If you’re like most people, you probably think that a burger isn’t a burger if it doesn’t have some cheese on it. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of amazing cheeseburgers out there, and — from a Connecticut burger that’s cooked inside a custom-made steam cabinet to a burger that has melted cheese hidden inside of it — we’ve tracked down the country’s 25 best.
Yelp/ Jo W.
Company Burger chef and 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. He starts with two 3.25-ounce patties, which are given a light crust on the flat-top before being loaded with red onion and high-quality American-style cheese and then stacked. A couple of 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.
J.M. Curley's Angus burger is a straightforward approach that steers clear of gimmicks — this is 9 ounces of perfectly seasoned and cooked beef topped with Cheddar, grilled onions, house Russian dressing, and pickles, all moistened with excess drippings. The Burger won this unpretentious dinner and after-bar eatery Best Burger honors from Boston Magazine in 2013.
Yelp/ Thi L.
When it comes to DuMont Burger, 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 have been brought on by the pressures and financial difficulties behind running his three restaurants, DuMont, Dressler, and DuMont Burger. But even after Devlin’s death, the food that brought him into the spotlight can still be found at this Brooklyn burger joint. They serve a burger that satisfies newcomers and long-time fans, a burger that lives up to the expectations of locals and Lonely Planet-wielding Italian and French tourists alike. Yet it’s a simple iteration: A basic thick-patty burger that features pickles (and you’ll want to add cheese), juicy with a slight char; the sweet-smelling, buttery brioche provides just enough handle through to the last bite.
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Serving some of America’s best sliders since the 1930s inside a circa-1929 White Castle, this humble Detroit mainstay is a must-visit for any burger-lover passing through the city. Located inside a quiet industrial neighborhood, the interior is the exact opposite: bright, cheerful, and welcoming. Grab one of the six round stools and watch the magic happen: 1 ½-ounce balls of fresh-ground sirloin are smashed down onto an ancient griddle with a hefty spatula, this-sliced onions are pressed on, it’s flipped, cheese is applied, the toasted top bun is placed on top to steam, and the finished product is served with a squirt of ketchup and mustard. They’re oniony, beefy, cheesy, crusty, and everything you look for in a good old-fashioned slider.
Yelp/ Christopher H.
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, honed over decades and decades, unchanging. 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 potato roll. 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, but it’s astonishingly delicious.
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.
Founded by George and Gladys Redamak in 1946 and owned by Jim and Angie Maroney since 1975, the legendary Redamak’s is only open from March 1 to November 15 due to the fact that it only holds a 10-month resort liquor license, but it’s definitely worth a detour to the sleepy hamlet of New Buffalo on the shores of Lake Michigan. Expect a wait (even though the restaurant seats 400), and when you finally snag a table, do what everyone else does: Order a burger — the Velveeta Cheeseburger, in particular. Butchered and ground in-house, these patties (which are available in either 5 1/3- or 8-ounce portions) get a nice sear in their own individual skillet and are then draped with a glob of melty, oozy Velveeta. It’s served with ketchup, mustard, pickles, and onions (lettuce and tomato were only introduced within the past few years), but honestly all you really need is meat, cheese, and bread. You’ll never receive a burger cooked below medium, but something about these burgers makes them irresistibly delicious. Cash-only and undeniably quirky, there’s nothing else quite like Redamak’s.
With two Manchester, Connecticut locations (the first opened in 1948 and the second in 1965), Shady Glen is nothing short of a New England legend. While the ice cream served at this family-owned business is certainly worthy of note, the burgers here really are something else. Fresh-ground patties get a sear on a well-seasoned flat top, and where most burger joints will add a slice or two of cheese, Shady Glen does something unique: They add four, forming a huge square of cheese with the patty in the middle. The overhanging cheese melts directly onto the griddle, and is folded up slightly into a “skirt” when it’s served. Whether you eat the browned, bubbly cheese separately or fold it up under the bun, there’s nothing else quite like a burger from Shady Glen.
Facebook/ Le Pigeon
When Gabriel Rucker first opened Le Pigeon in 2006, he only served five of these outstanding burgers per night. How cruel. Until 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 house-made ketchup; and piled atop a ciabatta bun. If you find yourself in Portland, run, don’t walk, to this burger.
Facebook/The Lambs Club
A bun should never steal the burger show, but the fresh, toasted challah loaf bun at Geoffrey Zakarian's Theater District gem The Lambs Club comes pretty close. But this 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.
Yelp/ Neil T.
Most burger purveyors griddle, grill, or pan-sear their patties, but since 1959, Ted's — in the historic community of Meriden, Connecticut, 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-like rolls, lose very little bulk while cooking and hence 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.
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 original name and couldn’t persuade those who did own it to let them trademark it. It may have been jarring to see the name change and the introduction of the neon-lit red “G,” but one thing didn’t change when they adopted the family name Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet were the storied grilled third-pound Niman Ranch burgers. Cooked medium-well and topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickles, tomato, 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 leaves the underside crunchy). It’s an icon.
This always-crowded Greenwich Village institution, a semi-dive bar (no real dive bar sells a 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 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 darn good to us.
Yelp/ Will C
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, with a second DC location back up and running as of April, and thank goodness for that. Hand-trimmed, aged in-house, fresh-ground throughout the day, and hand-formed, these burgers are a sight to behold. The Mack comes with one or two six-ounce patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, and special sauce.
Yelp/ Tom C.
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 invented this brilliant burger variation (basically a cheeseburger with the cheese inside the patty instead of on top), the one at Matt’s Bar is the 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 an icon 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.
Is the burger served at 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.
Chez Fon Fon
In Birmingham, Frank and Pardis Stitt are justly famous for their Highlands Bar & Grill (one of the first contemporary Southern restaurants anywhere) and Italian-Southern (as opposed to Southern Italian) classic Bottega, but they get the cozy French bistro thing right, too, at Chez Fonfon. A cozy French bistro, that is, where the country pâté, trout amandine, and croque monsieur share a menu with the Hamburger Fonfon. To make this impressive burger, chefs grind chuck in-house and form it into eight-ounce patties, to be griddled and topped with Comté cheese (whose sharp, nutty flavor adds a racy French flavor to the proceedings), along with grilled red onion, lettuce, pickle, and tomato. Très bien.
Yelp/ Scott S.
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 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. At his Cambridge restaurant, chef Tony Maws 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, them’s the breaks. 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. It’s topped with Shelburne Farm Vermont Cheddar, vinaigrette-dressed lettuce and tomato, and Maws' own mace-flavored ketchup.
There are all kinds of good stuff on the menu at Cindy Pawlcyn's ever-popular wine country bistro (crispy calamari with curried slaw, Dungeness crab cakes with chipotle aïoli, Mongolian pork chop with homemade mustard…) but the cheeseburger (Maytag Blue is an optional choice, and one well worth making) is just so big and juicy that it's hard to resist. The house-made pickles and impeccable fries and onion rings don't hurt, either.
Maple & Motor
Maple & Motor has been known to serve its signature attraction with a side of attitude, although it certainly isn’t the first casual spot with a following to develop a little arrogance. But Big D’s burgerphiles will tell you it’s worth braving the fray, and hey, you don’t mess with Texas, right? The cheeseburger is really where it’s at, and we’ll let the menu description speak for itself “A half-pound of finely ground American beef flat grilled in its own juices. Dressed in traditional Texas fashion with mustard, lettuce, red onion, and dill pickle. Served on a toasted, grill-shined bun. If perfect ain’t enough, add a slunk of America, Cheddar, or Pepper Jack.” We’re booking our plane tickets now.
Yelp/ burger joint
To New York burger-lovers and the tourists lining up in front of 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: a fancy hotel’s corner pocket of dive bar with scribbles on the wall, signs asking you not to scribble on the wall, bare booths, paper wrapping, servers who are rude (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 cheeseburgers you’ll ever taste.
Photo Modified: Flickr/ Jamesnord/ CC4.0
According to legend, burgermeister George Motz wanted to include J.G. 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 (the exact formula is kept a secret) sizzled on the griddle, served draped with American cheese on a toasted bun, with pickles and red onions on the side.
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Only 24 burgers used to be served nightly at Holeman & Finch Public House, but thankfully for us they’ve been made a permanent menu item. 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. Chef Linton Hopkins (who developed this burger while he was battling cancer; it’s the only food he didn’t lose his taste for) chose to offer it on such a limited basis in order to let the other items on his menu get their due, but you can save those for the second visit.
Yelp/ Scotty C.
So what’s the secret to the burger at Husk, Sean Brock’s Charleston landmark? Bacon ground right into the patty. Brock has 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. House-made 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 their 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.
The burger at the Spotted Pig, a restaurant that is widely considered responsible for launching the high-end gastropub trend, is a wonder. Chef and co-owner April Bloomfield created a half-pound behemoth of prime grilled beef, topped with a layer of creamy, stinky Roquefort, and sandwiched inside a brioche-style bun. Served alongside rosemary-scented shoestring fries, it’s the kind of burger that will force you to close your eyes after taking the first bite and just be with the beefy, cheesy decadence. This is a burger that you’ll be dreaming about for weeks to come, and is the best in America.