These Are the 21 Best College 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.
By: Kevin Alexander and Liz Childers
Credit: Chona Kasinger/Thrillist
The American college experience is unique: wearing sweatpants for 300 days straight, dressing as a golf pro and/or tennis ho on at least 11 occasions, purchasing overpriced Sociology of Sports textbooks, and definitely attending every class, especially the morning ones. Since our love of burgers is just as singular, it makes all of the sense that, during the start of the college year, we yet again celebrate the best burgers in towns filled with students carrying overpriced textbooks while wearing sweatpants.
Some college legends remain on the list from last year while some are newer spots that’ve forged their way into our hearts and stomachs. Tuck a napkin into your shirt so your pledge tie doesn’t get dirty, and dig in.
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Credit: Dan Gentile/Thrillist
University of Texas at Austin
Crown & Anchor
What you’re getting: Double bacon cheeseburger
At this point, Austin’s a food mecca: not just for brisket, tacos, and more brisket, but for steaming bowls of ramen, espresso from small-batch roasters to please even the most uppity coffee snobs, and, of course, burgers. The only move for UT students though lies at Crown & Anchor, a spot whose gravel parking lot is always packed, whose beer is college-style cheap, and whose burgers have just the right level of melty cheese, crispy bacon, and char-grilled perfection to make it legendary in the city.
What you’re getting: Bacon cheeseburger with blue cheese
Chuck’s is one of those quintessential college dive bars: it’s covered in graffiti, that stickiness clinging to the bottom of your shoe could be from a beer spilled when John Mackey was an Orange, and the beer specials are made for people without any income. Which also means the burgers are delicious: whether you go for half-price Mondays or not, grab the bacon cheeseburger, add blue cheese, and get there early enough to hog the dart boards for a long night of pitchers.
What you’re getting: The Sobelman
Sobelman’s is undeniably Milwaukee, which means the beer selection is enviable (think selections from local breweries like nearby New Glarus or Madison’s Ale Asylum) and the burgers are giant and do not skimp on the cheese or bacon. If it’s your first time, go with the namesake: it’s far from regular, layering American, Swiss, and cheddar on top of bacon, fried onions, and jalapeños. Then, just go ahead an transfer to Marquette: you’re going to want to try the rest of this menu.
What you’re getting: Classic cheeseburger on bread
In a city that blessedly claims an unhealthy bounty of meat and threes, Rotier’s stands out by first being a burger joint, located on Elliston Pl, a short strip running behind Vanderbilt’s campus. And while any meat and three could churn out a satisfying diner burger, Rotier’s has made a name for over 70 years with its slightly unusual, but wholly delicious version that puts the charred patty, cheese (go American, of course), crisp lettuce, tomato, tangy mustard, and pickle onto a hulking hunk of French bread. Get it with a chocolate milkshake. You’ll be happy, we promise.
James Madison University
What you’re getting: Jalapeño popper burger
While Jack Browns has expanded into a three-state chain, the original location is in Harrisonburg and, like we can only assume the Barden Bellas would be if they reached fictional Sync status, but returned for an encore performance at their college, the burger spot is undeniably at its best in its hometown. While you shouldn’t ignore the intense daily specials (think donut burgers), the move for JMU students is the jalapeño popper burger, a simple Wagyu patty that balances melty cream cheese with spicy jalapeños.
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Credit: Flickr/Adrian Black
What you’re getting: The Rob Ford
First of all, great name. Second of all, aside from Harvard students, the burger cottage has been visited by many famous people, like Katie Couric. Third of all, it constantly updates its names to stay current, like the Roger Goodell Booooo! and the Hashtag. We are partial, however, to one that feels more like a punchline from 2013: the Rob Ford (“he CRACKS me up”) comes with Swiss, grilled sauerkraut, Russian dressing, and several bonus overheard comments about punching The Porc.
What you’re getting: Double cheeseburger
Oxford’s one of those quintessential college towns that every admissions officer dreams of putting on the brochure: town square! Blonde cheerleaders! Famous novelist references! But it also has insane food options, starting with Chef John Currence’s fine-dining options and moving down to Handy Andy, a BBQ spot that does a damn good pulled pork sandwich and a burger that is even better. Order the double cheeseburger – it’s a simple, greasy, delicious meal that is exactly what you’d expect from a bare-bones Southern spot – and then maybe just get some ‘cue to go since you’re already there. Or another burger. Your call.
University of Memphis
What you’re getting: The Two Timer
Memphis tends to get its name on any burger lists thanks to Dyer’s, a Beale St legend that deep-fries its burgers in the same grease that was used when the spot opened. But Ubee’s, a late-night spot just outside the University of Memphis, “imports” its grease from the legend, getting that same super-flavorful, aged taste. Because it’s already 3am and you’re ordering a burger cooked in decades-old grease, go ahead and get the Two Timer: it’s double patties, double cheese, and exactly what you need at that point in your Saturday night.
University of Wisconsin
Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry
What you’re getting: The Melting Pot
Madison’s best burger joint has changed locations four times (once from… Des Moines!), began as a trinket shop that sold zero cheeseburgers, and has a name that makes approximately negative sense. It also has the Melting Pot, an appropriately over-cheesed (cheddar, Swiss, provolone) meat mound stacked with bacon and touched with the joint’s trademark English garlic sauce. But don’t overlook other “yep, we’re definitely in Wisconsin” options like Stanley’s Blue Ribbon (cream cheese, BBQ sauce, and an onion ring) and the new Green & Gold with deep-fried pickles and bacon mayo. Whichever you go with, just remember: cheese curds are not optional.
Menlo Park, CA
What you’re getting: Patty melt
There are newer moves, like Gott’s, and there are other old-school moves, like Kirk’s, but the Oasis is truly one of the last bastions of classic Menlo, before all of the tech money swarmed the place with Teslas being driven by drones being driven by nannies. It’s even more well known for its pizza, but if you truly are a smart Stanford person in a “Talk Nerdy to Me” shirt, then you will get the patty melt, in all its gooey, cheesy, toasty glory and ask the old-timers from ‘08 what life was like pre-Yik Yak.
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Credit: Dave Baldwin/Thrillist
University of Massachusetts Amherst
What you’re getting: Two cheeseburgers with grilled onions
Despite the fact that this one is not the original White Hut, it is still a White Hut, and that makes it the best burger place in any college town. But aside from that biased little editorial, the Amherst location has been around long enough to have attracted a clientele of Minutemen, Lord Jeffs, and whatever Hampshire College’s mascot is. And if they know what’s good for them, they’re ordering two cheeseburgers with grilled onions and nothing else.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI
What you’re getting: The Famous Crunchy burger with bacon and cheddar
Last year, we hemmed and hawed before selecting the Peanut Barrel’s fantastic Rodeo burger for East Lansing. This year, though, our hearts – our beef-addled hearts – returned to Crunchy’s. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of seeing your name carved into the wall. Maybe it’s the fact that you’ve just split a mop bucket of craft beer with somebody at what, pre-Hop Cat, could be considered Spartan Country’s original craft beer bar. Or maybe it’s the fact that the char-grilled half-pound Crunchy burger is basically a picture of what a burger should be, a solid, juicy patty that stands on its own without relying on a bunch of stupid toppings. Unless you want those. In which case the place has them. And also pizza nuggets. And karaoke. Because Crunchy’s is kind of the best. At least our editor thinks so.
University of North Carolina
Al’s Burger Shack
Chapel Hill, NC
What you’re getting: The Buddy bite-size classic
While most great college burger spots are marked with decades of underclassmen clamoring for a bite after too many very watery lagers or at least seven hours picking apart the female psyche in The Cultural Devastation of American Women, Al’s is, well, fresh. But the Chapel Hill restaurant caters to the roadside classics with very simple burgers and dogs, plus regular, more elaborate specials (like the Aubrey, a pimento cheese, avocado, and bacon giant that you should absolutely get when you’ve fasted for at least two days). Get a bite-size version of the classic, plus a bite-size incarnation of the Mookie (there’s bacon, onion jam, roasted garlic, aioli, and probably a two-hour supply of happiness) and enjoy what’ll eventually be a Tarheel classic, exactly like Michael Jordan. Seriously: let’s discuss burger-themed high tops, guys.
University of Colorado Boulder
What you’re getting: The Texas Onion Straw
This burger again retains its place at the top of the college burger pyramid thanks to some pretty intense lobbying by our own Boulder grad Al Raddock, who definitely scrawled his name on its ceiling after he took down a Texas Onion Straw burger with jalapeños, cheddar, and provolone as well as all the crunchy onion straws. So if anyone at The Sink is reading this, you should probably get Mr. Al Raddock a bumper sticker or something.
Green Truck Pub
What you’re getting: The Green Truck Classic with pimento
Savannah is an underrated college town, but between SCAD, Savannah State, Armstrong State, and South, there are plenty of young people ready to judge your dad jeans. But you need to get over that fear, because right at the corner of Habersham and Maupas sits one of the finer college town burger joints in the country. The resto does all the proper things art-minded college kids care about these days: recycles and reuses basically everything, utilizes local salvaged goods for tables and booths, and most importantly, buys grass-fed local beef from Hunter Cattle Company for the Green Truck Classic burger. The patty is reliably thin, and comes with delicious house-made pickles. And you might as well add the pimento cheese seeing how you’re already wearing those dad jeans.
Credit: Flickr/Jeffrey Smith
University of Michigan
Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger
Ann Arbor, MI
What you’re getting: Triple, plain roll, with grilled onions & peppers and American
If you’ve never been to Blimpy Burger (or Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger if you’re feeling formal), then you’re probably going to mess up the order. And this is one of those spots that’s going to sass you when you do. So let us help you save face and pretend you’re an experienced Wolverine: order a triple on a plain roll with grilled onions & peppers and add that American cheese on at the end. Skip the condiments request. And once you’ve eaten one burger and are feeling confident, go try again: there’s basically infinity topping, bun, and cheese combinations and you may just need to enroll to have enough time to try them all.
Burgers and Brew
What you’re getting: Buffalo burger (and breakfast fries)
The damn fries, my God they’re good (esp the breakfast ones with egg, bacon, and cheese on them), but the damn burger is somehow my God better. The buffalo is the signature one and deservedly so, but the chorizo burger is also a solid move, as is the bacon and jalapeño – the burgers are massive, the toppings plentiful, and there’s a line all… the… time. Throw in the fact that this place is also a legit beer bar, is three short blocks from campus, and gets packed even at like 2pm, and you’ve got yourself a college burger hero spot.
University of Virginia
The White Spot
What you’re getting: The Gus burger
You may call it a “cheeseburger, add a fried egg” wherever you’re from, but that just means you didn’t spend at least 5/7ths of your undergrad nights tucked away at the far end of The Corner ordering Gus burgers. You also probably don’t have to worry about your Woodberry alumni tie getting egg yolk on it, but we guess that’s a small price to pay for four years with this simple, greasy diner burger.
University of New Mexico
What you’re getting: Fiesta Burger
Coming to school in New Mexico from out of state, you may’ve heard that people like their green chile around these parts, but you have no real idea until you get down here and see it for yourself. And Frontier, which looks kind of like a barn and an East Texas BBQ restaurant had a giant child and happens to sit right across from campus, is most newbies’ first experience in the art of New Mexican cooking. And so it’s best they start with a gateway green chile food, like the Fiesta burger with green chiles, cheddar, and lettuce, just as the New Mexican forefathers intended.
University of Iowa
Short’s Burger and Shine
Iowa City, IA
What you’re getting: The Colo
There are few things better than sitting outside on a sunny September day in Iowa City with a cold John’s White Ale and one of Short’s classics made with beef from local farmer Ed Smith (hey Ed!), like the Colo with grilled onions, American, and Swiss on rye, and trying to figure out when Iowa basketball starts so you can start awkwardly telling the undergrads at Brothers your Chris Kingsbury anecdotes again.
University of Oregon
What you’re getting: Cheezy American burger
You know what is pretty fantastic, especially for a fine college town like Eugene? At Cornucopia, you can not only get the Angus beef Cheezy American burger delivered, but the resto will also deliver beer and wine, so you don’t have to leave your green-and-yellow apartment’s green-and-yellow bean bag chair shaped like a duck in order to enjoy all that greasy goodness.
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