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America's Best Burger Cities

America's Best Burger Cities
Photo: iStock

Sometimes, only a burger will do.


When traveling overseas and feeling under the weather or homesick, New Yorker Jeff Ward often craves a burger. "I start wanting comfort food—something American," says the managing partner of African Safari Consultants. And yet? "They're always terrible," he says. "There's no better place for a burger than the U.S.A."


Which American city does burgers best? That inspires a lot of debate—but now Travel +Leisure readers have picked a winner. In our annual America's Favorite Cities survey, readers weighed in on the best features of 35 cities. While some categories had obvious contenders (like Chicago for pizza or Seattle for coffee), the race for the best burger seemed wide open.


There's even debate over where the hamburger originated—perhaps at a lunch counter in Athens, TX, in the 1880s, or at the famed Louis' Lunch in New Haven, CT. While only major cities were in the running—sorry, New Haven—the Top 10 showed a certain small-town flair in its distinctive burger styles.


No. 1 Houston


It turns out that bigger does mean better for voters, and this oil town takes the prize for putting a Texas-size spin on the American classic. Double-patty, half-pound burgers are the norm here, topped with shredded lettuce and mustard more often than mayo. Some local favorites—such as Lankford Grocery and the Hubcap Grill—also offer triple-patty versions, with upwards of a full pound of beef.


Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City
Photo: iStock

No. 2 Salt Lake City


Locals have lined up in droves ever since the streamlined burgers of In-N-Out have come to town, but otherwise the area's burger personality is quite a bit more decadent—as in, pastrami burgers. To try a quarter-pound patty piled high with more beef, check out Crown Burger, where they also add Thousand Island dressing, lettuce, onions, and cheese.


Providence
Providence
Photo: Wendy Ball & Dara Albanese

No. 3 Providence


The Rhode Island capital is a crowd-pleaser for food lovers: it ranks No. 3 in the AFC survey for overall dining, as well as No. 3 for pizza, ethnic food, and mom-and-pop cafés. Locals even claim the diner was invented here. For a classic burger, go to Stanley's, which has been serving Stanley burgers since 1932, topped with just grilled onions and pickles.


Denver
Denver
Photo: Jim Havey / Alamy

No. 4 Denver


Denver won top honors for its active locals and came in at No. 2 for its great outdoor spaces. That fresh mountain air works up an appetite. So where to go for your burger fix? Locals love the H Burger, in lower downtown Denver, with fresh-ground Angus, Hatch chile pepper, and red pepper-tomato jam. Purists, meanwhile, rave about Bud's Bar in Sedalia, outside the city. Talk about basic: you get just patty, cheese, and bun—as well as a lot of flak if you ask for fries, which have never been on the menu.


Austin
Austin
Photo: David Coleman / Alamy

No. 5 Austin


The Texas capital landed in the top five for both barbecue and burgers. For an old-school favorite, go to Hut's Hamburgers, which started as a drive-in in 1939 and offers grass-fed longhorn as well as buffalo burgers. Or, to experience the No. 2 town for live music by way of a burger, go to Ranch 616, where there's weekly live country music, and the beloved Framed Burger is stuffed with something different daily—such as cremini mushrooms or jalapeños.


Chicago
Chicago
Photo: iStock

No. 6 Chicago


The eight-ounce burger at Duchamp includes ground chuck as well as rich trimmings from the local meatpacker, piled on a homemade cottage-cheese-and-dill roll. Then there's Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern, which inspired the classic John Belushi skit on Saturday Night Live ("Chee-burger, chee-burger, Pepsi, Pepsi! Cheep! Cheep!"). You can get a chee-burger there today for just $2.85.


Nashville
Nashville
Photo: Don Smetzer / Alamy

No. 7 Nashville


Nashville may be most famous for its live music scene, but the city takes pride in all kinds of homegrown products. The gourmet newcomer Burger-Up uses ingredients sourced from 10 Tennessee farms. Its burgers are accompanied by beef toppings-including Tennessee-made Jack Daniels ketchup.


Minneapolis/St. Paul
Minneapolis/St. Paul
Photo: iStock

No. 8 Minneapolis/St. Paul


The Twin Cities' contribution to burger culture is the Juicy (or "Jucy") Lucy—a burger with cheese melted inside the patty. To truly form an opinion, you'll have to visit the two places that battle over the claim of the original: Matt's Bar and 5-8. Happily, this is about as rough as things get in Minnesota, according to AFC voters, who lauded the area for its safety and cleanliness.


New York City<
New York City
Photo: Kelly Bazely

No. 9 New York City


In the No. 1 city for both diversity and style, there's a burger for almost any taste, from the old-school coffee-shop fare—where you have to order it "deluxe" to get lettuce and tomato—to the high end. At the Four Seasons, the 10-ounce Niman Ranch burger, served on a toasted brioche, sells for $30. For more affordable gourmet fare, try Danny Meyer's famed Shake Shack, where the all-natural, hormone-free burgers are cooked medium and served plain unless you say otherwise.


Savannah
Savannah
Photo: Kelly Kollar

No. 10 Savannah


Savannah put its stamp on the survey for local specialties, with pizza, barbecue, and farmers' markets also ranking in the Top 10. Hometown favorite B&D Burger uses fresh Angus and its own home-baked buns for its menu of 33 different burgers. Try the Tattnall—with cheddar, pineapple, teriyaki sauce, and onion rings piled on top.



See More of America's Favorite Burger Cities



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