Beef, cheese, bread, maybe an obligatory sautéed veggie or two... burgers pretty much pave the path to Nirvana (vegetarians and gluten-phobes, you’re on your own). To streamline your immortal ascendancy, we’ve compiled our 18 favorite Boston burgers by neighborhood, with 18 more runner-ups for good measure. Unfasten your seatbelt. And your other belt.
The Bristol Lounge (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Bristol Burger
This one’s a lesson in less-is-more perfection: a half-pound chuck patty, lots of melted Vermont cheddar, Boston lettuce, Bermuda onion, huge tomato slices, house-made pickles, and a perfectly toasted bun combine to remind you why burgers are life.
Runner-up: Back Bay Social Club
The Gallows (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Our Way
The Gallows' platonic ideal of a griddled burger gets national acclaim for a reason: addictive deliciousness without much fuss. Grilled onions, white American cheese, pickle slices, and iceberg adorning well-seasoned, crusty beef.
Runner-up: Boston Chops
Grass Fed (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Kitchen Sink Burger
Krista Kranyak sold one of her Ten Tables outlets to focus more squarely on her burger brand, to which we give copious carnivorous thanks. Go whole cow and get the Kitchen Sink, a pile-on of grass-fed beef, bacon, provolone, Swiss, crispy onions, mushrooms, pickles, and Kranyak’s special sauce.
Runner-up: Canary Square
Eastern Standard (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Standard Burger
Oldies remain goodies for a reason. The house burger keeps it simple and ample, with a near-spherical blend of chuck, brisket, and rib lifter (the underbelly of the ribeye) nestled between an oversized brioche bun and topped with a healthy slab of Vermont cheddar.
Runner-up: Citizen Public House
Lincoln Tavern (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Lincoln Burger
Remember that long-ago episode of King of the Hill when Luanne and Peggy realize a charcoaled burger is incalculably better than its propaned counterpart? The wood-fired patty here will bring it all back, with a hearty assist from the bacon aioli.
Runner-up: Tasty Burger
KO at the Shipyard (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Aussie Burger
When a spot specializes in meat pies, it’s difficult to digress over to the burger menu. But digress you must, for a two-strong patty melt topped with beetroot, fried onions, and a fried egg (also: totally add bacon). Added incentives include the ample parking, outdoor seating, city views, and alfresco cornhole.
Runner-up: KO is the winner by KO.
Ashmont Grill (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Ashmont Burger
Chris Douglass understands the importance of well-done (as in well-executed, not mercilessly overcooked) comfort fare. Exhibit A: the Niman Ranch DIYer, which comes with your choice of sautéed mushrooms, onions, blue cheese, and applewood bacon. It's also available during the restaurant’s clandestine Friday lunch service.
Runner-up: Blarney Stone
JM Curley (address and info)
What you’re ordering: jmC Natural Angus Burger
Just like its namesake, it’s oversized, corrupting, and completely irresistible. A half-pound of beef comes adorned with cheddar, grilled onions, pickles, and a homemade Russian dressing. Add-ons include a fried egg, housemade slaw, and yup, another patty.
Runner-up: Five Guys
Lineage (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Prime Steak Burger
Given Lineage’s longevity, it’s easy to forget that Chef Jeremy Sewall slings one of the best house burgers in town, augmented by Gruyére cheese, caramelized onion, house-made pickles, and a toasted brioche bun.
Five Horses Tavern (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Tavern Burger
Three words: roasted tomato confit. Three more words: pickled red onion. Three(ish) final words: eight ounces grass-fed.
Runner-up: Boston Burger Company
Alden & Harlow (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Secret Burger
The hysteria began at Russell House Tavern before Chef Michael Scelfo transferred the classified patty over to his first solo venture. This is all you need to know: you’ll get a half-pound of Creekstone Farms ground brisket, short rib, and beef bookended by a house-made roll. The rest is pure Mystery Date. FYI: the less mysterious house burger is equally divine.
Craigie on Main (address and info)
What you’re ordering: The Burger
What more is there to say? It elevates the oeuvre with its three cuts of beef, suet, bone marrow, and dehydrated miso. Its homemade ketchup deserves its own moniker. It justifiably graced the cover of Bon Appétit. It’s currently restricted to the bar menu (except during Sunday brunch). The kitchen serves a mere 15 to 18 each night. It’s $17. And it’s worth every damn penny.
Runner-up: The Cellar
West Bridge (address and info)
What you’re ordering: The West Bridge Burger
It’s hard to justify a midday, midweek meat fest, unless you’re ordering this lunch-only patty of ground chuck, melted muenster, and bacon.
Runner-up: Firebrand Saints
Bronwyn (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Bronburger
Sometimes you encase meat, and sometimes you set it free. Tim Wiechmann understands this better than anyone, which is why his ode to all things wurst also serves a terrific bar burger: a Wagyu brisket topped with Comté cheese and sauerkraut.
Runner-up: Lord Hobo
Neptune Oyster (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Neptune Burger
Let’s state it up front: this is not the burger for everybody. But if the novelty of fried oysters atop an enormous, cheese and relish-festooned monster whets your appetite, then by all means be that person that orders the burger in a celebrated seafood restaurant.
Runner-up: North Street Grill
RF O’Sullivan & Son (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Creamy Blue Cheese Burger
This is where you go when you need a fix. When you want to eat out and not think about your order. When you want to sit down for a no-frills but delicious meal with an old friend (this is decidedly not first date territory). We’ve eaten our way through many an RF patty, and we keep returning to the one completely smothered in spreadable blue cheese, bacon, lettuce, and another cheese of your choice. But really, any RF burger will do.
Runner-up: Kirkland Tap and Trotter
Wahlburgers (address and info)
What you’re ordering: BBQ Bacon Burger
The boozy shakes steal some of the thunder, but these 8oz stalwarts seriously do the job. We have what Donnie usually has -- a half-pounder topped with white cheddar, bacon (duh), avocado, jalapeños (fresh, not pickled), and barbecue sauce. Or, you can build your own and take another shot at that government cheese (no, really, look it up).
Runner-up: Alma Nove (lunch only)
Drink (address and info)
What you’re ordering: Off-Menu Burger
If you don’t know, now you know: the best cocktail bar in town also serves one of the city’s finest late-night pickings. Menton’s Colin Lynch sends down a double cheeseburger made up of 7x Farms Wagyu beef, American cheese, Bibb lettuce, house pickles, shaved red onion, black pepper mayo, and ketchup, all sandwiched between a toasted Hi-Rise Bread Company bun. Oh, and there’re only fifteen available a night, with the countdown happening on the marquee board behind the bar.
Sign up here for our daily Boston email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun the Hub has to offer.
This list -- and all the rest -- look even sexier in our iPhone app. Get it now!
1. The Bristol200 Boylston St, Boston
2. The Gallows1395 Washington St, Boston
3. Grass Fed605 Centre St, Boston
4. Eastern Standard528 Commonwealth Ave, Boston
5. Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant425 W Broadway, South Boston
6. KO Pies at the Shipyard256 Marginal St, East Boston
7. Ashmont Grill555 Talbot Ave, Dorchester
8. JM Curley21 Temple Pl, Boston
9. Lineage242 Harvard St, Brookline
10. Five Horses Tavern400 Highland Ave, Somerville
11. Alden & Harlow40 Brattle St, Cambridge
12. Craigie on Main853 Main St, Cambridge
13. West BridgeOne Kendall Square, Cambridge
14. Bronwyn255 Washington St, Somerville
15. Neptune Oyster63 Salem St, Boston
16. R. F. O'Sullivan & Son Pub282 Beacon St, Somerville
17. Wahlburgers19 Shipyard Dr, Hingham
18. Drink348 Congress St, Boston
Housed inside the Four Seasons, the Bristol offers fine dining with even finer floor-to-ceiling views of the Public Garden. This posh space is serving everything from gourmet salads to house-aged steaks to delicate New England scallops. The highlight of the menu, though, is the Bristol Burger. An 8oz patty topped with Vermont cheddar, lettuce, Bermuda onion, tomato slices, and the lounge’s own pickles, it's simple, tender, and one of the best burgers in the city.
Although its name is morbid, this South End spot is anything but. Rowdy groups flock in numbers for classic and craft cocktails, drafts, and a small sampling of wine. Those who aren't taking advantage of the dinner menu full of poutine plates that are near impossible to finish yourself, smokey bbq ribs, and the best burgers in Boston are at a severe loss, but so long as they aren't summoning spirits with the Ouija board on the back wall, we suppose it's ok.
As its name suggest, this place is a burger joint. But before you pigeon hole it, just know that they also dole out sammies, hotdogs, and probably the most overlooked/underrated item, adult milkshakes(!) with flavors like Salted Caramel and Banana's Foster Parent.
This big, classy, gourmet American joint specializes in good, strong cocktails and classic fare like salmon and oysters.
A modern, yet classic American pub in Southie, Lincoln Tavern whips up decadent dishes like bacon and butternut squash pizza, oven braised short ribs with truffled mac 'n' cheese, and, for brunch, a memorable smoked prime rib hash. To wash it all down, make sure to check out the 40+ bottles/drafts, creative cocktail selection, or (if you're really thirsty) the 1.5 liter prosecc o "Bucket of Bubbles."
East Boston might have substantially fewer kangaroos than Australia, but at least KO Pies at the Shipyard has you covered if you're looking for some grub from down under. Also, they also stock grocery items like Tim Tams, Milo, and yes, Vegemite.
This neighborhood grill joint boasts a sweet patio and fresh takes on American classics.
"Just don't be a douchebag," reads one of the etiquette guidelines on the wall at this hip Downtown Crossing eatery, setting the scene for its no-nonsense approach to enjoying yourself over brews and burgers. An all-brick outfit reminiscent of a Prohibition speakeasy, JM Curley dishes out chef-driven takes on charcuterie boards, duck poutine, and -- most notably -- the house burger featuring homemade "pop's Russian" dressing. Prices run cheap for the tourist-heavy part of town it resides in -- and that goes for the specialty cocktails and domestic craft beers on tap, too.
This Brookline establishment serves up a frequently rotating menu of fresh seafood treats -- do yourself a favor and try the lobster tacos.
Because the only curses that matter are the ones hatefully screamed at Nick Swisher whenever he's on deck at Fenway, the dude behind Five Horses Tavern is opening his bar in the jinxed space that formerly housed Sagra, Sauce, and 400 Highland, hoping that 116 brews, a full bourbon bar, and an eclectic lineup of globally inspired fare will help him succeed where others have failed.
Alden & Harlow, located in Harvard Square, is serving inventive American cuisine from a constantly changing menu. Aside from unique small plates like chicken-fried rabbit and pickled corn pancakes, the kitchen makes an understated but decadent burger, simply dressed with shredded lettuce, a secret sauce, and a crisp frico. The semi-secret burger is available in limited quantities, so don't be surprised to see people lining up at 5pm for it.
Chef and owner Tony Maws' Craigie on Main serves French-accented bistro food in Central Square. The à la carte and tasting menus are constantly changing with exciting new dishes, but one signature remains: The Burger. The half-pound patty blends brisket, short rib, bone marrow, and suet into one unforgettable burger that reached peak food fame when it graced the cover of Bon Appétit.
Housed in the historic former Boston Woven Hose & Rubber Factory and sporting the original name of the Longfellow Bridge, WB's the inaugural eat/drinkery from a couple of Aquitaine alums who wanted to sling tasty 'tails alongside a lineup of modern French sustenance with "a New England perspective" -- so be prepared for your food to grumble suspiciously about this year's unseasonably mild Winter.
This cozy Union Square restaurant serves up modern twists on traditional and authentic German fare (borscht, massive bretzels, every wurst imaginable). And, in true German fashion, Bronwyn offers dozens of beers (by the liter, boot or bucket) from all over central Europe and New England. Owner Tim Wiechmann was aiming to imitate the atmosphere of a European dive or hostel with this location, and he totally nailed it with its nearly medeival look (dark, heavy wooden tables, worn-leather bar stools, rustic red and blue walls).
Bivalves are king at Neptune Oyster, a popular seafood counter in the North End. The menu is classically New England but a variety of seafood-based recipes come out of the kitchen, from cioppino and fried Ipswich clams to fish & chips and Basque-peppered Spanish octopus. Served two ways, the lobster roll is an award-winning signature, and though it's prepared the typical way with mayonnaise, the hot butter option is the way to go. Neptune draws hoards of seafood-craving hopefuls to its Salem St. storefront on weekend afternoons and evenings, so be prepared to traverse the neighborhood while you wait for your coveted seat at the marble bar.
Sure, this dive has a full menu of pub-style food like fish & chips and rib tips, but what R.F. O'Sullivan truly specializes in is juicy, portion-defying burgers. Each half-pound burger takes upwards of 20 minutes to prep and cook, but your patience will be rewarded. There are a dizzying amount of combos, from the blue cheese Black & Blue (with French fries and onion rings) to the avocado-and-Swiss Cape Codder. Wash it all down with a whipped cream-topped root beer float.
Wahlburgers, the upscale burger joint from bros Mark, Donnie, and Paul (chef/owner of Alma Nove), slings all-natural beef burgers, hot dogs, and (sometimes alcoholic!) frappes. The 120-seat space also boasts an oak-top bar, fireplace, enclosed patio, flatscreens, and more Wahlberg memorabilia per square inch than your 7th-grade GF's bedroom.
Don't expect to order off the drink menu here -- it doesn't exist. Drink is manned by barkeeps who craft cocktails based on your flavor preferences (sweet, sour, something on fire, etc), and the custom elixirs, coupled with an industrial, Edison bulb-strung interior, will make you feel as if you're at an exclusive underground party. There is a food menu, however, where bar bites like thick-cut french fries served with malt vinegar aioli pair well with a wagyu beef cheeseburger. The kitchen used to flip just 15 burgers every night, but lucky for you, that's a thing of the past.