When you're assembling a crack team of judges, credentials matter. That's why Chuck Norris presided over that one beauty pageant, and why we looked to our famous chef friends to tell us the best burgers they've ever eaten. Now, their culinary voyages are being put to the benefit of everyone. Here are the best burgers these chefs have ever had, and where to find them.
This Ube Pancake Is so Big It's Served in a Sheet Pan
Wholly Cow Burgers (address and info) Austin, TX Recommended by: Shane McIntyre, chef de cuisine at Searsucker (San Diego, CA) "If I’m in Austin and I need to get my burger fix, I head to Wholly Cow Burgers. I order the Heavenly Double with cheddar, and it comes fully dressed with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, mustard, and ketchup. It's served on a King's Hawaiian sweet roll. The meat is pasture-raised and grass-fed and finished in Fredericksburg -- the cattle are treated humanely and lead stress-free lives and promote high omega 3s. Plus, it’s delicious."
Cheeseburger with bacon
Bartlett's (address and info) Austin, TX Recommended by: Tyson Cole, executive chef/owner at Uchi (Austin, TX) “If I’m in the mood for a burger, I head to one of my favorite spots: Bartlett’s in Austin. Their burger is the perfect combination of meat, bacon, and cheese -- the only toppings I like.”
Two8two (address and info) Brooklyn, NY Recommended by: Dale Talde, executive chef/owner at Talde and Pork Slope (New York, NY) "This burger is great. It’s a big burger, it’s really juicy, and most importantly, it’s seasoned really well."
Dyer's Double with cheese
Dyer's Burgers (address and info) Memphis, TN Recommended by: Justin Warner, chef/co-owner at Do or Dine (New York, NY) "The best burger in the world is from Dyer's Burgers in Memphis. The burger is smashed and fried in 100-year-old burger grease. This may sound disturbing, but the oil is filtered nightly and replenished as it diminishes. Imagine cooking some garlic in oil, then straining it out. You would have garlicky oil. Now do that for 100 years and you would have a WMD of garlic. That's what they do with their burgers, and the sheen of grease that coats each patty is like bone marrow, distilled. The Dyer's burger would easily be considered for my last meal."
Alden & Harlow (address and info) Cambridge, MA Recommended by: Zac Young, pastry chef at David Burke Group (New York, NY) “The best burger I've ever had was at Alden & Harlow in Cambridge. It's called the Secret Burger, but I guess it's not really a secret anymore. It's served on a buttered and grilled house-made Parker House bun. Grilling the bun is key. The patty is a perfect mix of brisket and short rib. I've never had a burger melt in my mouth before. It's topped with aged cheddar, baby lettuce, onions, and a ‘secret’ sauce that is kind of cheesy and pickle-ish at the same time. Don't tell anyone about this, because they only make a limited quantity per night, and I need to make sure I can still get one.”
Burger & Barrel (address and info) New York, NY Recommended by: Cliff Crooks, chef at BLT Steak, BLT Prime, and The Wayfarer (New York, NY) “Any one of the burgers at my friend Josh Capon's place Burger & Barrel. If forced to pick, I'd say the Double Bacon Mangalitsa Pork Burger. He had me at Mangalitsa, which is a type of pig -- so delicious!”
The Cotton Bottom Inn (address and info) Holladay, UT Recommended by: Gerard Craft, chef/owner at Niche Food Group (St. Louis, MO) "My favorite burger? That would be the Garlic Burger from The Cotton Bottom Inn in Salt Lake City. My wife’s family is from there, and they stud the burger with tons of garlic -- and it’s crazy delicious. The garlic burger is kind of a Salt Lake City thing, but they're the best here and it’s a total dive bar."
Anything from 4505 Burgers & BBQ
4505 Burgers & BBQ (address and info) San Francisco, CA Recommended by: David Barzelay, chef/owner at Lazy Bear (San Francisco, CA) "The best burgers I've ever had were from 4505 right when they first opened. They were buying whole cows, already with some age on the carcasses, and then dry-aging them even further until they needed them -- as much as 45-day dry-aged beef going into their burgers! It was incredible! So funky and savory, and unlike any other burger I've ever had."
Ritz Klub (address and info) Michigan City, IN Recommended by: Joe Farina, director of culinary creation at Rosebud Restaurant Group (Chicago, IL) “I like the plain cheeseburger there. They have a very small menu, and there’s just one lady working there, so you have to order your beer at the same time as your burger or you won’t get one until she comes back with your meal. The burger is simple, but really delicious. The place is very divey and small, but they have great burgers.”
Black Label Burger
Minetta Tavern (address and info) New York, NY Recommended by: Michael Ferraro, executive chef/partner at Delicatessen and macbar (New York, NY) "Minetta Tavern’s Black Label Burger is still up there as my favorite burger around. I love that the burger is very simple and about the meat. It tastes like a chopped steak sandwich. It's one of those burgers that you really savor and enjoy."
DBGB (address and info) New York, NY Recommended by: John Besh, executive chef/owner at Besh Restaurant Group (New Orleans, LA) "The best burger I have ever had is the Frenchie at DBGB. They serve it with confit pork belly, arugula, tomato-onion compote, and Morbier cheese on a peppered brioche bun with cornichon, mustard, and fries. It is the perfect burger."
Green chile cheeseburger
Santa Fe Bite (address and info) Recommended by: Michael Kornick, chef/owner at mk (Chicago, IL) "My favorite burger would have to be the original Hatch green chile cheeseburger at Santa Fe Grill (formerly The Bobcat Bite), made with a giant hunk of amazing beef and green chile so perfect it renders any additional condiments superfluous.”
Adam Lapetina is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and his favorite burger is whichever one is sitting in front of him. Read his musings at @adamlapetina.