America's 15 Best Burgers
June 28, 2016
Is there anything more delicious or satisfying than a truly perfect burger?
America's 15 Best Burgers
Is there any food more quintessentially American than the burger? The simple sandwich of ground beef on a bun allows for considerable creativity from the chef or home cook who's making it, and there are thousands of variations, from one end of the country to the other. And when done properly, there are few foods more delicious. We recently published our annual ranking of the 101 Best Burgers in America, and these are the 15 best.
#15 Hamburger, Zuni Café, San Francisco
The lunch-only grass-fed burger at this San Francisco classic is ground in-house, medium-lean, and 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 just fine with us.
#14 Luger Burger, Peter Luger, New York City
Because of this burger’s location in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and its lunch-only appearance on the menu, out-of-town visitors free to venture over during the week are likely to have an easier time than locals experiencing one of New York City’s best burgers. There are no bells and whistles, but Peter Luger has been handling meat since 1887, and its rich, half-pound Luger Burger, made from porterhouse and prime chuck roll trimmings, is worth 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, 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., which is when they stop serving it.
#13 Hickory Burger, The Apple Pan, Los Angeles
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 Hickory Burger is a juicy round of hickory-smoked 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.
#12 Hubert Keller Burger, Burger Bar, Las Vegas
Yelp/ Anthony N.
Known as “the other Keller” (besides Thomas, obviously), Hubert Keller is familiar to fine-dining enthusiasts who have long enjoyed his exquisitely crafted modern French food at the now-defunct 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. The accomplished Alsatian-born chef has more recently 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 burger that Keller enjoys so much he put his name on it starts with a bison-meat patty and is topped with caramelized onion, wilted baby spinach, and blue cheese, and is served on a ciabatta bun alongside red wine shallot sauce.
#11 Cheeseburger, Burger Joint, New York City
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.
#10 Bacon Cheese Burger, The Little Owl, New York City
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 three-quarters-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, onions, pickles, and tomato; and serves it on a homemade bun. It’s rich, meaty, and hits all the right notes.
#9 The Office Burger, Father's Office, Los Angeles
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 pretension. It has the 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. You’ll find 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 frou-frou about it, just arugula, bacon, caramelized onion, Gruyère, and Maytag Blue. It's a very, very juicy burger with funk, freshness, and great flavor.
#8 Green Chile Cheeseburger, Santa Fe Bite, Santa Fe
Down the Old Las Vegas Highway (the original Route 66), the green chile cheeseburger served at Bobcat Bite, founded by Mitzi Panzer in 1953, was hailed by Hamburger America's George Motz, Roadfood's Jane and Michael Stern, Food Network, and Epicurious as not only the zenith of green chile cheeseburgers, but perhaps one of the greatest burgers, period, in the country. A dispute between the Panzer family and John and Bonnie Eckre, who took The Bite 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.
#7 Black Angus Burger, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami
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.
#6 Cheeseburger, JG Melon, New York City
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.
#5 Black Label Burger, Minetta Tavern, New York City
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, savory, salty, soul-satisfying… these words lose meaning in the presence of a burger this good.
#4 Double Cheeseburger, Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta
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.
#3 Cheeseburger, Husk, Charleston, S.C.
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.
#2 The Original db Burger, db Bistro Moderne, New York City
The idea of the “chef-inspired” burger, in all its renown and prominence, can be hit or miss these days. Lately, it seems like all chefs feel like they have to have a burger on the menu. But while some are just paying lip service to the trend, some of them really, really hit the mark. In that regard, it’s very hard to disregard the importance of the Original db Burger, created by esteemed French chef Daniel Boulud for his db Bistro Moderne. A sandwich that’s simultaneously very American and very French, the db Burger is a mixture of grilled beef and braised short rib — 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 layered 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.
#1 Chargrilled Burger, The Spotted Pig, New York City
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.