50 Top-Notch American Burger Spots You Need to Try Right Now
Steamed, smashed, piled high—right this way to the best bites nestled inside a bun.
Burgers come in many forms. The griddled smashburger with its crisped exterior and low bun profile. Towering pub burgers, loaded with toppings and drippy sauce. Inventive vegan burgers are having a strong moment. These days, it’s not difficult to find yourself in the vicinity of an outstanding burger.
We’ve rounded up places where the burger is king (not to be confused with a certain chain that shall remain unnamed). Burger joints that have withstood the test of time and trends. Restaurants that quietly have perfected a single perfect burger on the menu.
On this list, find a few very fine vegan burgers—go ahead and clutch your pearls if you must! The greatest thing about a burger is that it can remain unchanged for years and still be the platonic ideal. Or, in the case of meat-free burgers, it can evolve with modern tastes and preferences.
From smashed patties to towering toppings, here are our picks for the best burgers in America.
Los Angeles, California
Chef Alvin Cailan hosts a YouTube show called “The Burger Show” where he dives deep into the world of meat on a bun, so he absolutely knows his way around ground beef. At his Chinatown restaurant/butcher shop he serves burgers in several forms, ranging from the loose-packed thin patty on the Classic Double to the thicker and richer version on the Royale and all the way through to a ten-ounce dry-aged beast with caramelized onions and garlic confit on the DH Burger.
San Diego, California
The namesake Balboa burger is always a solid choice, seared on a flat top and piled with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, a garlic aioli smear and gooey melted American cheese, all tucked into a freshly baked bolillo bun that’s robust enough to capture all the succulent juices without dissolving halfway through.
Bless Your Heart Burger serves an exemplary smashburger. These loose-ground burgers with fat-and-char-pocked patties come crispy and messy on a potato roll with Duke’s mayo, mustard, ketchup, sweet onions, shredded lettuce, pickles, and American cheese. It’s somewhere between fast food and backyard grill.. Start with the classic but don’t shy away from the chili and coleslaw-covered variety or the LL Cool J Burger with guacamole and bacon.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Don’t let the moniker fool you, Brooks’ is very much a burger joint and has been since 1973. The little red shack draws Carolinians seeking the finest burge—in either Carolina—with a craggy char that immediately gives way to juicy perfection. If you want to go “all the way,” your burger will come topped with mustard, raw onion, and a helping of another specialty, a wonderfully smoky chili that intermingles magically with that aforementioned patty. Bring cash.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Bub’s only started slinging its perfectly cooked, almost-crispy-around-the-edges smashburgers in June 2020, with a pop-up at Mid City Pizza. But it didn’t take long before the massive crowds lining up at Bub’s Burgers food truck justified opening a brick-and-mortar location. Head to the new digs on Banks Street for the namesake Bub Burger with its two patties, American cheese, griddled onions, homemade bread and butter pickles, and a smear of Bub Sauce on a butter toasted brioche bun.
At this cult sensation, you’ll find vigorously griddled, umami-packed burgers to build as you please: single, double, or triple stacked and festooned with trimmings from pickled habanero and fried egg to house sambal aioli. Or go for the newer, bigger patty. Whatever you pick, don’t forget the tots.
Los Angeles, California
Burgerlords is a picture-perfect fast food-style burger joint; the buns are squishy, the sauce is rich, the toppings are crisp, the fries are good, and the booths are classic. There’s only one thing out of the ordinary—it’s entirely vegan. As of 2020, there are no animal products anywhere in the house. But whether you’re a plant-based person or not, the fact remains—these are some outstanding burgers, with a house-made patty built fresh every day from a complicated recipe of 30 plants, grains, spices, and nuts. Grab your tofu nuggets, your tahini shake, and tuck in.
Los Angeles, California
What started as a backyard pop-up out of chef-owner Shawn Nee’s home quickly turned into an Instagram sensation, and then eventually into a brick-and-mortar space in 2019. Known for its purist smashburgers, you need not make any modifications to the Regular (a single patty topped with ketchup, mustard, onions and pickles) to get that perfect burger, which turns out to be basically a McDonald’s cheeseburger, if McDonald’s was actually good.
A sophisticated tribute to old-world European boucheries, the Butcher Shop is brought to you by famed Boston restaurateur Barbara Lynch of B&G Oysters, Drink, Sportello, and more. It’s worth noting that this menu item might cost you a pretty penny, but sinking your teeth into the TBS burger, consisting of a perfectly grilled Colorado Wagyu patty and melted American cheese spread with a special aioli sauce, is simply priceless.
San Francisco, California
The smash-style burger tastes like a sophisticated take on In-N-Out’s Double Double, but with way better ingredients and way more deliciousness. The double patties are mixed with dry-aged fat and covered in American cheese and then topped with lettuce, onion, lacto-fermented pickles, and a secret sauce (a combination of house-made Worcestershire, house-made Thousand Island dressing, and other proprietary stuff), all on a Petit Pain bun. You can add accouterments like avocado, bacon, and a fried egg, but you really don’t need any of it; this burger is perfection just the way it comes.
The Cricket’s been serving up food in Denver for 70 years, so it’s pretty clear that this 1950s trucker bar-turned-burger joint is doing something right. It starts with the basics: a half-pound patty on a sesame seed bun. Then you take over, picking from the extensive list of additions. At this point, this place has seen it all, so if herb cream cheese, grilled pineapple, and corned beef are what you’re craving—go for it. Plus now there’s a second location near Coors Field featuring arcade games and fish tanks and those same beloved burger patties loaded with all the peanut butter and bacon your heart desires (seriously, try that combo, it rocks).
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Company Burger has 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 fixins.
New York, New York
If you’re looking for the quintessential NYC dive bar burger, this is it. While other burgers in the city may be topped with truffles and gold leaves, the standard Bistro Burger at Corner Bistro remains one of the most beloved in the city, because eight ounces of beef with American cheese and crispy bacon on a paper plate can make even the worst New York days tolerable.
All three locations of this East London-style pub offer the burger that catapulted Duke’s to local fame in DC. The Proper Burger is a Duke’s signature and comes with Gouda, dill pickles, charred red onions, sweet chile sauce, and garlic aioli on a brioche bun. Add-on options include a runny egg, avocado, bacon, and more, but don’t stop there—pay a little extra for a fried duck egg and chicken liver pâté.
Las Vegas, Nevada
“Hidden gem” is an overused phrase, but few restaurants fit the description as well as Fat Choy. Run by James Beard-nominated chef Sheridan Su, the restaurant quietly operates inside the locals-focused Eureka casino, serving a combination of Asian street food and classic American diner favorites. The Fat Choy Burger is a half-pound certified Angus beef patty with bacon, short rib, onion jam, and secret sauce with a fried egg cooked just right, allowing a perfect drizzle of yolk to soak into the rest of the sandwich from the very first bite.
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.
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
This spot tucked in a Ft. Lauderdale strip mall is a family-run Florida gem, where mom greets you at the register with something witty, while her son works the grill in the back. That grill is filled with magically seasoned, half-pound patties of Certified Angus Beef. The basic LTO is all you need to experience Gilbert’s best, as the quality meat and expert grilling speak for themselves. Gilbert’s is so good, they can even please vegetarians without using pretend meat—portobello mushroom burger for the win.
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.
Longtime Atlantans might remember Holeman & Finch Public House’s famous burger special: only 24 served nightly and starting at 10 pm. Then the restaurant spun off—finally, thankfully, this burger-focused concept where the beloved burger reigns. Expect a patty with a slightly crispy exterior that’s been topped with American cheese, bread and butter pickles, and red onion.
Los Angeles, California
This Venice beach dive is legendary for all the right reasons—good beer, a fun crowd, and great classic burgers just steps from the sand. It’s been open since 1969 doing more or less the same thing, and the formula just works, plain and simple. And it doesn’t hurt that the kitchen doesn’t close until the bar does.
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.
Kopp’s is very much a burger joint, although the burgers and the custard are by no means mutually exclusive experiences. The burger 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!
It’s surprising that most of Miami’s best barbecue joints haven’t figured out what Mel Rodriguez has: Take the scraps of your slow-smoked meats, grind them up, and put them in a burger patty to end up with something pretty spectacular. La Traila’s burgers are like eating a perfectly-formed prime brisket platter, which is then cleverly topped with pulled pork, swiss, and pickles for the Bar-b-Cuban. Or kept deliciously simple with provolone and onions.
Served up in a tiny little dive bar in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood across the Duwamish, Emerald City’s finest burger is 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 the 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 a satisfied appetite.
Named Chicago’s best burger pretty much everywhere that matters, this upscale West Loop spot’s once-mythical Dirty Burg can now be yours whenever you please. The thick and juicy OG comes loaded with pickles, two slices of American cheese, and saucy onion-infused mayonnaise on a sesame seed while the Classic Cheeseburger is a smash patty topped with onion gastrique, their special sauce, all on a potato bun…oh, and frites for good measure.
The specialty burgers at this popular DC eatery are inspired by flavors from around the globe. The popular Bogan Bun comes with gouda and bacon jam, and the El Jefe has hatch green chili relish and queso fresco. A vegetarian mushroom and lentil patty is also available in the Crunchy Bun, and most of this spot’s burgers can be made with an Impossible patty as well. With the mainstay location in Adams Morgan, and pop-ups at Union Market and in Baltimore, a mouthwatering burger from Lucky Buns is never far away.
The OG of the Jucy Lucy scene, the place that started it all, the master of the craft. The burgers take a long time to cook, and then when you get them, you’re told to wait, lest you burn your tongue off your face. But when you do wait just the right amount, the burger, with its roughly griddled exterior, soft roll that gets steamed by the heat, lightly griddled diced onions, and one dill pickle somewhere in the middle offers up three of the most satisfying Jucy Lucy burger bites in Minneapolis—so, really, the entire country. The move is to order one Lucy and a regular cheeseburger on the side.
Chef Elias Taddesse takes his Ethiopian heritage and French culinary training, and mixes the influences together for a killer set of burgers and fried chicken sandwiches at Mélange. The Classic comes on a buttery bun with a triple-blend patty made from Roseda Farms, pickled red onions, and a hefty topping of brown butter aioli. The shop also has an option called The Italian with smoked mozzarella, tomato confit, arugula, and a spicy basil aioli, plus a Butcher’s Burger with pastrami, pickles, roasted garlic-parsley aioli, and sharp white cheddar.
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. 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.
This just in: Famed NYC cocktail joint Mother’s Ruin quietly opened a Chicago outpost and subsequently unveiled one of the very best double cheeseburgers in the entire city. How, you ask? Simply by stacking up two perfectly crisped smash patties, a generous slice of cheese, a fistful of crunchy shredded iceberg lettuce, a couple dill pickle chips, some zesty onions, and a slathering of tangy special sauce on pillowy toasted brioche bread. A side of irresistible Old Bay-dusted waffle fries and an unbeatable drinks menu—get the Negroni on tap—bolster its appeal.
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 sells plenty of beer, 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, crispy 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.
We can all agree that the best food is hiding in gas stations, right? At least, that’s the case with NFA Burger. Yes, that’s right, one of Atlanta’s best burgers is located in a gas station in the suburbs. Once you sink your teeth into one of Billy Kramer’s creations, though, you’ll realize it was all worth the effort. Kramer and his team prepare burgers so expertly you’ll wonder why you even bother going anywhere else. The thin patties have a nicely caramelized exterior and are topped with American cheese, mustard, pickles, “sassy sauce” and served on a potato bun. Although you can opt to have your burger served on a Liège waffle.
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.
Inside this tiny, century-old railway car, you’ll be lucky to snag one of the 15 seats at the counter. The upgraded Greasy Spoon classics and prime location just outside the food destination of Portland have made this spot a staple. Although it may be known for breakfast fare and top-notch sandwiches, you can’t miss the burger. The Palais Royale features two smash patties griddled to crispy perfection with cheddar cheese, pickles, iceberg lettuce, and the diner’s version of a special sauce all piled onto a bun covered (and we mean, covered) in sesame seeds. It’s the ultimate high-low burger.
Four locations across the Metro means easy access to some of the freshest, most satisfying burgers around. Options are your friend here, since you can choose among beef, Buffalo, veggie, or turkey for your patty base, and toppings include goat or Brie cheese, housemade guac, and crispy onions, among the standards. Favorites include the Scarpone, Getting Figgy With It, and naturally, the Classic Double.
Brooklyn, New York
Peter Luger might be one of NYC’s top destinations for a great steak, but their Luger-Burger is worthy of a visit on its own. Coming in at over half a pound of medium-rare USDA Prime dry-aged beef on a fluffy sesame bun with raw onion, add cheese and also go for the famous thick-cut bacon (which comes on the side since it’s too large to balance on the patty). Purists will insist you skip the cheese, but it really doesn't obscure the flavor of the meat, which is perfectly tender and just the right color of pink on the inside.
A Pasadena institution since 1963, Pie ‘n Burger is the picture of a perfect California burger. 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. You don’t need surprises when you have one of America's perfect diner burgers, the likes of which the New York Times’ Tejal Rao sang the praises of its plant-based patty.
Austin’s carnivores adore Salt & Time, a butcher shop-salumeria-restaurant on 7th Street. The signature Butcher’s Burger is handmade quality you can really taste, and though it may appear unassuming at first glance, don’t underestimate the thick, rich patty made with a half-pound of steak trimmings sourced from sustainable Texas ranches. It’s layered with mayo and sour pickles and tucked into a sweet-yet-savory brioche bun. An order of deliciously crispy beef fat French fries is Louise to this Thelma.
Burgers don’t have to be a red meat fest. Slutty Vegan is here for those who desire a plant-based burger. Take the One Night Stand, a plant-based wonder featuring vegan bacon, vegan cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, all on a vegan Hawaiian roll. And you can’t forget the signature slut sauce.
Create the most out-of-this-world burger you can imagine at Spot. Does Cheez Whiz on a burger sound appealing to you? No judgment here. How about goat cheese with sundried tomatoes and a fried egg? Step right up. Start by choosing from sirloin, veggie patty, or organic ground chicken before diving into any of Spot’s 10 gourmet burger varieties, or start building your own masterpiece. You might also be curious to try the signature Spot Sauce, which is a smokey, tangy addition to any option.
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.
Absolute flame-grilled heaven served just a block from the ocean, a favorite post-surf meal for surfers coming in off the break. The tiny shop is always packed, probably because of the special seasoning they use on the burgers than the flame from the girl sets off. The creations are simple: LTO, sesame seed bun, and your compliment of condiments.
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 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.
West Lafayette, Indiana
Indiana’s oldest drive-in, the 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 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.
Powerhouse restaurant group Underbelly Hospitality has opened a full-time burger joint at the renovated Houston Farmers Market. The locally sourced beef comes from both HFM neighbor RC Ranch and longtime UH beef supplier 44 Farms. The standard burger is an updated riff on that Cease and Desist—with double the meat, double the cheese, and LPT on a potato bun. Pair it with sidewinder fries and pastry director Victoria Dearmond’s unholy milkshakes.
San Francisco, California
Once upon a time, a photographer named Wes Rowe decided that he would stop making his popular burgers just for friends and start offering them to all of San Francisco at a monthly pop-up. He won first place at the SF Burger Brawl not long after, which led to a weekly pop-up. Fast forward to now, and he has his own counter service spot in the Mission where people can feast on his burgers seven days a week. All of the burgers (“’n’ more”) at WesBurger are worthy of debate, but the champion is the original smash burger with mustard, pickles, ketchup, onion, and American cheese. The smash burger patties are only three ounces, so needless to say, you’ll want to make it a double.
The Hut burger is thin and griddled in that classic diner style. The cheese is white American, and the onions take on a sort of peppery, buttery form when cooked (also, maybe from butter and pepper). The bun is thin, seedless, and doesn’t interfere. They offer up all sorts of classic fixings, but you need not ruin your White Hut burger with lettuce, tomato, or anything else. Some burgers are made to be sandwich stackers, to look like some sort of circular food Jenga when you’re done. The White Hut burger is not one of those. You barely need to put ketchup on it. Just get two cheeseburgers with fried onions and (maybe) ketchup.
Hackensack, New Jersey
Not to be confused with Jersey City’s remarkably similar but separately owned-and-operated White Mana (one “n”), this old-timey burger joint on the banks of the Hackensack River has been a legendary greasy spoon since 1946. White Manna specializes in what can best be described as ooey-gooey, absurdly juicy, retro burger heaven. There’s never 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. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time and you will have one of the best burgers of your lifetime.
The no-frills, quick-and-simple takeaway counter serves some of the best burgers in Northern Arizona—or anywhere else for that matter. The patties are made with grass-fed, grass-finished beef from the business’ own Utah cattle ranch, which dates back to 1856. Whether you get a double, triple, or a Big Yardley Quad, the burgers have a fresh, clean, flavorful bite with a choice of toppings like tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and jalapeños. Save enough room for a frozen custard dessert. Yardley’s has two Eagles Landing Travel Plaza locations: the original in Littlefield and another west of Lake Powell.
Fort Worth, Texas
Sometimes the best burgers are found in unexpected places—like pizza joints. And despite its focus on the round Italian staple, Zoli’s O. D. Burger (Obligatory Dallas Burger) is one of the best in town. This delicious play on the Big Mac will have you diving head-first into a chuck-brisket-short rib blend on a sesame-potato bun, with American cheese, cheddar cheese, horseradish pickles, and Zoli sauce, a mashup of mustard, mayo, and ketchup. If you’re feeling decadent, add fried mozzarella and soppressata marmalade for an extra three bucks.
Editors: Kelly Dobkin, Danielle Dorsey, Meredith Heil, Jess Mayhugh, Liz Provencher, Rosin Saez, and Tae Yoon.Writers: Mary Beth Abate, Daisy Barringer, Elanor Bock, Erica Buehler, Chris Chamberlain, Kevin Gray, Jade Fabello, Okla Jones, Rob Kachelriess, Matt Metlzter, Ben Mesinrow, and Brooke Viggiano.