52 Top Burgers from Coast to Coast
Bite into the best patties across America at these spots serving crave-worthy burgers made of Black Angus, wild boar, shrimp, pork roll and more.
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Beef and Beyond
The hamburger may be the all-star of the home barbecue, but don’t overlook these restaurant versions. Chefs have a lot of tricks and techniques to reinvent the traditional ground beef patty sandwich, including new cooking methods, cuts of meat, buns and toppings for truly unique results. From foie gras-topped prime beef and specially designed dry-aged blends to wild game- and seafood-infused patties, here are 52 burgers to try across the U.S.
Photo courtesy of Bart Sasso
The Stand, Phoenix
This elevated fast-food joint takes a stand for healthier fare. It eschews preservatives, trans fats, hormones and antibiotics, and the beef for the Standard Burger is grounded in-house daily. The only burger on the menu, the Standard Burger, sometimes draws comparisons to a certain other area cult-favorite burger chain. Two juicy all-beef patties are seared on a flat top and covered with melty American cheese. Crisp lettuce, fresh tomato, sliced onion, crunchy dill pickle and house Stand sauce are stacked with the patties, all served on a soft and springy white bun. Optional add-ons include buttery caramelized onions, Niman Ranch bacon and grilled jalapenos; gluten-free buns are also available.
Go to: The Stand
The Grill at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, Calif.
With a position over the rolling greens of one of the country's best golf courses, the view at The Grill could be the main draw. The Drugstore Hamburger, however, ensures that the food stands up to the atmosphere. Named for its old-fashioned inspiration, the griddle-cooked burger is one of the best in town. Sheathed in glossy Cheddar, the ground chuck — from Niman Ranch — is topped with chipped sweet onion, shreeded lettuce, pickles and tomato, with a swab of homemade mayonnaise and choice of fries or a salad on the side.
Go to: The Grill at Torrey Pines
Cherry Cricket, Denver
Adam Richman of Man v. Food once called the Cricket Burger the best he’s ever had. He’s not the only one to espouse the merits of this place. Cherry Cricket has been hailed by local and national publications on countless occasions. While much of the menu is a DIY hodgepodge of toppings, the namesake is the most popular. Fresh 80/20 Black Angus shoulder chuck patties are grilled over an open flame, creating a slight char and succulent interior. It’s finished with American cheese, sauteed onions, bacon and an over-easy egg.
Photo courtesy of Marc Piscotty
Go to: The Cherry Cricket
The Blue Duck Sandwich Co., Philadelphia
This Philly restaurant has earned a strong following for interesting variations on its namesake dish: sandwiches. But wait, there’s more. The place also serves some of the most-creative patties on the continent. Cue the pork roll burger. It’s a riff on the Jersey breakfast classic, the pork roll (Taylor Ham in the north) sandwich with egg and cheese. Here the beloved breakfast meat is blended into a patty with ground beef, topped with Cooper American cheese, Sriracha mayo and a sunny-side up egg, then placed on a Martin’s Potato Roll. This hybrid patty is so popular that it’s won numerous awards for the city’s best burger.
Go to: The Blue Duck Sandwich Co.
Hay Merchant, Houston
At his Houston craft beer mecca, Chef-Owner Chris Shepherd creates food that’s just as diverse and creative as the extensive list of brews. He offers his own twists on classic bar food like PB&J wings, chicken-fried steak and pig head (not a typo) tacos. His burger, known as the Cease and Desist, is sure to stop you in your tracks with double meat (two seared 3-ounce patties), double American cheese, lettuce, tomato and housemade pickles. Ketchup, mustard and mayo are served on the side.
Photo courtesy of Julie Soefer
Pie ‘n Burger, Pasadena, Calif.
A SoCal tradition since 1963, this old-fashioned Pasadena storefront has hardly changed a thing in the past half-century. It hasn’t had to; it’s just that good. The Formica counter, swivel stools, pie case and longtime staff still remain, and the recipes are classic and excellent. The hamburger with or without cheese is about as brilliantly Americana as it gets. A quarter-pound of freshly ground beef is griddle-cooked, topped with optional American cheese — get the cheese! — and served on a toasted, spongy white bun. Lettuce, onions, pickles and housemade Thousand Island dressing are added onto the patty, before the burger is wrapped in wax paper, ideal for keeping hands clean and adding to the vintage charm.
Go to: Pie 'n Burger
Minetta Tavern, New York City
Many restaurants serve a dry-aged burger. But this historic Greenwich Village place, owned by acclaimed restaurateur Keith McNally (Balthazar, Cherche Midi), was at the forefront. The infamous Black Label Burger starts with a specially designed patty blend from Pat LaFrieda Meats: 50 percent 45-day dry-aged rib eye, 50 percent blend of short rib, chuck, skirt steak and brisket. As it cooks, it’s basted with butter. Then it’s placed on a slightly sweet, fresh-baked Balthazar Bakery brioche bun, topped with caramelized onions, lettuce, housemade pickles and tomato, and served with a side of fries.
Go to: Minetta Tavern
Father’s Office, Los Angeles
This Los Angeles burger joint, with locations in Santa Monica and Culver City, Calif., has long been a city favorite and is often credited for kicking off the gourmet burger craze. Inspired by French onion soup, the Father’s Office burger starts with 100 percent dry-aged chuck charbroiled to a juicy medium-rare, topped with bacon-onion jam, arugula, blue cheese and Gruyère, all intended to highlight the flavor of the beef. The full lot is placed on a crunchy, garlic-butter-infused toasted bun. Be sure you’re happy with the combination before ordering: Yoon has a strict no-substitutions and no-additions policy on his signature sandwich, and not even ketchup is allowed. But it’s perfectly delicious as is.
Photo courtesy of Katie Burton
Counter Cafe, Austin
Started by Debbie Davis, Whole Foods employee number 23, this “21st Century Authentic American Diner” focuses on serving fresh, local and organic riffs on classics. That’s what makes the Counter Burger so good. Chefs Nick and Steve Cruz start with an 80/20 blend of grass-fed beef from Niman Ranch. It is seared on a radiant grill to medium-rare, with quarter turns for impeccable grill marks. Sharp cheddar is grated atop and melts into the patty. It’s placed on a toasted Sweet Mesquite Bakery bun with red onion, hydroponic beefsteak tomato from Village Farms in Marfa, Texas, and Houston’s Amador Farms' hydroponic Bibb lettuce.
Go to: Counter Cafe
Holeman and Finch, Atlanta
When this Atlanta pub first debuted its cheeseburger, Chef Linton Hopkins didn’t want the dish to overshadow the rest of the nose-to-tail menu, so the kitchen limited the number to only 24 per night, starting at 10 p.m. That didn’t work out as planned: The cheeseburger developed a cult following of fans who would wait around the dining room until “Burger Time” was called, rallying for their share. Now it’s on the menu with about 75 to 100 flying out the kitchen doors on a nightly basis. So what’s the big deal? Two small beef patties are griddled, then topped with red onion, housemade pickles and American cheese, served on a fresh-baked pan de mie bun from H&F Bread Co., and served with housemade ketchup and mustard — simple, yet oh so sweet.
Photo courtesy of Bart Sasso
Bru Burger Bar, Indianapolis
Originally opened in Indianapolis, this craft beer and burger heaven was such a hit in its hometown that it’s since expanded with three additional locales across three states. You can’t go wrong with any beef-and-bun combo here, but the Stilton Bleu Cheese Burger is the best. The base is a proprietary blend of brisket, sirloin and chuck, which is seasoned with a special spice blend. Ideally served medium-rare, but cooked to diners’ specifications, it’s served on a toasted brioche bun and topped with housemade pear-bacon jam, fried onions, truffle aioli and fresh spinach.
Photo courtesy of Richard Sparr
Go to: Bru Burger Bar
Chez Fonfon, Birmingham, Ala.
At his French bistro-inspired restaurant in Birmingham, Ala., James Beard winner Frank Stitt offers a burger that evokes the flavors of Paris. His Hamburger Fonfon has garnered numerous accolades. To make it, Stitt grinds boneless chuck in-house to form an 8-ounce patty simply seasoned with just olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. The Euro touch comes in the form of Comté cheese, which adds sweet, nutty notes that ooze right into the grilled beef. The patty comes topped with earthy flame-cooked red onion, lettuce, tomato and pickles.
Photo courtesy of Chez Fonfon
Go to: Chez Fonfon
B Spot Burgers, Cleveland and More
These Midwest Michael Symon joints have racked up plenty of acclaim for their succulent patties. The restaurant took home awards from South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash four years in a row. One of the winners was the Fat Doug. Named after Symon’s partner Doug (who is actually pretty thin, by the way), this winning recipe starts with a grilled sirloin-brisket-short rib patty. It’s topped with more meat in the form of pastrami as well as vinegary coleslaw, stadium mustard and Swiss cheese.
Photo courtesy of Michael Symon Restaurants
Go to: B Spot Burgers
Yakuza Lounge, Portland, Ore.
Inspired by the Japanese izakaya concept of a small bar serving excellent food, this Portland spot offers a daily menu featuring local and organic ingredients. The sushi is a main draw, but the Asian-perfumed Yakuza Burger is a serious crowd-pleaser. Fortunately, it’s offered on the regular. Local grass-fed Angus beef is dry-aged for 21 days and pressed into a juicy patty. Once formed, the patty is seasoned with Japanese togarashi spices and fired over direct heat. It’s then topped with creamy chevre, spice- and truffle-infused shoestring potatoes, ketchup, and spicy mayo laced with Sriracha for an added kick.
Go to: Yakuza Lounge
Husk, Charleston, S.C.
Chef Sean Brock is like the unofficial porcine king of the U.S. In the vein of Southern traditions, he infuses porky flavor into all manner of dishes. The most-talked-about item is the Husk Cheeseburger. Chuck, flank steak and Benton’s hickory-smoked bacon are ground, then formed into patties. Each one is seared in a scorching cast-iron skillet, then topped with shaved white onions and American cheese. After about 30 seconds, in which the onions warm and the cheese melts, the patty is pulled off the heat; it's then placed on a toasted and housemade buttermilk-sesame bun and topped with bread-and-butter pickles and Brock’s special sauce, a mix of ketchup, mustard, mayo, pickles and jalapenos.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Celbulka
Rhubarb, Asheville, N.C.
John Fleer is one of Asheville’s hottest chefs. A James Beard semifinalist who’s received multiple nominations, Fleer is nationally recognized for his locally sourced American fare. He carefully curates the ingredients for all the dishes on Rhubarb’s menu, whether it’s the heritage pork collar, the Brasstown bavette steak or The Rhu Burger. For the burger, Fleer starts with short rib and Benton’s bacon (Fleer is a good friend of Allan Benton), which he combines into small patties. Two seared and stacked patties are placed on a housemade brioche bun, then finished with bread-and-butter pickles (also made in-house). Cheese can be added for an extra charge. Choose from three types, all local, obviously: pimento, Ashe County Cheddar or Ashe County Gouda.
Go to: Rhubarb
The Company Burger, NOLA
If there’s one thing anyone should know about New Orleanians, it’s that they know their food. And they like to debate the best of the best. When it comes to burgers, however, there are no arguments. NOLA residents will tell you The Company Burger beats the rest. The namesake dish is a must-try. As the opening chef de cuisine of Atlanta’s burger go-to Holeman and Finch, Owner Adam Biderman modeled his burger after his former employers’ take. Two small patties are cooked to medium on a flat top. Just before they’re pulled off, each one is covered with thinly shaved red onion and a slice of cheese. They’re stacked on a toasted bun with three pickles and nothing else.
Photo courtesy of Pableaux Johnson
Go to: The Company Burger
Set in a renovated 1800s bank building, Alewife features new riffs on American fare paired with 40 rotating craft beers in a chic pub-like space. The spot has racked up numerous nods for its lively atmosphere and its gastronomically inclined burgers. The Smoke Burger is a fan-favorite pick. As the name suggests, it is bursting with layers of smoky flavors. Two thin beef patties are seared on a flat top, accentuated with smoked Gouda, melted onion bacon jam and arugula. A sesame seed bun completes the burger, which comes with a side of fries.
Go to: Alewife Baltimore
Broken Shaker, Chicago
Run by Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi, this Chicago cocktail bar — the sibling of the original award-winning Miami Beach spot of the same name — serves food that is just as innovative as the exceptional drinks. Diverse street food dishes vary; offerings have included papas bravas and Angostura-glazed chicken wings. The burger represents a fresh take on an American classic: It comes with two griddle-cooked Black Angus patties, charred Spanish onions, local greens, tomato and black-garlic aioli on a soft bun with a house pickle.
Go to: Broken Shaker
Brindle Room, New York City
Former Chopped contestant Jeremy Spector has garnered a strong local following for his East Village gastropub that features a menu of homemade American comfort fare. His signature Sebastian’s Steakhouse Burger has topped many a best-burger list. Many popular patties rely on short rib or chuck, but Spector uses dry-aged ground neck meat with fresh beef and white fat, which is seared in a cast-iron skillet, sealing in the juices while creating the perfect charred exterior. The patty comes on a regular white bread bun with caramelized onions, a choice of cheese — American is highly suggested — and hand-cut fries.
Go to: Brindle Room
Au Cheval, Chicago
Ask about the country’s best burgers and one name pops up time and time again: Au Cheval. Locals and tourists flock to this 3-year-old Windy City spot, waiting in multi-hour lines for its excellent patties, which were recently named best burger on Top 5 Restaurants. The place sells about 500 burgers a day on the weekend. Do your visit justice: Order the celebrated double cheeseburger. A slight misnomer, it's actually composed of three 4-ounce prime beef patties, griddled to medium, each one layered with slices of Kraft sharp American cheddar cheese. It’s topped with homemade dijonnaise, diced onions, pickles and served on a toasted, locally sourced white Z Baking bun. Throw on a fried egg or bacon — or both — if you please.
Go to: Au Cheval
Charm City Burger, Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Inspired by old-school burger stands, this counter-serve shop specializes in old-fashioned steak burgers with or without modern accoutrements. Many go crazy with American Kobe patties and gourmet additions like seared foie gras. But the simple Good Ole burger is the locals’ pick, with or without American cheese. Fresh brisket and chuck is brought in from K&G Meats daily and ground fresh, in-house. It’s cooked to order and served on artisan bread from Old School Bakery in neighboring Delray Beach. Throw on some candied bacon strips, sauteed mushrooms or an onion ring to top it off, if you feel the need to punch it up.
Go to: Charm City Burger Company
Bowery Meat Co., New York City
Conjuring thoughts of Mad Men, this East Village steakhouse, run by restaurateur John McDonald (Lure Fishbar, Sessanta) is hailed for its impressive selection of dry-aged meats. The place also serves a killer burger. Chef-Partner Josh Capon has won quite a few awards at Burger Bash — and it shows. His dry-aged cheeseburger is well-seasoned, then griddled, producing a crisp crust and juicy interior. Capon tops it off with creamy Raclette cheese, grilled onions and a sweet-tomato aioli, all layered on a brioche bun. The burger comes with a side of pickled vegetables and a massive bowl of crisped fries.
Go to: Bowery Meat Company
Set among the graffiti-covered warehouses in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, this craft beer-and-burger nirvana mimics the feel of the neighborhood with exposed brick walls and low tables made from recycled kegs. The beef is just as thoughtfully sourced as the brews, coming from Coward Ranch in Sumterville, Fla. It’s ground fresh by hand on the premises every day. Each burger is good, but the Frita Burger offers a local spin with a riff on the classic Cuban burger. Once it’s cooked, the seasoned patty is topped with melted Gruyère, guava jelly, crisp potato sticks, bacon and LoKal sauce. It’s all set on a bun and pressed flat, panini style.
Go to: Kush
Garden District, Washington, D.C.
On beautiful D.C. days, in-the-know locals head for picnic tables at this Logan Circle hangout (named for the building’s former use as a garden shop). This seasonal biergarten — which typically operates from March through early December — is known for icy steins of German and American brews and its seasonally appropriate fare. The Garden District Burger echoes the spirit of the outdoor cookout. Chef Tad Curtz started with a well-seasoned, hand-formed patty, which he tops with a layer of sharp cheddar, thin tomato, Thousand Island-like sauces and dill pickles hand-cut vertically. It’s served on a buttered, griddled bun that’s so soft it can barely hold itself together.
Go to: Garden District
Sid’s Diner, El Reno
Beef and onions go together like cake with icing. The folks of Oklahoma seem to understand this better than anyone. The evidence: the Oklahoma onion burger, a creation that includes nearly as much pungent onion as it does burger. This El Reno spot is one of the best places to try one. Owner Marty Hall slices Spanish yellow onion into paper-thin slivers and adds it directly to the patty. He uses a homemade spatula to flatten the meat while it cooks, creating the ideal surface area to crisp the onion to the perfect golden brown.
Go to: Sid's Diner
The Local Craft Food & Drink, Miami
Chef Phil Bryant, a Virginia native, is working hard to bring Southern food to South Florida with a menu full of personal interpretations on traditional fare. One of his most-popular dishes, however, doesn’t even make the list. The Local Craft Food & Drink’s Secret Burger is Bryant’s signature; it includes double patties formed from a short rib and brisket blend with double American cheese, bread-and-butter pickles, Mississippi Comeback Sauce (basically a chile remoulade), crisp bacon cooked in a secret style and a fried egg. It forgoes the regular bun in favor of two disco buns, which is melted housemade pimento cheese pressed into a potato roll.
Go to: The Local
Mission, Newport, R.I.
One reason why the burgers at this Newport spot are so good is that the patties are made from whole and half cows delivered regularly from Archer Angus in Chesterville, Maine. Patties are ground on the premises at this whole-animal-cookery restaurant, which also makes homemade hot dogs. The bacon cheeseburger is a must, starting with the fact that it’s topped with the bacon that’s smoked in-house. It comes standard with American cheese, but customers can opt for Swiss, cheddar or aged cheddar instead. Like every other burger on the list, it comes with lettuce, onion and Mission sauce (a housemade aioli made with ketchup, cornichons, capers, herbs and brandy), and a springy and toasted bun.
Go to: Mission
Cowgirl BBQ, Santa Fe, N.M.
In New Mexico, green chiles make everything better: enchiladas, tacos, stew, burgers. And this Santa Fe barbecue joint offers “The Mother of All Green Chile Cheeseburgers,” as it’s billed on the menu. Ground beef is mixed with local bison and ground applewood-smoked bacon, then formed into a patty and grilled to order. Brie cheese, green chiles, white truffle oil and a slice of heirloom tomato are piled onto the patty, which comes nestled on a locally baked green chile cheddar brioche bun. Truffle fries are served on the side. Pro tip: Pair this burger with a beer.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Ballas
Go to: Cowgirl BBQ
Owen & Engine, Chicago
This homey Logan Square gastropub serves such authentic British-style pub grub that it tastes like you took a quick jaunt to London. But put aside fish and chips in favor of the Slagel Farms Beef Burger. The fresh-ground beef patty is slightly grassy with plenty of complex flavor. It’s simply accented with caramelized onions — no ketchup, mustard or fancy accoutrements — adding a bit of earthy sweetness to the mix. It’s sandwiched between airy English potato bun halves, ideal for soaking up those rich, flavorful juices that ooze out with the first bite. This thick patty is best ordered medium-rare and paired with a pint.
Go to: Owen & Engine
J.L. Beers, Fargo, N.D., and More
This Fargo hole in the wall is known for its beer and burgers. This outpost of the Upper Midwest mini chain has just 24 seats in the house, which means it regularly sees customers lining up out the doors. Don’t worry, though. The crowds move quickly through this joint, as it takes less than three minutes to cook and serve each burger. The Humpty Dumpty Burger is the one to order. It’s like a lunchtime and dinnertime breakfast sandwich, with fresh ground beef, a fried egg and American cheese, all served on a featherweight signature bun.
Go to: J.L. Beers
Villedge, Greenville, N.C.
The smell of smoke wafts out of the open kitchen at this wood-fired place serving seasonal dishes driven by fresh, local ingredients. Villedge is hailed for its impeccable seafood and perfect pies. The burger is also a fan-favorite item. Chef Brandon Q. Qualls’ Grilled CBR Burger comprises a ground chuck, rib eye and short rib patty smothered with smoked Gouda and white cheddar pimento cheese. Candied applewood-smoked bacon, deviled egg spread, tomato and lettuce adorn the patty, which comes on a grilled brioche bun. The burger’s meaty, smoky and slightly sweet flavors conjure up a taste of the South in one juicy hand-held dish.
Go to: Villedge
Burger Bob’s, Bozeman, Mont.
In 1982, Bob Fletcher and his family opened the Cannery, a low-key lounge and package store, catering to Montana State University students and alumni. Eight years later they added burgers to the mix with the debut of Burger Bob’s next door. Together, the two concepts offer pub grub and brews in a fun, convivial atmosphere. The burgers have been hailed as among the best in Montana. The beef is sourced from local purveyors based in the Gallatin Valley, to ensure maximum freshness. The sirloin is ground and cooked to temperature, then served on a Montana wheat bun. Cowboy Bob is one of the more complex picks with a one-third-pound patty, smoky barbecue sauce, crisp bacon and sharp cheddar.
Go to: Burger Bob’s
BRGR Kitchen + Bar, Kansas City, Mo., and More
This Kansas City joint offers new takes on American comfort classics in the Power and Light District. The menu includes a wide range of entrees and snacks, but its namesake burgers are what draw the masses. Each beef burger is made with a fresh chuck and short rib blend that’s formed into a half-pound patty. One of the top-sellers is the Number 3. Peppered bacon is mixed into the patty, which is grilled on a flat top and then placed on a brioche bun. White onions, bread-and-butter pickles, triple American cheese and special sauce kick it up another notch.
Green Dot Stables, Detroit
Local boy Jacques Driscoll left Detroit for the warm, sandy beaches of San Diego. After several years there, he and his wife, Christina, headed home to open a restaurant, Green Dot Stables; locals are sure pleased they did. The equestrian-themed restaurant and beer bar offers a wide selection of affordable burgers in miniature form. Of particular note are the sliders tweaked with international flavors, such as the Korean. This option features a thin beef patty that’s set on a soft white bun and accented with peanut butter and locally sourced kimchi (from The Brinery in nearby Ann Arbor). The combination may sound odd, but the flavors meld together like pickle brine and whiskey.
Go to: Green Dot Stables
Paradox Grille, Gateway Canyons, Colo.
Resort food has long held the reputation of being an afterthought (aka frozen mass-produced junk). Like everything else in the food world, however, that notion has been changing as destination hotels up their dining game. One would be hard-pressed to find beef fresher than what’s served at this Colorado resort, which sources its meat from a ranch located just around the bend. The Grilled Angus Burger’s beef patty is thick and juicy with a beautiful brown crust. It would be great on its own, but the toppings really make this patty pop. Sweet-and-spicy corn-green chili chutney, smoked onion, honey mustard and sharp cheddar punch up the patty, which is served on a toasted bun.
Go to: Paradox Grille
Heartland, St. Paul
This St. Paul place promotes North American Midwest regional cuisine, using indigenous and cultivated ingredients from the U.S. and Canada. Chef Lenny Russo opts for small family farms and artisanal producers over big box distributing companies, which means locally raised beef is a given on the burger bar menu. The grass-fed beef burger abides by the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid), as its juicy patty features just two toppings: housemade ketchup and crispy cornichons. Because all the pastries and bread are prepared onsite, the bun is guaranteed to be fresh-baked (and a real treat). Guests can choose the accompaniment, either a side salad or beef fat fries.
Mission Bowling Club, San Francisco
This Bay Area spot is not your average bowling alley. Its food-and-beverage program goes well beyond pitchers of cheap beer and basic bar snacks: The food is a perfect game. The Mission Burger made its debut at a pop-up in the Duc Loi Supermarket back in 2009. Now it’s back, satiating serious athletes as they keep their eyes on the pins. This juicy patty is made with a combination of loosely packed brisket and chuck, seared in beef fat. It’s finished with housemade caper aioli, caramelized onions and Monterey Jack cheese.
Go to: Mission Bowling Club
Saison, Richmond, Va.
Saison owners Chef Adam Hall and Jay Bayer are two rural Virginia boys who share a passion for travel, Southern fare and homebrewed beers. They’ve brought those elements together at their Richmond place. Here they combine old and new techniques with flavors and styles that honor the South and its many global influences. The Saison Burger leans toward the all-American side of the menu. It starts with local sirloin ground by JM Stock Provisions. Rather than source the cheese, Hall makes his own smoked American, a combination of smoked cheddar and white wine set with carrageenan and sodium citrate. The cheese-smothered patty comes topped with housemade ranch dressing, pickles and Bibb lettuce. Hand-cut fries finish the plate.
Jake’s Burgers, Brookfield, Wis.
Jake and Karen Replogle are best known for their fine-dining restaurant, Jake’s Steakhouse, in Pewaukee, Wis. That same attention to detail that the Replogles put into their haute restaurant is also evident in their burger joint, albeit with a more casual, laid-back vibe. To start, the 8-ounce burger patties are available in three different options: turkey, Wisconsin grass-fed and Jake’s Custom, which is a loosely packed mix of ground short rib, brisket and sirloin. The burgers are then further customized in more than a half-dozen different ways on the menu, with suggestions for beer and wine pairings to boot. Try the Wisconsin Burger with beer-cheddar cheese sauce, haystack onion strings and Nueske’s bacon.
The Local Restaurant and Bar, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
The same folks who run The Local Butcher own this meat-centric place that overlooks Jackson Hole’s historic town square. Not only does it boast an ideal location, but it also serves arguably the best beef in town. This is cattle country, so the meat is sourced from local and regional farms that pasture-raise their animals on grass and forgo the use of hormones or unnatural additives. The Chef’s Burger is truly a work of art: The 28-day, dry-aged beef is cooked as desired, smothered in smoked cheddar, then topped with bacon, tomato jam, lettuce, house mayonnaise and pickles. Foie gras can be added for an extra charge. Crisp fries are served on the side.
Go to: The Local Restaurant and Bar
Nosh Kitchen, Portland, Maine
Get a taste of decadent reinvented New York deli-style fare at Nosh, whose menu is packed with treif (translation: non-kosher food). This place is so pork-centric that it sprinkles bacon dust (ahem, fat) on its fries. Its most-indulgent burger, the Apocalypse Now, features a crisp slab of pork belly topped with a single-source grass-raised, grain-finished beef patty smothered in melted American cheese. Two slices of thick-cut, house-cured bacon are stacked on the patties, followed by a sliver of seared foie gras, homemade mayonnaise and literal (macerated) cherries on top.
Go to: Nosh Kitchen
Swinery Meats, Seattle
This tiny butcher shop offers some of Seattle’s best cuts for home cooks. It purchases whole animals from within 300 miles of the storefront and breaks down each one in-house. For those who aren’t a fan of do-it-yourself meals, the onsite Courtyard Grill offers the most-coveted sandwiches and snacks in town. The Swinery Burger slays: Made with a one-third pound of freshly ground Painted Hills beef, this patty has a light texture. It’s topped with caramelized onions, tomato, fresh greens, crisp house pickles and rich Swinery sauce. A layer of cheese adds to the richness — options include cheddar, provolone, bleu and Swiss.
Tony’s Burgers, Cathedral City, Calif.
Drive 10 minutes away from downtown Palm Springs to take your pick from more than 50 composed burger choices at this unfussy restaurant. The joint’s sparse appearance (picture black booths and red vinyl-topped tables inside and a handful of seats on the outdoor patio) belies its abundant combinations of inventive toppings. The menu is like reading War and Peace. Here’s a pro tip: Order the La Vida Loca (but expect to get messy). Ortega green chile, avocado and ghost pepper Jack cheese are stacked atop a thick beef patty. Underneath are lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickle chips and Sriracha mayo, all nestled on a fluffy white bun.
Burger Bar, Roy, Utah
This classic drive-in, which was once featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, has been run by the same family since it opened in the mid-1950s. Some things have changed — buns are now baked by local bakeries and the meat is now ground off the premises at a nearby shop — but everything still comes in daily and is as fresh as it was in the beginning. Simply put, this spot is still slinging excellent burgers. The Big Ben, named after founder Ben Fowler, is the signature. It’s a quarter-pound beef patty that’s plainly dressed with fry sauce, lettuce and pickles, then served on a soft white bun. This straightforward classic is worthy of its ample praise.
Go to: Burger Bar
Bachi Burger, Las Vegas
Featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this Vegas-based mini chain delivers Asian flavors created with high-end ingredients at its Nevada and California locales. The name “Bachi” was derived from "hibachi," the American term for a Japanese charcoal grill (actually called a shichirin in Japan). It’s no surprise, then, that there are a lot of grilled items on the menu. The most-acclaimed offering is the banh mi burger. Angus chuck, shrimp and pork are mixed together, dipped in banh mi marinade (a combination of fish sauce, sugar, citrus and herbs), then grilled until the patty develops a nice crisp crust. It’s served on a sweet bun and garnished with pork pâté, mint, cilantro, basil, pickled vegetables and a curried aioli.
Go to: Bachi Burger
High Life Lounge, Des Moines
Retro comfort dishes are offered with creative twists at this lager-driven downtown Des Moines tavern. With a rec room-like atmosphere and down-home fare, the restaurant feels like you’re eating at a college party house — and many of the menu items seem like dishes dreamed up during a night of heavy drinking. Take, for instance, the High Life Man: This burger features a one-quarter pound of beef, an Italian sausage patty, three strips of bacon, Swiss and American cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, mayonnaise and barbecue sauce, all piled together on a sesame seed bun. The proverbial cherry on top is a mini powdered doughnut. That burger was probably invented at 3 a.m., no?
Go to: High Life Lounge
Game, Louisville, Ky.
Set in Louisville’s historic Irish Hill neighborhood, this rustic restaurant offers a wild spin on traditional meat dishes. It’s a mecca for carnivores, with a menu that focuses on wild game; the establishment specializes in burgers. Guests can order composed burger plates of rare animal proteins like elk and kangaroo. Opt for the wild boar. This burger comes with a mix of sweet and tangy elements that highlight the natural flavors while subduing any harsh, overly gamey notes. A wild boar patty is nestled on a flavorful everything bun with fresh greens, tomato, goat cheese and a cranberry jalapeno jam.
Photo courtesy of Louisville CVB
Go to: Game
Set in the space that formerly housed historical Hap Townes Restaurant, not far from Music Row, Gabby’s offers simple fare in straightforward surrounds. The burgers are some of the best in town. Grass-fed beef is sourced from local farms, formed into patties, then smashed on the flat top. Order the Gabby Burger: two thin patties, cooked to medium-well, topped with American cheese and placed on a soft sweet bun from local bakery Charpier’s. Pick and choose from toppings at the condiment bar, including chipotle ketchup, wasabi mayo and jalapenos.
Go to: Gabby's Burgers and Fries
Hawkins House of Burgers, Los Angeles
Los Angeles is a burger town. And right on the edge of South Los Angeles and Compton, this small convenience store and restaurant has earned a reputation for serving some of the city’s very best. The Whipper is the must-order. Thin double-stacked beef patties are griddled, then layered with melted American cheese. Forget bacon on this puppy: Extra meat comes in the form of shaved pastrami and a butterflied hot link. It’s peppery, spicy, juicy and, well, meaty — a one-of-a-kind carnivorous wonder. Mustard, onions, dill pickle chips and relish finish it off and balance out the protein.
Go to: Hawkins House of Burgers
Cotham’s in the City, Little Rock, Ark.
There are burgers and then there are burgers — massive hunks of meat piled on a bun. This Arkansas place has earned a reputation for the latter with its Hubcap Burger, which features a 1-pound patty composed of an 80/20 beef blend and cooked on a flat top with a secret garlicky spice mix. The 8-inch-wide patty is topped with all the standard adornments and served on a 7-inch bun. Although the regular Hubcap should be enough to unfasten the belt buckle, it’s also offered as a double, triple and quadruple (pictured above). This massive creation has appeared on TV shows and was once shipped to the White House during the Clinton years — no wonder the former president was forced into a diet.
Go to: Cotham's in the City