Food & Drink

Where Are the Best Burgers in Boston? We Ate Them All to Find Out.

Published On 07/18/2013 Published On 07/18/2013
thrillist boston best burgers in boston
Brian Samuels

A burger offends every diet trend, and for that reason alone we applaud its existence. Besides, these days, our city is practically overrun with delicious burgers, from the gourmet -- think miso and bone marrow blended into the patty itself -- to down-home diner fare that's classic for a reason. We took the mighty hit of taste-testing our way through the juicy Boston burger scene. Yeah, it was hard work, but someone had to do it...

Courtesy of BRISTOL RESTAURANT AND BAR

The Bristol

Back Bay

The Bristol Burger is both a standard-bearer and a study in understatement. No gratuitous egg augmentations or florid aiolis here, just a full 8oz of chuck topped with Vermont cheddar, lettuce, some Bermuda onion, tomato slices, and the lounge’s own pickles. It’s simple, but precise -- the burger equivalent of a surgical strike, if you will (OK, yeah, you probably shouldn’t).

Jennifer Che

Alden & Harlow

Harvard Square

The hysteria over A & H's secret burger has abated a bit, but that doesn’t mean you can just waltz in and get your grubby hands on its half-pound of sheer loveliness without some work. Chef Michael Scelfo still serves just shy of 40 burgers a night, which is why people continue to line up ahead of opening. As you’re probably already aware, the burger here is made out of Creekstone Farms ground brisket, short rib, and beef encased in a house-made roll. A Parmesan crisp and drizzle of divine, secret sauce bring it all home. And if this difficult-to-nab thing is already sold out, just know that the regular house burger is nothing to hate-tweet about.

Michael Piazza

Craigie on Main

Central Square

This is the burger: a first-ballot hall of famer that changed the city’s patty game forever. Three cuts of beef, plus suet, bone marrow, and dehydrated miso make up the actual burger. Topped with Shelburne Farms cheddar and a homemade mace ketchup, this Bon Appetit cover model is as much deity as entree.

Brian Samuels

Drink

Fort Point

Come for the cocktails, stay for the burger (formerly off-menu, now no longer just by request). Formerly, the Relais & Chateâux Menton would deliver a total of just 15 wagyu beef double cheeseburgers topped with American cheese, Bibb lettuce, house pickles, shaved red onion, black pepper mayo, and ketchup on a toasted Hi-Rise Bread Company bun. Be grateful that showing up late won’t get your adrenaline pumping anymore.

The Gallows

South End

The question is not whether The Gallows has one of the best burgers in town; the question is which of its burgers is the best of the best? The Our Way burger is a classic of the genre (onions, American cheese, pickles), while the Carpet burger wins for sheer excess (buttermilk-fried oysters as a topper?!). But our money always goes to La Hambourgeois, and not just because it’s the best-named entree in Boston. This is umami heaven thanks to melted blue cheese, cornichons, and truffle aioli. Promise yourself you’ll return to taste the other ones later.

The MET

The MET Back Bay

Back Bay

This place doesn’t just offer a single, exquisite burger, but the bounty of a whole burger bar. You can opt for the beef burger, naturally, but you can also go for a salmon, turkey, or falafel base. And you can choose from excellent regional American treatments, or venture outside the States with a Japanese option (wasabi mayo comes into play), or a Greek varietal (yum, hummus). Our personal favorite: the Paris burger, topped with brie, a fried egg, caramelized onions, and truffle mayo (oui, oui). It’s like a burger Epcot, minus the culturally inappropriate mascots.

Boston Chops

South End

Sure, you can come here for the massive onion rings and bottomless bowls of frites. But stick around 'til 10pm, and the bar sneakily plates a fast food-style burger for a mere six bucks. Single thin patty, basic cheese, caramelized onions, pickles, secret sauce, and toasted bun -- it’s like your favorite greasy spoon order graduated to the big leagues.

Debra Li

Shojo

Chinatown

A burger so good, they had to trademark it… well, its name at least. The Shojonator™ is a small-form take on the Wendy’s Baconator -- more slider than burger -- topped with a pile of smoked bacon and "kimcheese" (kimchee Velveeta, basically) and encased in a steamed bun.

Centre Street Cafe

Jamaica Plain

What was once a steady go-to for brunch and vegetarian dinners has elevated its game thanks to a change in ownership (the Tres Gatos folks are now in charge). It’s mostly Italian fare at dinner time, but come lunch and brunch, you can go Italian-American with the Maine grind burger, topped with delizioso pancetta, provolone, and herb aioli, all held together by a ciabatta muffin.

Townsman

Downtown

The recent lunch and bar menu addition is further proof that chef Matt Jennings makes the classics taste better. We’re in half-pound territory here, with a rich blend of chuck and neck meat. The American cheese and shredded iceberg lettuce to top are good, but Jennings’ secret is his pungent combat sauce, made of Kewpie mayonnaise (the Japanese cult product), minced cornichons, and gochujang. And at Townsman’s once-monthly brunch, Jennings throws an egg on top, because why the hell not?

Mimi Ritzen Crawford

Eastern Standard

Kenmore Square

The Standard Burger isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel; it’s reminding you why wheels are excellent in the first place. The massive blend of chuck, brisket, and rib lifter (rib-eye underbelly), enhanced by Vermont cheddar and nestled into a brioche bun, is a city stalwart. Like Eastern Standard itself, it’s easy to take this one for granted… but that would be foolhardy.

Kellene Ratko

Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant

South Boston

You can never really have enough bacon aioli in your life, can you? This wood-grilled, prime-blend patty comes slathered in the stuff, before being topped with Cabot sharp cheddar and caramelized French onions. Not only does the beautiful monster ring in at a relatively affordable $12, but you can even have it delivered to your home via DoorDash.

jm Curley

Downtown Boston

This place suffered a horrific flood last winter that kept it closed for months, which means we owe them some business. In other words, eating the jmC burger is practically a philanthropic act. Eight ounces of Angus share space with cheddar, grilled onions, pickles, and a homemade Russian dressing ("Pop’s Russian"). Great as it is, it's even better if you go all out, adding a fried egg, house-made slaw... and another patty to boot.

R. F. O' Sullivan & Son

R.F. O'Sullivan & Son

Somerville

You probably first discovered it when some local offered to take you out for burgers... and then totally blew your mind. You’ve probably since done the same to countless Boston newcomers. This is strictly platonics territory (no one should attempt a first date at this place), so grab your burger buddy and tuck into the Creamy Blue Cheese Burger, dripping in spreadable blue cheese, bacon, and yet another cheese of your choice.

River Bar

River Bar

Assembly Row

This isn’t the burger for everybody… for instance, if you’re the kind of person who turns their nose up at bacon spring rolls, steer clear. (Although we’re sorry if your life has come to that). A bulgogi-marinated burger topped with the aforementioned rolls make this burger a genuine feat to even get your mouth around. This one’s also not a date burger, but one of our favorites among the city’s newer entries.

Charlie's Kitchen

Harvard Square

Not every burger needs to be an event. Charlie’s double cheeseburger menu is justifiably the stuff of legend; it’s deciding whether you want bacon, blue cheese, sauteed jalapeños, or a third patty to be your downfall. Go alone, go right for a table in the year-round beer garden, and go to town.

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If you cut your burger in half before eating it, Meaghan Agnew will not be your friend. She will still let you follow her on Twitter and Instagram, though (@meaghandeth).

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. The Bristol 200 Boylston St, Boston, MA 02116 (Back Bay)

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.

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2. Alden & Harlow 40 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (West Cambridge)

Alden & Harlow, located in Harvard Square, is selling delicious and inventive American cuisine from a constantly-changing menu. The kitchen focuses on small plates including everything from chicken-fried rabbit to pickled corn pancakes topped with popcorn. The seasonal cocktail list is just as inventive and could keep you at the bar until late. This, however, is a great thing, because come 11pm the late-night menu becomes available. With options like popcorn snails and berkshire pork belly, you'll want to stick around.

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3. Craigie on Main 853 Main St, Cambridge, MA 02139 (Central Square)

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.

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4. Drink 348 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210 (Fort Point Channel)

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.

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5. The Gallows 1395 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118 (South End)

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.

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6. MET Back Bay 279 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116 (Back Bay)

MET Back Bay is a classy space sporting crown molding and banquettes, but with down-to-earth DIY bars, like the American Ham and Cheese Bar, Crafty Marys bar at brunch (Bloody Marys), and a heavenly burger bar that we highly recommend. You can opt for beef, salmon, turkey, or falafel base, and then add either regional American treatments, or venture outside the States with a Japanese option (including wasabi mayo), or a Greek varietal (hummus). A favorite? The Paris burger, made with brie, a fried egg, caramelized onions, and truffle mayo.

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7. Boston Chops 1375 Washington St, Boston, MA 02118 (South End)

Brian Piccini and Chris Coombs -- the guys behind Deuxave and Dbar -- took over a rumored cursed South End space to make this high-caliber urban steakhouse. Offering a modern takes on overdone streakhouse staples, the steak frites menu is everything you could want from life. It's a simple choice of cut (hanger, strip, skirt) and sauce (bearnaise, bordelaise, chimichurri butter) that comes with a bottomless bowl of fluffy fries. Leather banquettes and dark wood furnishings might indicate a traditional steakhouse, but decadent cocktails point to a much fuller dining experience.

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8. Shojo 9 Tyler St, Boston, MA 02111 (Chinatown)

Tucked away in Downtown Boston's Chinatown and named for a Japanese sea spirit, Shojo focuses their Asian fusion far on small plates of meats and steamed buns alongside savory noodle bowls. Much like its customers who order a slew of plates and share them amongst themselves, this hidden treasure covered with urban takes on famous Japanese art has also got a penchant for sake and inventive house cocktails.

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9. Centre Street Cafe 669 Centre St #A, Boston, MA 02130 (Jamaica Plain)

This bright, quirky spot sitting happily in Jamaica Plains boasts affordable breakfasts and Italian dinners. The menu's both vegetarian- and college kid-friendly (jackpot if you're both) with reasonably priced dishes like biscuits & gravy in the morning, pancetta-based burgers in the afternoon, and garlic-y corn risotto in the evening.

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10. Townsman 120 Kingston St, Boston, MA 02111 (Downtown Crossing)

This stylish New England brasserie dazzles with dishes like crunchy chicken-fried sweetbreads and Bang’s Island mussels: a smoldering cauldron of garlicky chorizo verde broth and a colossal hunk of bread for dipping/mopping. Bring a friend and take on the 32oz rib steak for two, cranked up with chimichurri and served alongside hambone collards and spiced frites.

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11. Eastern Standard 528 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, MA 02215 (Fenway Kenmore)

A Comm Ave restaurant with the appearance of a swanky French bistro, the menu of a five-star Italian restaurant, and the attitude of a local pub, Eastern Standard is an unpretentious offering of the finer things in life. The upscale menu touts a winding wine list, a raw bar, seared fishes, steaks, and house-made pasta while the matching interior flaunts a polished mahogany and red velvet motif.

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12. Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant 425 W Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127 (South Boston)

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."

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13. JM Curley 21 Temple Pl, Boston, MA 02111 (Downtown Crossing)

"Just don't be a douchebag." The etiquette guidelines at this sassy Downtown eatery practically say it all. An all-brick operation reminiscent of a Prohibition speakeasy, JM Curley dishes out chef-driven takes on bar food staples like charcuterie boards, duck poutine, and most notable the house burger featuring homemade "pop's Russian" dressing and a build-it-yourself option at lunch. Prices run cheap for the tourist-heavy part of town it occupies -- that goes for the specialty cocktails and domestic crafts on tap, too.

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14. R. F. O'Sullivan & Son Pub 282 Beacon St, Somerville, MA 02143 (Somerville)

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.

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15. River Bar 661 Assembly Row, Somerville, MA 02145 (Somerville)

A palace of wood, glass, and white marble, Somerville's River Bar dishes up Asian fusions on American classics. The sleek interior and fire-warmed back patio guarantee you'll see more than a few couples splitting a small plate of fried potatoes with miso aioli or corned beef and cabbage dumplings. If they're really comfortable with each other, them they're probably sinking their teeth right into the grass-fed burger -- a bulgogi-marination creation topped with bacon eggs rolls -- instead. That's true love (we mean for the burger).

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16. Charlie's Kitchen 10 Eliot St, Cambridge, MA 02138 (Harvard Square)

This diner-style spot in Harvard Square is flipping some killer burgers -- the star sandwich even has a permanent place mark on the outdoor sign: "Double Cheeseburger KING." Charlie’s double cheeseburger has become a Beantown legend for its perfectly griddled patty and the delightful option to toss on bacon, blue cheese, sautéed jalapeños, and, if you're brave enough, a third patty. Aside from the burgers, the outdoor beer garden is a huge, seasonal draw.

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