Cleveland has always taken pride in our burgers -- not so much that we can’t admit that the rest of Ohio has some pretty good ones too -- but still. Whether you’re looking for time-tested diner classics at old-school drive-ins or gourmet gastropub fare, Cleveland's the place to go get a great burger.
By this time, you’ve already heard from plenty of national food critics that Greenhouse Tavern can make a mean burger. Who are we to disagree? Especially when James Beard Award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer is topping his grilled Ohio lamb burger with gloriously stinky cheese fondue, and Champagne shallot. Oh, and the tangy yogurt that comes with it is meant for your fries, but we won’t judge you for lavishing it all over this beauty.
If there are two things Cleveland takes seriously, it’s our breweries and our pierogi. Fat Head’s is already a mainstay in our booming craft scene, but that’s not enough for the crew here. That’s why it tops the already-great sautéed onion-, crisp bacon-, and horseradish sauce-topped Parma Sutra burger with a bed of pillowy dumplings. It’s the best of both worlds.
This old-school joint has been around since the ‘20s when it opened in Euclid, and the fact that it’s still going is reason enough to keep the burgers just as classic: the legendary double-decker Big Guy, layered with cheese and the requisite crisp pickles, keeps diners flocking to the new E 200 St location to sink their teeth into nostalgia.
It’d be easy for a place to get lost on the West 6th strip, in a haze of nightclubs and late-night eateries. And it’d be even easier for a burger to get lost in a seafood restaurant modeled after a Key West crab shack. Luckily, this place is putting a house-made crab cake, along with Key lime aioli, on top of its surf and turg burger, and then throwing it all on a brioche bun. You’ll always find your way back to something that delicious.
Yes, Tremont is a flush with new, trendy hotspots. But there’s something about this unpretentious place, which happens to have one of the best-kept-secret panoramic views of Downtown, and by “something” we mean the Sweet Head: a badass burger covered in sweet jalapeño sauce and served on a toasted sourdough bun.
Beachwood & Other Locations
You already know Food Network star-slash-local hero Michael Symon loves meat, so it’s no surprise he’s getting a rep for serving some of the best burgers in America. The Yo!, the signature burger from B Spot’s lengthy lineup, offers a double dose of fried salami and capicola, plus hot peppers, shasha sauce, and provolone cheese.
Unassuming and off the beaten path, this neighborhood watering hole has all the makings of the perfect burger-and-a cheap beer spot: it’s laid-back enough that it has a whole build-your-own burger menu, but we recommend going with its namesake number, the Eastland, which starts with fresh-ground round and piles on a generous serving of salami and Italian dressing.
Burgers are plentiful in this neighborhood, from unassuming watering holes to a bumper crop of hip additions, but this place, which boasts constantly rotating tap options, monthly burger specials, and seriously creative drink concoctions, has ‘em all beat with this favorite -- The Devil Made Me Do It -- that comes topped with four slices of bacon, house-made deviled egg salad, pepper Jack, and spiked with smoked paprika mayo.
The Flats & Other Locations
There’s a reason this grass-fed beef-based local chain has been unstoppable, and the Green Eggs and Ham burger, topped with prosciutto and... youguessedit!... a fried egg (along with warm green spinach, crispy Parmesan, and basil mayo) may or may not be that reason. Either way, you should definitely eat it.
No one bats an eye at this nook’s self-appointed claim to the throne of gourmet burgerdom, not when it's spent 40 years turning out monsters like The Market burger, appropriately named considering its proximity to the local landmark West Side Market, made with braised short ribs, béarnaise, and fresh arugula.
Lakewood & Other Locations
The faint of heart need not proceed. As a relative newcomer on the scene, this approachable Cleveland chain has been pulling one artery-challenging stop after another, like putting a hefty patty between a pair of glazed donuts, then adding honey-peppered bacon and American cheese like it does on The Luther. Or, if you prefer your meat encased in a different breakfast food, try the Eiffel Toast, where donuts are swapped out for French toast.
Sure, West 25th is well-known as a brewery district, but anyone who’s strolled through the West Side Market-anchored neighborhood knows that none of these establishments skimp when it comes to food. Take a seat at this bicycle-themed bar and you’ll find no lack of choices, but your servers will probably tell you: “Just stick with the burgers and you won’t be disappointed." And for good reason -- the menu’s centerpiece patties strike the perfect balance for those who are looking for the sweet spot between thick and thin. Turn on, tune in, and drop out with the Acid Trip topped with pickled onions and slaw or relive your childhood with the PB & J built with peanut butter and bacon jam.
We’re calling it now: the ladies of Betty’s are the new queens of Cleveland burgers. This mobile operation -- which seems to be everywhere these days -- has mile-high burgers and homemade cheesy tater tots. These delicacies come in all kinds -- packed with barbecue-ready onion rings and pulled pork, or brunch-inspired egg and bacon jam. And that’s just two -- we recommend sampling each. That is, after you master the art of fitting one in your mouth.
Brisket is the name of the game at this Gordon Square restaurant, where ingredients are plucked straight from its own hoop houses and gardens. With the number of foodie destinations in this neighborhood rising by what feels like the second, sometimes it’s nice to just kick back with a great burger without sacrificing the farm-to-table feel. Toast gives it a sophisticated twist with locally sourced raclette and tomato jam. For an extra relaxed setting, post up at any of its outdoor seating for the outdoor music Patio Kulchur series.
Akron & other locations
The real kid from Akron might be the infamous, grand Galley Boy. No meal is quite as synonymous with the area, and this burger joint, built in 1934, is more than just still kicking. The classic double decker Gallery Boy comes doused in secret sauces. We’re not quite sure what those are (something BBQ-y?), but they’re enough to keep people coming back for more for almost a century. These days, if you’re not willing to trek to the original location or one of the handfuls of outposts, you can even grab a burger from the freshly minted Swensons food truck. Wash it all down with -- what else? -- a sweet, rich milkshake.
Fairlawn & Green
If you’re looking for the place you might cross paths with the Fonz, this Akron drive-in built in the 1950s is all in the spirit of Happy Days past. And at the center of the time travel trip is the SkyHi, its famous double-patty burger. The SkyHi, drowning in 'special sauce,' is the star here, but don’t sleep on the battered onion rings made from its own original recipe with just the right amount of crisp. You don’t need a DeLorean to find your way to these cheap eats -- just an appetite for good old-fashioned hamburgers. And as they say, they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
Graffiti has always been playful, and that characteristic is one of its finest traits. (That, and it has one of the most lovely patios in Cleveland. And that dessert with fried cookie dough, ice cream, and candy. We could go on all day.) The Angus beef Graffiti Burger comes topped with local goat cheese, pickled banana pepper, and capped with a fried green onion. This tucked-away restaurant is known for being bright and colorful -- this flavor-punched twist on the classic burger is no exception.
Akron & other locations
Burgers are the name of the game at local chain The Rail. Sometimes, when operations grow to franchised proportions, they lose sight of locally sourced ingredients. Not so here, where buns are filled with local beef patties and chicken, farm-fresh eggs, and Ohio thick-cut bacon. It doesn’t hurt that this burger joint excels in the art of having something for everyone. Bourbon barbecue sauce and tobacco onions top the Bootlegger, while the Bon fire burger ups the heat with house-made jalapeño relish, Sriracha, and a side of house-made roasted habanero sauce.
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1. The Greenhouse Tavern2038 E 4th St, Cleveland
2. Fat Head's Brewery24581 Lorain Rd, Cleveland
3. Stevenson's Bar and Grill800 E 200th St, Cleveland
4. The Nauti Mermaid1378 W 6th St, Cleveland
5. Hoopples1930 Columbus Rd, Cleveland
6. B Spot BurgersHorseshoe Casino Cleveland, Cleveland
7. Eastland Inn33 Eastland Rd, Berea
8. Buckeye Beer Engine15315 Madison Ave, Lakewood
9. Flip Side49B Village Way, Hudson
10. Heck's Cafe2927 Bridge Ave, Cleveland
11. Burgers 2 Beer14725 Detroit Ave, Lakewood
12. Nano Brew1859 West 25th Street, Cleveland
13. Betty's Bomb Ass Burgers12910 Taft Ave, Cleveland
14. Toast Wine Bar & Cafe1365 W 65th St, Cleveland
15. Swensons Drive-In40 S Hawkins Ave, Akron
16. Skyway Drive-In2781 W Market St, Fairlawn
17. Graffiti: A Social Kitchen1261 W 76th St, Cleveland
18. The Rail3265 W Market St, Fairlawn
This downtown gastropub is a tails-to-trotters kind of place: from barbecue-roasted pig’s head to pan-fried pork chop saltimbocca, there’s a meat-forward bent to this market-driven menu. Helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Jonathon Sawyer, the vegan- and vegetarian-friendly options don’t disappoint (pro tip: get the yucca fries), and a full bar means an array of craft beers and seasonal libations for imbibing. If you can’t snag a table in the sleek, modern space (note the bicycles hung throughout and the lamps made from repurposed wheels), don’t worry: the outdoor patio makes for a perfectly delightful evening.
Fathead’s dominates the beer and wings game, and understandably so: over 25 award-winning beers are made on site, including the highly decorated Hop Juju Imperial IPA. If one of the 13 wing varieties doesn’t do it for you (and that’s unlikely), the Parma Sutra burger -- a majestic combination of cheddar, bacon, pierogi (yes, you heard us right), onions, and creamy horseradish sauce -- definitely will. The roomy space has a quintessential American brewery vibe, complete with exposed brick and an entire wall of framed awards, with pool tables and old school bowling machines to boot.
Having moved from their old school location in Euclid to a modern space on the East Side, Stevenson’s is a Cleveland mainstay dating back to the 1920s. There’s ample reason to believe the hype: the burgers here are legendary, having stayed true to their roots with traditional, all-American preparation. Loyal regulars come for the Big Guy double cheeseburger, and stay for the bare-bones pub vibe, complete with a vintage bowling machine and touch tone jukebox for good measure.
Serving seafood fare in a nautical-themed, pub-meets-crab shack space, The Nauti Mermaid is a downtown destination. Regulars rave about their house burger, which features house crab cake in addition to an all-beef patty, served with tangy Key lime aioli on a toasted brioche bun. With an unbeatable oyster happy hour and frequent live music, it’s an ideal locale for a casual night of drinking and snacking among friends.
At first glance, everything about Hooples calls to mind your average, divey sports bar -- authentic retro bowling machines, walls covered with stickers and posters, classic jukebox in the corner -- but this unassuming Tremont spot is actually home to one of the city’s best burgers and a sweeping panoramic view of downtown. Whether you’re here for weekly live music or a sports game, just make sure to check out the outdoor patio; with hanging lights strung above, it makes for a chill breather from the raucous good times indoors.
Started by James Beard Award-winning Clevelander Michael Symon, this burgers and brats joints serves casual meals in a casual industrial-inspired space accented with dark wood booths and upright metal chairs. You can choose to top your burger with pulled pork, eggs, bologna, or pastrami... but no matter what meats, be sure to pair it up with a beer from the encyclopedic, all-encompassing menu.
With its build-your-own burger menu, live music, and weekly community activities the Eastland Inn is a veritable neighborhood watering hole. The renovated space has a homey feel to it, and the vibe is unpretentious and convivial, whether you’re a buzzed adult coming in for late night karaoke or a family grabbing a meal with kids.
This busy tavern has an expansive beer selection and a roundup of delicious, creative burgers like "The Devil Made Me Do It." This masterpiece comes piled with bacon, house-made deviled egg salad, pepper Jack cheese and smoked paprika mayo.
With its locally-sourced grass-fed burgers, solid brunch fare (truffle fries, anyone?), and other New American bar eats, this Cleveland chain has made regulars all over the region. The rustic-meets-industrial space has a casual vibe to it and is both group- and kid-friendly. If you happen to swing by with the family, there’s delectable milkshakes for the little ones and, as an added bonus, the opportunity for parents to add a shot of Kahlua to their own one -- proof that everyone truly can win.
This converted 18th century townhouse (winding iron stairs, scuffed mosaic evocative of an Italian café, greenhouse-like dining room sporting lush fauna) offers refined takes on traditional American fare. Take the Heckburger, for example, which elevates the popular sandwich to a winning combination of fresh-griddled beef, onions, and American cheese; of the brunch menu, the braised short rib hash with sunnyside eggs, herb potato cake, and sour cream is the clear standout. Combined with New World wine offerings, a beer menu of popular bottles ranging from Bud Lite to Lagunitas, and a martini-centric list of specialty cocktails, Heck's Cafe makes for a heck of a good time. While the beer menu features popular brands like Budweiser and Stella Artois, the speciality cocktails
While this Cleveland chain certainly excels at both burgers and beers, it pulls some seriously creative and daring stops on its menu (think: substituting glazed donuts for a bun on their heavy-hitting burger, The Luther). Regulars love the spot for brunch, but the sleek, contemporary sports bar vibe and friendly staff make it a solid dinner option throughout the week.
This reclaimed brick space with a massive back patio in North Ohio City hosts both the best beers and the best burgers in the greater Cleveland area. Nano Brew keeps a hefty selection of mainstay and seasonal brews in its taproom, all of which are diverse in flavor, easy to drink, and just strong enough. They can only be matched by the house's burgers, ranging from classic, to spicy, to sweet, to just plain weird (see: Acid Trip, an unexpected combination of cheddar, pickled onions, slaw, balsamic reduction, and spicy mayo).
You’ll know it when you see it: a emerald green food truck, modeled after a classic World War II bomber airplane, complete with a stylized pin-up girl riding a missile on the side. Betty’s is a sight for sore eyes amongst carnivores and vegetarians alike, with menu standouts ranging from the Hawker Typhoon (a heavy-hitting combination of house bacon jam, a fried egg, caramelized onions, tomato confit, and a beef patty topped with cheesy tater tots) or vegan favorites like the Spitfire (a patty made from black beans, corn, tomatoes and chipotle, topped with tomatoes and basil aioli).
By far the most popular wine bar in Gordon Square, Toast serves wines by the glass and bottle, handcrafted cocktails, and locally-sourced small plates. While the 60-plus wine selection comes from all over the world, the ingredients used in the cocktails and dinner menu are either grown in the restaurant’s garden across the street or sourced from regional farmers. The menu changes weekly, but you’ll always find a solid selection of house-made pastas, charcuterie, and seasonal vegetable dishes.
It's not a trip to Ohio without a visit to Swensons Drive-in, the famed burger stop where the carside service includes your very own lightning-fast server. The signature burger here -- renown by locals and out-of-towners alike -- is the Galley Boy, a double cheeseburger with two special sauces and an olive for garnish.
As the arch nemesis to the other Cleveland-area drive-in, Swensons, Skyway holds its own with a simple menu of always-juicy burgers, crispy, fried sides, and sweet frozen treats. All patrons have their orders taken right at their cars, and if you didn't know better, you'd think all your orders were personally prepared to your custom-tailored preferences too.
Graffiti will dazzle your tastebuds, so come prepared to expand your horizons. If you have an adventurous palate, you will love the playful, crazy delicious dishes on the menu. Graffiti's "Dirty Bird" Bloody Mary has been named as one of the best hangover cures too, so come try it out at brunch!
Painted in red and illuminated with fresh light beaming in from floor-to-ceiling windows, the Rail is trendy burger concept that marries the best of Ohio with chef Mike Mariola's take on the classic burger. In your order, expect to find 100% source verified Ohio beef. You can wash it down with all-Ohio craft beers (24 choices stand at the ready) or if you've got room for it, a hand-dipped milkshake.