The 33 Best Burgers in America
Fast food taste tests, waitresses getting massive tips, the best restaurants across America — these are just a few of the topics Yahoo Food readers loved the most. In a tribute to you, our reader, we are revisiting some of our most popular stories of 2015.
Credit: Sara Norris/Thrillist
We love burgers. We love them so much that every year after we publish our list of the best ones, we spend the rest of the year trying others, second guessing ourselves, and going kind of insane. This being the third year of our list, we tried to add a few classics we’d neglected and some newcomers that would not be denied, while keeping a core of places we love so much we just can’t possibly remove them. *CoughcoughWHITEHUTcough*
A little information on how we make the picks: for the most part, we eat the burgers. If, by chance, there’s a place on here that neither myself nor Liz has been to, one of our other trusted editors or writers from our 37 city editions made a strong case for inclusion.
Loosen your belt, sit back, and take in the glory that is the best burgers in the country for 2015.
More: 13 Ways You’re Grilling Burgers Wrong
Credit: Liz Childers/Thrillist
The Company Burger
New Orleans, LA
What you’re getting: Single
Because I’m both practical and like to measure my life in cheeseburgers, when I was looking to move back to New Orleans from New York, I limited my house-hunting search to be within walking distance of The Company Burger and its thin, griddled, American-cheese topped burgers, which I hold to be the standard against which all other burgers are judged. The move here is the single – don’t add an egg or bacon, as tempting as they are – so you can get onion rings AND tots to dip in at least five condiments from the mayo bar – and they had better include special sauce, chipotle mayo, and basil mayo – which Adam Biderman has done nearly as well as his burgers. And you should trust me on all of that because, when I Instagram a photo from my home, the app likes to suggest that I’m at The Company Burger, which, I think means I mastered that house-hunt.
4505 Burgers & BBQ
San Fransisco, CA
What you’re getting: The Best Damn Grass Fed Cheeseburger
It was on the list when it was just a thing you could get at a stand at the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building. It was our No. 1 burger in California, much to the ire of the people located south of the Bay Area. And so it shall stay for a third straight year on the top of this list. Ryan Farr’s cheeseburger is truly one of the “best damn” cheeseburgers in the country, thanks to that quarter-pound patty, which melds with the Gruyere and secret sauce on those homemade sesame & scallion buns to create an otherworldly mass of cheese-meat utopia. Plus, they don’t even bother putting a tomato on it, so I don’t have to yank it off. They just know. Three times a charm, indeed.
Alden & Harlow
What you’re getting: Secret Burger
My first visit to Alden & Harlow, I was not able to get a burger and I was sad. You see, it was 6:45pm, and it only makes around 40 burgers, and those burgers sell out in the first hour, no matter what day it is. I was not aware of this fact at the time, but such is my love of burgers/journalism, that I actually came back BY MYSELF at 5pm on another day before eating a real dinner just to try it. I’m glad I did. And weirdly enough, I became obsessed with a very underrated element to this burger: the shredded lettuce. Yes, of course the loosely packed beef plate, brisket, and short rib had a solid, salty, fatty texture and the creamy sauce hugged the buttery bun, and that sort of strange cheese frico offered a surprising crispness, but by shredding the lettuce, you don’t run into one of those issues where it serves as a shield for toppings, or things slide off the burger and ruin the combination in your mouth. Shredded lettuce offers the cooling value and crisp texture without getting in the way. It’s the 2008 Rajon Rondo of the burger world, just there to assist the bigger, showier elements. And Alden’s burger has quite a few of those.
More: 7 American Barbecue Styles You’re Insane for Overlooking
Credit: Dan Gentile/Thrillist
What you’re getting: The Counter Burger
Counter Cafe may not be an actual old-school diner, but it’s damn near close. When it opened in 2006, the restaurant took over a space that had been occupied for over a quarter century by legendary diner G&M Steakhouse. Owner Debbie Davis preserved the atmosphere of the teensy 700sqft spot – 24 seats, narrow griddle, and all – while introducing upgraded, slightly upscaled Americana classics, including a grass-fed, just-the-right-size burger topped with cheddar and served on a fluffy, locally made sourdough bun, which proves the only thing better than a diner-style burger is an actual diner burger.
What you’re getting: Single with an egg
There was much commotion when The Food Network named Au Cheval’s burger the best in America this year. Oh, wait. There was only a medium amount of commotion because we’ve been telling you how amazing this burger is for years. It is a burger worth planning your entire trip to Chicago around, which, good thing, because you kind of have to at this point to navigate the wait.
What you’re getting: Diner burger
The first burger spot to make the list from the Mountain State is in Wheeling, which is about 90 minutes from Morgantown, if you ever happen to be down at a WVU football game to do some casual tailgating and couch burning, and needed a second, more productive thing to do. All the food at Avenue Eats is good, and if we had a “best sloppy Joe” list, it’d certainly be on that as well, but we were most intrigued by two burgers: the Roasted Jalapeño (with bacon, house-made cheese sauce and those smokey peppers) and, of course, the Diner burger, which has everything you need, except caramelized onions and they’ll let you sub those in. And fine, if you have to get a THIRD burger in a pinch, you could do a lot worse than the Pub Burger. Or the Poutine. Or the…
More: 7 Foolproof Ways to Spot a Fake BBQ Joint
Credit: Dan Brewer/Thrillist
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger, loaded
An OG member of the 2013 list, Harmon’s is back on, mostly because I returned to the venerable spot during our search for the best burger in every state, and fell back in love with the sign saying “You don’t get it your way. You take it my way, or you don’t get the damn thing” and I forgot how much I love red relish, and places that don’t serve lettuce or tomato. This was my grandfather’s second favorite burger spot in the world (you should know his first), and he’d often wait in the car listening to a Sox game on the radio while I ran in flustered and nervous, asking for a bunch of cheeseburgers “loaded.” It’s a rare case of nostalgia living up to the hype. And also, now you can get shakes. My grandfather would’ve approved.
Las Vegas, NV
What you’re getting: Kiki Burger
It always feels a little weird picking spots in Vegas, just because, well, Vegas. But Bachi is one of the most unique burger spots in the country. The burgers all have vague Asian influences, and are all so damn delicious in very different ways, but if I had to choose one I would opt for Kiki’s, because it involves this sweet onion marmalade, Gruyere, and a garlic-chili aioli I have tried to replicate at home. Oh, and the caramelized bacon helps too.
New York, NY
What you’re getting: Sebastian’s Steakhouse Burger with American
This burger is not one of those steakhouse burgers. You know, those hefty steakhouse burgers that give the breed a bad rep, strictly because those huge patties get tough and tasteless on the outside while the inside barely reaches rare. Rather, Chef Jeremy Spector blends deckle and aged beef trimmings into his patties. The combination of funk from the trimmings and infusion of flavor from the fatty deckle that melts throughout the burger means this actually might just be the most flavorful burger you’ll ever taste.
Credit: Allonease Readdy/Thrillist
Siler City, NC
What you’re getting: The Velveeta Burger
Perhaps the only cheese that can melt into and totally cloak a burger better than our beloved American cheese is Velveeta, that other processed cheese. And while Johnson’s Drive-In is only open for four hours a day, five days a week, and lines start forming long before the 10am open time, you won’t mind any of that once you discover the way a giant chunk of Velveeta can so totally infuse a beef patty with its rich taste.
San Francisco, CA
What you’re getting: Americana Burger
We will always love Trick Dog with all our heart, and we love Kronnerburger’s resurgence in Oakland. And there’s a real, deep place in our burger rolodex for Fog City’s, which came damn close to making this year’s list. But the new blood from SF has to go to the simple love that is the Americana Burger. Don’t bother adding mushrooms, jalapeños, avocado, or even bacon. Just appreciate the thin Five Dot Ranch patties, the soft sesame seed bun, the pickle, crispy onions, American cheese, and “Causwells sauce,” which makes this thing taste like a fancified Animal Style In-N-Out Double Double in the best possible way. The burger has become so popular that it has led to a burger-only pop-up in the Mission, and potential for an expansion to take on Super Duper’s dominance of the slightly upscale casual burger chain market in SF. To which we say: yes, please.
Tucker’s Onion Burgers
Oklahoma City, OK
What you’re getting: Double onion burger with cheese
Oklahoma’s burger style developed out of necessity during the Depression: onions were, obviously, cheaper than beef so they were blended into the patty to bulk up the burger. While griddled onions topping burgers are normal, OK’s style cooks beef and onion all together so the flavors infuse every messy bite. As with all regional styles, plenty of places are pulling these off, especially in El Reno, which claims the onion burger capital title, but when we’re passing through the Sooner State, we head for Tucker’s in OK City. Get a double with cheese, add shredded lettuce, grilled jalapeños, and pickles.
Credit: Sara Norris/Thrillist
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
La Jolla, CA
What you’re getting: The Drugstore Burger
My dad has lived in San Diego since I was 14, and yet it took me until this past year to finally get to try the best burger in the city, mostly because my father will not play golf with me in public, and that burger just happens to be served at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. On the menu it is called the “Drugstore Style Hamburger,” which is my favorite literal name for a burger ever, and it is exactly the right type of burger – 7oz of thin and griddled ground chuck with chopped onion, shredded lettuce (see?!?! It IS a great thing!), pickles, tomato (which, full disclosure, I always remove), and a sesame seed bun. It’s like a diner burger, if your diner was run by a top-level chef. Now I just need to get a little better at golf.
The Cozy Inn
What you’re getting: Sliders
In a time when super-customizable burger menus are everywhere and burgers loaded with everything from deep-fried gravy to seared fois gras have lost all shock value, The Cozy Inn is refreshing because it has rules, dammit, and you’re going to follow those rules if you want a taste of its burgers. You’ll order sliders. You won’t get cheese. You won’t have fries. You will smell like you took a steam bath with onions because the slider patties are so littered with them. You will be so happy. And, while it’s just our recommendation, treat it like a rule: order a sack of 24 because you don’t just happen through Salina, KS, and there’s no quicker way to ruin that happiness you JUST GOT than by running out of burgers before you’re anywhere close to the 19th century blacksmith demonstration at the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita, which was the whole reason for this trip to begin with.
New York, NY
What you’re getting: The Emmy Burger
The Emmy Burger breaks a lot of rules to be on here. First, if you follow mine and Kevin’s extensive burger adorations, you know we preach that a perfect burger follows the simple, diner-style formula of American cheese on a small patty with a squishy bun. Emily’s is 7oz of aged beef, seared on a flattop, topped with a pile of caramelized onion and a melted layer of cheddar and a special sauce, packaged inside a dense pretzel bun. Second, well, Emily is a pizzeria. It’s got a wood-burning oven and an almost-stressfully long list of pizzas on its menu, and those pizzas are GOOD. Maybe some of the best pizza in New York City, which says quite a bit. So, when I tell you to only order the pizza after you’ve eaten at least one large, oozing Emmy Burger, know how very serious I am about this burger.
Credit: Tolin Vaccaro/Thrillist
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger with American and caramelized onions
When I was in college, a buddy’s family had a house outside of Newport, so we used to do that college thing of going there, and going into Newport for the night, and then getting heavily fined for peeing in public. But now that I’m past the age of public urination, I don’t get there that often, so it was by total luck that at a recent wedding led me to this absolute gem. I normally don’t like thicker burgers, but there’s just something about the combination of the grilled onions, “Mission Sauce” (like Thousand Island but with a fancy, boozier kick), and that thick, perfectly seasoned patty that made me wish I was back in college with a bladder no ridiculous fine could contain. Either way, if you live within 80 miles, go now and go often.
Gilley’s PM Lunch
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger
The best thing about going to New Hampshire, outside of visiting the house where Stat’s Bar and Grill legend Andrew Statires grew up, Gilley’s has one of the best names (the PM Lunch comes from the fact that it used to sell burgers to folks working the night shift), and unquestionably the best burgers in the Granite State, thanks to Steve Kennedy’s super-thin, griddled patties seared with just the right amount of peppery bite. I call it White Hut North, mostly because I think I’m clever, but also because it’s that type of legend.
What you’re getting: Classic Cheeseburger
Don’t let the name fool you: each ingredient in the Classic Cheeseburger is just a step above the simplicity the moniker implies. The smoky pepper bacon is cured in-house. Nathan’s half-sour pickles add a bit of tang. There’s just a dab of sharp Dijonnaise that cuts the melting cheddar and the pain au lait, locally made bun soaks up all the juices. America would be a much happier place is all classic cheeseburgers tasted like this.
Credit: Lesley Balla/Thrillist
Pie ‘n Burger
What you’re getting: Hamburger with cheese
We owe you an apology for not eating Pie ‘n Burger until earlier this year. But now that we finally have, we’re in love. The diner’s been crafting the same burger recipe since it opened in ‘63 and it’s as simple as you’d expect: choose a hamburger (this is your move, obviously), turkey, or veggie, add cheese, and watch as they top the griddled patty with a flood of house-made Thousand Island, pickles, and lettuce. So, we’re sorry it took us so long to discover this SoCal burger, but, next time we’re all in Pasadena, we think we could all work something out over a burger and at least three slices of pie. Two of which will be apple and rhubarb, but you can pick the third.
The Holding Pen at Hog & Hominy
What you’re getting: The John T. Edge Burger
By this point, you’ve probably heard of John T. Edge. His resume is basically a list of things that make us jealous/drool: head of the Southern Foodways Alliance in his hometown of Oxford, MS, an Iron Chef guest judge, author of Hamburgers & Fries as well as the Times’ United Tastes series, and, as of 2013, the namesake of Hog & Hominy’s burger. When H&H’s chefs were struggling to create their burger, Edge, being the historian that he is, suggested the simple Oklahoma onion burger, a style that has about as much history as it does flavor. (And since there’s onion caramelized directly into the patty, that is to say, there’s a lot of history.) The resulting burger is smashed thin on the griddle and gets a crisp, seared layer, before being topped with American and shredded lettuce and a dab of mustard. To make it even better, the burger’s only available at The Holding Pen, Hog & Hominy’s back porch dive bar. And if there’s anything that can improve an already almost perfect burger, it’s a dive atmosphere and a can of PBR.
Holeman & Finch Public House
What you’re getting: The burger
The best way to explain how much I love this burger, which hits our list for a third year, is to say that I took a picture of it and then made a custom cell phone case with said picture so that anytime I have my phone (which is most of the time), I can stare at that double layer of thin patties and slightly melting American and bread & butter pickles. So, yes, I have a picture of H&F’s burger where a lot of people put pictures of their children or pets, and, if I’m being perfectly honest, I bet it’s more beautiful than those children or pets. I’d say you could call me to complain about that insult, but then I’d have to actually use my phone instead of staring at the burger and that would make me sad.
Pig Trail Bypass Country Cafe
What you’re getting: Hooshburger
Earlier this year, a freelancer told us about this convenience store/gas station/cafe in the middle of the Ozarks and its half-pound burger, and we’ve nearly become obsessed. The Hooshburger sounds basic, with onions cooked straight into the beef patty, but its namesake and the cafe’s owner, Hooshang Nazarali, has infused the burger with flavors of his native Persian food, blending honey and Iranian spices in with the onion, which gives very good reasons for making the trek to this roadside spot.
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger
There’s an amazing video online in which Chef Sean Brock makes his famous cheeseburger and shares the kind of sage-like advice that grandparents should whisper to the next generation with a knowing, well-lived glint in their eyes: “This is something that’s very important about an American cheeseburger, and that’s American cheese.” Seriously. It’s no secret that we love American, and Brock has built a double-pattied temple to its ability to be “melting and oozing and dripping” and just, generally speaking, be the element that ties together and creates a classic. And if, after all our gushing, you still don’t trust us or Brock, drive to Nashville or to Charleston, and try the damn burger. We promise you’ll be converted to the American cheese religion.
What you’re getting: The Avocado Hamburger
Normally I don’t advocate putting anything on your burger outside of American cheese and some grilled onions. But in Hawaii you can make exceptions. And such is the deal at Kua’Aina, which retains its position on our list for the second straight year thanks to an avocado burger that mixes the creaminess of that glorious fruit (nature’s mayo!) with the salty, juicy meatiness of its legendary burger. This is usually where we also mention that Obama loves this burger, and – regardless of whether you agree with his political opinions – judging by the places he chooses when he’s out and about, that man knows how to eat.
Credit: Brad Foster/Thrillst
Red Mill Burger
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger
Red Mill is a family joint, owned by the Shepherds and named for their late sisters, who used to work at the original Red Mill back in the ‘60s. It is not a fussy or fancy place, but the burgers taste like it should be. It’s also a place where I’d make an exception to a few of my normal rules: 1) get the Bacon Deluxe with Cheese. Obviously throw the tomato out, but the combination of peppery bacon, lettuce, spicy “Mill Sauce,” red onion, American, and that thin patty do all of the right things.
What you’re getting: Two (or three) Palace Burgers
Little Palace and I have the kind of storybook, instant love affair that contestants on the Bachelorette hope to find for at least six months before both parties call it quits and move on to being B-list Twitter celebrities. If you’ve been following along here, you know we love American cheese and we love thin burgers and we’re pretty into sliders, since they let us eat at least six burgers without having to pass out for a few hours. Rarely do all three of those qualities combine, but Little Palace not only does it, but it does it so damn well. If ABC wants to showcase a real forever-love, I’m happy to be the next contestant as long as at least one of these sliders is in the running.
Neon Pig Cafe
What you’re getting: The Famous Smash
Plenty of burger spots grind their patties in-house. But very few are also butcher shops and can ransack the meat case to create a patty with one of the longest and tastiest ingredient lists we’ve ever eaten. The aged filet, ribeye, strip steak, sirloin, and Benton’s bacon blend gets a dose of savory hoisin and tangy Mississippi comeback sauce, plus melted cheddar, pickled onions, pickles, and more of that smoky bacon. It all goes on a hefty ciabatta bun that’s built to soak up all those delicious juices. Pro tip: save a little bun to sop up your plate afterwards. Bonus pro tip: order some pie. This is a Southern bakery too.
Credit: Faith Blackwell/Thrillist
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger
Though one could make a pretty convincing argument that the real workingman’s friend is “beer” or “Netflix,” this one, which started in 1918, no longer needs to prove itself. The burgers – those delicious diner-style griddled patties I love so hard, with that melted American and those griddled pungent onions – have been around for generations due to the simple fact that they’re cheap, delicious, and should be ordered two at a time.
What you’re getting: Burger
I love condiments. I believe that McDonald’s chicken nuggets are simply a vehicle used to get eight different kinds of sauces into your mouth. But in the case of Parlour’s burger, condiments aren’t even an afterthought. Just a simple blend of hand-packed brisket, ribeye, and ground sirloin alongside American cheese. Yes, pickles too, if you want some brine to cut through all of that melty fat and meat. But no condiments. And somehow that’s more than okay. That’s the way it damn should be. Oh, and get a cocktail here. It’s a fantastic bar after all.
Santa Fe Bite
Santa Fe, NM
What you’re getting: Green Chile Burger
Yes it is the same people who did Bobcat Bite. Yes, we did put them on the best burger list last year. Yes, they are staying because you’ll never taste a better green chile cheeseburger in your life. No, that is not an exaggeration.
Credit: Dave Baldwin/Thrillist
West Springfield, MA
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger with grilled onions
This is my third best burgers list, and the White Hut has made every one. And, in order to save you the suspense, it will be on this list next year. And the year after, and every year until they pry this damn thing from my burger-greased hands and give it to someone who isn’t obsessed with melty American cheese, thin griddled patties, peppery grilled onions, soft grilled rolls, and the way everything works together when those things combine correctly. The White Hut in West Springfield is where I fell in love with burgers as a child. I’ve had family eating at its counter for the past 80 years. It stays right here, where it belongs.
What you’re getting: Original Solly Cheeseburger
Is this Wisconsin institution that opened in 1936 and goes through 30lbs of butter every day to make sure America’s Dairyland is given its recommended daily allowance of butterburgers the entire reason Thrillist went and decided to open a Milwaukee edition? No. Did it help? Absolutely.
What you’re getting: The Swine Burger
What Yardbird and its now famous 27-hour-brined, deep-fried poultry did for Miami’s fried chicken scene, Swine is doing for the city’s Southern food game. And while I normally hold that menu genre to a strict standard of old-school Southern compliance, Swine gets a break for two reasons: first, this is Miami, after all, so it’s not exactly in the South to begin with and second, a damn good burger earns leniency for any place. When you mix smoked pork shoulder into the patty with brisket and short rib and cap it with the requisite American, tomato, lettuce, and, of course, house-made bacon, and then add a special sauce, you could re-sell fast-food tacos on your menu and I wouldn’t complain about anything. In fact, if the 50 Eggs culinary team wants to complete my favorite-food trifecta and branch into pizza next, I just want a few months warning so I can start looking into Miami real estate.
More from Thrillist:
Butchers Reveal 12 Prime Money-Saving Cuts
9 Foods You Thought We’re Healthy, But Aren’t