The Best Burger in Every State from The Best Burger in Every State Gallery
The Best Burger in Every State Gallery
The Best Burger in Every State
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’ve tracked down the absolute best restaurant for burgers in every state as well as Washington, D.C.
Alabama: Chez Fonfon, Birmingham
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 8-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.
Alaska: Tommy’s Burger Stop, Anchorage
This fun and eclectic burger joint is renowned in Anchorage, largely thanks to its wide variety of burgers, which start with 5.5-ounce patties of Australian beef that get a dose of Cajun seasoning before hitting the griddle. They adorn eight different types of burgers, ranging from a simple cheeseburger to the crave-worthy R.L.E. Hello Burger, two patties topped with bacon, grilled mushrooms, onions, jalapeños, and cheese. Veggie burgers, sliders, cheesesteaks, and po’boys round out the menu.
Arizona: Rehab Burger Therapy, Scottsdale
If you’re looking for a great burger in Scottsdale, locals know to go to Rehab. The 6-year-old beach-themed burger joint has attracted legions of followers for its massive selection of burgers (available with 10- or 5-ounce patties of custom-ground never frozen sirloin, brisket, and chuck). You can build your own burger (they’re all served on your choice of a brioche, pretzel, wheat kaiser, or gluten-free bun), or select one of the inspired creations including the Hatch Burger (grilled hatch chiles and melted Cheddar), the PB&J Bacon Burger (peanut butter, grape jelly, bacon, and sriracha), the Spicy Mac-N-Cheese Burger (pepper jack cheese, chile-kicked mac and cheese, bacon, and sriracha), and the Bigger Beefstro Burger (a 5-ounce patty topped with Havarti, shaved ribeye, roasted poblanos and onions, and house-made wasabi mayo).
Arkansas: Big Orange, Little Rock
Little Rock = Big Orange. This popular hangout boasts a full bar, modern décor, and the best burgers in town. They’re made with all-natural beef and as many fresh, local ingredients as possible, and most of them have a decidedly gourmet twist: There’s the Farmer’s Burger, with Havarti, a fried local egg, bacon from local Petit Jean Meats, butter leaf lettuce, tomato, red onion, and aïoli; the Spicy Pimento (with house-made spicy pimento cheese and pickled green tomato); the Hickory Smoke (sharp Cheddar, barbecue sauce, dill pickles, and fried onion strings); and the pièce de résistance, the White Truffle & pecorino (with pecorino cheese, arugula, fig jam, white truffle, and mayo).
California: 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 Casual Restaurants of 2017. You’ll find great craft beers and small bites (think smoked eel with fennel and onions). 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 on a loaf that’s more similar to a baguette than a bun. It's a very, very juicy burger with funk, freshness, and great flavor. The fries are also among America’s best, but don’t forget that there’s no ketchup on the premises.
Colorado: Steuben's, Denver
Opened in 2007, but named in honor of a famous restaurant and nightclub co-proprietor Josh Wolkon's great-uncles owned in Boston for several decades in the middle of the last century, Steuben's is a neighborhood diner serving American regional specialties. Representing Colorado's neighbor, New Mexico, the menu presents what is regularly named the best green chile (or chili, as Steuben's puts it) cheeseburger in Denver. Said to be inspired by the classic version at the Owl Bar in San Antonio, New Mexico, it's a fat burger patty topped with American cheese into which green chile strips seem to melt. Lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, and mustard ornament the burger, which is served on a challah bun.
Connecticut: Louis’ Lunch, New Haven
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, with which the gentleman was sent on his way. But was this a "burger," or was it a "sandwich" — because it wasn't a ground-beef patty on some form of yeast bun? Sandwich, hamburger, whatever. So what do you get at Louis'? A flame-broiled burger made in a vertical hinged-steel wire gridiron that cooks the burgers on both sides at the same time; a hamburger sandwich supposedly made from a blend of five cuts of ground steak. If you want condiments, you’ll have to ask. Otherwise, all you’ll get 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.
Delaware: Farmer & The Cow, Wilmington
Nobody is Wilmington is doing better burgers or shakes than this newcomer, which sources high-quality ingredients to create its astounding good burgers. Don’t miss the FTC (with bacon, fried onions, special sauce, and American cheese), the Morning Glory (with bacon, scrapple, a fried egg, and spiced maple syrup), the Goomara (tomato jam, soppressata, pesto, and mozzarella), the Bushwood (bourbon apples, prosciutto, and smoked Gouda), and the Bleu Steel (bacon, stout-braised onions, and blue cheese). Make sure you start your meal with fried chicken skins tossed with Nashville dry rub.
Florida: Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Miami
This popular Miami restaurant (with an outpost on the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman) used to serve its first-rate burger only at lunchtime, but it's finally made it onto the dinner menu as well. The beef is house-ground Black Angus from California's Harris Ranch and the bun is brioche. House-smoked bacon and blue or Vermont white Cheddar are optional during lunch; bacon and Cheddar come standard during dinner.
Georgia: Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta
Only 24 burgers used to be served nightly at Holeman & Finch Public House, but thankfully for us they’ve now 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, as 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.
Hawaii: Burgers and Things, Honolulu
Burgers and Things is a super-popular Honolulu hangout that serves burgers that are unlike any you’ll find anywhere else. How so? After they’re given a deep crust on a flat-top, they’re finished in flavorful braising liquid. The flagship burger soaks in house-made beef jus; the teriyaki burger gets a bath in house-made teriyaki sauce; the Un-Foie-Gettable burger starts with a patty of grass-fed Kauai beef, which is braised in foie gras demi-glace before being topped with bacon apple maple jam; the Wagyu Say?! is a wagyu patty braised in mustard-kicked jus and topped with sautéed mushrooms and onions; and the Lamb Bam Thank Ewe Ma’am (a name right out of Bob’s Burgers) is a local lamb patty braised in honey, mint, and sherry vinegar jus. So yeah, these burgers are definitely unique.
Idaho: Bittercreek Ale House, Boise
This bar and restaurant has been going strong for 22 years, and has attracted legions of regulars thanks to a huge selection of craft beers and insanely delicious burgers. Just about every item on its wide-ranging menu is made with high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients, and that pertains to the burgers as well, which are made with 100 percent grass-fed, house-ground chuck and brisket and served on locally baked potato buns. You can have yours topped with cheese or bacon (or both), or you can opt for the popular Huntsman burger, topped with English Cheddar, Stilton, pickles, lettuce, onions, bacon, and special sauce.
Illinois: Au Cheval, Chicago
The beauty of the burger served at Au Cheval lies in its simplicity: two patties (or three, if you order a “double”) of no-frills ground beef topped with Cheddar, Dijonnaise, and 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. The line to get into this place stretches literally around the block every day, so owner Brendan Sodikoff (who will be bringing Au Cheval to New York this summer) is clearly doing something right.
Indiana: Workingman's Friend, Indianapolis
In business since 1918, this Indianapolis old-timer reportedly got its name because owner Louis Stamatkin allowed regulars to run a tab until payday; the fact he supplied them with homemade whiskey probably didn’t hurt, either. Nowadays it’s run by Louis’ granddaughter Becky, and it’s turning out stellar burgers that haven’t changed since day one, still cooked on the original grill. Patties are hand-formed from fresh-ground chuck and smashed down on the grill until they’re essentially all crust, deep and dark and salty and loaded with umami. Order a double and you’ll receive two cheese-topped patties stacked on top of each other, with a segment of bun in between to absorb some of the juice. It’s a beaut.
Iowa: Zombie Burger & Drink Lab, Des Moines
This fun restaurant has a vaguely horror-related theme, but the spectacular burgers served here certainly aren’t novelties. There are more than 20 different burgers on offer, with cheeky names including Dead Moines (smoked Gouda, prosciutto, ham, and truffle mayo), The Walking Ched (a breaded and fried mac and cheese bun, bacon, Cheddar, onion, cheese, and mayo), Undead Elvis (peanut butter, fried bananas, bacon, American cheese, a fried egg, and mayo), and Juan of the Dead (green chile and cheese croquette, Monterey Jack, caramelized onion, and chipotle mayo). There are also several vegan options (including one made with a Beyond Meat patty), and a stellar pork tenderloin sandwich, because this is Iowa, after all.
Kansas: Cozy Inn, Salina
There was a big White Castle-inspired hamburger stand boom across America in the early 1920s, and Salina, Kansas’ 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 nationally as sliders, and so is the birthplace of this beloved dish. 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," meaning 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). Request a sack and you’ll get six sliders, and expect to leave smelling like onions.
Kentucky: Mussel & Burger Bar, Louisville
Mussel & Burger Bar’s executive chef and owner Fernando Martinez and his partner Yaniel Martinez also run popular Louisville spots Guaca Mole, Taco Luchador, and Artesano Tapas, and they’ve turned their attention to burgers and elevated pub fare at this standout. Fifteen different burgers are on offer, and the beef used is from Black Angus cattle, house-ground daily, and served on house-made buns. Standouts include the Spanish Blue (Le Peral blue cheese, pepper cress, and fig marmalade), the C.E.O. (Gruyère, truffle aïoli, caramelized onions, baby arugula, oven-roasted tomatoes, and optional foie gras), the BBB (maple-glazed pork belly, a fried egg, caramelized onions, aged white Cheddar, and maple aïoli), and the high-end Local Burger (local grass-fed beef, smoked Gouda, local tomato, lettuce, and onions). They also serve one of the best vegetarian burgers in town.
Louisiana: Company Burger, New Orleans
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.
Maine: BRGR Bar, Portland
This relative newcomer in the Old Port neighborhood has already staked a claim as serving the best burgers in town thanks to its owners’ meticulous ingredient sourcing. The beef burgers are an aged custom primal blend from Maine Family Farms, and the bison is from a farm in Berwick, Maine; both are grass-fed. Six-ounce burgers on offer include The Mac Daddy (topped with house-made mac and cheese and barbecue short rib) and the Up in Smoke (a bison patty with smoked gouda, bacon, grilled red onion, avocado, bourbon barbecue sauce, and lettuce and tomato), but the one to order is the OO-Mommy, which is topped with gorzonzola, beer-battered onion rings, and bacon and onion jam, and it’s an absolute umami bomb (get it?).
Maryland: The Abbey Burger Bistro, Baltimore
This local pub is renowned in Baltimore, and its burgers are phenomenal. You can build your own from a wide selection of patties (including bison, lamb, Black Angus beef from local Roseda Farm, game meats, or crab cake), 15 cheeses, and more than 40 toppings (ranging from crab dip and raspberry jalapeño sauce to peach and herb salad). We suggest you go to town and build your dream burger, but if you’d rather have them do it for you, try either Harry’s Bistro Burger (topped with a fried egg, bacon, and Cheddar on an English muffin), or the Baltimore Burger (topped with crab dip, bacon, and Cheddar). 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.
Massachusetts: Craigie on Main, Cambridge
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. Thankfully, it’s also usually available during lunch and brunch. Housemade veggie burgers are also available — but only on Tuesdays.
Michigan: Redamak’s, New Buffalo
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.
Minnesota: Matt's Bar, Minneapolis
Ah, the legendary 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.
Mississippi: Fine & Dandy, Jackson
This Jackson newcomer only opened last December, but it’s already established itself as the local destination for burgers. Executive chef (and James Beard Award semi-finalist) Jesse Houston grinds a blend of short rib, chuck, and brisket in-house, seasons them with salt and pepper, sears them on a hot griddle, and serves them on a house-baked potato bun-brioche hybrid created by pastry chef Amy Henderson. These are spectacular with no ornamentation at all, but you can’t go wrong if you order The Nobleman, topped with smoked Cheddar, house-cured bacon, smoked tomato, grilled romaine, and chipotle- and beer-spiked Dijonaise.
Missouri: Winstead’s, Kansas City
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 ketchup, mustard, pickles, and a thick slice of onion (along with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and/or bacon if you want it), served on a soft white bun. Order the double, comprising 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 Winstead's burger one of the best in the world.
Montana: The Burger Dive, Billings
The Burger Dive chef Brad Halsten might as well call himself “The Burger King of Montana,” because nobody around is turning out such well-made, award-winning, and creative burgers. His 1/3 pound burgers start with Angus beef, and his Jerk Burger (with house-made jerk sauce, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion on a locally-made bun) took first place in beef at the 2012 Masters of Barbecue Challenge; his Best of the Bash Burger (a blackened patty topped with goat cheese, bacon, an onion ring, arugula, sriracha, and garlic basil mayo) won the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s famed Burger Bash in 2014; and the I’m Your Huckleberry (topped with huckleberry hatch chile barbecue sauce, bacon, goat cheese, roasted red pepper mayo, and arugula) won 2016’s World Food Championships. This guy is a burger wizard.
Nebraska: Block 16, Omaha
“Farm to table street food” is the name of the game at this beloved local standby, run by the husband-and-wife team of Jessica and Paul Urban. They source their humanely-raised, 100 percent grass-fed beef from a high-end Iowa butcher, and 1/3-pound patties are used on burgers including the Croque Garcon (topped with cheese, ham, a sunny-side up egg, mustard, and truffle mayo on ciabatta). Believe it or not, this is the burger that none other than Alton Brown dubbed the country’s best, calling it “high art.” Make sure you get a side of Duck Duck Goose Fries, topped with duck confit, crispy duck skin, duck-fat mayo, and gooseberry gastrique.
Nevada: Burger Bar, Las Vegas
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.
New Hampshire: Lexie’s, Portsmouth, Durham, and Exeter
Husband and wife KC Cargill and Alexis Wile opened the first location of Lexie’s in Portsmouth in 2010, and today there are three New Hampshire locations, one in Massachusetts, and a “Burger Bus” for catering. What’s made this place to successful? A relaxed vibe (the motto is “Peace, Love, and Burgers”), and, obviously, some stellar burgers! These 4-ounce patties are vessels for some deliciously creative toppings, as evidenced in burgers like the Stairway to Heaven (Cheddar, braised short ribs, melted onions, and barbecue sauce); the Fun Guy (blue cheese, mushrooms, crispy onions, and horseradish sauce); and The Farmhouse (Cheddar, bacon, fried egg, avocado, lettuce, tomato, onion, and herb aïoli).
New Jersey: White Manna, Hackensack
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.
New Mexico: 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 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 13 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.
New York: 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.
North Carolina: Chuck's, Raleigh
The most outrageous offering at this down-home burger joint, the Dirty South Burger, 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 are all piled on top of the patty before being sandwiched between two halves of a bun. All the components work perfectly together thanks to the deft hand of a great chef: Ashley Christensen, who was the recipient of the 2014 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.
North Dakota: JL Beers, Various Locations
JL Beers is a beloved local chain, with seven locations in North Dakota along with three in Minnesota and two in South Dakota. And with 40 beers on tap, a fun and welcoming vibe, and some truly great burgers, it’s not surprising to see why it’s so popular. More than a dozen burgers are available, made with never-frozen beef; The Original hamburger Stand Burger, topped with only pickles and special sauce, is definitely enough to satisfy a craving, but you might as well go all-in and try the JL Burger (topped with grilled onions, cheese, special sauce, and two patties); the Rajun Cajun (pepper jack, Cajun lime sauce, grilled onions, and Cajun seasoning); or the Not Just a Nutter Burger (fresh peanut butter, red pepper jelly, diced jalapeños, raw onions, and lettuce).
Ohio: B Spot Burgers, Various Locations
Iron Chef Michael Symon has won too many burger contests to recall, and with good reason — the man understands good food, he understands meat, and more importantly, he understands how to make a great burger. The Lola, Symon’s burger with bacon, Cheddar, pickled red onions, and a sunny-side up egg, is going to be on the rarer side, the saltier side, and the gooey-dripping side. If you’re really into burgers, and really know the way chefs like to make them, well… you’ll be into the Lola.
Oklahoma: Nic’s Grill, Oklahoma City
Grab a seat at the counter in the diminutive Nic’s Grill, joining the hordes of other pilgrims who line up here daily, and watch chef/owner Justin “Nic” Nicholas work his burger magic. He forms passive patties by hand and sears them on a hot griddle, and if you order yours “with cheese and everything” (which we encourage), it’ll be served with plenty of cheese, griddled onions, pickles, mustard, mayo, and ketchup on a perfectly steamed bun. If you’re looking for a slightly more elevated experience, the burgers served at Nicholas’ Nic’s Diner and Lounge across town are also spectacular.
Oregon: Le Pigeon, Portland
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.
Pennsylvania: Village Whiskey, Philadelphia
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 they come on a house-baked pain au lait bun that’s similar to brioche, but less eggy. The patties are well seasoned, super juicy, and full of flavor. If you’re looking for something especially decadent, go for the Whiskey King Burger, which is topped with maple bourbon-glazed cippolini onions, blue cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, and foie gras for good measure. It’s a wonder to behold.
Rhode Island: Mission, Newport
This laid-back, no-frills restaurant is the go-to spot in Newport for hot dogs, hand-cut fries, seasonal popsicles made in-house, and, of course, burgers. The ones served here start with a custom blend of beef ground in-house and formed into thick, smallish patties; the toppings on offer don’t veer too far outside of the box, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Some American cheese, a couple slices of high-quality crispy bacon, and a smear of Mission Sauce — mayo, ketchup, cornichons, capers, fines herbes, and a hit of brandy — is all you need.
South Carolina: Husk, Charleston
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.
South Dakota: Black Hills Burger & Bun Co., Custer
A beloved local landmark that draws locals and Black Hills tourists alike, Black Hills Burger & Bun Co. is run by the husband and wife duo of Claude and Christie Smith, who take their burgers very seriously. Burgers are made from chuck, which is ground in-house daily, formed into 6-ounce patties, seared, and served on a house-made bun with your choice of toppings and a side (try the baked beans). There’s a nice variety of burger styles on offer (including a few veggie options), but you can’t go wrong with The Western, with Cheddar, bacon, grilled onions, and barbecue sauce.
Tennessee: Earnestine & Hazel’s, Memphis
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 the 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 in 2013, 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.
Texas: Maple & Motor, Dallas
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 American, Cheddar, or Pepper Jack.” We’re booking our plane tickets now.
Utah: Lucky 13, Salt Lake City
Lucky 13 may look (and sound) like a sports bar, but don’t be fooled: It’s home to Utah’s best burgers. Their patties are made of 7 ounces of never-frozen locally-sourced ground chuck, cooked to medium with an enviable crust, and served with a dizzying array of toppings on a freshly-baked bun. There’s no shortage of insane toppings; popular ones include the Breath Enhancer (with fresh garlic, rosemary, and Cheddar), the Bacon Stinky Cheeseburger (bacon and blue cheese), and The Fungus Amongus (with red wine-sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and Swiss). Our advice: Skip the gimmicky ones like The Big Benny (28 ounces of beef topped with bacon, ham, Cheddar, Swiss, onions, and special sauce) unless you have the metabolism of a race horse, and keep it simple with cheese and house-smoked bacon. Make sure you get some rosemary garlic fries on the side.
Vermont: Al’s French Frys, Burlington
If you live in Burlington, Vermont, you’ve heard of Al’s French Frys. The sprawling burger joint, located just south of downtown, started as a French fry stand run by Al and Genevieve Rusterholz in the late 1940s, and over the years it just kept growing. The latest incarnation still has a distinctly 1950s vibe, and a menu that appears to not have changed (in either offerings and price) in years. The patties are small, and sit between halves of a soft white bun. If you don’t order any toppings, which cost extra, all you get is meat on a bun, which certainly implies that they stand behind its quality. The never-frozen patties are indeed high-grade beef, but some lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, cheese, and ketchup (as well as a second patty to balance out the meat-bun-toppings ratio) never hurt. This is a seriously good old-school burger, and a seriously tasty one at that.
Virginia: The All American, 2941 Restaurant, Falls Church
Hidden on 2941’s upscale American, French, and Mediterranean menu in the affluent Washington, DC suburb of 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.
Washington: Sam's Tavern, Seattle
Sam’s Tavern, founded in the 1940s on the corner of Fuhrman and Eastlake avenues in Seattle, was the original birthplace of national chain Red Robin. Before adopting the name “Red Robin,” it was just “Sam’s Tavern,” and then “Sam’s Red Robin.” Seventy years later, the original Sam’s Tavern was resurrected, this time on the corner of East Pike Street and 11th Avenue, and they still serve awesome burgers. They have one in particular that’s perfect for all you bacon fans out there: Sammy’s 50/50 Burger. The patty is half Certified Angus beef and half hickory smoked bacon, topped with avocado, buttermilk bacon ranch dressing, Gouda cheese, and (you guessed it) more bacon. Might as well go whole hog and start with the wedge salad with bacon bits and see if they’ll load your side of fries up with it, too.
Washington, D.C.: Ray’s Hell 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, in Arlington, closed down last year as well, but thankfully a three year-old D.C. location is still going strong. Hand-trimmed, aged in-house, fresh-ground throughout the day, and hand-formed, these burgers are a sight to behold.
West Virginia: Avenue Eats, Wheeling
This small, low-key restaurant offers a relaxed patio, a casual atmosphere, and a burger that’s putting the town of Wheeling on the map. The burgers here are made with freshly-ground, locally-sourced, grass-fed beef, and come in a variety of tempting styles, including one topped with poutine; another topped with house-made pub cheese, bacon, and fried onion straws; and another with Brie, grilled pear, caramelized onions, and bacon. These aren’t gimmicky, though; they’re all designed with an eye toward flavor and balance.
Wisconsin: Solly's Grille, Milwaukee
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 flat-top griddle and is topped with impossibly flavorful stewed onions and a pat of butter — at least 2 or 3 tablespoons’ worth — before being placed in between two halves of a soft white bun. The butter melts into the meat and into the bun, and it’s unlike any other burger you’ll experience.
Wyoming: Local, Jackson Hole
One of Jackson Hole’s most popular restaurants, Local is primarily a steakhouse, which is always a good sign on a hunt for a great burger. And the burger here, made from a blend of different locally-ranched, house-ground beef, lives up to all great steakhouse burger expectations. Drop by at dinner and you’ll find one burger on the menu — topped with smoked Cheddar, bacon, tomato jam, lettuce, and pickles — but come for lunch and create your own burger from four patty options (custom-blended locally pastured and grass-fed beef; Montana buffalo; steak, which is a blend of ribeye, New York strip, and filet mignon trimmings; and veggie), with a wide variety of cheeses and other toppings. Our advice: Go for the steak burger and forego all the toppings.
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