The 31 best college burgers in America
We've already plied your stomach with college sandwich shops and college bars, but there's still that other member of the wholly greasy trinity: college burgers. At almost every university campus across this great nation, there are burger joints that are usually open late, serving up huge, grilled-to-perfection burgers for a crowd that sometimes won't even remember eating them. And in the rare cases that they do remember, and keep going back again and again (even in the daytime!), it's obvious that such establishments deserve major kudos.
So here they are. The 31 best college burgers in America.
The Shopping Bag (address and info)
What you’re getting: The Sizzler
The Shopping Bag is a little off the beaten path for a college burger joint; it’s technically a convenience store in a slightly remote part of town, but if you look closely (or just walk in and smell their fresh-griddled burgers), you can sense something big happening here. Located a short schlep from the campuses of both UVM and Champlain College, The Shopping Bag has made a name for itself primarily via the word of mouths that have ingested its gigantic burgers, the daily specials of which are hastily scrawled in dry-erase marker on a sandwich board. Try the Sizzler, with provolone, American, bacon, lettuce, cheese, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and mayo -- their local ground-beef patty is otherworldly. And the setting is a bit surreal as well.
Booches Billiard Hall (address and info)
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger sliders
While most college burger joints invest heavily in courting crowds with, well, the heaviness of their burgers, Booches Billiard Hall has gone in the complete opposite direction and is running with it. And it’s equally surprising that they’ve been running since 1884, supplying the Mizzou student body with an opportunity to drink, play pool, watch other people play pool while drinking, and eat up round after round of incredible, greasily delicious sliders (which aren’t even that small -- they contain about 1/4lb of meat apiece) layered with American and Swiss cheeses on top of Hy-Vee buns. They’re known for their distinctive serving method (on wax paper, and stacked up if you order a bunch), and -- as you could’ve guessed given their complete lack of a website -- are cash-only.
UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
The Mont (address and info)
What you’re getting: The Theta Burger
The Mont is one of Norman's staples, having been open under various names since 1929, and on any given weekend you'll see literally dozens of sorority girls drinking Swirls (frozen margaritas plus sangria) underneath dozens of scoreboards denoting every single OU football game score in history. Between all the drinks and the, ahem, scenery, you're not gonna go wrong with any burger, though the Santa Fe Burger (bacon, pepper jack, guac) pairs incredibly well with salsa and tequila. Or, when in doubt, the Theta's fantastic, and is actually steeped in history as a sort of shortcut to ordering a mayo/BBQ sauce/pickle burger that girls of that sorority often ordered... or so goes the legend.
Wood-n-Tap (address and info)
What you're getting: The Classic
Though they have expanded out around Hartford, the original Wood-n-Tap opened down the road from Trinity in 2002, and, ever since, has attracted meat obsessed students with their damn fine burgers. Though they pride themselves on the fancier Homegrown Burgers, the real move here is to get the Classic (American, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, mayo) and substitute the grilled onions for the raw diced. Our Executive Editor recalls fondly ordering this very meal mere minutes after he was bailed out of jail following an arrest for “inciting a riot” during a Third Eye Blind concert his senior year. All of that is alarmingly true.
UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER/RIT
Nick Tahou’s (address and info)
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger Garbage Plate
America is weird with its definition of what constitutes a sandwich. Hell, the State of New York had to actually issue a tax document listing what is permissible to term a “sandwich”. By their definition, the cheeseburger Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou’s cannot legally be termed a burger. But damn it, laws were made to be broken! Or was that rules? Regardless, this Rochester institution is famous for shelling out “Garbage Plates” -- mixed-up heaps of cheeseburger patties, chicken tenders, hot dogs, ham, fish, grilled cheese, eggs, and basically anything else -- to the booze-addled stomachs of RIT and Rochester students on a regular basis, and since their signature offering has “cheeseburger” in the name, who are we to deny them their spot? This is America, after all.
Bruno's (address and info)
New Orleans, LA
What you're getting: Flaming Bruno Burger
Though one of our favorite burgers in America is now just behind these NOLA campuses, Bruno's and its hefty burgers have anchored a corner of Green Wave-frequented bars since the '30s. If you're feeling boring, go for the Classic, which is exactly what it sounds like, but will still be one of the best char-grilled bar burgers you've ever had. But if you're ready to be a bit sassier (you are), grab the Flaming burger, whose patty takes a fiery bath in Crystal hot sauce and is then topped with banana and jalapeño peppers and jack cheese. The 1/2lb patties make it nearly impossible to save room for Debris Fries BUT YOU HAVE TO. So just do it, and be happy.
The Thurman Cafe (address and info)
What you’re getting: The Thurmanator
To satisfy the hunger pangs of a school as big as “the” Ohio State (with an enrollment that tops 43,000), you’ve gotta break a few eggs ($1.29 per, if you want them as a topping on your burger). This Columbus eatery is more than up to the challenge, with a hulking menu full of hangover-busting burgers (including ones topped with French onion dip, marinara & pepperoni, and even sandwiched between Texas toast) -- but nothing can equal the challenge they level to the myriad of wannabes who enter looking to attempt “the Thurmanator”: two 12oz patties, mayo, lettuce, pickles, tomato, banana peppers, bacon, cheddar, sautéed mushrooms & onions, ham, mozzarella, and American. With fries. Good luck.
UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
White Spot (address and info)
What you're getting: The Gus Burger
A cheeseburger with a fried egg on top is a simple thing, and in this glorious 2014 burger landscape, it barely constitutes a specialty. But White Spot, a greasy spoon tucked away beneath the train trestle on the lowest point of The Corner, has been serving that very combo to hungry Wahoos for over half a century. Here, it's called the Gus Burger, and it's required eating for fresh-faced first-years and washed-up alums who want to feel like first-years alike.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger (address and info)
Ann Arbor, MI
What you’re getting: Build-your-own burger
A trip to Blimpy can be kinda frightening, but it’s absolutely worth it for the burger you’ll receive after your trials and tribulations. Let us explain: there is a very specific way to order here, and if you don’t follow their rules to a tee, you will get chastised by the counter staff (which invariably happens to too many students after celebrating Hash Bash). Their sliders are top-notch, and practically beg to be topped with bacon, cheese, and fried eggs -- in the correct order, of course. And while the original location may have closed down, the new digs are opening any day now. So start training, son.
Ajax Diner (address and info)
What you're getting: The Deuce
Downtown Oxford's Ajax Diner is every Ole Miss student's favorite lunch spot hands-down, and while they might be more well known for their huge menu of Southern comfort food, they've also got an awesome customizable burger that you can garnish with cheddar, pepper jack, onions, pimento cheese, bacon, and any permutation of other incredible stuff (and you thankfully don't need to be a math major to figure them all out). They're also slinging a double-decker bacon cheeseburger called "The Deuce", whose math (and appeal) is much simpler.
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
The Peanut Barrel (address and info)
East Lansing, MI
What you're getting: The Rodeo Burger
Jockeying with the truly amazing, no-nonsense fare at Crunchy’s (one of our editor’s all-time favorites) for EL burger glory, the Barrel takes the edge for practically being on campus, with a huge sidewalk patio facing the greenery of Spartan country across busy Grand River Ave. The place is a favorite among exhausted student journalists working at the nearby State News and anyone else looking to pair a notorious Long Island with the strip’s best burger. While many sing praises to the Olive Burger, those who prefer the meat to take precedent over brine flock to the Rodeo Burger, which is just a simple bacon cheeseburger, perfectly cooked and stacked on a choice of white, wheat, or rye bun (go white!). Share it out front, or chill inside amid a sea of broken peanut shells and alums who brave the younger crowd for a perfect bite of nostalgia.
Rotier's (address and info)
What you're getting: Bacon cheeseburger on French bread
I once asked my Dad, a Vandy grad, if he remembered what I ordered the first time he took me to Rotier's in high school; the way he told me that I better have gotten the bacon cheeseburger implied I’d soon be disowned if that wasn't the case. The spot is famous for its meat-and-three, but the signature burger is still the main draw. It comes on fresh-baked, crusty French bread thats soft, chewy inside soaks up the gooey cheese and juices of the burger in a way that’ll make you'll start questioning why you always grab buns at the store instead. And while my dad's dating ritual of a burger, bottled Stroh's, and fries with my mom may be from the '70s, the meal is timeless.
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, AUSTIN
Crown & Anchor (address and info)
What you're getting: Double bacon cheeseburger
Even at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon, there's seldom a parking space to be found in the gravel lot outside Crown & Anchor. The always-packed spot just North of UT is a legendarily pleasant place to hang out, thanks to a staff, who are rumored to earn more than tenured professors, cheap beer specials, and a bacon cheeseburger that is just so very right on. The meat is charred to perfection, the cheese is a melty mess, and the super-crunchy bacon has got better snap than the Longhorns' last few quarterbacks. Zing!
The Oasis (address and info)
Menlo Park, CA
What you're getting: Double cheeseburger
Though Gott's Roadside is now open and Kirk’s Steakburgers has long been an option, “The O” has been a legendary hang for Stanford students (and basically everyone else on the Peninsula) since 1958. And while the pizza is pretty damn good, our Stanford friends implore you to order that as an appetizer and opt to get a round of their thin double cheeseburgers (add bacon), and a round of beers, and soak up the legendary atmosphere of a place that once grew an acacia tree straight through the men’s bathroom roof.
The Chuckbox (address and info)
What you’re getting: The Tijuana Torpedo
Located smack dab in the middle of campus, The Chuckbox -- staffed by local celebrity cook and “spokesmodel” Big Juan -- is perpetually mobbed. Students, staff, and locals alike know that it’s the go-to place for a killer burger, the likes of which can be endlessly customized according to your tastes, and its proximity to the ASU student body means that a lot of hungry students end up there. You’d think that would slow things down, but this place keeps churning out perfectly charred 1/2lb patties on grilled buns with almost inhuman efficiency. Try their Tijuana Torpedo, a uniquely shaped burger with jalapeño jack cheese inside the patty and green chile on top.
Jack's Burger House (address and info)
What you're getting: Double cheeseburger
The Burger House opened across the avenue from SMU back in 1951, when men were men, and linemen were 190lbs. The standby double cheeseburger is perfect in its simplicity -- juicy griddle-grilled meat seasoned by 63-year-old proprietary salt -- but if you crave more simplicity, they’ll let you stack as many patties as you desire, to the point of ludicrousness. If you want to conquer a viginti (that means 20 in Latin, maybe?) cheeseburger, you can do that. Definitely get fries rained on by that same salt, and definitely wash it all down with a maraschino-juiced Real Cherry Coke. Or viginti Real Cherry Cokes.
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
Short's Burger & Shine (address and info)
Iowa City, IA
What you're getting: The Dundee
Two of our senior editors go out to University of Iowa once a year, because they are strange and obsessed with Iowa basketball. And every time they come back, they regale (bore?) us with tales of eating wings at the Vine, and breakfast at Hamburg Inn. But, as of late, they’ve been speaking in reverent hushed tones of a newer kid on the block that all the Hawkeyes are talking about, and not only because its partially owned by NFL kicker Nate Kaeding. Short’s offers up ten draft lines all devoted to Iowa craft beers, and does fresh black Angus beef burgers (sourced from Ed Smith, a local farmer). They prefer to keep it simple with the 1006 Melrose, a classic that just adds pickle and cheddar. And then drink, like, eleventy delicious craft beers, and talk about Chris Kingsbury, Jess Settles, and Acie Earl.
The Coug (address and info)
What you’re getting: Cheeseburger
The walls at Washington State’s The Coug are plastered with old flyers, paintings, murals, stickers, and graffiti scrawlings from the generations upon generations of Cougars that have been mobbing this place since the day it opened in 1932. And while it might be known to most of the student body as a watering hole to watch the game, this place also serves up some amazingly greasy (and even more amazingly inexpensive) burgers, anchored to soft buns by melty American cheese. And guess what?! For less than $5, you can snag a drink, a burger, and an order of fries. When this place opened, all that might’ve cost a quarter, but it’s still pretty good for today.
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN
Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry (address and info)
What you’re getting: The Melting Pot
Madison’s best burger joint has changed locations four times (once from... Des Moines!), began as a trinket shop that sold zero cheeseburgers, and has a name that makes approximately negative sense. It also has the Melting Pot, an appropriately over-cheesed (cheddar, Swiss, provolone) meat-mound stacked with bacon and touched with the joint’s trademark English garlic sauce. But don’t overlook other “yep, we’re definitely in Wisconsin” options like Stanley’s Blue Ribbon (cream cheese, BBQ sauce, and an onion ring) and the new Green & Gold with deep-fried pickles and bacon mayo. Whichever you go with, just remember: cheese curds are not optional.
Rama Jama’s (address and info)
What you’re getting: The National Champ Burger
Conveniently located right in back of Bryant-Denny Stadium, Rama Jama’s been open since 1996, when it started serving up the Southern staples of biscuits, ham, and biscuits & ham to a crimson sea (tide?) of hungry students and faculty members. But if you look beyond the diner’s incredible breakfast offerings, you’ll find a menu full of awesome burgers of all shapes and sizes -- including the National Champ Burger, a 14oz hunk of meat topped with bacon and a huge onion ring -- although their standard cheeseburger is $2.50 and all that and a
bag of potato chips side of fries.
Triple XXX (address and info)
West Lafayette, IN
What you're getting: The Duane Purvis All-American
This Boilermaker icon's been perched on a hill overlooking West Lafayette since 1929, and serves up "chop steaks", as they insist you call their patties, which seems fair since they're ground in-house from 100% top-choice sirloin. Forget the nomenclature quibbling -- just know that you're getting a textbook old-school griddled diner burger. And if you go that route you'll be happy, but take a risk and try the Duane Purvis All-American, named for a Purdue football great who liked to smear peanut butter on his cheeseburger. The man was a visionary -- it weirdly works.
Hugo’s (address and info)
What you’re getting: Guacamole Burger
Hugo’s is a Fayetteville staple that’s been around so long that multiple generations of Razorbacks (and plenty of locals who’re just into great burgers) have been going there and going out to spread the gospel. They’ve got an eclectic (read: French) menu that ranges from crepes to cheese boards to some of the biggest, juiciest burgers in the entire state, strangely enough -- and this is a state that knows a lot about meat. Their 1/3lb guacamole burger is a must-try, but pretty much anything is bound to impress, so hell, go for their smoky cheddar, jalapeño, or blue cheese burgers as well. You’ll have to keep coming back to keep up with what they’re dishing out.
Mr. Bartley's (address and info)
What you're getting: The Viagra
"Where Harvard Meats". Truth be told, you're probably a bit more likely to be rubbing elbows with one of the plentiful Harvard Square tourists here than an undergrad (though there are plenty of those, too), because basically anyone in the vicinity has trouble resisting the smell of perfectly grilled beef that's been wafting over Mass Ave since 1960. The burger names tend to ebb and flow a bit with the zeitgeist (The Rob Ford, The Beyoncé, etc.), though one mainstay has been the Viagra, because creamy blue cheese dressing and bacon make a perfect combo, and because old men will always need their boner pills.
Monks (aka Wells Brothers Bar & Grill) (address and info)
What you’re getting: The Lip Smacker
It’s a bit of a hike from campus, but many FSU students are more than willing to make the requisite pilgrimage in order to wolf down one of the state’s best -- and messiest -- burgers at Monks, otherwise (officially) known as Wells Brothers Bar & Grill. You can build your own burger, or go with one of their huge, gooey cheeseburgers on a variety of rolls and breads. Those with more traditional tastes may opt for the Panhandle Burger, with roasted red peppers, bacon, cheddar, and housemade BBQ sauce, though more adventurous eaters should try their Lip Smacker, which contains cheddar, bacon, and a layer of creamy peanut butter. Vindictive fans should get the Gator Hater.
The Sink (address and info)
What you’re getting: The Sink Burger
Full disclosure: we’ve written about The Sink before. It was one of our best college bars, and we acknowledged that it is a great bar with great bar food. Well, that claim stands up to scrutiny, because The Sink’s burgers are absolutely legendary among the CU community. Sure, there are other solid burgers in the area (Dark Horse being one of them), but The Sink stands out for its cosmically fat burgers topped with stuff like veritable bales of Texas onion straws, and the fact that students have made their indelible marks on its low ceiling, scrawling their names after downing a few drinks. Hell, we can even recommend the turkey burger here in good conscience. Now that’s a great college spot all-around.
Roul’s Deli (address and info)
Baton Rouge, LA
What you’re getting: Shrimp Burger
In the last couple of years, Baton Rouge’s burger scene has undergone a bit of a renaissance. Food trucks and gourmet burger chains have popped up all around LSU, but the somewhat unsuspecting gem of Roul’s continues to shine from beneath a veneer of grease. He might not have the most beautiful joint in the world, but the ever-friendly Roul knows how to make a burger, and will chat you up while you watch him grill fresh-ground beef patties for his infamous “Megaburgers”, or the fan-favorite Shrimp Burger, which is an already hulking patty topped with one of Louisiana’s favorite critters and some melted cheese, because gumbo needed another outlet.
Edzo’s (address and info)
What you’re getting: Double cheeseburger
It might be the only power conference school never to taste March Madness, but Northwestern is the only university that gets to taste the immaculate griddled double cheeseburgers at Edzo's. The '70s-style burger joint serves up Slagel Farms' patties topped with your choice of jalapeños, garlic butter, hot giardiniera, bacon, and sautéed mushrooms, alongside fresh-cut fries and creamy shake specials. We'd say that, not having to put up with Dick Vitale, is ultimately a win.
Harry’s Bar & Burger (address and info)
What you’re getting: Harry’s Classic Cheese Sliders
There are lots of relatively young whippersnapper burger joints popping up in Providence to fill the stomachs of Brown & RISD students (Rocket Fine Street Food, what up?!), but for a slight brick-and-mortar edge (and lots of bovine-inspired wallpaper), Harry’s Bar & Burger is the way to go. It’s easily identifiable by the cow out front (not a real cow, but a testament to the feats of meat-and-dairy greatness occurring within), and is serving up two-per-order potato-rolled sliders with sides that are almost as good as the main events, including sweet potato fries and onion strings. The kitchen’s also open until midnight on weekdays, which is the kind of thing nobody can have a beef with.
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH
B&D Burgers (address and info)
Salt Lake City, UT
What you’re getting: Pastrami burger
Crown Burger may be the crown (hah!) jewel of Salt Lake City’s burger scene -- known for innovating the pastrami burger -- but Utah students know that for a quick, cheap pastrami burger that’s literally right next to campus, there’s no choice better than B & D Burgers. Its pastrami burger is on par with Crown’s, and its prime location makes it the go-to choice for Utes in need of getting their meaty burger fix. They’ve also got great shakes and, if you wanna go full Utah (please do), fries with fry sauce.
Clodfelter’s Public House (address and info)
What you’re getting: Monroe Street Monster
In addition to being the favorite bar haunt of many a hungry Beaver, neighborhood bar Clodfelter’s Public House has got some killer burgers. Sure, a lot of other burger joints have popped up around campus in recent years, but Clod’s keeps Oregon State students coming back year after year for its big, cheap burgers (like the Monroe Street Monster, which has bacon, marinated mushrooms, jack, and cream cheese on it) that are the ultimate munchie quashers (especially past 10pm, when their late-night happy hour kicks in, and they’ve got an expanded menu of bar food). They’re also definitely showing your game.
The Smokehouse (address and info)
What you’re getting: Double cheeseburger (with everything, obviously)
This old-school char pit has been flipping burgers and turning dogs for Berkeley kids since 1951 -- a poodle-skirts-and-pocket-combs throwback that's essentially an enclosed burger window with a bunch of picnic bench seating. The move is and has always been the double cheeseburger with thinly charred, cheese-dripping patties and all the classic fixings, but what sets them apart is the addition of relish, which co-mingles with the ketchup to become a glorious sort of ketchlish (...relchup?). College kid bonus: it's open 'til 1:30am.