100+ Top Burgers from Coast to Coast
Bite into the best patties across America at these spots serving craveworthy burgers made of Black Angus, wild boar, shrimp, pork roll and more.
Photo By: Sam Angel
Photo By: Caroline Spitzer
Photo By: Robin Wolf
Photo By: Eric Medsker
Photo By: Josh Brasted
Photo By: Caroline Hargraves
Photo By: Sam Angel
Photo By: E. Kheraj
Photo By: Sara Ventiera
Photo By: Briana Marie
Photo By: Sara Ventiera
Photo By: Petite Studios
Photo By: Quit Nguyen
Photo By: Marina Pia Goldi
Photo By: Lauren di Matteo
Photo By: Natalie B. Compton
Photo By: Lynn Donaldson
Photo By: Nick Caito
Photo By: Nick Caito
Photo By: Grav Weldon
Photo By: Ben Haley
Photo By: Terese Allen
Photo By: Heather Anne Thomas
Photo By: MK Luff
Photo By: Marc Piscotty
Photo By: John Stoffer
Photo By: Mandy Schaffer, Schaffer Visuals
Photo By: unknown
Photo By: Andrew Cebulka
Photo By: Heather Anne Thomas ©2014 Heather Anne Thomas +1 865-681-6128. All rights reserved unless specifically granted in writing
Photo By: Jesse David Harris ©Jesse David Harris
Photo By: unknown
Photo By: Kat Robinson
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 more than 100 burgers to try across the U.S.
Photo courtesy of Bart Sasso
Beer Belly, Los Angeles
Beer Belly's offbeat gastropub menu and rotating craft-beer selection have increased the circumference of more than one Angeleno's waistline. The place is hailed for its upscale, belly-extending comfort fare like Death by Duck, duck-fat fries topped with crisp fried duck skin and succulent duck confit. That acclaimed dish is an ideal entry point for the Sriracha Beast Burger, which is slathered with spicy Sriracha Island dressing and topped with American cheese, griddled onions and fries, all housed inside a sesame brioche bun.
June's All Day, Austin, Texas
Hailed by both Bon Appetit and Food & Wine as one of the best new restaurants of 2017, this South Congress wine bar offers the chic feel of a Parisian bistro imbued with Austin's enviably cool vibe. The food, ranging from a breakfast chalupa and croque madame to salt cod croquettes and bone marrow Bolognese, supports the long list of wines handpicked by beverage director and master sommelier June Rodil. And, while it sounds fairly straightforward, June's charbroiled burger is truly divine when paired with one of those boutique glasses. A juicy patty is topped with grilled onions and jalapenos, American cheese and pickles, with a side of perfectly fluffy French fries.
The Smith, Washington, D.C.
This New York City bistro minichain recently made its way down to the District, bringing along its farmer-focused fare and laid-back vibe. At its lively Penn Quarter locale, just steps from Capital One Arena, Executive Chef Brian Ellis serves a truly supreme burger creation. His Burger Supreme includes a pepper-crusted patty made from a dry-aged short rib blend, topped with nutty raclette cheese, spicy watercress and red onion, drizzled with a green peppercorn sauce and tucked inside a Gruyere bun. It comes with a side of fries, perfect for soaking up all the leftover juice and peppery sauce that pools on the plate.
Miznon at Chelsea Market, New York
This Tel Aviv-based chain with locations in cities like Paris and Vienna has laid down roots inside NYC's Chelsea Market, bringing its oddly packed pitas stateside. The menu includes classic Mediterranean lamb kebab and ratatouille-filled breads, as well as Americanized stuffings like rib-eye roast beef with mustard and aioli. Then there's the acclaimed folded cheeseburger. A smashed beef patty with a solid char on both sides is — as its name suggests — folded in half and laid into a split pita with white cheddar, aioli, sour cream, pickles and tomatoes. This unusual and delightful representation of two international comfort-food staples draws incredibly long lines.
Pincho Factory, Miami
Blending South Florida burger culture with Venezuelan comfort food, Pincho Factory's Toston Burger is a hand-held riff on pabellon criollo, the traditional Caribbean plate of shredded beef, black beans, rice and fried plantains. At this fast-casual minichain, those fried plantains are swapped out for tostones, which are made from the unripe, greener version of the fruit. They are fried once, pressed into discs, then fried again until crisp. Those crunchy rounds serve as the bun for the 5-ounce all-beef patty topped with melted white American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and housemade cilantro and roasted garlic sauces.
Dis & Dem, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
This laid-back place has become a Hattiesburg favorite for its innovative riffs on all-American burgers and franks. Dishes span from grilled alligator Swamp Dogs to chili cheeseburgers. The patty portion of the menu features half-pound burgers grilled and glazed with a special sauce, sandwiched between locally made sweet sourdough onion buns — so good they get just as much attention as the meat — with housemade pickles and fun toppings. The most-popular pick is the tropical Hawaii 5-0, which comes with all the usual toppings as well as fried egg, bacon, grilled pineapple and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.
Datz's, Tampa, Florida
This Tampa place specializes in comfort food with a twist. Fun down-home items on the menu include nachos based on housemade potato chips smothered in chili cheese, and a mac-and-cheese dish enlivened with bacon and jalapenos. One of the best-sellers and most-famous offerings — due to a Good Morning America spot — is the Cheesy Todd. The 100 percent fresh-ground chuck patty is seared, then topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickles, and nestled between two fried bacon-jalapeno mac 'n' cheese buns. It's certainly enough on its own, but this signature dish comes with a side of housemade sweet-and-salty chips with creamy blue cheese drizzle and green onions.
Zombie Burger and Drink Lab, Des Moines, Iowa
James Beard Award nominee and lifelong horror-movie fan Chef George Formaro decided to combine two of his major childhood obsessions — roadside burger stands and scary movies — for this wildly popular concept. More than 30 blends of beef were tested before Formaro settled on Zombie Burger's "Special Grind" used for his "GOREmet" burgers such as the Trailer Trash Zombie. This over-the-top creation features one, two or three "bashed" special-grind beef patties covered with American cheese, fried pickles, chicken-fried bacon, cheese curds and ranch dressing, all whacked together in a classic bun.
The Hatch Rotisserie & Bar, Paso Robles, California
With a vibrant town square lined with locally owned restaurants and boutiques, Paso Robles is like an Americana throwback to the June Cleaver days. But this local hangout hits all the modern trends. Fueled by wood fire, small-batch whiskey and updated riffs on comfort-food classics, it's all about reinvigorating the status quo. The Hatch Burger is the perfect example: a house-blend burger patty, lightly scented with smoke from the wood-fire grill, topped with house-cured and -smoked bacon, white cheddar, oven-dried tomato, Bibb lettuce and Hatch sauce in a Back Porch Bakery brioche bun. Mouth-puckering housemade sea salt-and-vinegar potato chips come on the side.
Simon & the Whale, New York
Restaurateur Gabriel Stulman has opened some of Manhattan's most-beloved neighborhood gems — places like The Little Owl, Joseph Leonard and Bar Sardine. In no small feat, he's managed to bring that same cozy locals-only vibe to the Freehand Hotel with his living room-like Simon & the Whale. This upscale Gramercy Park restaurant offers solid American fare with lots of seafood and vibrant produce. Its lunchtime burger, available Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., is a prime example of the elevated cuisine, covered with Jack cheese, tomato aioli and crispy shallot and served with a side of fries.
Compere Lapin, New Orleans
Since opening in June 2015, Nina Compton's Compere Lapin has received such high praise, from publications ranging from Eater to The New York Times, that it's hard to keep up with the acclaim. She even took home a James Beard Award for her impeccable Caribbean- and European-influenced Louisiana fare. It may not be the first dish that comes to mind here, but Compton's Wagyu Burger is another winner. Made with Louisiana wagyu beef and topped with sweet caramelized onion plus fruity, aromatic Taleggio cheese and bread-and-butter pickles, it perfectly encapsulates the Top Chef's sophisticated interpretations of classic dishes from around the globe.
Zuni Cafe, San Francisco
This James Beard Award-winning Hayes Valley stalwart has been hailed for sustainable, locally sourced Mediterranean fare since 1979. Its roast chicken is considered one of the must-try dishes in the Bay Area. So is its unique lunch-only burger. Medium-lean, grass-fed beef is finely ground in-house and cured with salt and pepper overnight to seal in juices, before being cooked to order over a mesquite grill. That flavorful patty is sandwiched between slices of grilled rosemary focaccia slathered with aioli and topped with Zuni pickles (house-pickled zucchini and onion strips). While it's pretty much perfect as is, guests can customize this upscale combination with their choice of fancy cheeses such as Bayley Hazen blue or Shelburne Farms cheddar.
Hog & Hominy, Memphis, Tennessee
John T. Edge of Southern Foodways Alliance literally wrote the book on Hamburgers & Fries. So, when the folks at Hog & Hominy got to talking with him about what sort of classic burger they'd serve to their late-night crowds, they heeded his advice to try an Oklahoma City onion burger. The Depression-era creation uses griddled onions to stretch out pricey ground beef. The John T Burger features locally sourced Black Angus ground beef that's shaped into a 5-ounce ball, pressed on the flat top with thinly sliced onions and doused with several layers of secret seasoning. It's shingled with three slices of American cheese and griddled until the cheese has crisped, then topped with thinly sliced, pickle juice-dressed lettuce on a griddled bun with mustard.
Sac-A-Lait, New Orleans
Louisiana chefs (and Cajun Aces stars) Cody and Samantha "Sam" Carroll are known for showcasing at their award-winning New Orleans restaurant Sac-A-Lait the farming, fishing and hunting culture in which they grew up. While their Wild Burger resembles your average upscale bun and patty, it's far more distinctive and far more representative of rural Louisiana than other wild-game rounds. The venison-and-brisket patty is accented with salty wild-boar bacon and contrasted with savory Southern greens and Creole aioli. It's paired with a side of hand-cut fries.
The Copper Onion, Salt Lake City
Chef Ryan Lowder's New American restaurant, The Copper Onion, is considered one of the buzziest restaurants in Salt Lake City. And his Copper Onion Burger, with grass-fed Niman Ranch beef, caramelized onion, cheddar, duck fat aioli and iceberg on a house brioche bun, is hailed as one of the best in town. In-the-know locals, however, opt for the restaurant's off-menu specialty. A variation of the already decadent regular burger, The Heart Stopper packs on the calories protein with crispy Ballard Farms pork belly, Niman Ranch applewood-smoked bacon and a fried Clifford Farms egg.
Butcher & Bee, Nashville, Tennessee
Serving Middle Eastern-influenced fare that is prepared with the finest and freshest local ingredients, Executive Chef Bryan Lee Weaver marries the Mediterranean with the American South. The evolving market-driven menu works its way from vegetable-centric small plates like fire-roasted carrots and pink-eyed peas to locally sourced seafood and meats. Tennessee-raised, grass-fed, grain-finished Bear Creek Farms beef is used as the base for Butcher & Bee's all-American burger, layered with American cheese and unkosher bacon. While the chiles in the Hatch Chili Cheeseburger originate a long way from Israel (and even the South), the fiery kick they provide mimics the spicy notes found in Middle Eastern cuisine.
DB Bistro Moderne, New York
It wouldn't be a far stretch to say that when the DB Burger debuted in 2001, it changed the food world. All of a sudden, the simple, working-class burger was elevated to new gourmet heights with luxury toppings like foie gras, truffles and other rarities. Kind of like a fancy, Frenchified Juicy Lucy, DB Bistro Moderne's sirloin patty is stuffed with red wine-braised short rib, foie gras and black truffles, then placed inside a Parmesan bun with perfectly crisp and pillowy fries on the side. For those who really want to pile on the decadence, another layer of truffles can be added during the winter season if you're OK with upping the already steep $35 price tag.
The Pickled Pig Pub, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Tucked inside a nondescript strip mall just a short drive from the shores of Rehoboth Beach, this small gastropub serves very distinctive takes on bar food classics. A prime example: its PB&J Burger. Like a sophisticated, meaty version of the snacktime favorite, this 8-ounce Angus beef patty comes with aged cheddar cheese, bacon peanut butter and strawberry-jalapeno jam on a toasted kaiser roll. It's become a local adult mainstay, often washed down with one (or more) of 14 rotating craft beers on tap or special brews from the reserve-bottle list.
Burgers and Things, Honolulu, Hawaii
It should come as no surprise that a place as culturally diverse as Hawaii would have a delicious style of burger all its own. It's called the Teri Burger. Formerly called "barbecue" at old-style drive-ins, these local burgers are slathered in a sweet, shoyu-based sauce. Try one at comic book-themed Burgers and Things in Honolulu. The folks here serve their juicy patties dipped in a housemade teriyaki sauce on your choice of white, wheat, brioche or pretzel bun, with lettuce, tomatoes and balsamic aioli. On Tuesday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m., it's offered with a small fries (or salad) and small drink for $10 as a happy hour special.
The Hollywood Cafe, Robinsonville, Mississippi
Best known as the place that birthed the fried dill pickle and inspired singer Marc Cohen to write "Walking in Memphis," The Hollywood Cafe is a small place that's made a big impact in the world. And while those two claims to fame would have many restaurants resting on their laurels, that's not the case here. This spot is attempting to reach burger glory with its Southern-fried Hollywood Belly Buster. In this hangover-appropriate dish, all the toppings except the lettuce are fried. It features two 8-ounce handmade ground chuck patties with Swiss, pepper Jack and American cheeses, plus bacon, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and onion rings.
The Raven, Bigfork, Montana
Accessible via car or boat, this Caribbean-inspired dockside restaurant and bar would make Jimmy Buffett swoon. It serves cheeseburgers (and margaritas) in paradise, overlooking the crystalline waters and Rocky Mountain backdrop of Flathead Lake. The Montana Beer Burger is the fan favorite. Half-pound beef patties are made in-house daily, cooked to order and topped with melted cheddar cheese, fried onions, and onions caramelized in Blackfoot Brewing IPA, made nearby in Helena. That flavorful, hops-infused combination is cradled in a locally made bun from Ceres Bakery and served with fresh-cut fries. It pairs impeccably with the Razzu! Raspberry Wheat beer from Philipsburg Brewing Company (pictured above), one of the dozen-plus local brews on the menu.
Ramen Shack, Queens, New York
As a Japanese kid growing up in Los Angeles, Keizo Shimamoto spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between Tokyo and California, falling in love with both Japan's ramen culture and Southern California's impressive burger scene. Through his travels and ramen studies, he came up with what proved to be a brilliant idea: the ramen burger. Debuted at Williamsburg's Smorgasbord Market in 2013, Shimamoto's hybrid dish exploded into the international spotlight, spawning numerous imitators around the globe. Now a handful of variations are on the menu at his lauded Queens restaurant Ramen Shack, but you've got to try the Original "OG," which features a thin certified-Angus beef patty with arugula, scallions and a secret shoyu sauce held together by two springy homemade ramen buns.
Gott's Roadside, St. Helena, California
Founded by brothers Joel and Duncan Gottt in 1999, this Napa Valley joint offers a modern approach to American roadside cuisine with locally sourced ingredients for its fare and California-centric picks for its wine and beer. The California Burger epitomizes its fresh approach to fast food with a one-third-pound Niman Ranch beef patty topped with fried egg, Swiss cheese, Zoe's bacon, arugula, balsamic onions and mayonnaise on a toasted egg bun. This and all the other burgers and sandwiches on the menu can be customized with a lettuce wrap or gluten-free bun as well as your pick of veggie burger patty, Diestel Ranch turkey burger or an Impossible Burger patty (for a $4 upcharge) at seven Northern California locations.
Beer Bar, Salt Lake City
This aptly named place is considered one of the preeminent beer bars of Salt Lake City, pouring well over 100 different brews from around the globe. In keeping with its modern-beer-garden ambience, it serves a wide array of sausages to soak up the hops. So, when the folks here decided it was time to add a burger to the menu, they decided to throw some wurst into the bun as well. Executive Chef Brendan Kawakami starts this one-of-a-kind creation with a grilled one-third-pound patty made from a mix of 60 percent chuck and 40 percent brisket. It comes topped with a grilled Olympia Provisions kielbasa, Cheez Whiz, kimchi and greens, all on a brioche bun.
Odd Duck, Austin, Texas
There's no telling what burger will be on the menu at this upscale New American eatery, but the one thing that's certain is that it's going to be very, very good. Consistently hailed as Austin's best burger, Odd Duck's patties have included different proteins (mostly beef, sometimes lamb) and toppings ranging from Japanese mayonnaise to bacon pimento cheese made from local goat cheese. One version was almost like a burger taco with tostada and refried bean mayo. Another recent rendition combined beer cheese, pig face jam, a pickled fried onion ring, arugula and aioli atop a post oak-grilled beef patty. It was served on a Parker House roll made by sister concept Sour Duck Market, with the same yeast starter that's used to make all of its delicious breads.
Cypress Street Pint and Plate, Atlanta
With a Cheers-inspired ethos looking back to the days when the beers were cold, the food was hot and the bartenders (if not everyone else) knew your name, this Midtown Atlanta restaurant and bar has become a local favorite for its old-school atmosphere. The burger list, however, is anything but staid. The place has offered multiple takes on the doughnut burger, including a past version based on locally made Sublime Doughnuts. The current rendition is the Krispy Kreme Burger, which features a beef patty layered with bacon, caramelized onions and house pickles, all set between two grilled doughnuts and served with a side of barbecue sauce.
Shake Shack, Multiple Locations
Danny Meyer's "modern-day roadside burger stand" started serving burgers, hot dogs, fries and milkshakes from an open-air snack bar in NYC's Madison Square Park back in 2001. Its ShackBurgers have become so coveted that the chain now has locations dotting the country from coast to coast and popping up as far away as Japan, Bahrain, Turkey and the U.K. What's made Shake Shack's burgers such an international sensation? Their simplicity. The proprietary blend of 100 percent Angus beef is freshly ground, formed into thin patties and cooked to medium doneness. Then it's covered with a slice of American cheese, lettuce, tomato and ShackSauce and tucked into a Martin's Potato Roll.
Firehouse Brewing, Rapid City, South Dakota
This South Dakota restaurant and bar has a lot of firsts under its belt. It's set in the 1915 building that was formerly home to Rapid City's original firehouse, and it's the state's inaugural brewpub. The local hangout draws the crowds for its house beers and regular live music, but it's also well known for its barbecue, slathered with unique homemade sauces as well as its burgers. The brisket cheddar burger highlights all of the kitchen's specialties in one hand-held dish, made from locally sourced buffalo topped with house-smoked brisket, cheddar cheese and a choice of barbecue sauce like the Beer-BQ, made with Firehouse's signature stout.
Du-par's Restaurant & Bakery, Los Angeles
Part burger, part grilled cheese, the patty melt is one of America's original hybrid dishes. It was invented in 1932 by Los Angeles restaurateur Tiny Naylor, and it's been on the menu at Du-par's Restaurant & Bakery at the Farmers Market since 1938. Owned by Tiny's son Biff since 2007, the historic 24/7 diner offers a patty melt true to Tiny's original specifications, with a coarse-ground Harris Ranch chuck patty covered with sweet caramelized onions and melted Swiss cheese on grilled rye bread. It's so buttery and juicy that the poor bottom slice can barely keep itself together.
Henry's Majestic, Dallas
Diners and drinkers descend en masse upon this Uptown gastropub for its creative bar bites and stiff cocktails. The place has a Prohibition-era feel and is hailed for its charcuterie and bistro-style fare prepared through a Texas lens. One of the must-tries is Henry's Marrow Spiked Burger, an Akaushi beef patty glazed in decadent bone marrow with sweet caramelized onions and sharp cheddar cheese, all tucked inside a brioche bun. It's accompanied by housemade pickles and fresh-cut potato chips. If you need to get the stomach juices flowing before biting into this lovely hunk of meat, stop for an aperitif in Atwater Alley, the secret cocktail bar hidden behind Henry's kitchen.
Parker at the Fontaine, Kansas City, Missouri
With sky-high panoramas of the city through its floor-to-ceiling windows and elevated New American sharing plates, this stylish rooftop restaurant is one of the chicest places to eat and drink in downtown Kansas City. Its shareable menu offers noshes like upscale charcuterie, flatbreads and pickled deviled eggs with crispy prosciutto, as well as more substantial entrees that are ideal for soaking up its original cocktails. The Parker Burger is a favorite, a nod to KC's unique culinary culture. This beef patty is slathered with the city's famous sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, maple bacon and sharp cheddar on a housemade English muffin.
Haystack Burgers & Barley, Richardson, Texas
Few dishes exemplify Texas better than chicken-fried steak. It's big, it's bold, it's delicious and it most likely was invented by wiener schnitzel-loving German and Austrian immigrants in the Lone Star State. As a nod to the state's unofficial dish, the folks at Haystack Burgers & Barley gave one of their excellent burgers the chicken-fried treatment. Their chicken-fried burger is made exactly as its name suggests: A ground beef patty is battered and fried, coated in jalapeno-bacon cream gravy and served simply on a springy bun.
Revolucion Taqueria & Cantina, Oklahoma City
Rachel Cope owns some of the hottest restaurants in Oklahoma City. She's got a New York City-style slice shop, a buzzy ramen-ya and a daytime coffee shop that turns into a cocktail bar at night. But her tacos-and-tequila joint Revolucion, housed in a former auto garage, is the place that serves one of the best new burgers in town. The Torta Burger features a chorizo-ground beef patty on a toasted bolillo roll with cucumber-radish slaw, shredded lettuce, cilantro and mole mayonnaise with a side of chile-dusted potato tots.
Hugh-Baby's BBQ & Burger Shop, Nashville, Tennessee
Pitmaster Pat Martin's whole-hog 'cue is hailed as some of the best in the U.S. So, when he decides to try something new, people pay close attention. That's why his latest concept, Hugh-Baby's, has been racking up so much acclaim. Inspired by the barbecue-and-burger shops found across the South, Hugh-Baby's concise menu offers a mix of Martin's greatest hits. Knock out two in one with the BBQ Burger, a custom-blend beef patty topped with melted American cheese, tangy grilled onions and Martin's signature slow-smoked pork with a squirt of housemade barbecue sauce.
Grey Ghost, Detroit
Named for a Prohibition-era Detroit River rum runner, this sleek Brush Park spot focuses on "cuts and cocktails," according to co-executive chefs Joe Giacomino and John Vermiglio. The adult-beverage list is expansive, and the meat is top-notch. That's why the burger here is so darn good. It features two 4-ounce flat-top-griddled patties made from a custom blend of chuck, brisket, short rib and dry-aged rib eye. Each one is topped with a slice of American cheese. Iceberg lettuce and housemade shallot pickle mayonnaise (and fried egg for those who want some runny yolk) are layered within the sesame seed bun.
Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Fort Worth, Texas
Texas chef Tim Love is known as much for his vibrant personality as for his signature urban Western cuisine at critically and popularly acclaimed restaurants like Queenie's Steakhouse, Woodshed Smokehouse and the storied White Elephant Saloon. His flagship restaurant, Lonesome Dove, in the Stockyards has been hailed as a mandatory Fort Worth dining experience for its modern Texas menu that features bold dishes like IPA-scented chili and rabbit and rattlesnake. But the real must-try is Love's signature elk sausage sliders with seared foie gras and blueberry jam.
Belcampo Meat Co., Larkspur, California
This California-based company knows what it's doing with meat. It's a farm, processing plant, neighborhood butcher shop and restaurant dedicated to organic, humanely raised beef, all in one. All meats are sourced directly from the farm at the base of Mt. Shasta in Northern California, where they focus on heritage-breed animals that are grass-fed, grass-finished and pasture-raised under the California sun. You can taste the difference in the company's signature Belcampo Burger, made with a half-pound of its premium grass-fed beef, topped with New York white cheddar, caramelized onions, butter lettuce and house sauce on a pan de mie bun.
Juicy Lucys are a big deal in Minneapolis. The burger with cheese tucked inside the patty was invented at one of two Cedar Avenue bars — 5-8 Club or Matt's Bar. The renditions at both are excellent, but 6Smith has upped the Twin Cities Juicy Lucy game with a venison-and-Kobe version. A custom blend of Kobe beef and Minnesota elk is shaped into a patty stuffed with smoky Gouda, bacon jam and jalapenos. When it's all cooked to melty perfection, it's topped with more Gouda and bacon jam and served on a pretzel bun. Stuff yourself into a dreamy food coma with this decadent beast while looking out over the shores of Lake Minnetonka.
In-N-Out, Multiple Locations
Although In-N-Out is idolized across the country — even in states that aren't blessed with its crimson trays — it's a deeply entrenched piece of California history dating back to 1948, when Harry Snyder opened the state's first drive-thru burger stand, in Baldwin Park. The Double-Double was a later invention, debuting sometime in the '60s (and priced at a whopping 60 cents a burger), but it has become such an icon that it now boasts its own registered trademark. The protein-packed burger comes with two American beef patties, both of which are coated with American cheese, a slice of tomato, crisp lettuce and some Thousand Island-esque dressing called its "spread" on a freshly baked bun. It goes down way too easy with a chocolate shake and well-done fries.
49th State Brewery, Anchorage, Alaska
In most of the United States, burgers tend to be made of beef. But in Alaska, where shaggy-haired domesticated oxen are raised organically on rural ranches, yak burgers have become a staple on menus around the state. Lean and flavorful, somewhat akin to bison, 49th State Brewery's Mount Saint Elias yak burger is made from locally sourced meat that's formed into a half-pound patty, seasoned with a special blend of spices and topped with caramelized onions, bacon and smoked Gouda cheese, all cradled inside an onion bun. It's best washed down with a housemade brew.
Matt's Place Drive-In, Butte, Montana
There's a reason the James Beard Foundation gave this 16-seat drive-in an America's Classics Award. Not only is it historic, dating back to 1930, but the foundation called its Nut Burger a "masterpiece [whose] topping melds with sliced pickles, tomatoes, and onions righteously." What, exactly, makes it a nut burger? This patty, made from 100 percent lean Montana beef cooked on a cast-iron grill, is coated with chopped cashews and pecans blended together in a blanket of mayonnaise.
Ted's Restaurant, Meriden, Connecticut
The steamed cheeseburger is a Central Connecticut staple. And it's been on the menu at this family-owned lunch counter since 1959. Each 4-ounce patty is hand-packed and cooked using a custom-built steam cabinet, resulting in a large, pillowy round of beef that gets topped with a 2-ounce block of cheddar that also took a trip through the steamer. That molten cheese is poured over each burger, encasing the patty in a blanket of dairy. Every steamed cheeseburger comes with a side of crispy home fries that swim in another river of that omnipresent gooey cheddar.
Shady Glen, Manchester, Connecticut
At their core, most burgers tend to be much the same: beef, bun, maybe cheese. But the Bernice Original truly lives up to the "original" in its name. Its American cheese "wings" can be spotted from across a room. The folks at Shady Glen place four slices of cheese onto each burger patty, pulling them past the edge of the burger so the cheese fries directly on the griddle. While it's cooking, the grill master deftly pulls it up into the shape of a crown. The whole thing is then placed on a bun, its golden wings flying in the air. Making this elaborate thing seems easy compared with attempting to fit it inside your mouth.
The Burger Stand, Topeka, Kansas
Kansas has deep burger roots. Cattle have long roamed the prairie, and cult-favorite chain White Castle was started in Wichita in 1921. There are so many good burgers in the state that it's hard to choose just one as the best, but The Burger Stand always comes in at the top of the class. The Classic is exemplary, accessorized with just melted Vermont cheddar and served on a substantial white bun. For those looking for something a bit more diverse, there are bold toppings like blue cheese and fresh avocado and housemade sauces like Granny Smith apple chutney and habanero-cactus jam. And while those burgers are great, you'd be foolish to overlook the zesty seasoned fries.
Dyer's, Memphis, Tennessee
For more than a century, the folks at this Beale Street institution have been using the same vat of grease to fry their juicy burgers. That "Vitamin G," which is strained daily, is said to be responsible for creating the world's most-distinctive burger flavor. Up to 500 times per day, the cooks of Dyer's smash balls of ground beef flat and thin on the marble counter and drop them into huge cast-iron pans. Each patty sinks to the bottom of the oil while frying crisp and brown, then it floats to the top of the grease to be scooped out onto a bun that soaks up a little more of the delicious grease. Offered as a single, double or triple and with or without cheese, each one of these aromatic burgers gets topped with mustard, onion and a pickle — but definitely no lettuce or tomato.
Carl's Drive-In, Brentwood, Missouri
Husband-and-wife team Carl and Pat Meyer began smashing patties on Carl's Drive-In's griddle back in 1959. Nearly 60 years later, locals still line up past the door of this 16-seat restaurant to get a taste of what's considered St. Louis' best burger. These burgers seem to defy the basic laws of physics. Each small patty, about a sixth of a pound, is smashed flat and thin, producing deliciously crispy edges while somehow retaining its juiciness. They're sold by the single, double or triple — don't feel guilty sizing up — and come topped with either Swiss or American cheese on griddled white buns with a selection of toppings such as lettuce, tomato, small-diced onions and crispy bacon.
My Brother's Bar, Denver
The hulking burger from this decades-old, nondescript tavern that bears no signage is a piece of Colorado culinary history. For more than 40 years, it's been calling to locals and travelers with its double layers of thin patties blanketed with melted Swiss and American cheese, and a coating of cream cheese and grilled onions, all combined in a sesame seed bun swaddled in wax paper. It's pretty much perfect as is, but those looking to pep it up even more can explore the condiment tray stocked with bowls of pepperoncini, raw onions, pickles, relish and other zesty accoutrements.
Block 16, Omaha, Nebraska
Drive around Nebraska and you're sure to see a lot of cows. So, it's certainly not hard to find a good burger no matter where you are in the state, from griddled patties at roadside dives to fancy-pants city burgers made with prime beef. Block 16 in Omaha is a destination-worthy spot for its elevated interpretations of casual dishes, which include Alton Brown's favorite burger in the country, the Croque Garçon. The one-third-pound burger nestled in ciabatta has what Brown says is the perfect meat-to-bun ratio, and it comes topped with bold, artistic ingredients including cheese, ham, a sunny-side-up egg, mustard and truffle mayo.
Johnson's Drive-In, Siler City, North Carolina
There aren't many reasons to travel to the tiny town of Siler City, a 30-minute drive from both Greensboro and Chapel Hill, yet burger aficionados come from all over the state to sink their teeth into Johnson's Drive-In's delicious cheeseburgers. Second-generation owner Claxton Johnson handpicks the marbled beef that he grinds into thick rounds that are pressed down on a sizzling hot griddle. Each one is topped with a thick slab of Velveeta cheese that melts into the meat, placed in a bun and slung across the lunch counter straight to adoring (and occasionally drooling) fans, who make sure to arrive before Johnson sells out of burgers for the day.
Kroll's East, Green Bay, Wisconsin
There's a reason Kroll's has been a Green Bay favorite since opening in 1935: It's called the butter burger. Basically the working-class version of an elegant French bistro-style steak basted in sizzling butter, this hand-formed Black Angus beef patty is charcoal-grilled and drenched with real Wisconsin butter. Tucked inside a toasted hard roll and adorned with whatever condiments you like, this Dairy State staple is crusty on the outside and oozing buttery juices within.
Abbey Burger Bistro, Baltimore
This laid-back bar and grill in hip Federal Hill attracts burger lovers from near and far with its creative combinations of patties and condiments. There's a Greek-inspired lamb burger accented with briny feta and herbed yogurt, a Baltimore Burger with homemade crab dip, and a spicy Korean duck burger. But serious burger lovers opt for the build-a-burger checklist that lets guests pick from a wide range of meat options such as bison and shrimp, customizable rolls ranging from pitas to lettuce wraps and nearly 60 different cheeses, sauces and toppings as varied as pimento cheese, habanero pickles, smoked Gouda, and peach and herb salad.
Pint and Jigger, Honolulu
This trendy watering hole is a local pick for its excellent cocktails, communal atmosphere and stellar food like double-cut bacon, housemade barbecue chips and bone marrow lightened up with chimichurri. It's all good, but the signature Stout Burger is what really draws the dinner crowds. The splurgeworthy patty is served with beer cheese, garlic aioli, lettuce, pickle and fries, with optional add-ons like caramelized or fried onions, bacon and avocado. It can be paired with any brew from the constantly rotating selection of 21 taps and at least 40 different options by the bottle, but the staff here suggest that this decadent meal be washed down with a refreshing pale ale.
Main Street Meats, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Located on Chattanooga's thriving South Side, Main Street Meats has been steadily growing since Erik and Amanda Niel took it over in 2014. They work with local farmers who are deeply committed to both the environment and the animals under their care, attracting a wide range of customers who want butchers who are concerned about more than the bottom line. Many of those regulars will pick up a steak to take home and a local beef burger to nosh on while at the shop. The burger — a simple combination of house-ground beef, house pickles, mustard, mayonnaise, caramelized onions, bacon and Gruyere — is totally rich, without the fancy restaurant airs.
Emily, Brooklyn, New York
A pizzeria may not seem like the most-obvious place to find one of New York's best burgers, but Emily manages to master both pie and patty. The Emmy Burger is produced in limited numbers each night, so arrive early to guarantee your share. Each features a disk of juicy, perfectly seasoned Pat LaFrieda dry-aged beef, special house sauce dripping down the sides, along with caramelized onion, cheddar and cornichons on a pretzel bun. The juicy drippings that pool on the tray are the ideal sauce for the side of crisp fries.
Go to: Emily
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 ground 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
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.
Go to: The Cherry Cricket
RPM Steak, Chicago
It takes a lot to become the most-popular burger at a restaurant named for its beef, but the burgers here are among the best in town. The Dry-Aged Steakburger, one of Sarah Grueneberg's favorite foods, is the best of the best. The patty blends brisket, short rib and chuck that are dry-aged for 28 days before they're ground. The meat is grilled over white oak for smoky char before it is covered in melted Cheddar and horseradish cream, with a topping of frizzled onions all packed on an onion bun. It's served at lunch, and at the bar during dinner.
Go to: RPM Steak
The Grill at Torrey Pines, La Jolla, California
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 chopped sweet onion, shredded 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
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
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
Go to: Hay Merchant
Pie 'n Burger, Pasadena, California
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
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 pommes frites.
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 Office Burger starts with 100 percent dry-aged chuck charbroiled to a juicy medium-rare, topped with bacon-onion jam, arugula, blue cheese and Gruyere, 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
Go to: Father's Office
Counter Cafe, Austin, Texas
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 sourdough bun with red onion, hydroponic beefsteak tomato from Village Farms in Marfa, Texas, and Houston’s Amador Farms' hydroponic Bibb lettuce.
Photo courtesy of Mitch Hallmark/Found Media Group
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. Bonus: You can also find this juicy double-decker at H&F’s Ponce City Market location, and during Braves games at SunTrust Park.
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, Alabama
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, Oregon
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, South Carolina
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.
Go to: Husk Restaurant
Rhubarb, Asheville, North Carolina
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 bavette steak or The Rhu Burger. Available on Rhubarb’s brunch and lunch menus, The Rhu Burger 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, New Orleans
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
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
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, American cheese and hand-cut fries.
Go to: Brindle Room
Charm City Burger, Deerfield Beach, Florida
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
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
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 an outdoor cookout. Chef Tad Curtz starts 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, Oklahoma
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. 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, Rhode Island
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 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.
Photo courtesy of Pat Murphy/Kingslens
Go to: Mission
Cowgirl BBQ, Santa Fe, New Mexico
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, North Dakota, 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.
Photo courtesy of J.L. Beers
Go to: J.L. Beers
Villedge, Greenville, North Carolina
The smell of smoke wafts out of the open kitchen at this lounge-y fixture nestled in The Hilton Greenville. 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, Montana
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 some of 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, Missouri, 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.
Go to: BRGR Kitchen + Bar
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 — and 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 kimchi from The Brinery in nearby Ann Arbor. The combination may sound odd, but the flavors meld together like pickle brine and whiskey.
Photo courtesy of Clark + Aldine
Go to: Green Dot Stables
Paradox Grille, Gateway Canyons, Colorado
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 Black 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.
Photo courtesy of Gateway Canyons Resort
Go to: Paradox Grille
Mission Bowling Club, San Francisco
Go to: Mission Bowling Club
Saison, Richmond, Virginia
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.
Go to: Saison
Jake’s Burgers, Brookfield, Wisconsin
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.
Go to: Jake’s Burgers
The Local Restaurant and Bar, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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 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
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.
Photo courtesy of Case Alex James
Go to: Swinery Meats
Tony’s Burgers, Cathedral City, California
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.
Go to: Tony’s Burgers
Burger Bar, Roy, Utah
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 paté, mint, cilantro, basil, pickled vegetables and a curried aioli.
Go to: Bachi Burger
High Life Lounge, Des Moines, Iowa
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, Kentucky
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
Gabby’s, Nashville, Tennessee
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
Go to: Hawkins House of Burgers
Cotham’s in the City, Little Rock, Arkansas
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.