Is there any food more quintessentially American than the burger? The simple sandwich — and yes a burger is a sandwich — of ground beef on a bun has thousands of variations, and when done properly, there are few foods more delicious.
If you’ve eaten your fair share of burgers, then you probably already know that there are a few different varieties out there: There are the inch-or-so-thick patties that drip juice down your arm; there are fast food-style burgers, thin patties cooked on a griddle that (ideally) get an ample crust; and finally, there are the high-end models with high price tags that raise the humble burger to fine-dining status.
Though these burger styles have their differences, there are a few qualities the best burgers in America will share: high-quality beef, proper seasoning, well-proportioned components and an overall attention to detail that many would call “making it with love.” These are burgers that, try as you might, just can’t be replicated in your home kitchen.
In order to compile our ranking of the 101 best burgers in America, we assembled a list of hundreds of beloved burgers from all across the country and compiled them into a survey (To keep the playing field even, we only considered beef burgers and excluded offerings from large chains.). We then asked a panel of noted writers, journalists, bloggers and culinary authorities from across the country to vote for their favorites, and these are the ones that came out on top.
Yelp/ Charles K.
Burger Boy has been a Cedar Crest, New Mexico, hangout since 1982, and it’s a simple, no-frills lunch counter and dining room with basically the same staff, owners and regulars since it opened. Burgers here are 1/3-pound patties of fresh ground beef, seared on a flat-top and tucked into a no-frills bun with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions, but you’re going to want to do as the locals do and get some chopped green Hatch chiles added.
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 not to 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, all you get is meat on a bun, which certainly implies that they stand behind its quality. Of course, 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.
Yelp/ Nadine C.
The no-frills W&M has been serving classic, old-school burgers to hungry Honolulu locals since 1940, and the recipe has changed very little since founders Wilfred and Mary Kawamura first opened its doors. The burgers here are always made from fresh beef and grilled while being basted with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce that’s a long-held secret recipe. Order the Royal Burger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and a perfectly melted slice of cheese, served on a bun from Hawaii-based Love’s Bakery.
Houston, Texas, institution Lankford Grocery has been going strong since 1938, when it opened as a fruit stand; burgers were introduced about 40 years ago and quickly became the main attraction. Today there are 20 burgers on the menu, topped with everything from mac and cheese, jalapeños, bacon and a sunny-side-up egg (the Grim Burger) to shoestring fries, Cuban sauce, Swiss cheese, red onions and ham (the Cuban). The Double Meat Burger, with two crusty patties, American cheese and your choice of toppings, is the best way to learn what put this place on the map, though. Supremely juicy and packing a chargrilled flavor punch, these hand-formed burgers are filling, beefy, cheesy and wildly satisfying.
Yelp/ Mark L.
Swenson’s was founded by Wesley “Pop” Swenson in 1934, and today it’s a small chain of 13 Ohio drive-ins centered around Cleveland and Akron. Its most famous burger (and the one that expats crave as soon as they leave the state) is the Galley Boy, which is anything but ordinary. To start, the ground beef is mixed with brown sugar before being griddled, and after two patties leave the grill they’re topped with American cheese and two secret sauces (one similar to tartar sauce, the other closer to barbecue sauce) and tucked into a sweet bun. And to top it off? A perfect, pimento-stuffed green olive speared through the top bun with a toothpick. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it, and you should definitely try it.
Yelp/ Cory E.
Open since 2008, the Hubcap Grill 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.
The building that houses Earnestine's & Hazel’s started as a Memphis, Tennessee, pharmacy in the ‘30s before being taken over by two hairstylists named Earnestine and Hazel. They eventually turned the spot into a café, which was visited by musicians like B.B. King, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry after gigs at a nearby club. After being boarded up in the 1970s, it was reopened in 1993 as 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, each burger is given a couple squirts of Worcestershire-kicked sauce as it cooks, and is the perfect accompaniment to a night out.
Yelp/ Angie L.
Lucky 13 may look like a sports bar, but don’t be fooled: It’s home to some of the best burgers in all of Utah. Their patties are made of 7 ounces of never-frozen locally sourced ground chuck, cooked to medium and served with a dizzying array of toppings on a freshly baked bun. Popular offerings 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, or add grilled onions and roasted jalapeños and habaneros to make the spicy Ring of Fire. Make sure you get some rosemary garlic fries on the side.
Yelp/ Allen Burger Venture
The food scene in Buffalo, New York, has a lot more going for it than wings, and new restaurants regularly open that push the culinary envelope. Case in point? Allen Burger Venture, or ABV for short. The burgers here are made with dry-aged, grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free Black Angus beef and are available in a wide variety of styles. The No. Two is the way to go, a perfect homage to Buffalo’s most beloved native sandwich, the beef on weck. This patty is topped with New York state cheddar and caraway-horseradish aioli and is (of course) served on a caraway-topped roll with a side of jus.
If the name of this burger (and the 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 West Lafayette, Indiana, 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). The top selling Duane Purvis starts with a 1/3-pound patty of 85/15 sirloin hand-sliced and fresh-ground every morning, topped with cheese, your choice of lettuce, tomatoes, 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 of the namesake root beer!
A local landmark that draws locals and South Dakota 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, 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.
Yelp/ Jenny S.
The celebrity (and presidential) photos on the wall are clear indications of Ben’s Chili Bowl’s Washington landmark status, but the continuous lines out the door are evidence that the restaurant's chili cheese burgers and half-smokes (thick, smoky sausages) are some of the best in the country. When you order the quarter-pound chili burger, you get a never-frozen all-beef patty topped with spicy beef chili, lettuce and mayo; you’re going to want to add some cheese to that, too. Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but it’s still absolutely worth visiting.
Yelp/ Mike F.
With seven locations, Dick’s is a Seattle, Washington, institution. Since 1954, they’ve served burgers, hand-cut fries and milkshakes, and the owners know that if it ain’t broke, they shouldn’t fix it. The Deluxe is an ideal burger: two fresh-ground 1/3-pound patties, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickle relish, on a soft, freshly baked bun, sold for a whopping $3.65. This burger makes Dick’s one of America’s classic drive-ins that are still worth pulling up to.
Yelp/ Jon T.
Roxie’s got its start in 1986 as a nondescript convenience store in a run-down Memphis neighborhood, but since then it’s become a cornerstone of the community, and bounced back strong after it was devastated by a fire in 2015. It’s still run by Roxie Miller and her husband Red, and they’re serving soul food and cooking burgers to order an a flat-top griddle. These are big, loose patties, and they’ll top them however you like before tucking them into a soft bun. We suggest you try the Mr. Good Burger (named after the longtime grillman), with two patties, four bacon strips and two types of cheese; and the Uptown Burger, with two patties, cheese, onions, peppers and jalapeños.
Yelp/ Thomas C.
With its ancient sign propped up on a slightly lopsided roof, Zweig’s may not look like much, but you’d be a fool to drive past it. Located about halfway between Milwaukee and Madison in the small, sleepy town of Watertown, Wisconsin, this mainstay has been slinging burgers and other classic diner fare for more than 70 years, and the burgers coming off of the griddle are just about perfect. Enjoying two of these thin and crusty burgers draped in melted cheese and tucked onto a squishy bun while perched on a stool at the counter may just be the ideal burger-eating experience.
H Brant R./Yelp
The Burger Dive chef Brad Halsten might as well call himself “the Burger King of Montana,” because nobody around is turning out so many award-winning 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; 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. But it’s his Best of the Bash Burger (a blackened patty topped with goat cheese, bacon, an onion ring, arugula, Sriracha and garlic basil mayo) that took one of the biggest crowns of all: It won the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s famed Burger Bash in 2014. This guy is a burger wizard.
Sketch Burger looks sort of like a psychedelic preschool, all Day-Glo colors and funky signs and crowdsourced artwork, but this small Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, burger joint serves up a perfect 8-ounce sirloin burger on a doughy white bun with sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, pickle, raw onion and a choice of sauces — among them hot mustard, barbecue, harissa aioli and “Caribbean Green.”
Yelp/ Santa C.
If you like your burger big, bold, and big (did we already say big?), the sirloin burger sold at this converted gas station about a half-hour’s drive from Miami, Florida, is worth seeking out. The Le Tub Saloon will be crowded, you might wait for more than an hour for your order (the griddle is tiny), and you’ll leave smelling 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. (Yes, 13 ounces!) It’s a behemoth, sure, but the crowds at this place don’t lie: This burger is a thing of beauty.
Yelp/ Cassell’s Hamburgers
Cassell’s, which opened in 1948, is one of California’s oldest and most beloved burger joints. Cassell’s now occupies a corner of the historic Hotel Normandie in Koreatown, a few blocks from its original location, but stays true to founder Al Cassell’s old ways: The beef is Colorado Angus chuck and brisket, ground daily in house, formed in the original burger press and cooked on Cassell's original crossfire broiler. Cheddar or Swiss draped over the top and a Parker House bun complete the burger. All the usual condiments are available (the mayo is house-made with organic eggs), and bacon, a fried egg or avocado are available as optional enhancements.
Yelp/ Danny C.
Fatso’s Last Stand is a no-frills Ukrainian Village hot dog stand, and has established a reputation for being one of the best places in Illinois to drop into after a night of drinking. The Chicago dogs are on par with the best hot dogs in America, but it’s the burgers that really make this place stand out. They’re available either char-grilled or griddled, and the Double Fatso with Cheese (if you can bring yourself to utter those words) is the way to go: two patties cooked to medium, loaded with cheese, secret sauce and your choice of lettuce, tomato and onion.
Yelp/ Glenn G.
The buns on the burgers at MEAT Eatery & Tap Room come stamped with the word “MEAT” in all caps, so if you couldn’t already tell by the name, these folks are serious about, well, meat. The Nancy Pants is the burger to order, and make sure you top it with maple-cured cherrywood-smoked bacon. The patty is only 5 ounces, but it’s well seasoned and packed with flavor, and comes dressed with American cheese, lettuce and tomato. Their fries are fried in duck fat, but good luck deciding between those and crispy chicharrónes as your side dish.
Yelp/ Deniece L.
Thurman Café has been serving all-American fare since 1942 to Columbus, Ohio’s German Village neighborhood, and it’s a great place for locals to stop in to sit or take out classics such as wings, pizza, fries and, of course, burgers. If it’s your first time there, make sure you order The Thurmanator, which comprises not one but two 12-ounce burger patties, American cheese, bacon, banana peppers, ham, lettuce, mayo, mozzarella cheese, sautéed mushrooms, onions and tomato, all served on a bun with fries on the side and a pickle spear. We wish you luck on your quest to vanquish this monster; we suggest you bring some friends along to help.
Yelp/ Krista M.
Cowbell is a beloved New Orleans, Louisiana, 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 everyone's clamoring for more Cowbell.
Yelp/ Stephen T.
The most outrageous offering at down-home Raleigh, North Carolina, burger joint Chuck’s 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. However, 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: James Beard Award-winner Ashley Christensen.
Opened in 1945 as a bar called Mary Zimmerman’s and re-dubbed the Cherry Cricket by then-owner Lloyd Page in 1950 (nobody’s quite sure why), this Denver, Colorado, landmark has gone through plenty of ownership changes over the years (and a 2016 fire shut it down for five months), but one thing has remained the same: its legendary burger. The burgers start with a half-pound patty (or quarter-pound, if you prefer), and from there you can choose from 30 toppings, ranging from a variety of cheeses to more out-there options like herbed cream cheese, peanut butter, grilled pineapple, sauerkraut, corned beef and raspberry jam. Don’t be afraid to get a little adventurous!
Yelp/ John S.
The Vortex, which has two Atlanta, Georgia, locations, is a crazy place. First of all, just to enter the restaurants 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 kitschy rules, such as “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 21. And while all of this attitude might make for a great distraction from underwhelming food anywhere else, the burgers here are the real deal. 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. It’s 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. And real heads know to pair this burger with sweet potato tots.
In business since 1918, this Indianapolis old-timer reportedly got the name Workingman’s Friend because owner Louis Stamatkin allowed regulars to run a tab until payday. Nowadays its 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.
At friendly, no-frills El Reno, Oklahoma, diner Sid’s, it’s all about the onion-fried burger. Sit at the counter and watch the magic happen: Chef and owner Sid Hall (or his brother, Bob), takes a ball of fresh-ground beef, places it on a ripping-hot griddle, and smashes 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, the perfect interpretation of this Oklahoma regional specialty.
A cozy neighborhood pub with a low ceiling, comfortable booths and a pleasant backyard, Loretta’s just looks like the kind of place that would serve a legendary burger. And indeed, it does. The burgers here are small, but boy, are they mighty. A soft and toasty buttered bun, an expertly seared, supremely juicy patty, a slice of American, some raw onions and a smear of special sauce all blend together into cheeseburger alchemy. We suggest you order a few.
Yelp/ JohnnyPrimeC C.
Chef Josh Capon wins the Burger Bash at the New York and/or South Beach Wine and Food Festival almost every year, so it’s no surprise that he serves some of New York’s best burgers, like the one at his steakhouse in the East Village, Bowery Meat Company. What’s his secret? A dash of confidence, a little cockiness and a whole lot of knowing what he and his customers want to eat. In this case, that means a cheeseburger with griddled onions, raclette and tomato aioli.
BRGR Bar, a relative newcomer in Portland, Maine’s Old Port neighborhood, has already staked a claim as serving the best burgers in town thanks to its owners’ meticulous ingredient sourcing. The beef is 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, 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. As the name implies, it’s an absolute umami bomb.
Yelp/ Bianca B.
The brainchild of Martin’s Bar-B-Que’s Pat Martin looks like a retro fast food joint, but one bite of their burger should make it clear that it’s operating on a very high level. Burgers at Hugh-Baby’s are a custom blend and ground fresh in house daily, and they are the result of years of research and experimentation by Pat Martin and his team. Simple and cooked to order with attention to the details, these are burgers as they should be, griddled and topped with American cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomato, onion and comeback sauce.
Yelp/ Arturo B.
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink has established a reputation in Miami (and more recently, Cleveland, Ohio) for serving fresh, seasonal fare in a fun and inviting space. The menu is pretty expansive, but the burger is a certifiable star. The beef is house-ground Black Angus from California’s Harris Ranch and the bun is brioche. House-smoked bacon and Vermont white cheddar are optional during lunch, but come standard in the evening; if you visit during lunch hours, take a hint from the dinner menu and order appropriately.
Sam’s Tavern was the original 1940 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 even more bacon.
Yelp/ Paul A.
When a restaurant hasn’t changed its burger in more than 40 years, you know they’re doing something right. And at the Redcoat Tavern, located in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, Michigan, 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, either.
For more than 50 years, Keller’s in Dallas, Texas, has been serving classic, old-school burgers in a way that you really don’t see too often any more: via carhop. Pull up and order the No. 5 Special, two grilled patties of fresh-ground beef with a slice of American cheese melted between them, topped with lettuce, tomato and a Thousand Island-like dressing, which is all sandwiched between two halves of a poppy seed bun. There’s no harm in adding bacon, which they pile up beneath the two patties.
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 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.
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 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.
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 from whom they source ground chuck — has changed in decades. The double is the best way to go, with 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, all tucked into a toasted white bun and wrapped in wax paper. Don’t leave without trying some pie; the butterscotch variety is especially tasty.
What do you get when you combine a love of heavy metal and a passion for good food? A menu of burgers with names like “Napalm Death” and “Dee Snider” and topping combinations as unusual 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 (and among the 101 best food trucks in America) but the crew has since settled into a brick-and-mortar location. Grill ‘Em All’s crazy combinations are tasty, mostly because of their sound technique and sense of balance, 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.
Yelp/ Jeku A.
When you've been selling burgers since 1977 and your restaurant is always packed, you must be doing something right. Chris Madrid reinvented the Texas bean burger (hamburger, refried beans, Fritos and Cheez Whiz), which is said to have been created at the now-defunct Sills Snack Shack in San Antonio, by subbing in cheddar and house-made corn chips and dubbing it the Tostada Burger. The bun is soft and toasted crisp, and all the components play perfect with each other.
Yelp/ Mouse C.
Chef Jeremiah Bacon is widely regarded as one of Charleston’s best chefs, so we should all be thankful that there’s a burger on the menu at his fun-loving and freewheeling modern American restaurant, The Macintosh. His “The Mac” burger starts with an 8-ounce house-ground patty and is simply topped with Nueske’s bacon and aged cheddar, but the whole exceeds the sum of its parts. This thick slab is perfectly complemented by its toasted bun, as well as the accompanying pecorino truffle fries.
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 (there’s 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 topped with freshly-fried potato sticks (not from a can), more diced onion and a squirt of ketchup. It’s unlike any other burger you’ll ever try.
Founded as a roadside stand in the heart of Napa Valley as Taylor’s Automatic Refresher and renamed in 2011 after its owners, brothers Joel and Duncan Gott, Gott’s Roadside today has six additional Northern California locations. Thankfully, the storied grilled third-pound Niman Ranch burgers remained unchanged. Cooked medium-well unless specified otherwise 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, which steams the bun but leaves the underside crunchy. It’s an icon.
All you need to do is get a glimpse at the 5-8 Club’s menu to realize that the Juicy Lucy (basically a cheeseburger with the cheese inside the patty instead of on top) is the signature menu item at the Minneapolis, Minnesota, destination. 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 has won a whole host of Twin City burger accolades. So what’s the secret? A cooked-to-order half-pound patty, stuffed with your choice of cheese that melts in the center. Just one look at this molten, mammoth burger creation is enough to kick in some serious burger and cheese cravings.
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. There’s a staggering variety of specialty burgers, but our pick is the Classic: topped with bacon, beefsteak tomato, cheese, house “sassy sauce” (a combination of horseradish, mustard and mayonnaise), onion and red leaf lettuce.
Most burger joints 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 sauteed onions and/or mushrooms) and you’ve got an unusual, and unusually good, burger.
Since 1973, the Brooks family has been serving some of the Carolinas’ finest burgers in a small, no-frills, no-seating restaurant (twin brothers David and Scott Brooks took it over in 1991). Here at Brooks Sandwich House, balls of freshly ground beef are flattened on the griddle to order, cooked until the exterior develops an enviable char, tucked into a super-squishy bun, and (if you order it “all the way”), topped with mustard, raw onion and a smoky, beefy chili that’s the restaurant’s other claim to fame.
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. It’s essentially set the bar for all burgers in Boston, Massachusetts, and it’s a hurdle that few others have cleared.
Yelp/ Jaime L.
Bud’s is a no-frills, no-nonsense 70-plus-year-old bar in the small town of Sedalia, Colorado, that’s popular with the local cattle ranchers. Not much about this place stands out, except for the fact that the burgers here are simply spectacular. Quarter-pound patties of ground chuck are cooked on a hot griddle and topped with American cheese, tucked into a soft white bun that’s been softened by the griddle’s steam. And that’s it: No fries, no lettuce, no tomato; just the perfect synthesis of meat, cheese, grease and bun.
Yelp/ Vanessa K.
The lunch-only grass-fed burger at San Francisco’s famed Zuni Cafe is ground in house from medium-lean meat and comes on grilled rosemary focaccia slathered with aioli. Beecher’s Flagship or Bayley Hazen blue are available options, as are grilled onions or sliced heirloom tomatoes. There’s very much an only-in-Northern-California feel about the whole arrangement, which is just fine with us.
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. B Spot Burgers’ The Lola, 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, you’ll be into B Spot, which has three Cleveland locations.
Corner Bistro, the always-crowded Greenwich Village bar, is justly famous for its big no-nonsense burgers, cooked under a 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 darn good to us.
Yelp/ Michael Q.
Winstead’s is a household name in the Kansas City, Missouri, 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 juicy, golden-brown crust.
Yelp/ Katie O.
There are plenty of basic, let-the-meat-speak-for-itself burgers on this list. Butcher’s Cut at Atlanta’s Flip Burger Boutique, run by the inimitable Richard Blais, isn’t one of them. This Jenga tower 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.
Yelp/ Bobby’s Burger Palace
Bobby Flay may be one of the most well-known Food Network stars, but it’s his burgers that may end up being his biggest legacy. At Bobby’s Burger Palace, which got its start on Long Island but now has 14 locations in nine states and Washington, D.C., he’s serving a menu of 6-ounce patties griddled to order and served with a wide variety of toppings. Whether you order a bacon cheeseburger or a Dallas Burger (spice-crusted and topped with coleslaw, Monterey Jack, pickles and barbecue sauce), make sure you get it “crunchified,” or topped with a handful of potato chips. The classic Crunchburger is topped with just American cheese and chips, and a work of sheer genius.
Yelp/ Margie A.
While the battle rages between Matt’s Bar and the nearby 5-8 Club over who invented the brilliant burger variation called the Juicy Lucy , the one at Matt’s Bar (which calls it the Jucy Lucy) 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.
Chef John Tesar decided to pay homage to the late food writer and burger lover Josh Ozersky by adding a burger with his name on it to the menu at his acclaimed Dallas steakhouse Knife, and the end result is quite possibly the best burger in town. Ozersky liked his burgers with as little frill as possible, and this definitely does it justice: A simple bun, a big slab of deep-crusted beef from 44 Farms, a slice of American cheese, thin-sliced red onions and bread and butter pickles. This burger is all about the high quality of the beef, and its namesake would have loved it.
In 1960, Joe and Joan Bartley took over a small convenience store facing Harvard Yard with the mission to perfect the great American hamburger. Locals agree that Mr. Bartley’s Burgers has come pretty close, if the crowds are any indication. There’s almost always a line to score one of the interestingly named burgers, such as the Jeff Bezos and Admissions Scandal (they change regularly to stay current). We suggest taking a deep breath and going for the Viagra: a 7-ounce freshly ground chuck steak burger dressed with blue cheese dressing, bacon, lettuce and tomato. You’ll probably have stopped blushing by the time your order is up.
Edmund’s Oast, the clubby brew pub and preserve of craft-beer advocates Rich Carley and Scott Shor, is named for Edmund Egan, an English brewer who started making beer in Charleston in the mid-18th century (an oast is a kiln for drying hops). The beer selection, not surprisingly, is extraordinary, and there are interesting wines and seductive cocktails, and the absolute must-order is the burger — a beautiful construction of thick burger patty, melted cheese, crisp bacon, a sunny-side-up egg and all the usual trimmings on a smoked-salt-and-black-pepper brioche bun. It towers so high that some diners eat it with a knife and fork.
With two Manchester, Connecticut, locations (the first opened in 1948 and the second in 1965), Shady Glen is 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.
Serving some of America’s best sliders since the 1930s inside a converted 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 of Motz’s is the exact opposite of its surroundings: bright, cheerful and welcoming. Grab one of the six round stools and watch the magic happen: One-and-a-half-ounce balls of fresh-ground sirloin are smashed down onto an ancient griddle with a hefty spatula, thin-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.
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 (as encouraged) “with cheese and everything” it’ll be served with plenty of cheese, griddled onions, pickles, mustard, mayo and ketchup on a perfectly steamed bun.
There’s all kinds of good stuff on the menu at chef Cindy Pawlcyn’s ever-popular wine country bistro Mustards Grill, but the cheeseburger is one of the true stars of the menu. Made with 82 percent lean beef (a slightly higher fat content than usual) and formed into a thick patty, this beauty spends time on a wood-burning grill before being tucked into a soft, fluffy bun and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and your choice of toppings including Maytag blue cheese, avocado, bacon and mushrooms. You might as well go big and get them all.
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 are available in two preparations: smashed flat on a griddle, or grilled over an open flame. We suggest ordering the former — it’s thin and crispy, served with up to three patties on a bun, topped with the classics as well as interesting options like garlic butter, fried eggs and giardiniera (a spicy blend of chopped pickled vegetables).
Nikki N. / Yelp
With two locations in San Diego and another inside Petco Park, the 50-year-old Hodad’s might very well be the most popular burger destination in San Diego, and for good reason. These are some stellar 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.
The menu at chef Tim Love’s Love Shack is full of jokes and puns: Consider the Amore Caliente (hot love) burger and the section called “Love on the Side.” But there’s serious flavor here, too. The way to go is the Dirty Love Burger: lettuce, tomato, pickles, “Love Sauce,” American cheese, bacon and a fried quail egg. The patty is on a fresh bun with an excellent cheese-to-meat ratio.
Gerard T/ Yelp
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 two or three tablespoons’ worth — before being placed 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.
Yelp/ Olive O.
Keens is primarily famous for its longevity (in business since 1885) and its incredible steaks (it’s up there with the best steakhouses in America), but few visitors spend much time in two of its most charming rooms: the bar and the pub, which each have their own entrance and share a more casual, less expensive pub menu. The star of this menu — if it’s not the celebrated prime rib hash — is certainly the hamburger, which is just as worthy of praise as the legendary mutton chop. The thick half-pound patty is made with trimmings from the restaurant’s dry-aged steaks, and it’s rich and insanely juicy, slightly funky from the dry-aged beef, perfectly crusty and salty, packed just loosely enough, and just barely held together by its soft bun. Top yours with a slice of red onion; no cheese or ketchup required.
Tom Perini’s steakhouse, situated in a converted barn on his family’s ranch just outside Abilene, Texas, is famed for its 22-ounce “cowboy rib-eye” and other heroic slabs of good Texas beef, but burger lovers swear by Perini Ranch’s grilled half-pound burger, laden with cheddar or provolone, green chiles, grilled mushrooms and onions.
Yelp/ Glenn D.
Emily may be a pizza restaurant, but it’s the burger that really put it on the map. This is a big, juicy beast, made with a 7-ounce slab of funky, dry-aged beef topped with Grafton cheddar, caramelized onions and red pepper aioli on a soft pretzel bun. This complex, high-end sandwich is the definition of a destination burger. Get there early, though, because when they’re out of burgers, they’re out of burgers.
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 aspect to the proceedings), along with grilled red onion, lettuce, pickle and tomato. Très bien.
To New York burger-lovers and the tourists lining up in front of the ridiculously tall curtain it’s “hidden” behind just off the lobby of the swanky Le Parker Meridien Hotel, the idea that Burger Joint is a secret is, well, silly. This is a very simple burger in a very satisfying setting: a fancy hotel’s corner pocket of dive bar with scribbles on the wall, bare booths, paper wrapping, slightly rude servers, and buns taken straight out of the bag. The Burger Joint’s namesakes, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, mustard, mayo and ketchup, have all their components on point, which makes for one of the best total-package cheeseburgers you’ll ever taste, and the best burger for under 10 bucks in the country. A second New York location has opened at Brooklyn’s up-and-coming Industry City, and additional outposts can be found in Dubai, Singapore and Brazil.
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), and it’s one of the city’s most beloved culinary landmarks. 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.
Yelp/ Valery C.
“Bash Style,” for the uninitiated, means American cheese, onion and bacon jam, pickles, special sauce and, most importantly, a killer blend of meat cooked medium-rare by chef Josh Capon and his team at B&B Winepub, formerly known as Burger & Barrel. This is 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, and this is the burger that put it on the map.
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 an additional location in San Francisco). 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. The whole package is served on a ciabatta bun alongside red wine shallot sauce.
Yelp/ Mindy K.
Chef Jose Garces has won heaps of praise for the burgers he’s serving at his narrow cocktail bar Village Whiskey, and it’s well-deserved. His burgers are so lightly packed that they’re almost fluffy, and 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.
Lu C./ Yelp
It’s somehow still next to impossible to score a table at a reasonable hour at 4 Charles Prime Rib, from Brandon Sodikoff, the brains behind Chicago burger legend Au Cheval. Similar to its sister burger in Chicago, this one is made up of two 4-ounce prime beef patties, topped with American cheese, pickles, onions, mayo and Dijon, and served on a soft white bun. It’s got that perfect level of heft, a wonderful char and an ideal interplay of all its components. Lettuce, tomato, an egg and bacon are available, but it’s perfect without them.
At Dallas standby Maple & Motor, 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/ Morlene C.
At the East Village’s Brindle Room, chef/owner Jeremy Spector is serving a brunch-only burger that, at $17, 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 they 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.
Redamak's Tavern/ Yelp
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.
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 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.
Yelp/ Alison K.
Since 1939, no-frills West Springfield burger joint White Hut has been serving 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. White Hut and its sweet, caramelized onions, squishy bun and juicy patty cooked on an open griddle behind the 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.
It’s a swanky burger to be sure, served in a bar in one of Manhattan’s trendiest hotels, whose restaurant is helmed by one of the city’s (and the country’s) most well-respected chefs: Daniel Humm (also of Eleven Madison Park, one of the best restaurants in America). And while the house burger at The NoMad Bar, which has a separate entrance, doesn’t come out of the same kitchen that prepares the signature whole-roasted chicken with foie gras and black truffles, it’s still in the same sphere of indulgence, albeit more beefy and affordable. We’re talking a dry-aged cheddar burger laced with bone marrow and suet, and dressed with red onion and pickles.
Yelp/ David X.
When Gabriel Rucker first opened Le Pigeon in 2006, he only served five of these outstanding burgers per night. 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, Oregon, run, don’t walk, to this burger.
Yelp/ Maila L.
The legendary J.G. Melon 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. It’s served in a no-frills old dining room on a checkerboard tablecloth with a side of cottage fries. JG Melon is the kind of place where many burger memories are made, and a fine example of a classic, old-school New York City burger.
Yelp/ Scotty C.
There’s definitely something special about the little 4-ounce burger at Charleston, South Carolina’s Little Jack’s Tavern; like all the best burgers, this one was crafted from the bottom up with expert precision. To start, the patty has a higher-than-usual 75/25 meat-to-fat ratio, and it’s half-chuck, half-brisket. It’s griddled and topped with slow-cooked sunchoke relish, special sauce and thick-sliced American cheese and tucked into a custom-made soft sesame-topped bun. It’ll be gone in a few bites, so you’re going to want to order two.
Yelp/ Koichiro H.
You can practically taste the nostalgia at the diminutive Louis’ Lunch, widely heralded as the birthplace of the burger as we know it. As legend has it, one day in 1900, a gentleman hurriedly told proprietor Louis Lassen to make him “something he could eat on the run” and was sent on his way with a blend of ground steak trimmings between two slices of toast. Thus, the hamburger was born. That same exact sandwich is still what’s being served at this New Haven, Connecticut, must-visit today, and it’s one of the most iconic dishes in America: a 6-ounce flame-broiled burger made in a vertical hinged-steel wire gridiron that cooks the burgers on both sides at the same time, served on white toast with your choice of cheese, tomato and onion. No mustard, ketchup or mayo. The burger is indeed delicious, but this absolute hole-in-the-wall of a restaurant, with its handful of well-worn tables and huge dose of history, is worth the visit alone.
Chef Joey Campanaro knows his way around a burger, and the one that he serves at his West Village restaurant The Little Owl is a New York legend. Campanaro starts with a 3/4-inch-thick patty of ground Pat LaFrieda brisket and short rib. He seasons it liberally with a curry powder-kicked spice blend, grills it, then tops it with American cheese, bacon, lettuce, onions, pickles and tomato. The magical combination is then served on a homemade bun. It’s rich and meaty and hits all the right notes.
Kuma’s Corner is 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 and burgers with Sriracha and grilled pineapple, but if you have to choose just one, go for the signature Kuma Burger: a fried egg, bacon, lettuce, onion, sharp cheddar and tomato. It’s not as though there’s not enough flavor in the burger, but that egg adds the extra “oomph” to make it truly memorable.
Photo Courtesy DB Bistro Moderne
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 sirloin patty stuffed with braised short rib, truffles and foie gras and served on a Parmesan bun — the ultimate upscale juicy Lucy, so to speak. Indulgent? You bet.
Frank M/ Yelp
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 and you’ll find great craft beers and unique small and large plates here. 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. Father’s Office also has some of the very best french fries in America, but don’t forget that there’s no ketchup on the premises.
Yelp/ P.J. Clarke’s
There are now five P.J. Clarke’s locations, including one in D.C. and another in Philly, but the Third Avenue Manhattan original is the feisty little brick building that refused to make way for the 47-story skyscraper that now looms over it. It is also the one that created 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 lettuce, onion and tomato, with shoestring fries on the side. The name, by the way, was bestowed on the thing by Nat “King” Cole, who dubbed it “the Cadillac of burgers.”
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 flat-top 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.
Causwells has only been open since 2014, but this San Francisco spot enjoys a well-deserved reputation for being the best burger in town. It starts with two 4-ounce patties of high-quality beef, which pick up a deep sear on the griddle before being draped with American cheese, topped with special sauce, and tucked into a toasted bun atop lettuce, pickles and thin-sliced onions. Get it with a mound of frizzled onions on the side, and be happy.
The casual sister restaurant of John Shields’ and Karen Urie’s two-Michelin-starred Smyth, The Loyalist serves a burger that’s the perfect fusion of upscale and downscale. Upscale? The interior, which includes house-made pickles, onion-kicked mayo and combination of raw, charred and pickled onions on top of a house-ground combination of chuck, short rib and bacon. Downscale? The simple sesame bun. This burger is a work of genius, but be warned before you take your first bite: It’s nicknamed “The Dirty Burg” for a reason.
Sure, the côte de boeuf, roasted bone marrow and veal porterhouse chop are big reasons why Minetta Tavern is one of the Big Apple’s best restaurants for carnivores. But the Black Label Burger is just as indulgent as those other options. 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.
Yelp/ Earl G.
The beauty of the burger served at Au Cheval lies in its simplicity: two patties (or three, if you order a “double”) of high-quality ground beef topped with American cheese, Dijonnaise and a few thin slices of pickles and served on a soft toasted bun (thick-sliced bacon and a sunny-side-up egg are optional add-ons, but not necessary). The patties are wonderfully crusty, 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 finally opened a New York location in March) is clearly doing something right.
So what’s the secret to the burger at Husk? There are several: Bacon is ground right into the patty, for one, and 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. 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, lettuce and tomato only when they’re in season round it out. The restaurant has expanded beyond Charleston into Nashville, Greenville and Savannah, and the burger is definitely one of the (several) reasons for its success.
Yelp/ Sara L.
Renowned steakhouse Peter Luger has been handling meat since 1887, and its half-pound lunchtime-only burger, made from porterhouse and prime chuck roll trimmings, is worth playing hooky from work in order to experience (and if you’re a tourist, figuring out how to get to this out-of-the-way corner of Brooklyn). To make this perfect steakhouse-style burger, the freshly ground beef is molded into a coffee cup, placed onto the high-temperature broilers used for the restaurant’s steaks until it develops a dark crust, and then settled into a soft yet sturdy sesame-studded bun. For a few dollars more you can top it with cheese, but the supremely beefy, perfectly cooked burgers here stand on their own.
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. And what a magnificent burger this is: two four-ounce patties of fresh-ground pasture-raised chuck and brisket are griddled until crusty and topped with American cheese, pickles and red onions served on a toasted house-baked pain de mie bun. Fresh-cut fries and housemade ketchup and mustard are served alongside. This burger is so popular that it's even spawned its own spinoff restaurant, H&F Burger, but it's best enjoyed where it was created. 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. And be sure you grab a drink at the bar before settling in for your meal; Holeman & Finch is also home to one of the best bars in America.
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