We Listed The Best Burger Joints In America

Published on 09/21/2020
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It’s hard to be in the general vicinity of an outstanding burger these days. America’s love for all forms of beef between buns has grown so passionate that any opening restaurant seems obliged to put a burger on its menu. It’s great and all, but sometimes you don’t want a chef-driven $18 creation because you want something made in a place where ground meat lives and breathes. Restaurants listed here make burgers the show’s unquestionable stars. For their epic rank as America’s best burgers, you’ll find some of the gems chosen by our national burger critic Kevin Alexander and some other places that continuously excel in the burger game.

Title Burger

Title Burger

Bill’s Hamburgers | Los Angeles, California

This small burger shack, dubbed as one of the best burgers in Los Angeles by our unrelenting burger critic, and one of California’s old-school, nonsensical burgers, served by his name Grillmasters, who spent half a decade flipping deliciously things and juicy burgers to serve them with a side of endearingly crotchety attitude. Consider this charming extra gruffness to add to the flavor of a well-worn flat top, which imbues those burgers with their buttery greatness. Go for a double stack of grilled onions, American molten cheese, and iceberg.– Andy Kryza

Bill's Burger

Bill’s Burger

Bless Your Heart Burgers | Portland, Oregon

Portland Super Chef John Gorham was a long-time bistro burger master with his beloved Tasty & Sons, Tasty & Alder, and Toro Bravo long-term fixtures. When he announced opening a burger-only stand in a Downtown food hall, there were high expectations. Gorham more than delivered, though unexpected. Crispy and messy burgers come loose-ground, fat-and-char-pocked patties, especially when they get chilli, slaw, and house-made pickles. Still, the simple double is arguably the best burger alone in the Pacific Northwest. — AK

Bless Your Heart Burgers

Bless Your Heart Burgers

Brooks’ Sandwich Shop | Charlotte, North Carolina

Don’t let the name fool you — Brooks’ is very much a burger joint and has been since twin brothers David and Scott (Brooks, obviously) opened it in 1973. The little red shack attracts Carolinians of all stripes who are likely to experience Carolina’s finest burger, with a craggy char that immediately gives way to juicy perfection. If you want to go “all the way,” your burger is topped with mustard, raw onion, and the help of their other specialty. This wonderfully smoky chilli magically blends with the patty mentioned above. — ML

Brooks' Sandwich Shop

Brooks’ Sandwich Shop

BurgerFuel | Indianapolis, Indiana

BurgerFuel is probably old news for you if you’re from New Zealand. However, our public research says many of you are not from New Zealand, who recently decided to go on the American market for the first time in …  Indianapolis? Grass-fed patties are adorned with some familiar accoutrements and some less common alternatives, like grated beetroot with chia seeds that shockingly complement the rich beef. If you try to appease a vegan friend while feeding your carnivorous urges, the veggie options are shockingly robust.  — Matt Lynch

BurgerFuel

BurgerFuel

Cherry Cricket | Denver, Colorado

Close to Cherry Cricket, a restaurant serves kombucha and quinoa bowls. It’s every Denver community’s social hub. And even when it closed and reopened due to a fire in April 2017, it still retains that divey, old-school atmosphere-as well as, fortunately, the huge fish tank that anchors in the restaurant’s middle. A juicy, half-pound cricket burger is the move customized to peanut butter or more standard fix like bacon or avocado. Every month, there’s a rotating signature burger, but the best burger here is the one you order.  — Lee Breslouer

Cherry Cricket

Cherry Cricket

Chris Madrid’s | San Antonio, Texas

In 1977, Chris Madrid opened his eponymous restaurant and became one of the most popular burger institutions in Texas before his death in 2012. But his legacy continues in the form of ever-present crowds lined up to get their hands on a macho-sized burger. Get the tostada burger and marvel at the cascading layer of melted cheddar masking the refried beans and onions topped by a burger that refuses to contain its bun. And top it with a bit of their pico de gallo. — ML

Chris Madrid's

Chris Madrid’s

The Company Burger | New Orleans, Louisiana

Our national burger critic tried and failed to challenge the Company Burger’s place at the top of the New Orleans burger hierarchy — it’s become a must-do New Orleans pit stop for visitors as the mandatory beignets of Cafe Du Monde. The core components are nothing flashy — thin, medium-sized griddled patties, bread-and-butter house pickles, cooked red onion, and American cheese. You can garnish it by choosing mayos and other fixins in their condiment bar  — ML

The Company Burger

The Company Burger

Fred’s Meat & Bread | Atlanta, Georgia

Fred’s offers many “meat and bread” options beyond its burger, to be fair, but the Burger Stack here is the absolute star and the best reason to visit Atlanta’s popular Krog Street Market. As our national burger critic put it, “like a grilled cheese with meat inside it,” Atlanta’s best burger tastes bread-and-butter pickles punctuating richness and a sesame seed bun doing an admirable job of trying to contain all the cheesy, greasy protein. — ML

Fred's Meat & Bread

Fred’s Meat & Bread

Gabby’s Burgers & Fries | Nashville, Tennessee

Fortunately, Gabby also spends some time cranking out some of Nashville’s finest burgers, with Gabby’s signature, consisting of two gloriously cheesed patties nestled in a pillowy bun. A vet restaurant that wanted to spend a little more time with his family opened this restaurant. If you are the individual who refuses to include such binary options, on their password-protected “Secret Menu,” there are a whole bunch of burger creations containing more elaborate burger artistry conceived by regulars and famous people like Michael Symon. — ML

Gabby's Burgers & Fries

Gabby’s Burgers & Fries

Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill | Fort Lauderdale, Florida

This spot tucked in a Broward County strip mall is a Florida family-run gem where mom welcomes you with something witty and occasionally derogatory at the register. At the same time, her son works the grill in the back. You’ll find big half-pound certified Angus patties on that grill, billowing smoke in the Harbor Shops parking lot, and daring to negate their workout next door at the Orangetheory. The fries are all hand-cut, and the zany desserts are almost as much a draw as the meat, beckoning with pretzel-and-fudge-topped cookies from a display case. — Matt Meltzer

Gilbert's 17th Street Grill

Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill

Grill Marks | Greenville, South Carolina

The stars of this list are the burgers, and they’re all chopped Angus beef, not ground, so the texture of the patty is fuller, richer, meatier. Starting $6.79. Creations range from the French Connection to the Hot Mess with caramelized onions, roasted garlic, Brie, and cabernet ketchup, adding a hot dog to two patties. But the best hamburger I’ve ever had is the Au Poivre Café, a coffee-and-peppercorn-crusted patty featuring cremini mushrooms and au Poivre. It’s as close as I’ve ever seen a perfect bun steak dinner. — MM

Grill Marks

Grill Marks

Grind Burger Kitchen | Louisville, Kentucky

Among many restaurants nationwide, Liz and Jesse Huot have translated a food truck into a brick-and-mortar establishment that is still rabid and far less likely to have a flat tire. If you like to play a chef here, you can take your route daily to adorn one-third-pound patties, grass-fed and ground-in-house, but you may want to trust them and try the B&B. It has thick gooey Brie slabs enveloping crisp bacon, with bright, spicy habanero jam cutting through what would otherwise be excessive richness. — ML

Grind Burger Kitchen

Grind Burger Kitchen

HiHo Cheeseburger | Santa Monica, California

This unassuming burger spot on the beach in LA, just this summer, has big backers, so it is no surprise that their 100% grass-fed wagyu patties are among the city’s best bites. They have a thin, griddled patty and a presentation next to the taste of the beloved chain in-n-out. Not to be missed: their hand-cut fried shakes, and thick. — Jeff Miller

HiHo Cheeseburger

HiHo Cheeseburger

Hubcap Grill | Houston, Texas

Over the years, Hubcap Grill has grown into a mini-Houston burger empire with a few locations and an outpost airport. Such expansion puts them on the brink of becoming too much of a powerhouse for a list like this, and who doesn’t want to enjoy a transcendental burger at the airport instead of a combo of Kind bars and crippling loneliness? Oh yeah, the patties here are big, hand-shaped, and glorified, meaning they need to be paired with substantial toppings such as a very thick caramelized onion and a structurally sound yet pleasant bun. — ML

Hubcap Grill

Hubcap Grill

Keller’s Drive-In | Dallas, Texas

Dallas has fancier burgers than Keller’s. In Dallas, there are certainly more expensive burgers, where they always check-in for less than 3 dollars. But, as discovered by our intrepid burger critic, there are only a few more rewarding experiences than discovering the half-century-old charms of burgers on this classic drive, jukebox, etc. — ML

Keller's Drive In

Keller’s Drive In

Kopp’s Frozen Custard | Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Although burgers and custard aren’t mutually exclusive experiences, Kopp’s is a burger joint. And yes, my most visceral Kopp’s memory is to watch my friend lose a bet to her husband that she could eat 10 of their grilled cheeses in a single sitting. At first glance, it looks like nothing more than your classic double diner adorned with the required vegetation but has that magical alchemy of melty cheese, gluten bun, and perfectly seasoned patties that only the great one owns after further review. — ML

Kopp's Frozen Custard

Kopp’s Frozen Custard

Loretta’s Northwesterner | Seattle, Washington

Served across the Duwamish in a tiny little dive bar in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood, Emerald City’s finest burger is a charred, simplistic beauty thing. This humble little number first looks like a standard fast-food burger in size and construction. But you’ll notice the magical alchemy with your first bite between the slightly crisp edges, the raw onions, the special sauce, buttery bun, and the bright-yellow American cheese. On the second bite, the center’s juiciness kicks him into overdrive.  — AK

Loretta's Northwesterner

Loretta’s Northwesterner

Miller’s Bar | Dearborn, Michigan

Much has changed in the Detroit area since 1947, but one thing remained constant through thick and thin: the Miller’s Bar burger.  Here you get a perfectly cooked medium burger with a Velveeta slab and white onions stacked on a steamed bun that hardly holds its own against the cascade of magnificent juice and cheese product with each bite. On wax paper at a joint where you order at the bar, “commando-style” is served, and nobody keeps track of what you have. — AK

Miller's Bar

Miller’s Bar

Nation | Cincinnati, Ohio

Nation derives its name from Carrie Nation, a fervent advocate of temperance whose hatchet-wielding expeditions in her heyday destroyed several American taverns. And certainly, invoking her name in an establishment that ably represents the ales of one of America’s most undervalued beer cities, there’s more than a hint of irony, but burgers are not funny. The Nation burger is a 6-ounce brisket-enhanced patty with smoked Cheddar, crisp onion strings, horseradish aioli on a buttery challah bun. There’s BBQ whiskey sauce, too. — ML

Nation

Nation

Nic’s Grill | Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

You certainly need to go to El Reno, Oklahoma and taste that beloved Onion Burger in the city where it all began, if you have a profound and lasting love for history. But if you’re looking for a top burger (and you’re still full of local custom onions), head towards Nic’s and (probably) wait until he makes you one of the most popular burgers himself. — ML

Nic's Grill

Nic’s Grill

Petey’s Burger | Queens, New York

Let New York take one of California’s greatest culinary institutions … Make it better. No In-N-Out Burger on the East Coast. But we have Petey’s — the Queens-based burger joint that does a burger on the “West Coast” even better than their left-wing counterparts. Yeah, I said that. Petey’s slung their Cali-style burgers with two Queens locations — thick, juicy, double-stacked patties, Russian dressing, thick American cheese slices, sharp onions — since 2008 at a pair of locations in Queens.  — Wil Fulton

Petey's Burger

Petey’s Burger

Pie ‘n Burger | Pasadena, California

Since 1963, Pie’n Burger has been an institution in Pasadena and is a picture of a perfect California burger, one that our critic called the best in Burger-rich LA. You’re not going to find a lot of surprises here: it’s an asymmetrically squinted, thin patty on a buttery bun packed with a thick pile of the iceberg, a few pickles, tomatoes, and a Thousand Island blanket, with melted American acting like the glue holding the meat together after it’s kicking its ass on the grill. — AK

Pie 'n Burger

Pie ‘n Burger

Ray’s Hell Burger | Arlington, Virginia

It’s been a bit of an odyssey for the DC-area burger institution, which has undergone a series of legal and landlord disputes that have left the location in DC proper as the only outpost to secure the burger that President Obama occasionally deployed for diplomacy. The fact that those famous burgers — hand-trimmed and in-house ground thanks to all the beef know-how that comes from being siblings with Ray’s The Steaks — remain a worthy DC institution. — ML

Ray's Hell Burger

Ray’s Hell Burger

Sketch Burger | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

You will only be distracted by the colourful drawings here until your burger arrives, a hulking half-pounder that manages to keep it together under whatever cheese or toppings you consider worthy of coming in between that patty and Le Bus’ locally baked country white bun. Perhaps your jam is more like salsa verde and a fried egg. Or spice might scare you, and want some American cheese and pickles. Philadelphia’s best burger will shine; however, you play it, metaphorically, and on your greasy fingertips. — ML

Sketch Burger

Sketch Burger

Small Cheval | Chicago, Illinois

Small Cheval ‘s older sibling Au Cheval could arguably be called a burger joint, given the way its signature burger became a national sensation that still inspires two-hour waits. But on a wide-ranging menu, the burger is still but a single item. In the meantime, Small Cheval is a burger joint through and through, delivering the beefy, pickle, and dijonnaise-laden, “are you sure there isn’t some illegal drug in this” pleasure of Au Cheval with a fraction of the wait time, there is not some illegal drug.  — ML

Small Cheval

Small Cheval

The Stand | Phoenix, Arizona

When it opened in 2013, The Stand became an instant hit beloved by residents of Phoenix and Stephen King, spawning an offshoot in Scottsdale that dabbles in burgers and tacos. Still, the original is all about the burger, daily-in-house ground covered with lettuce and tomato, kosher dills, and Stand Sauce. The burger comes with thinly sliced raw onion, but it’s wise to upgrade to caramelized, pairing a salted dulce de leche shake with the burger and a mound of hand-cut fries. —- ML

The Stand

The Stand

Tookie’s Burgers & More | Seabrook, Texas

Tookie’s “& More” refers to its wide product range from hand-battered moss sticks to a killer Buffalo chicken sandwich and a fantastic chicken-fried steak on a bun. But you’ll probably never make it that far, and it doesn’t matter: the smashed, crispy, and charred burgers of this Houston-adjacent destination are worth the omission cost. You can get them in all shapes and sizes, including the Squealer with bacon ground beef, or a monstrous number loaded with the joint’s incredible chilli. — AK

Tookie's Burgers & More

Tookie’s Burgers & More

Town Topic | Kansas City, Missouri

Yes, since 1937, Claude Sparks began to sling them for a nickel, burgers have risen slightly. But not the taste. Or, it probably tastes like it hasn’t — we weren’t there in 1937. But, the bottom line is that for less than four bucks, you can still get one of the finest renditions of a diner burger in America 24/7 in downtown Kansas City, and we hope that never changes. — ML

Town Topic

Town Topic

Triple X X X | West Lafayette, Indiana

Triple X X X is as much a Purdue tradition as a Harry’s Chocolate Shop and Tom Crean fun breakfast club. In the surprisingly family-friendly Triple X X X, the oldest Indiana drive has a robust lineup of house-ground sirloin burgers, many of whom are named after the great Boilermaker. The peanut butter-laden Duane Purvis All-American is a favorite, while Bernie Flowers utilizes the tangy zip of Miracle Whip. But griddled beefiness of the undeniable patty is the common denominator they all share. — ML

Triple X X X

Triple X X X

White Hut | Springfield, Massachusetts

There were many things we could write about this much-loved staple of the western mass burger. Still, the thin, onion-laden burgers of the White Hut were the first burger-loving thrill critic Kevin Alexander, and he wrote the subject more eloquently than we had ever expected. — ML

White Hut

White Hut

White Manna | Hackensack, New Jersey

This old-fashioned burger joint on the banks of the Hackensack River has been a legendary greasy spoon since 1946, specializing in what can best be described as ooey-gooey, absurdly juicy, retro burger sky, not to be confused with the remarkably similar but separately owned and operated White Mana. There’s not much room to sit inside the eternally packed, Paramount-manufactured dinner. There’s never a lot of room to spare on the grill because it’s packed all the time with a pastiche of sizzling onions, meatballs, and perfectly sized potato buns.  — WF

White Manna

White Manna

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