a butcher shop decides to open a burger and barbecue joint, you know that it’s going to be good, and the one sold at 4505 lives up to all expectations. It starts with grass-fed beef from Magruder Ranch that’s broken down on-premises, ground, sprinkled with salt, and griddled all within 12 hours. The thin patty stays a little pink in the middle, but with a fat-to-meat ratio hovering around 25-30 percent, it remains supremely juicy and seriously beefy (you can also make it a double). When placed onto a housemade scallion-pecorino bun and topped with Gruyere, a secret sauce similar to Thousand Island, lettuce, and tomato when in season, it’s a masterpiece.
With two locations in San Diego and another inside Petco Park, Hodad’s might very well be the most popular burger destination in San Diego, and for good reason. These are some seriously good burgers, and when two patties get stacked with mayo, mustard, ketchup, onion, pickles, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and bacon, it’s burger heaven. The secret to Hodad’s success may be the bacon; instead of just adding plain ol’ strips to the burger, they boil the entire belly until it falls apart, then fry up a patty on the grill before adding it on. It’s nothing short of brilliant. And make sure you don’t miss the fries, which are more like giant battered potato slices.
Chef Hans Röckenwagner is one of LA’s best under-the-radar chefs, and the trademarked (literally) burger at his no-frills Abbot Kinney bakery 3 Square is spectacular from top to bottom. It starts with a freshly-baked pretzel bun that might just be the best in America, topped with a perfectly seared coarse-ground 8-ounce patty. Topped with melted Swiss cheese and caramelized onions, it’s hearty and soul-pleasing.
There was a big White Castle-inspired hamburger stand boom across America in the early 1920s, and Salina, Kan.’ Cozy Inn is one of the last ones standing. Started as a six-seat counter in 1922, it gained local popularity for serving 1-ounce burgers griddled with chopped onions that came to be known as sliders, and to this day the grillmen are still doing it the old-fashioned way, in the same tiny room, with fluffy white buns made especially for them. A few things to know before going: you’ll want yours "all the way," with ketchup, mustard, a pickle, and onions. Don’t ask for it without onions; don’t ask for it with cheese; don’t ask for fries (just grab a bag of chips). Ask for a sack and you’ll get six; expect to leave smelling like onions.
Flickr/Queenie Von Sugarpants
At this friendly, no-frills diner, it’s all about the onion-fried burger. Sit at the counter and watch the magic happen: Sid Hall (or his brother, Bob), take a ball of fresh-ground beef, place it on a ripping hot griddle, and smash it down along with a handful of thin-sliced white onions. The onions fuse into the meat as it cooks, and the end result is all crust and fried onions. Make it a double, and you get twice as much. No ketchup, no lettuce, no tomato, just meat and onions on a soft bun.
Family-owned and operated since 1936, Solly’s claim to fame is the butter burger, one of the last and finest examples in the nation. Fresh-ground sirloin is delivered daily from a local butcher, and the shakes, fries, and burgers, complete with a healthy dose of real Wisconsin butter, are prepared in full view of diners. About 15 toppings and burger varieties are available, but the trademark Original Solly Burger is the way to go. Each 3-ounce patty gets cooked on a large flattop griddle, topped with impossibly flavorful stewed onions and a pat of butter that’s at least 2 or 3 tablespoons’ worth, and placed into a soft white bun. The butter melts into the burger and onto the plate, and it’s unlike any other burger you’ll experience.
If the name of this burger (and its associated restaurant) sounds a little odd, it’s pretty easy to explain: Triple XXX was the name of the root beer the burger stand sold when it first opened in 1929, and Duane Purvis was an All-American football star at nearby Purdue University (all their burgers are named after Purdue stars; another top seller is the Drew Brees First Choice). But onto the burger: the top seller, this one starts with a one-third pound patty of 85/15 sirloin hand-sliced and fresh-ground every morning, topped with cheese, your choice of lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles, and — get this — a big glob of creamy Jif peanut butter. Don’t knock it till you try it; its sweet creaminess serves as a great counterpoint to the cheese and high-quality beef. Don’t forget to wash it down with some Triple XXX root beer.
When you're packed, and you've been around doing burgers since 1977, you must be doing something right. And they're doing at least two things right at Chris Madrid's in San Antonio: burgers and nachos.
The "macho" tostado burger made George Motz's book, Hamburger America, and the author's 25 Essential U.S. Burgers Checklist. Chris Madrid reinvented the Texas beanburger (hamburger, refried beans, Fritos, and Cheese Whiz), which is said to have been created at the now-defunct Sil's Snack Shack in San Antonio, by subbing in Cheddar and housemade corn chips.
The bun is soft and toasted crisp inside, but the weight of the burger and the moisture of the patty, beans, and cheese presses down on the bottom, condensing it, making it sweet. So you have that sweetness, the juiciness of the burger, the comforting refried beans, and cheese flowing out all over. What a burger.
To know Edzo’s, you must first know Eddie Lakin, a former line cook who worked in high-end kitchens around the world before settling back on his home turf to flip burgers for a living. But what burgers these are: Choice chuck, hand-cut and ground on-premises every morning, handled gently and given a shake of salt and pepper as they cook. Burgers at the original Evanston location are available in two preparations, smashed flat on a griddle, or grilled over an open flame (these "Char Burgers" aren’t available at the new Lincoln Park location). Go for the classic griddled burger: thin and crispy, served with up to three on a bun, topped with the classics as well as interesting options like garlic butter, fried eggs, and giardiniera (this is Chicago, after all).
When it comes to DuMont, there’s a distinct sadness that locals in the know won’t be able to see far beyond. It wasn’t long ago that chef and owner Colin Devlin was found dead after an apparent suicide, said to be brought on by the pressures and financial difficulties behind DuMont, Dressler, and DuMont Burger. But even after Devlin’s death, the food, truth, and talent that brought him the spotlight can still be found at DuMont Burger. They serve up a burger that satisfies newcomers and old, a burger that lives up to the expectations of locals and the Lonely Planet-wielding Italian and French tourists alike. Yet it’s a basic thick-patty burger that features pickles (and you’ll want to add cheese), juicy with a slight char, and the sweet-smelling, buttery-brioche, soft-shell crust is fresh and provides just enough handle through to the last bite.
Flickr/ Garrett Ziegler
Winstead’s is a household name in the Kansas City area, serving diner staples and "steakburgers" for more than 70 years. These burgers are what the locals crave when they leave the city: fresh-ground Choice beef, served with mustard, ketchup, pickles, and a thick slice of onion (with cheese lettuce, tomato, and bacon if you want it), served on a soft white bun. The double is the way to go, offering two 2-ounce patties, smashed down on the griddle until they’re essentially just crust, but retaining moisture. If this is your preferred type of burger, then you probably agree with Kansas City native Calvin Trillin, who proclaimed it one of the best burgers in the world. Get cheese, order a limeade and fries, take in your surroundings, and enjoy what Hamburger America’s George Motz calls "the perfect diner eating experience."
It’s a tough call to declare an open secret like Burger Joint in New York City’s decidedly upscale Le Parker Meridien Hotel an “undiscovered gem.” To New York burger lovers and the tourists lining up behind the ridiculously tall curtain it’s “hidden” behind, the idea that Burger Joint is a secret is well, silly. Still, you could argue it doesn’t have the national renown that it should. This is a very simple burger, folks. And in a very satisfying setting: fancy hotel with a corner pocket of dive-bar. Scribbles on the wall, signs asking you not to scribble on the wall that just beg for you to do it anyway, bare and base booths, paper wrapping, servers who are rude (or demanding with good reason… depending on your perspective), and buns taken straight out of the bag, the Burger Joint’s namesakes have all their components on point, which makes for one of the best total-package burgers you’ll ever taste.
At the East Village’s Brindle Room, chef/owner Jeremy Spector is serving a lunch-only burger that, at $12, is a certifiable steal. The reason? Dry-aged meat. Prime aged beef trimmings and deckle are brought in from his partner’s New Jersey restaurant, and give this burger a pronounced mineral-rich funk. It comes topped with caramelized onions and your choice of cheese, but honestly, would you top a dry-aged rib-eye with cheese? The soft white generic bun perfectly holds it all together.
A hunk of soft French bread might not come to mind as the ideal burger vessel, but at the landmark Rotier’s, located a stone’s throw from Vanderbilt University, it’s the best way to go. The six-ounce burger patties are hand-formed every morning, and while the burger, when topped with your choice of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, might look challenging, the bread is so soft and squishy that it’s a lot easier to plow through than you think. We’re not the only ones who love this place — it’s been the favorite hangout of plenty of Nashville’s best musicians, and Jimmy Buffett spent so much time playing his guitar at the bar that some people claim that he wrote “Cheeseburger in Paradise” there.
Poe’s has two locations, both located steps from two of the country’s most beautiful beaches. They each offer more than 50 beers as well as seriously gourmet burgers, ground in-house daily. The Hop Frog is the best they offer, a half-pound patty given a hard sear on the flat top before being topped with crispy applewood-smoked bacon, Monterrey Jack cheese, and Mig’s barbecue sauce, and served on a fresh brioche bun with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and fried onions. Make sure you wait at least a half-hour before swimming!
With six locations, Dick’s is a Seattle institution. For nearly daily, hand-cut fries, and milkshakes, and its owners know that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The Double Deluxe is a hamburger Platonic ideal: two patties, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, and pickle relish, on a soft, squishy bun, sold for a whopping $2.90. Want onions? That’ll cost you an extra five cents, please.
Dick’s is family-owned, and they treat all employees like family as well, offering full benefits, scholarships, childcare assistance, paid community service, and a starting hourly wage of $10.
Flickr/ Kate Hopkins
People don’t just come to Ann’s for the burgers, they come to Ann’s for Ann Price, who almost single-handedly cooks all the food and provides all the entertainment. Known affectionately as Miss Ann, she’s a force to be reckoned with and a true character. Folks wait outside for a seat at the 8-stool counter, where they can catch a glimpse of her house rules, which include “no sitting or standing babies on the counter” and “no cursing in the snack bar.” The restaurant opened in 1974 selling mostly hot dogs and pre-frozen burgers, but in 1994 a Checkers opened nearby, so in order to compete she went to the supermarket, bought some 80/20 ground chuck, and created a burger consisting of two half-pound patties topped with seasoned salt and slow-cooked on the griddle, onion, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, chili, mustard, cheese, and bacon, on a sesame seed-topped bun. It’s a beauty, and made Ann’s a destination. Now in her 60s, Ann’s been looking to sell the shop for a while, so make sure you get there while she’s still around.
A North Jersey legend, White Manna is one of the last remaining diner-style burger joints that arose in the tradition of White Castle. What’s served here is the perfect interpretation of that form, perfected over decades and decades, unchanging. You walk up to the tiny counter, place your order with the grillman, and watch as he smashes a small wad of meat onto the flattop with a handful of thin-sliced onions, keeps careful track of it as it cooks, and sandwiches it into a Martin’s bun. Make it a double with cheese, and the burger that will end up on your plate next to some pickle chips won’t be pretty. It’s astonishingly delicious, however. Order a few — you won’t regret it.
Flickr/Jessica and Lon Binder
Serious chefs never used to serve burgers in their restaurants, and when they started doing so, you always sort of had the feeling that they were doing it under duress and would much rather you didn't order one so they could sell you that heritage pork belly and bone marrow tower with kale pesto and quinoa foam instead. Tony Maws, at his splendid Cambridge restaurant, offers a really great burger — fat and dripping with flavor — and has figured out an easy way to keep the number of burger orders down: He prepares only 18 of them a day. If you're 19th in line, sorry Charlie. It's worth getting to the place early for this 8-ounce grass-fed patty (custom-blended daily from various cuts of meat) on a house-baked dome-shaped sesame bun, complemented by Shelburne Farm Vermont cheddar, vinaigrette-dressed lettuce and tomato, and Maws' own mace-flavored ketchup.
Craigie on Main
Homer "Hut" Hutson opened the original Hut's Hamburgers in 1939, and though it's now in a different location with different owners, the spirit of the place hasn't changed a whole lot since then. As it happens, the vaguely déco style building it now occupies also opened as a restaurant — Sammie's Drive-In — in 1939. Fresh Texas-raised beef is at the heart of Hut's burgers (though, this being the 21st century, they're also all available in buffalo, grass-fed longhorn beef, boneless chicken, or vegan-friendly form). There are versions named for Ritchie Valens, Wolfman Jack, Fats Domino, and other personalities, but the classic here is Hut's Favorite, with lettuce, tomato, mayo, American cheese, and bacon. It's a little retro, but it sure is good.
Flickr/Gary J Wood
The frita is a perfect representation of the American influence on Cuban culture, and vice-versa. It was created in Cuba and brought over to the States after the revolution, and the one served at Little Havana’s El Mago de las Fritas is arguably the best. Here’s the breakdown: A fresh-ground patty of spiced beef (possibly with some chorizo mixed in) is pressed flat onto the griddle along with some diced onions and a mysterious red sauce, then tucked into a fresh Cuban roll. It’s then topped with fresh-fried potato sticks (not from a can, as some other places do), more diced onion, and a squirt of ketchup. It’s unlike any other burger you’ll ever try, and is mind-blowingly delicious.
This burger joint has locations in Seattle, Miami Beach, Los Angeles International Airport, and far-flung Tunica, Miss. and Bossier City, La., and is the brainchild of chef Govind Armstrong, who’s making a name for himself as one of the country’s best. Their signature burger, appropriately called the 8oz, is a Kobe-style house blend from Niman Ranch, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and special sauce. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: only the highest-quality ingredients are used, the bun is custom-made, and the proportions are spot-on (and a topping of a fried duck egg and Benton’s bacon doesn’t hurt, either).
8oz Burger Co
There are 12 locations of Beck’s Prime in Houston and two in Dallas, and not one has a freezer. Founded in 1985, Beck’s has become a beloved institution since then, serving half-pound Angus chuck burgers that are hand-ground and formed on-site daily. While they offer your usual variety of cheeses and toppings, the Bill’s Burger is the way to go. With sautéed onions, sliced Cheddar, bacon, jalapeños, secret sauce, and lettuce, it’s a true gem, and is sure to make your dining companions jealous.
At this fine dining restaurant inside the Terranea Resort, located right on the water, they’re serving one of LA’s finest burgers, but you have to be in the know to ask for it, because it’s off-menu (hence the “down low”). The brioche bun is made in-house, and it’s topped with two four-ounce patties made from steak scraps (clocking in at a decadent 75/25 meat/fat ratio). Then come deeply caramelized onions, aged white Cheddar, housemade pickles, and a Thousand Island made with oven-roasted tomato puree. It was inspired by In-n-Out’s Double Double, but it’s been given a gourmet twist, elevated to a burger that’s seriously one of the best things you’ll ever eat.
If you want to experience what a perfect burger tasted like in 1963, head to Pie n’ Burger, where nothing about the place, including the butcher who supplies the ground chuck, has changed in decades. The double is the best way to go, two quarter-pound balls of beef smashed down on the well-seasoned flat-top with a big can of tomato juice, then topped with lettuce and homemade Thousand Island dressing, tucked into a toasted white bun and wrapped in wax paper. Don’t leave without trying some pie; the butterscotch variety is legendary.
What do you get when you combine a love of heavy metal and a passion for good food? A menu of some 17 burgers with names like “Napalm Death” and “Dee Snider” and topping combinations as out there as you can imagine. Peanut butter, strawberry jam, bacon, and Sriracha? Fried chicken, Cheddar, bacon, maple, and hot sauce on waffle buns? You bet. Chef Ryan Harkins and Matthew Chernus of Grill ‘Em All rose to national prominence as winners of the first season of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. The truck is still in operation, but like a fair number of successful food truck entrepreneurs of the past five years, the crew has since settled into a brick-and-mortar location (you’ll find them in Los Angeles). Grill ‘Em All’s crazy combinations are tasty, mostly because of their sound technique and sense of balance; if they go with an over-the-top bread, they’ll be sure there’s enough moisture to go with it), but there’s perhaps no better example of why they deserve to be on this list than the F.T.W. It’s just a big old juicy burger on a bun with cheese. And you have to respect that. When you go “For the Win,” the classic should be enough.
Grill Em All
When a burger hasn’t changed in more than 40 years, you know they’re doing something right. And at the Redcoat Tavern, that burger is a half-pound beauty, served on a traditional sesame seed-topped bun and topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, and your choice of toppings including cheese and “burnt” onions. It’s packed daily, and just about all the regulars will tell you that the no-frills burger is the best they’ve ever had. Don’t miss the onion rings and clam chowder.
Flickr/Calamity Hane, Yelp/ RJS
Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo, affectionately known as “The Franks” by fans of their handful of New York restaurants, including Frankie’s 457 and Frankie’s Spuntino, are serving an epic burger at their meat-centric farm to table spot Prime Meats. They start with a half-pound patty made with dry-aged Black Angus trimmings from Creekstone Farms, and it’s so beefy, juicy, well-seared, and full of dry-aged funkiness that it honestly doesn’t even need toppings or a bun. But the housemade bun stands up to the juiciness, and the addition of pickles, lettuce, tomato, and onion elevates it all to burger glory.
The burger at New York’s The Spotted Pig, a restaurant that is widely responsible for launching the high-end gastropub trend, is a wonder. Chef April Bloomfield has created a half-pound behemoth of prime grilled beef, topped with a layer of creamy, stinky Roquefort, and sandwiched inside a brioche-style bun. It’s served alongside a mound of rosemary-scented shoestring fries, and is the kind of burger that will force you to close your eyes after taking the first bite and make sure all your dining companions know that they’re missing out.
Chef Jose Garces has won heaps of praise for the burgers he’s serving at Village Whiskey, and it’s well-deserved. His burgers are so lightly packed that they’re almost fluffy, and come on a house-baked pan au lait bun that’s similar to brioche but less eggy. The patties are well-seasoned, super-juicy, and full of beefy flavor, and if you’re looking for something especially decadent, go for the Whiskey King Burger, which is topped with maple bourbon glazed cippolini, blue cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and foie gras for good measure. It’s a wonder to behold.
The most outrageous offering at this down-home burger joint starts with a house-ground 100 percent chuck patty that’s seared on a flat-top. You have your choice of a 5-ounce or 8-ounce patty, and we recommend going with the 5-ouncer because what comes next is delicious insanity: smoked pork shoulder, Anson Mills red pea chili, crispy tobacco onions, roasted tomato malt vinegar slaw, Cheddar, and yellow mustard. All the components work perfectly together thanks to the deft hand of a great chef: Ashley Christensen, who just won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast.
The Vortex, which has two Atlanta locations, is a crazy place. First of all, just to enter the restaurant you have to walk through a giant skull with crazy eyes that also happens to be the main entrance. The menu has a full page of rules ("We maintain the right to refuse service to any person that, in our sole opinion, is a great big jerk."). They also don’t allow anyone in who’s under the age of 18 because of smoking laws. And while all of this kitsch and attitude might make for a great distraction from underwhelming food anywhere else, the burgers here are the real deal (and so are the sweet potato tots). The Hell's Fury burger is a gargantuan half-pound patty of Choice sirloin, topped with pepper jack cheese, something called Atomic Death Sauce, habanero relish, and a whole roasted jalapeño. Not for the faint of heart, but if you’re into spicy food, this very well might be the tastiest burger you’ll ever encounter.
Is the burger served at Chicago’s relative newcomer Au Cheval "the perfect griddle burger?" According to Bon Appétit, it is. Its beauty lies in its simplicity: two patties (or three if you order a double) of no-frills ground beef topped with Cheddar, Dijonnaise, a few thin slices of pickles, and served on a soft toasted bun from Chicago’s Z Baking. The patties are wonderfully crusty, the fries are fried in lard, and just about everything about this burger is perfect.
There are now seven P.J. Clarke's locations, including two in São Paulo, but the Third Avenue Manhattan original is the feisty little brick building that refused to make way for the 47-story Skidmore, Owings & Merrill skyscraper that now looms over it. It is also the one that originated the terrific pub-style burger known as The Cadillac — a juicy patty on a classic bun with smoked country bacon and American cheese as well as onion, lettuce, and tomato, and pretty good shoestring fries on the side. The name, by the way, was bestowed on the thing by Nat "King" Cole, who dubbed Clarke's "the Cadillac of burgers."
Chef Joey Campanaro knows his way around a burger, and the one that he serves at his West Village restaurant The Little Owl was named the world’s best by The Guardian. Campanaro starts with a ¾-inch-thick patty of ground Pat LaFrieda brisket and short rib, seasons it liberally with a curry powder-kicked spice blend, grills it, tops it with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion, and serves it on a homemade bun. It’s rich, meaty, hits all the right notes, and is a damn good burger.
This always crowded Greenwich Village institution, a semi-dive bar (no real dive bar sells a large line of branded casual clothing, or opens outposts in Long Island City), is justly famous for its big no-nonsense burgers, cooked under a salamander-like broiler, draped with American cheese (and crisscrossed with bacon for the signature Bistro Burger), and served on a classic sesame bun with the usual trimmings. Old-timers complain that it isn't what it used to be, but the burgers still taste darned good to us.
Flickr/Suzi Edwards Alexander
The idea of the “chef-inspired” burger, in all its celebration and prominence, can be hit-or-miss these days. It seems recently that all chefs feel like they have to have a burger on the menu. And while some are just paying lip service to the trend, some of them really, really hit the mark. Today’s measure of success can be scored against the attempts of many great chefs and several pop-culture and culinary moments. In that gestalt, it’s very hard to disregard the importance of the Origal db Burger, the db Bistro Moderne burger by Chef Daniel Boulud. A creation that’s simultaneously very American and very French, the db Burger is a mixture of grilled beef and braised short ribs, the ultimate upscale juicy lucy, so to speak, with a foie gras center. This is a burger that’s as tall as it is wide. There’s a Dijon mustard layer on the bottom topped with tomato compote, chicory, and the gorgeously tall “patty” — and all that’s topped with Cheddar, red onion slices, and grated horseradish. Indulgent? You bet. Juicy? Absolutely. Salty, sweet, and savory with a bit of a bite? Oh yeah. Something to scarf because it’s that good, and at the same time as something to savor because, well, because you’re eating a foie gras-stuffed burger that would be amazing even if it wasn’t stuffed with foie gras — yes, that’s going to be your dilemma here. It’s one you’ll be happy to struggle with.
db Bistro Moderne
PYT is renowned for its absolutely insane burger creations, including one topped with fried beer and others that use fried mashed potato cakes, lasagna, Ellio’s pizza, tacos, and even Twinkies for buns, but beneath all the gimmickry is a seriously delicious — dare we say restrained — burger: the flagship PYT burger. A house-ground patty topped with Cheddar, bacon, special sauce, lettuce onions, and tomato. When you’re finished, you might even have room left over for a Birthday Cake Shake, with vanilla ice cream, real birthday cake, and cake-flavored vodka.
The lunch-only grass-fed burger at this San Francisco classic, ground in-house, medium-lean, comes on grilled rosemary focaccia slathered with aïoli. Beecher's Flagship or Bayley Hazen blue are available options, as are grilled onions or sliced heirloom tomatoes. There's very much of an only-in-Northern-California feel about the whole arrangement, which is fine with us.
Tom Perini's steakhouse, in a converted barn on his family's ranch just outside Abilene, is famed for its 22-ounce "cowboy rib-eye" and other heroic slabs of good Texas beef, but burger lovers swear by the establishment's grilled half-pound burger, laden with Cheddar or provolone, grilled mushrooms, green chiles, and onions.
Flickr/ Dave 77459
Back in 2011, popular California hamburger stand Taylor's Automatic Refresher renamed its three locations (Napa, St. Helena, and San Francisco's Ferry Building) because its owners brothers Joel and Duncan Gott didn't own rights to the name, and couldn’t persuade its owners to let them trademark it. It may have been jarring to see the name change and the neon-lit red G, but what didn’t change when they adopted the family name Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet were the storied grilled ⅓-pound Niman Ranch burgers. Cooked medium-well, but served "a little pink inside," topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and secret sauce on a toasted egg bun, Gott’s cheeseburger gets pressed lightly in a machine at the end of the line (employees say this steams the bun, but it still leaves the underside toasted-crunchy). The effect is thick and juicy. An icon.
Most burger purveyors griddle, grill, or pan-sear their patties. Since 1959, Ted's, in this historic community north of New Haven, has steamed theirs. Steamed meat? Yep. Steamed Cheddar cheese, too. Cooked in custom-designed steam boxes, the burgers, served on kaiser-roll-like buns, lose very little bulk while cooking and, need we say, stay very moist. The steamed cheese is spooned over the patties and cloaks them thickly. Add lettuce and tomato (or complimentary sautéed onions and/or mushrooms) and you've got an unusual, and unusually good burger.
After the closure of Michael Landrum’s two D.C.-area locations of Ray’s Hell Burger, devotees despaired that they’d never again be able to enjoy these perfectly seared, ingeniously topped burgers. The third outpost, however, is still going strong, and thank goodness for that. Hand-trimmed, aged in-house, fresh-ground throughout the day, and hand-formed, these burgers, especially the original 10-ounce "Big Devil," are a sight to behold. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can top yours with seared foie gras or roasted bone marrow.
Yelp/ NorryH, Mike C
It looks sort of like a psychedelic preschool, all Day-Glo colors and funky signs and crowdsourced artwork, but this small Philadelphia burger joint serves up an exquisitely simple, highly flavorful 8-ounce sirloin burger, served on a doughy white bun from a nearby LeBus Bakery with sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, and a choice of sauces — among them hot mustard, BBQ, harissa aïoli, and “Caribbean Green.” Sketch also serves a smashed onion burger, a truffle butter burger, and a Cyclops burger (with bacon and a fried egg), but why would you tamper with elementary success?
In the 1920s, the slider was king, largely thanks to the success of White Castle. If you’re looking for a taste of what the perfect burger experience was like back then, head to the tiny White Rose System in industrial Linden. Here, 2-ounce wads of 75/25 ground beef get smashed down onto an ancient griddle, onions are pressed in before it’s flipped, it’s topped with cheese, and a soft, squishy bun gets put on top of it to steam. The result is a perfect harmony of meat, cheese, onions, and bread; in short, slider perfection.
Bill's Bar & Burger is run by the hospitality company BR Guest, also known for upscale offerings like Dos Caminos, Strip House, and Ruby Foo’s. It may be their most downscale venture, but the burgers served here get the level of care and attention they deserve. The meat blend is from Pat LaFrieda, and the six-ounce fresh-ground hand-pressed patties get a deep, crispy sear on a flat top and a slice of melty American cheese before being tucked into a soft squishy bun, served with lettuce, tomato, and pickle. The meat is loosely packed and just crumbly enough, super-juicy thanks to a high fat content, and the whole creation is simple, beefy, cheesy goodness, with a squirt of secret sauce to top it off. Hanson knew what he was doing when he opened the first location in the Meatpacking district; after a night on the town, one of these burgers just might be the most satisfying thing on earth.
When Gabriel Rucker first opened Le Pigeon in 2006, he only served five of these outstanding burgers per night. How cruel. Until very recently, it was also available at Rucker’s downtown spot Little Bird, where it's been replaced with the bistro's own signature burger. Today, thankfully, the burger can be purchased at all times at the original Le Pigeon. And what a burger it is: A thick square patty of beef from a local farm is seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled (a rarity), topped with sharp Tillamook white Cheddar, an iceberg lettuce slaw, thick slices of grilled pickled onions, mayo, mustard, and housemade ketchup, piled atop a ciabatta bun. If you find yourself in Portland, run, don’t walk, to this burger.
Ah, the inimitable Jucy Lucy (yes, Matt's spells it without the "i"). While the battle rages between Matt’s Bar and the nearby 5-8 Club over who originally invented this brilliant burger variation, the one at Matt’s Bar is a superior specimen. Legend has it that shortly after the restaurant opened in 1954 a hungry customer came in and asked for two burger patties with a slice of cheese in the middle. He took a bite, proclaimed it to be "one juicy Lucy!," and a legend was born. Only fresh-ground beef goes into each hand-formed burger, and the first bite yields a river of molten, gooey cheese. These burgers are much more difficult to make than it may appear, and the one at Matt’s Bar is absolute perfection.
So what’s the secret to the burger at Husk, Sean Brock’s Charleston landmark? Bacon. Ground right into the patty. Brock’s been on a personal quest to perfect the burger, and after eating his cheeseburger you’ll most likely agree that he’s achieved his goal. Housemade buns are steamed, sliced, toasted, and smeared with butter and beef fat. The two patties are a blend of chuck and hickory-smoked Benton’s bacon, seared on a ripping-hot nonstick griddle and scraped off to retain a ridiculous crust. The toppings? Three slices of American cheese, shaved white onions in between the patties, bread-and-butter pickles, a "special sauce" that closely resembles the one at In-N-Out, and lettuce and tomato only when they’re in season. Sean Brock: in relentless pursuit of burger perfection. You: lucky.
There are hyped-up dishes and chefs that win so many awards, whose praises are sung so widely and so often, that you feel sure they can’t possibly live up to the hype.. Those rules just don’t apply to Iron Chef Michael Symon. He’s won too many burger contests to recall, and with good reason — the man gets good food, he gets meat, and more importantly, he gets how to make a great burger. The Lola, Symon’s burger with a sunny-side up egg, bacon, pickled red onions, and Cheddar, has the height of an Alfred Portale dish at Gotham Bar & Grill and the expressive flavors to match the vibrant personality and hearty laugh that are so characteristic of the chef. It’s going to be on the rarer side, the saltier side, and the gooey-dripping side, and if you’re really into burgers, and really know the way chefs like to make them, well… you’ll be into that. If you’re not? There’s always McDonald’s.
According to legend, burgermeister George Motz wanted to include JG Melon's definitive bar burger in the first edition of his book Hamburger America, but nobody at the place would return his calls — maybe because they were too busy actually turning out the darn things. The burger is simple and classic: a healthy slab of ground beef (exact formula not revealed), sizzled on the griddle and served draped with American cheese on a toasted bun, with pickles and red onions on the side.
This standalone counter-only burger-and-pie place in West Los Angeles hasn't changed since it opened in 1947 (well, except for the prices). The Apple Pan's signature Hickoryburger is a juicy round of hickory-smoke-infused ground beef on a reasonably standard bun anointed with mayonnaise and a secret sauce that tastes like slightly spiced-up ketchup. Pickles and lettuce complete the package, with Tillamook Cheddar melted on top for an extra 50 cents.
Sigh. Deep breath. A conversation about Louis’ Lunch is never simple. Is it the birthplace of the hamburger? Supposedly, one day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly told proprietor Louis Lassen "he was in a rush and wanted something he could eat on the run" resulting in a blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast being sent with the gentleman on his way. But is it a "burger," or is it a "sandwich"? Some argue that historically and semiotically speaking, the "original burger" is a sandwich and not a hamburger because a hamburger is technically a ground-beef patty on some form of yeast bun. It’s a smart conversation, one it would be fun to get Chicago’s deep-dish lovers to take on (theirs is a casserole, not a pizza). But because of the "it’s a burger" answer that comes from 99.995 percent who answer the "what-is-this" question, and because, well, give us a break, it’s a place in the pantheon of hamburger sandwiches (how is a burger not a sandwich anyway?), Louis’ Lunch made this list.
Sandwich, hamburger, whatever. So what do you get? A flame-broiled burger made in a vertical hinged-steel wire gridiron that cooks the burgers on both sides at the same time. That’s what. It’s a hamburger sandwich supposedly made from a blend of five cuts of ground steak. If you want condiments, you’ll have to ask. The extent that your burger is going to get tricked out is cheese, tomato, and onion. No mustard, ketchup, or mayo. But do you really need all that? You can practically taste the nostalgia. And that never disappoints.
“Bash Style,” for the uninitiated, means onion and bacon jam, pickles, American cheese, special sauce, and most importantly, a killer blend of meat cooked medium-rare by chef Josh Capon and his team. These are the foundation of what you could argue has become unparalleled burger greatness: Capon’s clubby SoHo spot is a veteran winner of Burger Bash, the marquee event of the South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals, having claimed the title four times in five years.
Chef Linton Hopkins developed this burger while he was battling cancer as it’s the only food he didn’t lose his taste for, and it’s become one of the most talked about burgers in the country. Each double-patty burger of fresh-ground grass-fed chuck and brisket comes topped with American cheese, pickles, onions, and homemade ketchup, and is served on a toasted house-baked bun alongside fresh-cut fries. It was once offered on a very limited basis (only 24 every night and on the Sunday brunch menu), but was recently added it to the regular menu so that patrons can always satisfy their fix. If you find yourself in Atlanta, we highly suggest making it over to Holeman & Finch Public House for one of the best burgers in existence.
Flickr/ Christopher Octa
Known as “the other Keller” (besides Thomas, obviously) to fine-dining enthusiasts who have long enjoyed his exquisitely crafted modern French food at Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and to the Las Vegas dining public for having created a $5,000 hamburger at his Fleur in the Mandalay Bay Hotel, Hubert Keller is an accomplished Alsatian-born chef who has lately established a reputation for producing sensibly priced burgers of great quality at his Burger Bar (with additional locations in San Francisco and Beijing). The basic burger here is certified Angus beef on a plump bun with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and dill pickle, but the menu allows extravagant customization, offering roughly 50 accoutrements including such diverse add-ons as coleslaw, black truffles, smoked Gouda, jalapeño bacon, guacamole, and shrimp.
Flickr/Eat This Beef
Down the Old Las Vegas Highway (the original Route 66), the green chile cheeseburger served at Bobcat Bite, founded by Mitzi Panzer in 1953, has been hailed by Hamburger America's George Motz, Roadfood's Jane and Michael Stern, Food Network, and even Bon Appétit as not only the zenith of green chile cheeseburgers, but perhaps one of the greatest burgers, period, in the country. A recent dispute between the Panzer family and John and Bonnie Eckre, who took it over 12 years ago, forced the Eckres to move to a new location on Old Santa Fe Trail and adopt a new name, Santa Fe Bite, but the restaurant’s legendary ginormous burgers — 10-ounce house-ground, boneless chuck patties cooked to temperature preference and blanketed with green chiles under white American cheese on huge, ciabatta-like buns — remain. And for that we should be very thankful.
Flickr/ Marshall Astor
What do you get when you go to Father's Office, chef Sang Yoon's gastropub in Los Angeles (now in both Santa Monica and Culver City)? No table service. And no pretention. There's a wood-paneled, comfortable vibe of a great local lived-in spot, but it's clean, to the point, and one of The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants of 2012. There are great craft beers and small bites (think smoked eel, sobrasada, Spanish mushrooms, and white anchovies). You can also "Eat Big" and opt for the spicy oatmeal stout ribs or the bistro steak. But let’s face it, you're there for the Office Burger, which many people in LA refer to as the city's best burger. There's nothing bougie or frou-frou about it, just caramelized onion, bacon, Gruyère, Maytag Blue, and arugula. It's a very, very juicy burger with funk, freshness, and great flavor. Checklist item? You bet.
Sure, the côte de boeuf, roasted bone marrow, and various ungodly delicious potato renditions are big reasons why Minetta Tavern was called the city’s best steakhouse and awarded three stars by The New York Times. But no less the stuff of legend is the Black Label Burger. Prime dry-aged beef sourced and aged for six to seven weeks by Pat LaFrieda is well seasoned and cooked on a plancha with clarified butter, developing a glorious exterior. The fussed-over burger is nestled onto a sesame-studded brioche bun designed specifically for it, topped with caramelized onions and served with pommes frites. Juicy, funky, salty, soul-satisfying, these words lose meaning in the presence of a burger this good. Minetta is a bit of a scene, and it’s going to cost you $28, but if you consider yourself a lover and connoisseur of the country’s best burgers and you have yet to make this pilgrimage, you better get moving.
Because of this burger’s location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and its lunch-only appearance on the menu, out-of-town visitors are likely to have an easier time than New Yorkers experiencing New York City’s best burger. There are no bells and whistles, but Peter Luger has been handling meat since 1887 and its rich, ½-pound Luger Burger made from porterhouse and prime chuck roll trimmings is worth New Yorkers figuring out how to sneak out of the office for a long lunch. Burgers are molded into a coffee cup, emptied onto the high-temperature broilers used for the restaurant’s steaks until they develop a dark crust, and then settled into a sesame-studded bun. For a few dollars more you can have cheese and thick-cut bacon, a bit more of a chewy affair, but either way, if the famed gruff waitstaff unsettled you when you sat down, you’ll have forgotten them after the first bite. Just make sure to arrive before 3:45 p.m. when they stop serving it.
It’s the sign of a great food city when you can find two crazy restaurant waits within three blocks of each other. So it is in the case of Hot Doug’s (closing later this year) and Kuma’s Corner, some would argue Chicago’s best hot dog and burger joints. It’s not a quiet place to eat — the restaurant’s ethos is "Support your community. Eat beef. Bang your head." But with all the pyrotechnics that go off when you take a bite, the heavy metal doesn’t just make sense, it’s a perfect fit. There are burgers with tomatillo salsa and fried chiles, burgers with Sriracha and grilled pineapple, but if you have to choose just one, go for the signature, the Kuma Burger: bacon, sharp Cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a fried egg. It’s not as though there’s not enough flavor in the burger, but that egg... whoah. It’s nothing short of burger perfection, and it’s the best burger in America.