Food & Drink

Where to Get the 12 Best Burgers in Charlotte

Published On 06/24/2015 Published On 06/24/2015

This city is serious about its burgers -- and with good reason. From fancy blended beef at white-tableclothed restaurants to double-deckers served over the counter at cash-only joints, we’ve got some great ones. The 12 burgers on this list may require two hands for holding and plenty of napkins, but they’re worth every last beefy bite.

Courtesy of The Liberty

The Liberty

South End
What you're getting: Irish Hills Black Angus Pub Burger
This pub gets high accolades for all its juicy, over-the-top burgers. And please, don’t let us keep you from its famed Southern Prime “Crunch” Burger topped with hand-cut chips. But if you’re eating at a place that touts itself as the city’s only gastropub, you should probably be indulging in its pub burger. Not that you needed talking in to eating something with melty cheese, thick bacon, caramelized onions, and creamy aioli.

Sarah Crosland/Thrillist

Brooks Sandwich House

What you're getting: Burger with cheese
This rundown red shack on the side of the road next to the railroad tracks looks like a Hollywood caricature of a Southern burger joint. A faded banner on its side proclaims "Charlotte’s Best Burger," and the line that winds daily into the dirt parking lot confirms its popularity. Bring cash and a serious appetite. The “All the Way” version includes mustard, onions, and a homemade chili so thick, it’s as meaty as the patty. You’ll have to eat in your car as there’s no seating here, but that’s okay, you’ll want some time alone with this one.

Courtesy of Little Spoon

Little Spoon 

Myers Park
What you're getting: Little Spoon Burger
Consider this your warning: much like its famed pop tarts, there are a limited number of burgers made here every day. If you want one -- and you definitely do -- get there early and make sure it’s made the menu for the day. This majestic meatwich changes according to what they’ve snagged from the farms that morning, but with a toasted bun and perfectly cooked patties.

Courtesy of Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar

The Cowfish

What you're getting: The Texas Longhorn
You know the nights. Your fairer half says, “I’d like a salad or maybe an avocado roll.” And you’re thinking, “I’m more in the mood for 5lbs of beef on a brioche bun.” Enter Cowfish. The menu is part sushi, part burger (with something called burgushi tossed in, but we won’t get into that). This particular mouthwatering monstrosity includes a half pound of beef, cheddar cheese, onion strings, jalapeño bacon, and plenty of barbecue sauce.

Sarah Crosland/Thrillist

Zack’s Hamburgers

South End
What you're getting: The Zack’s Special
There’s a certain fast-food chain with a certain large-sized “Mac” that has strikingly similar ingredients to this burger. But don’t you dare mistake this juicy, homemade cheeseburger for one of those mass-produced versions. This family-owned business has been serving this hot off the grill since 1975. Enjoy the spot’s retro look while you’re ordering over the counter. Because once you’ve got your hands on this bun filled with two beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mayo, and “special sauce,” you won’t look up again until you’re finished.

Courtesy of Bad Daddy's Burger Bar

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar

​What you're getting: Bad Ass Burger
You can smell the burgers and bacon from down the block at the original location of this burger bar. Incidentally, you’ll definitely be down the block because that’s the closest parking you’ll be able to find at this ridiculously popular spot known for gloriously decadent burgers concoctions. Along those lines, nothing beats the Bad Ass version made with a 10oz patty topped with lettuce, tomato, horseradish mayo, American cheese, and -- because, why not? -- buttermilk fried bacon.

Courtesy of Lebowski's Neighborhood Grill

Lebowski’s Neighborhood Grill

What you're getting: Jerk Style Burger
This burger abides. It’s not your typical between-the-buns option. An oversized patty is topped with pepper jack cheese and pineapple salsa for a spicy kick, and then smothered in a sweet jerkiyaki glaze that will make you rethink ever putting something as plain as ketchup on your burgers again.

Courtesy of The Gallery Restaurant

Gallery Restaurant

What you're getting: NC Local Burger
You’re going to walk into this upscale modern restaurant thinking you should be ordering fancy things like rabbit charcuterie or lamb carpaccio. Resist that urge. This burger, which is sourced entirely from North Carolina, is the most luxurious entrée on the list. Topped with a sunny side-up egg, and cheddar smoked in a Charlotte-brewed ale, you can feel good for supporting local -- and probably a little bad for how fast you inhaled that burger in a restaurant with velvet seating.

Courtesy of The Crepe Cellar

Crepe Cellar

What you're getting: Crepe Cellar Burger
First, there’s the soft potato bun. Then, there’s the way it’s smothered in creamy garlic aioli. Add the melted Gruyere cheese and some onion straws for crunch, and the beef on the burger practically becomes secondary. But only practically. This gourmet burger is plump and juicy enough that you may want to ask for a towel if you expect to stay clean during this meal.

Sarah Crosland/Thrillist

Pinky’s Westside Grill

FreeMore West
What you're getting: Ding Dong Style Burger
Okay, bear with us here. Admittedly, crunchy peanut butter, honey-cilantro slaw, and hot sriracha sauce piled on a beef burger sounds weird. But this mouthwatering mix of flavors makes for an unexpectedly tasty version. Pro tip: order the Pimp’n Fries doused in homemade melted pimento cheese to accompany the burger. And then plan on not eating again for a week.

Courtesy of Bang Bang Burgers

Bang Bang Burgers

What you're getting: Guacamole Burger
Forget burritos. Get your grilled corn salsa and guacamole piled on top of a giant ground beef patty. The meat comes from NYC’s Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors (the same guys behind places like Shake Shack and Union Square Café), which means you’re getting high-quality Black Angus between those tasty buns.

Courtesy of Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar

Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar

What you're getting: Umami Burger
Not to get all fancy on you here, but occasionally we appreciate a savory umami taste. The Umami Burger (which pairs very well with Cowbell's whiskey selection) is topped with roasted shitake mushrooms and tomato, caramelized onions, a Parmesan crisp, and a chipotle spiced ketchup. You can have it with a bun, but the “naked” (sans bread) option is comes chef recommended for the best umami experience.

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1. The Liberty 1812 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 (South End)

Located in the South End of Dilworth, this gastropub resembles a brewery in both its top-notch craft brew list and its decor (industrial accents and columns made from kegs), and serves a wide variety of American dishes, receiving high praise for its burgers, particularly the famed Southern Prime “Crunch” Burger topped with hand-cut chips. If you're stopping in for brunch, opt for a spot on the sunny outdoor patio, and order the Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich, made with two eggs, bacon, country ham, cheddar cheese, tomato, and arugula.

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2. Brooks' Sandwich House 2710 N Brevard St, Charlotte, NC 28205 (Noda)

Brooks' Sandwich House is a rundown red shack on the side of the railroad tracks, but the line of hungry customers trailing into the dirt parking lot should be enough confirmation that you're in the right place for a good burger. The “All the Way” version includes mustard, onions, and a homemade chili so thick it’s as meaty as the patty. The burger is the show-stealer here, but if you come before the lunch rush, you can get your hand on a highly underrated gooey egg sandwich for breakfast.

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3. Little Spoon 2820 Selwyn Ave, Charlotte, NC 28209 (Myers Park)

On the surface, Little Spoon might appear to be any old Southern brunch spot, but it's anything but. This Myers Park eatery's bare, industrial space hosts a constantly changing menu, always full of comfort-food favorites like chicken biscuits, sausage hash topped with fried eggs and house-made donuts and cronuts (all made with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Nursing a hangover, or just plain tired? Don't miss out on their bowl-sized cups of coffee, which is superiorly stronger than your average joe.

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4. The Cowfish 4310 Sharon Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211 (Southpark)

As you may have suspected from the name, The Cowfish is indeed a burger-sushi bar. Part of the menu has got burgers, part has got sushi, and then there's the burgushi, but we won't get into that here. If unsure what to get, or just overwhelmed with the entire concept of the place, try the Texas Longhorn burger, you won't be disappointed.

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5. Zack's Hamburgers 4009 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28209 (South End)

This family owned joint has been serving up hot hamburgers since 1975, and they're as good as ever. Try the Zack's Special, two beef patties, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, mayo, and “special sauce."

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6. Bad Daddy's Burger Bar 1626 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 (Dilworth)

You'll have to park down the block from this ridiculously popular burger bar, but you'll still be able to smell the burgers and bacon from there. As it is known for it's ridiculously decadent burgers, we recommend getting the Bad Ass Burger, made with a 10-ounce patty topped with lettuce, tomato, horseradish mayo, American cheese, and buttermilk fried bacon.

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7. Lebowski's Neighborhood Grill 1524 East Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28203 (Dilworth)

As the name suggests, Lebowski's is your neighborhood spot for some good eats and a casual atmosphere. Try the killer Jerk Style Burger with an over-sized patty, pepper jack cheese, spicy pineapple salsa and sweet jerkiyaki glaze.

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8. Gallery Restaurant 10000 Ballantyne Commons Pkwy, Charlotte, NC 28277 (Ballantyne)

The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge may be known for its PGA golf course and spa, but the Gallery Restaurant holds its own: it serves Southern food with unexpected flavors, such as sorghum kettle corn on a poached Asian pear salad, and coffee rub on a 22-oz cowboy ribeye. If you're coming for lunch, don't feel like you have to order fancy -- the NC Local Burger is arguably the most luxurious item on the menu, and comes topped with a sunny side-up egg and local white cheddar soaked in a Charlotte-brewed ale. There's an extensive selection of bourbon, scotch, and whiskey, too, plus a pomegranate cream cheese Bavarian dessert that, really, is the only way to end a meal here.

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9. Crepe Cellar 3116 N Davidson St, Charlotte, NC 28205 (Noda)

Located in NoDa's arts district, this cozy gastropub offers Euro-inspired cuisine that ranges from crepes and steak frites to pesto pasta and pan-seared Scottish salmon. You'll want to go for one of the savory buckwheat crepes (they're in the restaurant's name, after all), which come in varieties like ham & gruyere, spinach & wild mushroom, and turkey apple brie. The Crepe Cellar burger is a favorite, too, served on a soft potato bun, smothered in creamy garlic aioli, and topped with melted gruyere cheese and some onion straws for crunch. When it comes to beverages, you can expect a rotating list of craft beer, seasonal cocktails, French press coffee, and tea.

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10. Pinky's Westside Grill 1600 W Morehead St, Charlotte, NC 28208 (Freemorewest)

Honey-cilantro slaw, crunchy peanut butter and spicy Sriracha piled together on a burger might sound weird, but once you've had a bite of Pinky's Ding Dong Style Burger in Charlotte's Ashley Park, you'll know you've just got to trust them. And that's only one item on its incredibly diverse menu (it's not every day you see ginger tuna salad and korean pork tacos sharing a menu with reuben hot dogs and greek-style pita sandwiches). No matter what corner of the globe your meal is inspired by, it'll go perfectly with a custom margarita or one of their many quirky house cocktails.

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11. Bang Bang Burgers 2001 East 7th St, Charlotte, NC 28204 (Elizabeth)

The meat at Bang Bang Burgers comes from the guys over at NYC's Pat Lafrieda Meat Purveyors (think: Shake Shack and Union Square Café), so you know it's going to be tasty. Try the Guacamole Burger with grilled corn salsa and guacamole piled on top of that giant ground beef patty.

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12. Cowbell Burger & Whiskey Bar 201 N Tryon St, Charlotte, NC 28202 (Uptown)

Charlotte is a burger-obsessed town, but Cowbell’s rock n’ roll energy and small batch whiskies make this spot stand out in the beef-eating crowd. Flat-screen TVs play music videos, and neon lights illuminate the bar area where sleek leather stools offer a perfect place to post up post work. For a bracing but sweet start to your evening, sip Roosevelt’s Fireside Scotch: an orange and cinnamon infused Glenlivet 12 Year served over a sphere of ice.