The 15 Best Burger Joints in Nashville
A pretzel bun makes all the difference.
Nashville loves to brag about how our barbecue scene is creeping up on acknowledged meccas like Memphis and North Carolina, but there are some fantastic burgers available in Music City as well. While most of them are variations of the traditional “smashed on the flat top” burger, it’s the use of premium ingredients and the clever variations introduced by local fry cooks that make them worth hunting down. Put the grill away for a weekend and seek out these excellent burgers. It’s too hot out there to stand over a fire anyway.
The rumor is that the reason Brown’s burgers and fries are so damned good is that they haven’t changed the grease in the fryer or the griddle in years, but that’s not true. They change it religiously—on Easter and Christmas. For an authentic experience, get the cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, and don’t forget to remove that toothpick holding it all together before you bite down. The iconic trolley car diner is under new ownership, but they promise not to mess with anything sacred.
How to order: Call 615-269-5509 for pickup.
If you want to feel a bit high class while enjoying one of the best burgers in Nashville, then Husk is your spot. This classic burger is stacked high with double patties of Tennessee-raised beef, onions, and lots of American cheese. Arguably one of Sean Brock’s simplest and best culinary masterpieces, this burger is a tribute to the drive-in diners of his childhood, and the chefs that have followed him in the Husk kitchen have maintained Brock’s initial vision.
What—you haven’t heard of this place yet? Maybe you should get south of Old Hickory Boulevard every now and again, because this little gem is definitely worth the trip to greater Brentioch right before you reach Nolensville. The Greek family behind Southside combines their heritage with traditional American food to create a unique cuisine, including the outrageous Kobe beef truffle burger, served with Gouda, truffle oil, and apple-smoked bacon.
Gray & Dudley
Truthfully, many of the burgers on this list are some sort of knock-off of the iconic Californian In-N-Out Burger, but Gray & Dudley’s stands out as an original. Made using high-end ground beef, American cheese, charred onion, iceberg lettuce, secret G&D sauce, and served on a bun made by local baker Bobby John Henry, the GD Burger is one of the best hotel burgers in a town filled with plenty of great options.
Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint
In case you simply can’t decide between a burger and a BBQ sandwich, Martin’s brisket burger marries both American traditions, resulting in one meal that packs a ridiculous amount of flavor. The brisket burger starts out like a traditional burger: beef patty topped with grilled onion and American cheese that’s then topped with slow-smoked beef brisket and a delicious BBQ sauce.
Fat Mo’s often gets overlooked on these lists, and that’s unfortunate because owner Mo Karimy was grilling up great burgers in Nashville in the early ‘90s, long before the current spate of gourmet beeferies sprouted up with menus of organic grass-fed patties topped with cheese from a goat named Petunia on a bun baked using wheat that was milled using an ancient grindstone powered by a team of unicorns. Mo makes huge burgers, and the 27-ounce Super Deluxe comes topped with American cheese, mustard, mayo, ketchup, pickles, lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and mushrooms, bacon, BBQ sauce, and jalapeños. It’s literally not for the faint of heart.
How to order: Call 615-298-1111 to order for carryout.
M.L.Rose Craft Beer & Burgers
If you’re looking for a burger menu with lots of variety, M.L. Rose is perfect. With three Nashville locations and one in Mt. Juliet, you’re never too far away from their long list of burgers that ranges from plain cheeseburgers to turkey burgers to our favorite: the Southern Belle burger. Served on a sweet potato bun and topped with pimento cheese, crispy tobacco onions, Duke’s mayo and Belle Meade Bourbon barbecue sauce, it’s a unique take on the American classic.
Gabby's Burgers & Fries
Quite often a contender for the best burger in town, Gabby’s Seamus burger is a classic All-American. It’s the meaty little brother of the double-patty Gabby burger, which is a great option if you’re extra hungry. But stick with Seamus since you’ll need to save room for a side of fries; they’re some of the best in the whole city and are just as delicious as the burger.
Widely popular for their weekend brunch menu, Tavern has one of our favorite burgers in Nashville right now. And luckily for us all, the Tavern Burger can be ordered for brunch, lunch, and dinner. (And if you went for all three, we wouldn’t judge you.) This wagyu beef strip loin and filet burger is stacked on top of a melt-away bun with all of the traditional toppings and your choice of cheese, bacon or griddled onions.
The burgermeisters from Burger Republic have placed high in many competitions like the World Food Championship. Their Tennessee Burger could certainly be a winner, thanks to a Jack Daniel’s honey glaze, American cheese, smoked ketchup, maple-basted Benton’s bacon, and Memphis dusted crispy onions. We’ll let you be the final judge.
The 404 Kitchen is a great restaurant in its own right, but the burger they serve in their world-class whiskey bar on the ground floor below the restaurant puts them over the top. The 404 Burger isn’t cheap, but quality comes with a price. The ingredients in this marvel include dry-aged premium ground beef, truffle and Benton’s bacon, plus the expected veggies, cheese, and mayo.
With three locations, Emmy Squared continues its quest toward Detroit-style pizza domination in Music City, but don’t sleep on their burgers. (Because that would be messy.) Named for one of the chain’s founders, Le Big Matt is a worthy homage. First off, the pretzel bun is novel, and the perfect burger delivery device. Whatever is in their “Sammy sauce” is probably a controlled substance in some states, and the addition of toothy greens instead of boring iceberg lettuce as a garnish is sheer genius. Go getcha’ one!
How to order: Locally, order online for pickup or you can ship a six-pack of Le Big Matts (Les Big Matts?) anywhere in the country via Goldbelly.
Bare Bones Butcher
You can’t get fresher beef for a burger than one that is actually prepared in a butcher shop, and that’s exactly what you’ll find at Bare Bones Butcher. The beef goes from knife to grinder to griddle to plate to your belly as quickly as you can imagine, and it shows. There’s nothing fancy about this prototypical two-patty smashed burger with house-made pickles, yellow mustard, Duke’s mayo, and American cheese, but it’s the best in the neighborhood by a country mile.
How to order: Call the shop at 615-730-9808 to order ahead for pickup.
After Chef Sean Brock left Husk for new horizons, he continued his quest for the perfect homage to the fast food burger that he started in his previous kitchens. At JoyLand, he demonstrates his love of great gas station food with upscale versions of chicken-on-a-stick, fried chicken biscuits, crispy fries, creamy milkshakes, and this amazing burger. Brock sources his own private-label beef that he griddles and serves with a secret Joy Sauce, pickles, onions, and sheets on a potato roll. It certainly brings joy to his customers.
As the oldest dive bar in East Nashville, Dino’s occupies a special spot in many neighborhood denizens’ hearts, specifically the part where the aorta is slightly clogged with decades of delightful fat from the consumption of multiple cheeseburgers. You have to know what you’re getting when you order a cheeseburger in a dive bar, and this delicious grease bomb doesn’t disappoint. Perfect for absorbing just enough of the alcohol you’ve enjoyed that night to be able to figure out how to summon a rideshare home, it’s history on a griddle.
How to order: Call 615-226-3566 to order carryout, but maybe get there a little early and order a drink first.
Chris Chamberlain is a Nashville born and raised food, drink and travel writer who is a pretty accomplished cook in his own right. But even he has trouble cooking a decent medium-well burger over an open fire, so you can often find him at one of these places leaving it to the professionals. Follow the burger-meister on Twitter @CeeElCee.