Food & Drink

The 31 Best Burger Joints in America

Published On 10/20/2017 Published On 10/20/2017
best burgers in America
Bless Your Heart Burgers | David L. Reamer
Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Bill's Hamburgers

Los Angeles, California

Dubbed one of the best burgers in the Los Angeles area by our intrepid burger critic, this little burger shack offers one of those old-school, no-nonsense California burgers served up by its namesake grillmaster, who has spent half a decade flipping deliciously thing and juicy burgers and serving them up with a side of endearingly crotchety attitude. Consider that charming gruffness extra seasoning to go with the flavor on that well-worn flat-top, which imbues those burgers with their buttery greatness. Go with a double stacked with grilled onions, molten American cheese, and a pile of iceberg. Accept no substitutes. And make no substitutions. No sense getting on Bill’s nerves. -- Andy Kryza

David L Reamer

Bless Your Heart Burgers

Portland, Oregon

Portland super chef John Gorham has long been a master of the bistro burger, variations of which have long been fixtures of his beloved Tasty & Sons, Tasty & Alder, and Toro Bravo. So when he announced he was opening up a burgers-only stand in a Downtown food hall last year, expectations were high. Gorham more than delivered, though not in the expected manner. BYH has more in common with a joint like Five Guys than a four-star restaurant, and the world is all the better for it. Loose-ground burgers, fat-and-char-pocked patties come crispy and messy, especially when you get them Carolina burger with chili, slaw, and house-made pickles. Still, the simple double -- glued together with American cheese and stacked on a potato roll, as all good things should be -- is on its own arguably the best grab-and-go burger in the Pacific Northwest. -- AK

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BurgerFuel

Indianapolis, Indiana

If you're from New Zealand, BurgerFuel is probably old news for you. But our audience research tells us many of you are NOT from New Zealand, which recently decided to make its first foray into the American market in... Indianapolis? The grass-fed patties come adorned with some familiar accoutrements, and some less-common options like grated beetroot with chia seeds that actually complements the rich beef shockingly well. You're onto something, Kiwis. And sure, New Zealand didn't invent the idea of the caramel milkshake, but it's damn good here. And it's available in soy! For real though, the veggie options are shockingly robust here if you're trying to placate a vegan friend while feeding your carnivorous urges. Hey, we've all been there. -- Matt Lynch

Cherry Cricket

Cherry Cricket

Denver, Colorado

One-hundred-seventy-five steps from Cherry Cricket (we counted), a restaurant serves kombucha and quinoa bowls. That's emblematic of Cherry Creek -- dining establishments aim to attract the moneyed clientele that lives nearby. Cherry Cricket is not that. It's a gathering spot for all of Denver. And even after it closed due to a fire and reopened in April 2017, it retains that divey, old-school vibe -- and also, thankfully, the huge fish tank anchoring the middle of the restaurant. And, of course, a burger that's become a Denver institution. A juicy, half-pound Cricket Burger is the move, customized with peanut butter (a popular choice) or more standard fixin's like bacon or avocado (33 in total, we counted). There’s a monthly rotating signature burger, but the best burger here is the one you order. Just like it’s always been. -- Lee Breslouer

Courtesy of Chris Madrid's

Chris Madrid's

San Antonio, Texas

Chris Madrid opened his eponymous restaurant in 1977 and grew it into one of Texas' most beloved burger institutions before passing away in 2012. But his legacy lives on in the form of the ever-present crowds lining up to get their hands on a macho-sized burger (that's Chris Madrid's speak for "large"). Get the tostada burger (you know what size to get) and marvel at the cascading layer of melted Cheddar masking the refried beans and onions topping a burger that refuses to be contained by its bun. Top it with some of their pico de gallo. Take a bite. Repeat. Nap. -- ML

Courtesy of The Company Burger

The Company Burger

New Orleans, Louisiana

Our national burger critic (and other) have tried, and failed, to challenge The Company Burger's place at the top of New Orleans' burger hierarchy -- it's become every bit as a must-do New Orleans pit stop for visitors as the obligatory Cafe Du Monde beignets. The core components are nothing flashy -- thin patties expertly griddled to medium, house bread-and-butter pickles, cooked red onion, and American cheese. You can embellish it as you choose at their condiment bar that has assorted mayos and other fixin's, so don't screw it up. Just kidding, it's pretty much impossible to screw this up. -- ML

Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

Fred's Meat & Bread

Atlanta, Georgia

To be fair, Fred's offers up a lot of "meat and bread" options beyond its burger, but the Burger Stack here is the undeniable star and the best reason to visit Atlanta's popular Krog Street Market. Atlanta's best burger tastes, as our national burger critic put it, "like a grilled cheese with meat inside it," with bread-and-butter pickles punctuating the richness and a sesame seed bun doing an admirable job attempting to contain all the cheesy, greasy protein. Once you've had it you may find yourself wanting to return to try the cheesesteak or the chicken Parm, but odds are strong to quite strong you'll buckle in the heat of the moment and have another go round with the Burger Stack. -- ML

Sara Norris/Thrillist

Gabby's Burgers & Fries

Nashville, Tennessee

Opened by a restaurant vet who wanted to spend a little more time with his family, Gabby's thankfully also spends some time cranking out some of Nashville's finest burgers, with the signature Gabby consisting of two gloriously cheesed up patties nestled within a pillowy bun (though our resident critic is partial to the more understated, single-patty Seamus). If you're the sort of person who refuses to be contained by such binary options, there's a whole swath of burger creations on their password-protected "Secret Menu," containing more elaborate burger artistry conceived by regulars and also famous people like Michael Symon. The password is -- oh come on, what's the fun in that? Hint: If you have rudimentary Googling abilities you can likely suss it out. -- ML

Kelly Sterling/Thrillist

Gilbert's 17th Street Grill

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

If you’ve seen even five minutes of Claws you know the best things in Florida all come in strip malls. Whether that’s Medicare-defrauding nail salons, or in the case of Gilbert’s, flame-broiled hamburgers.
 
This spot tucked in a Broward County strip mall is a family-run Florida gem, where mom greets you at the register with something witty and occasionally derogatory, while her son works the grill in the back. On that grill you’ll find big half-pound certified Angus patties, billowing smoke into the Harbor Shops parking lot, and daring everyone at the Orangetheory next door to come negate their workout. The basic LTO is all you need here, as the meat seasoning and expert grilling speak for themselves. But if you wanna get fancy, the crumbled blue cheese burger ain’t bad. Even vegetarians love this place, as it has, as one vegetarian told me, “the only portobello mushroom burger I’ve had that actually tastes good.” The fries are all hand cut, and the zany desserts are almost as much of a draw as the meat, beckoning to diners with pretzel-and-fudge-topped cookies from a display case next to the always-busy line. -- Matt Meltzer

Courtesy of Grill Marks

Grill Marks

Greenville, South Carolina

A friend of mine who lives in Greenville sent me a Grill Marks Instagram post touting what can only be described as the greatest cultural contribution to ever come out of South Carolina: the Jägermeister milkshake. By the time I got around to visiting, it was sadly off the menu. And boy am I glad it was. Because that shake probably would have filled me to the point I’d never have tried the burgers, and those are the real stars of the show.

They’re all chopped certified Angus beef, not ground, so the texture of the patty is fuller, richer, meatier. And they start at $6.79 (for a measly 4 bucks you can upgrade to a DeBragga New York Butcher dry-aged patty, rendering toppings needless). The creations are pretty spectacular, ranging from the French Connection with caramelized onions, roasted garlic, Brie, and cabernet ketchup, to the Hot Mess, which adds a hot dog to two patties. But the best hamburger I’ve had anywhere, ever, is the CafĂ© Au Poivre, a coffee-and-peppercorn-crusted patty topped with cremini mushrooms and au poivre sauce. It’s as close to putting a perfect steak dinner on a bun as I’ve ever seen. And made me completely forget about the lack of Jäger shakes. -- MM

Crystal Ludwick

Grind Burger Kitchen

Louisville, Kentucky

Liz and Jesse Huot are among the many restaurant owners across the country who translated a food truck with a rabid following into a brick-and-mortar establishment with a still-rabid following and far less likelihood of suffering a flat tire. If you like to play chef you can go your own route here in adorning the one-third-pound patties, grass-fed, and ground daily in-house, but you might want to just trust them and try the B&B. It has thick slabs of gooey Brie enveloping crisp bacon, with bright, spicy habanero jam cutting through what would otherwise be excessive richness. It's not your classic cheese and pickles, but it all works beautifully.  -- ML

Courtesy of HiHo

HiHo Cheeseburger

Santa Monica, California

Having debuted just this past summer, this unassuming burger spot near the beach in LA has big-time backers (they’ve got some of the same people behind them as the beloved sushi chain Sugarfish), so it's no surprise that their 100% grass-fed wagyu patties are among the best new bites in the city. They have a thin, griddled patty and an In-N-Out-style presentation that next-levels the beloved chain’s flavor burst. Also not to be missed: their hand-cut fries and seriously thick shakes. -- Jeff Miller

KEVIN ALEXANDER/THRILLIST

Hubcap Grill

Houston, Texas

Hubcap Grill has grown into a mini-Houston burger empire over the years, with a handful of locations and even an airport outpost. That kind of expansion puts them teetering on the edge of having grown into too much of a powerhouse for a list such as this, but the taste hasn't suffered in the slightest, and who doesn't want to be able to enjoy a transcendent burger at the airport in place of a combo meal of Kind bars and crippling loneliness? Where were we? Oh yeah, the patties here are big, hand-formed, and gloriously griddled, meaning they need to be paired with substantial toppings like substantially thick caramelized onions and a structurally sound yet pleasing bun that will haunt your dreams. -- ML

Shana Anderson/Thrillist

Keller's Drive-In

Dallas, Texas

There are fancier burgers in Dallas than Keller's. There are most certainly more expensive burgers in Dallas, where they invariably check in at less than 3 bucks. But, as our intrepid burger critic discovered, there are few experiences more rewarding than discovering the half-century old charms of the diner-style burgers at this classic drive-in, jukebox and all. -- ML

DAVID SZYMANSKI/THRILLIST

Kopp's Frozen Custard

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Don't let the moniker fool you -- Kopp's is very much a burger joint, although the burgers and the custard are by no means mutually exclusive experiences. And yes, my most visceral Kopp's memory consists of watching a friend of mine lose a bet to her husband that she could consume 10 of their (also excellent) grilled cheeses in a single sitting -- she's vegetarian and topped out at seven. But my SECOND most visceral memory is the first time I took a bite of their burger, which at first glance looks like nothing more than your classic diner double adorned with the requisite vegetation, but upon further review has that magical alchemy of melty cheese, glutenous bun and perfectly seasoned patties that only the greats possess. Yeah, I still had some custard, but the burger was satisfying enough that I could have done without it. But, c'mon, custard! -- ML

Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

Loretta's Northwesterner

Seattle, Washington

Served up in a tiny little dive bar in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood across the Duwamish, Emerald City’s finest burger’s a thing of charred, simplistic beauty, a humble little number that at first looks, in size and construction, like a standard fast-food burger. But with the first bite, you’ll notice the magical alchemy achieved between the slightly crispy edges, the raw onions, special sauce, buttery bun, and bright-yellow American cheese. On second bite, the juiciness of the center kicks it into overdrive. The next three-to-four bites might be a blur. And suddenly, you find yourself in a dark, busy bar with an empty beer, a greasy plate, and anticipation for when the next one will arrive. And then the next. -- AK

ROSH SILLARS/THRILLIST

Miller's Bar

Dearborn, Michigan

In the years since 1947, a lot has changed in the Detroit area, but through thick and thin, one thing has remained a constant: the burger at Miller’s Bar. You want some fancy burger variant? Go to Redcoat, yuppie. Here you get a perfectly cooked medium burger with a slab of Velveeta and white onions stacked on a steamed bun that barely holds its own against the cascade of magnificent juice and cheese product that erupts with each bite. It’s served “commando style” on wax paper at a joint where you order at the bar and nobody keeps track of what you had. They still have the honor system. And they still don’t take kindly to stupid questions. Nor do they have to. When you’ve spent the better part of a century adhering unflinchingly to what you’ve been doing right all along, you do things as you please. -- AK

Nation

Nation

Cincinnati, Ohio

Nation derives its name from fervent temperance movement advocate Carrie Nation, whose hatchet-wielding expeditions destroyed more than a few American taverns in her heyday. And sure, there's more than a hint of irony in invoking her name in an establishment that ably represents the ales of one of America's most underappreciated beer cities, but there's nothing funny about the burgers. The signature Nation burger takes a just right-sized 6-ounce brisket-enhanced patty with smoked Cheddar, crisp onion strings, horseradish aioli on a buttery challah bun. Oh, there's also whiskey BBQ sauce on it. So fine, it's a little funny. -- ML

Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

Nic's Gril

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

If you have a deep and abiding love for history, you should definitely make your way out to El Reno, Oklahoma and get a taste of the Sooner State's much-loved onion burger in the town where it all started. However, if you're simply looking for the absolute most jaw-droppingly good burger in the state (and one that's still amply loaded with onions per local custom), head to Nic's, (probably) wait in line, and wait for the man himself to make you one of his burger masterpieces. -- ML

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Petey's Burger

Queens, New York

Leave it to New York to take one of California's greatest culinary institutions… and make it better. The East Coast (sadly) does not have In-N-Out Burger. But we do have Petey's -- the Queens-based burger joint that (arguably!) does a "West Coast" burger even better than their left coast counterparts. Yeah, I said it. With two locations in Queens, Petey's has been slinging their Cali-style burgers -- think thin, juicy, double-stacked patties, Russian dressing, thick slices of American cheese, sharp onions -- since 2008 in a pair of Queens locations. It's a low-key, classic burger joint that will remind all Californians of home, and assure all New Yorkers they aren't really missing anything they can't get out here... except sunshine and palm trees, of course. Oh, and their fries are WAY better, too. -- Wil Fulton

Cole Saladino/Thrillist

Pie 'n Burger

Pasadena, California

A Pasadena institution since 1963, Pie 'n Burger is the picture of a perfect California burger, one that our critic called the best in burger-rich LA. You won’t find a lot of surprises here: It’s an asymmetrically squished, thin patty on a buttery bun loaded with a thick pile of iceberg, a couple of pickles, tomato, and a blanket of Thousand Island, with melted American acting as the glue holding the meat together after it gets its ass kicked on the grill. But here’s the thing: You don’t need surprises when you have one of America's perfect diner burgers, paired up with the kind of pie that Norman Rockwell probably envisioned while painting on an empty stomach. -- AK

April Greer/Thrillist

Ray's Hell Burger

Arlington, Virginia

It's been a bit of an odyssey for the DC-area burger institution, which has undergone a series of legal and landlord disputes, that have left the location in DC proper (the others were in Virginia) as the only outpost to secure the burger that President Obama occasionally deployed for diplomacy. But you don't need to worry about that. All you need to worry about is the fact that those famous burgers -- hand-trimmed and ground in-house thanks to all the beef know-how that comes from being siblings with Ray's The Steaks -- remains a worthy DC institution. Whether you're looking to do it simply like the classically inclined The Mack or go for more elaborate toppings like bone marrow or cognac and sherry sautéed mushrooms, you're in able burger hands. -- ML

Trevor Raab/Thrillist

Sketch Burger

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

You may find yourself distracted by the colorful drawings from patrons adorning pretty much every spare inch of wall space in this Fishtown mainstay. That distraction will last only until your burger arrives, a hulking half-pounder that just manages to keep it together beneath whatever cheese or toppings you deem worthy of coming in between said patty and its locally baked country white bun from Le Bus. Maybe you're a harissa aioli type. Maybe salsa verde and a fried egg is more your jam. Maybe spice frightens you and you just want some American cheese and pickles. However you play it, the best burger in Philadelphia will shine, both metaphorically and on your greasy fingertips. -- ML

Courtesy of Small Cheval

Small Cheval

Chicago, Illinois

One could arguably call Small Cheval's older sibling Au Cheval a burger joint, given the way its signature burger became a nationwide sensation that still inspires two-hour waits. But the burger is still but a single item on a wide-ranging menu (even if just about everyone orders it). Small Cheval, meanwhile, is a burger joint through and through, and delivers the beefy, pickle and dijonnaise-laden, "are you sure there isn't some kind of illegal drug in this" pleasure of Au Cheval with a fraction of the wait time. It's a younger sibling worthy of your attention. -- ML

Stanich's

Portland, Oregon

Stanich’s was beloved long before Thrillist swooped in and named its Nick’s cheeseburger the best damn patty in the United States, and for good reason. In Portland’s ever-evolving food scene, Stanich’s has been a constant, a pennant-covered, family-friendly, old-school cave of a sports bar at the heart of the same neighborhood Beverly Cleary’s Beezus and Ramona once roamed. It shells out the platonic ideal of a diner/bar burger. Nick’s is a relatively straightforward version of the place’s paragons of burgerdom, though supremely hungry locals sing the praises of The Special, an otherworldly burger topped with cheese, ham, bacon, egg, and the standard toppings that comes in at a scant $8. Don’t sleep on the hand-cut fries. But maybe sleep after. This is the burger world’s answer to NyQuil. -- AK

Erika Moore

The Stand

Phoenix, Arizona

Beloved by Phoenix residents and (probably?) Stephen King, The Stand became an instant hit when it opened in 2013, spawning an offshoot in Scottsdale that dabbles in both burgers and tacos, but the original is all about the burger, ground daily-in house and topped with lettuce and tomato, kosher dills, and Stand Sauce -- similar to your typical catch-all burger sauce, but a fine rendition of it. The burger comes with thinly sliced raw onion, but upgrading to caramelized is a wise move, as is pairing said burger with a salted dulce de leche shake and a mound of hand-cut fries. -- ML

Kevin Alexander/Thrillist

Tookie's Burgers & More

Seabrook, Texas

The “& More” part of Tookie’s refers to its robust assortment of items ranging from hand-battered moss sticks to a killer Buffalo chicken sandwich and a formidable chicken-fried steak on a bun. But you’ll very likely never make it that far, and it doesn’t matter: The smashed, crispy and charred burgers at this Houston-adjacent destination are worth the price of omission. You can get them in all shapes and sizes, with standouts including the Squealer with bacon ground up with the beef, or a monstrous number loaded up with the joint’s incredible chili. Still, even without the bells and whistles, the basic Tookie’s cheeseburger is enough to make you forget out the rest of the menu. -- AK

SHANLEY COX/THRILLIST

Town Topic

Kansas City, Missouri

Yes, the prices on the burgers have increased slightly since Claude Sparks began slinging them for a nickel in 1937. But the taste hasn't. Or, it TASTES like it probably hasn't -- we weren't there in 1937. But, the bottom line is you can still get one of the finest renditions of a diner burger in America 24/7 in downtown Kansas City for less than four bucks, and we hope that never changes. -- ML

Ray Patzschke

Triple XXX

West Lafayette, Indiana

Triple XXX is as much of a Purdue tradition as breakfast club at Harry's Chocolate Shop and/or making fun of Tom Crean. Indiana's oldest-drive in, surprisingly family-friendly Triple XXX has a robust lineup of burgers made from house-ground sirloin (they call them chop steak for a reason), many of them named for Boilermaker greats. The peanut butter-laden Duane Purvis All-American is definitely a favorite, while the Bernie Flowers employs the tangy zip of Miracle Whip. But the undeniable griddled beefiness of the patty is the common denominator they all share. Wash it down with some of their house-recipe root beer and Boiler Up. -- ML

Dave Baldwin/Thrillist

White Hut

Springfield, Massachusetts

We could write many words about this long-running, much-loved Western Mass burger staple, but it just so happens that the thin, onion-laden burgers of White Hut were the first burger love of Thrillist burger critic Kevin Alexander, and he has written more eloquently on the subject than we could ever possibly hope to. -- ML

Zoey Klein

White Manna

Hackensack, New Jersey

Not to be confused with Jerseys City's remarkably similar, but separately owned and operated White Mana (one "n"), this old-timey burger joint on the banks on the Hackensack River has been a legendary greasy spoon since 1946, specializing in what can best be described as ooey-gooey, absurdly juicy, retro burger heaven. There's not a lot of room to sit inside the eternally packed, Paramount-manufactured diner. Nor is there ever much space to spare on the grill, as it's constantly packed with a pastiche of sizzling onions, balls of meat, and perfectly sized potato buns. This won't be the most comfortable dining experience of your life. You'll feel like you stepped back in time, and brought a crowd of 20 strangers with you along the way. But, you will have one of the best burgers of your lifetime. And isn't that worth any temporary suffering? -- WF