In 2016, New York's greatest burgers aren't just coming from burger-focused restaurants -- in fact, very few are. Instead, you'll find them at old-school pubs and diners, Brooklyn cocktail bars, Rockaway beach shacks, Australian cafes, and even a couple of pizza places. New York is a city full of burgers, but each one of the 26 burgers below proves that they're no longer an afterthought on the menu -- they're what you prioritize over an expertly made cocktail or a perfect thin-crust pizza.
From the essential diner burger, to a Juicy Lucy that does Minnesota proud, to one made with deckle (more on that later), these are New York City's best burgers.
Bar Sardine, a tiny West Village spot that seems tailor-made for first date drinks, probably wouldn't be your first thought when looking for a great burger, especially with Corner Bistro just a few blocks away. But the Fedora Burger (named after Gabe Stulman's other venture just a few doors down) is arguably one of the city's most interesting: a juicy Pat LaFrieda patty topped with smoked cheddar and BBQ mayo, which add flavor that's at once smoky and sweet, plus crispy shoestring fries that give it a texture you won't find on any other burger in New York. It all comes together with red onions and pickles on a well-toasted, flattened bun that despite your best intentions will absolutely need to be cut in half in order to be consumed.
Boilermaker lives up to its name, as it's completely full of men who make boilers for a living. Just kidding! They do beer and shot combos. But in addition to Narragansett and Ancient Age bourbon, it's also home to a burger from Miguel Trinidad, of nearby Filipino favorite Jeepney. It's relatively cheap ($11 for a double, $8 for a single, plus an extra dollar for bacon and cheese) and comes topped with Jeepney's Atchara -- traditional pickled vegetables from the Philippines that pair an intriguing sweet & sour taste with the meat.
Before April Bloomfield’s Salvation Burger earned long lines and quadruple-digit Instagram likes, there was the famed chargrilled burger with Roquefort at her first restaurant, the Michelin-starred Spotted Pig. This is a real bare-bones cheeseburger; you won’t get any lettuce, tomato, or onion -- and it hardly needs them. What you will get is an ultra-thick beef patty topped with seriously stinky (in the best way) cheese inside a fresh-baked bun branded with criss-crossed grill marks. There is a slight challenge that comes with ordering this -- that is, somehow making your way through a mountain of shoestring fries that nearly engulfs the already fairly tall burger. Godspeed.
The Brindle Room menu is full of comfort food like chicken wings and duck confit poutine and spaghetti with meatballs, but it's hard not to pity people who choose to order any of those. That's because this place is singularly about the Steakhouse Burger. What makes the burger so special is its sheer simplicity -- a dry-aged blend of ground beef, steak trimmings, and deckle (aka the fatty part of a rib-eye) that comes slightly charred and topped solely with American cheese and caramelized onions. There's no need for extra sauces -- in fact, ketchup would probably do more harm than good, but a few extra napkins to help you manage all that melty fat is not the worst idea.
There’s a reason both tourists and locals continue to line up for unreasonably long periods of time for a ShackBurger; not only is it cheap (by New York standards, $4.80 for a single patty and $7.35 for a double is indeed cheap), but it's also all about this simple fast food burger that, like a certain West Coast chain (that we're doing just fine without, thank you!), has a quality of meat that exceeds fast food expectations, while still maintaining all the necessary grease and melted cheese.
You can easily go to Emily, order a thin-crust pizza (like the Lady Girl with ricotta, havarti, mushrooms, and pickled chili), and leave feeling like you've had a great meal. But unlike the largely ignored, soggy meatball Parm at your childhood pizzeria, the burger at Emily isn't a throwaway menu addition -- it's what makes it a destination. In fact, the best course of action here is to order your pizza as a side to your burger (don't worry, you'll make room). Since Emily's inception, Chef Matt Hyland has diligently toyed with his perfect dry-aged burger, phasing in and out different butchers and different preparations. Today, the Emmy Burger is made with a dry-aged Fleisher’s patty that comes dripping in rich Grafton cheddar, sweet caramelized onions, and buffalo-esque Emmy Sauce inside of a Tom Cat pretzel bun. Get it at Sunday lunch when there's an unlimited amount (they sell out quickly all other nights when it's only available at dinner). Thankfully, the burger-obsessed Hyland can't be stopped: he's now doing several kinds of burgers at a semi-secret bar beneath Emily's spinoff, Emmy Squared.
The no-frills cheeseburger made famous at the old JG Melon on the Upper East Side is a New York classic that’s been enjoyed by New York's toughest burger critics, high school students and middle-aged men in business suits, since the early '70s. The conceit here is simple: a griddled, hearty beef blend with American inside a slightly toasted, soft potato bun. It's the perfect bar burger -- best enjoyed with a side of cottage fries -- and luckily, the newer Greenwich Village location hasn’t made any changes to the formula (that includes the exceptionally gruff staff).
Full disclosure: the pimento cheese on Wilma Jean's burger is completely optional, but there's absolutely no other way you should be ordering it -- except maybe also with bacon. This Gowanus spot is known for its fried chicken, but it also brings the South to its burger (best ordered as a double), that's made with nicely crisped, grass-fed patties that drip with juice and (again, not optional for you) decadent pimento cheese inside a fluffy sesame bun.
Sure, you could go for a Double Cheese at this Queens fast food spot. You could also quit your job and abandon all your responsibilities in order to catch the world's rarest Pokémon, but that probably wouldn't be a very good idea either. So yes, you’re going for a triple -- triple the meat, triple the cheese on a lightly toasted bun, topped with plenty of special sauce that tastes like an elevated version of Burger King's.
Eating a burger at the Ear Inn is a New York rite of passage. Mainly because it's a designated landmark of the City of New York, but also because it's the type of old-timey New York pub (its been around since 1817) where you can sit down at the bar, order a burger and a pint, and chat with the bartender like you've alllllways been the caretaker, Jack. There are several kinds of burgers on the menu (including a lamb burger that's pretty underrated) but the juicy flat top-grilled prime sirloin burger with American is what you're here for -- an enormous yet lean bar burger typically served with an open-faced bun by one of the friendliest waiters or bartenders you'll ever encounter in the city.
Minnesota's state cheeseburger has a loving home in the East Village. The beef/short rib blend featured in the Juicy Lucy at Whitmans comes stuffed with an almost overwhelming amount of pimento cheese (cut it open if you're looking for the safest, least shirt-damaging route in) plus caramelized onions and special sauce on a sesame bun. While we may not be very thankful for hockey, we should all be indebted to Minnesota for a burger that oozes this much cheese.
Think of chef Justin Smillie’s lunch-/brunch-only cheeseburger as an elevated take on the classic diner burger. It’s a juicy, double-patty, grass-fed brisket and chuck blend from Pat LaFrieda seared to perfection and topped with American cheese, peppadew peppers, cilantro, avocado, and even a tiny California flag (which you probably shouldn’t try to eat).
While there’s nothing more confusing than the fact that a bar called the Happiest Hour doesn't actually have a happy hour, the Happiest Burger more than makes up for it. The double-patty, double-cheese burger is clearly modeled after an In-N-Out Double-Double, both in its presentation and in its nearly identical Russian dressing. But there are two crucial differences: 1) you can order your meat however you like it, and 2) the perfectly crispy fries are absolutely nothing like the very, very terrible ones from In-N-Out.
This tiny spot just a few blocks from the Rockaway Beach boardwalk is primarily known for its pizza... and the fact that its staff really, really loves the word “fuck” (you could make a pretty successful drinking game out of how many times you hear them say it). In fact, there isn't even a burger listed on the proper menu (you'll see it on a hand-written "specials" list up by the counter, naturally called the Fuckin Good Burger). That burger alone is worth the hour-plus-long train ride -- it's cooked in the wood-burning pizza oven and topped with lots of melted cheese and a hot pepper jam that demands to be bottled and sold and put on top of just about everything.
Having anything to eat or drink at The NoMad Bar is sure to make you feel momentarily fancier than you actually are -- the people are generally well-dressed and only vaguely intimidating, and the drinks are excellent and sometimes served in vases. But a night here is incomplete without a Dry-Aged Beef burger -- a perfectly pink dry-aged chuck blend mixed with suet and bone marrow and topped with cheddar and special sauce on a soft bun. It goes well with just about any cocktail, but you should probably go for the one in the vase.
It's hard to imagine what you'd go to P.J. Clarke’s for if not the burger -- it's been around since 1884 and proudly boasts a long history of celebrity guests, but today's crowd skews a little more banker than Buddy Holly. Still, The Cadillac (famously named so by Nat King Cole after his first bite into it) is still a classic New York burger worth going for: double-smoked country bacon and American on a soft bun that's greasy in the way you want a pub burger to be, and just the perfect size -- not too big, not too small.
This multi-city burger chain, which started humbly seven years ago in Astoria, has an impressive lot of exotic burgers (bison, elk, duck, ostrich, wild boar, regular beef, and something very unusual called "black bean"). But it's the bison that stands out -- the meat is just a little sweet, and blends well with a pillowy brioche bun. The move is to go the build-your-own route (definitely add the paprika mayo) or opt for one of the two bison burgers on the menu, like the spicy El Matador with queso fresco, pickled jalapeños, guac, and pico de gallo.
In the How I Met Your Mother episode "The Best Burger in New York," Marshall (Jason Segel) mourns a New York burger he loved and lost, and a fellow bar patron, overhearing his rant, tells him it's got to be the Corner Bistro burger. Marshall scoffs and thanks the guy for pointing out such an obvious choice. But the thing is, this is absolutely the burger Marshall is talking about. The Corner Bistro's burger is completely unpretentious. While other burgers are topped with truffles and gold leaves, the standard Bistro Burger at this West Village dive remains one of the most beloved in New York, because 8oz of beef with American and crispy bacon on a paper plate can make even the worst New York days tolerable.
No trip to Rockaway is complete without a stop at Rippers. From the owners of beloved Bushwick pizzeria, Roberta’s, Rippers is a casual oceanside shack, offering a small menu of burgers and hot dogs to hoards of pasty Bushwick/Greenpoint/Williamsburg residents. The cheeseburger here is a small but plump medley of meat, melted cheese, pickles, special sauce, and a fluffy bun that’s just filling enough to tide you over for several more hours of bragging about that one time you went surfing. Take it to-go and enjoy it in the sand, seagulls be damned! (Actually, definitely watch out for the seagulls. And be sure to add cheese fries.)
If you're looking for a damn good steak, you know to go to Peter Luger. But if you haven’t stopped by for a burger at lunch, then you haven’t truly experienced it. The Luger-Burger is over half a pound of medium-rare (don’t you dare order anything else) USDA Prime dry-aged beef on a fluffy sesame bun with raw onion. Add cheese and the famous thick-cut bacon, which will come on the side of the burger, since it’s literally too large to balance on top of it. 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.
The Black Label Burger has quite the reputation -- largely because of its $30 price tag, but also because it's just a truly decadent burger: an 8oz blend of Pat LaFrieda prime dry-aged beef cuts, cooked until there's a nice, light crust on top, then dressed with caramelized onions on a custom brioche bun. No cheese -- though the flavor of the beef really doesn't require it. Sure, this isn't a once-a-week burger (sincere apologies if you are eating these nightly and I've just made false assumptions about your finances), but on special burger occasions when your standard double patty with American just won't do, this is the one to go for.
Twist! Yes, it’s a veggie burger. No, there is no meat option. Brooks Headley’s much-lauded quinoa-based Superiority Burger might be White Castle-size, but at $6 each, you can easily order two of them and feel full (and vaguely better about yourself). Though clearly not made with meat, the burgers do kind of resemble fast food burgers in both appearance and taste -- the tender quinoa patties topped with melted Muenster, honey mustard, and spices on a squishy bun. It's not going to turn you off of meat forever, but it'll certainly make you rethink your stance on veggie burgers.
Truly the ultimate New York diner burger, Joe Jr.’s bacon cheeseburger is arguably one of the most comforting and reliable meals in the city. Whether you're going at lunchtime or 10:30pm, you can always count on Joe Jr.’s nicely grilled patty with melted American cheese and crispy bacon to be exactly what it’s supposed to be -- nothing more, nothing less. In a time of $30 burgers that demand hour-long waits, it’s nice to know you can always grab a a seat in a ratty old booth and order a $6.40 bacon cheeseburger ($9.10 if you’re living large and going deluxe).
When Marco Canora decided to revamp the menu at the decade-plus-old Hearth earlier this year, the focus was on healthful, yet comforting, eats. That’s certainly accomplished by the new nutrient-filled Variety Burger, a hearty blend of brisket, chuck, heart, and liver -- each one a pleasantly detectable flavor, the organs full of vitamin A and B, copper, iron, and folic acid. This is a knife-and-fork burger, topped with caramelized onions and lots of melty fontina and served without a bun. While an offal burger might sound off-putting to the uninitiated, there’s arguably no one in the city doing a burger as interesting or as healthy as this one right now.
Toby Cecchini's still best known for having created Carrie Bradshaw’s favorite drink at the Odeon in the '80s, but his Cosmopolitan days are (mostly) behind him at his own bar in Cobble Hill, where the drinks are just as worthy of TV fame, and the fast food-inspired burger is simply perfect. Chef Gabriel Martinez’s L.I. Burger comes with two dry-aged Fleishers patties, pickles, house-made American cheese, and “Fancy Sauce” (not to be confused with special sauce, which is obviously for peasants) on a soft bun. The clincher is the super-sour pickles, better than those you'll find on most burgers.
It's a tough choice between the Classic Cheeseburger and the Bronte at this popular Aussie cafe -- the Classic is a beautifully messy burger dripping in cheese and sauce, but the Bronte offers two things you won't find anywhere else, which is why it wins every single time. For one, it's served on panini-style bread, which can be a confusing prospect (won't the burger just slip right out of the bread? How can that be as satisfying as a squishy potato bun?). Somehow, it completely holds together, and the texture is just as enjoyable as a standard burger bun. The other key thing here is the sweet chili oil, which, when blended with the cheese, mayo, and meat, makes for a burger that's at once sweet and savory.
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Lucy Meilus is Thrillist’s New York editor and has never gone a week of her life without eating a burger. Follow her to more casual, cool bragging on Twitter and Instagram.
Opened by restaurateur Gabriel Stulman, Bar Sardine is part of the Happy Cooking family of restaurants that includes Perla, Fedora, Joseph Leonard, and Jeffrey's Grocery Restaurant and Bar. On the menu you can expect light bar food that rotates seasonally, with the exception of the hearty Gruyère grilled cheese or the Fedora Burger, both of which remain popular staples. The bar is in the center of the snug room, and drink rails line the walls of the windows where you can sip on great cocktails, a beer, or a glass of wine.
On the cusp of the East Village and Lower East Side, Boilermaker takes its namesake drink very seriously with multiple variations of the beer and shot combo. The drink menu also includes a rotating selection of draft beer, most of which are regional craft brews. Aside from offerings like burgers and wings, the bar's food appeal is its midnight breakfast: from midnight to close, the kitchen whips up pancake stacks in flavors like red velvet and apple pie, as well as egg sandwiches with bacon or house-made sausage.
April Bloomfield's West Village restaurant and bar is a fan-favorite among celebrities and neighborhood residents alike, known for its delicious 1/2lb roquefort burgers and pillowy ricotta gnocchi. The Spotted Pig also offers unique brunch and bar snack menus that feature anything from new twists on classic dishes to seasonal items. Make sure to get here early, because it fills up fast and will stay crowded until closing.
This East Village gastropub specializes in some of New York's favorite things: American comfort food, small plates, and weekend brunch. While regulars love the Brindle Room for its decadently simple Steakhouse Burger (topped with American cheese and caramelized onions), the specials menu is not to be overlooked.
Long before Shake Shack was an international chain with outposts as far as Dubai, it was a hot dog stand in Madison Square Park. The original location is still in the park, but instead of a roaming cart, it's a large kiosk surrounded by a sea of outdoor tables. There are two lines, an express one reserved for cold orders (that would be the frozen custard and concretes -- get them, they're good) and a regular one for everything else, which includes the signature ShackBurgers, crinkle-cut fries, and flat-top hot dogs.
This cozy Clinton Hill spot was founded by two foodies who sparked a relationship in college over a shared pizza. Today, they're serving up an overwhelming selection of creative pies in their intimate restaurant. In addition to pizza -- split between red and white on the menu -- Emily is known for the critically-acclaimed Emmy Burger, featuring a dry-aged patty topped with rich cheddar, sweet caramelized onions, and a buffalo-like sauce inside of a pretzel bun. A limited amount of burgers are served every night, but luckily, they're available in (near-unlimited) amounts during Sunday lunch service.
One of New York's most classic burgers can be found at this prepster pub that's been serving the Upper East Side since 1972. The hallmark of J.G. Melon is the hamburger, comprised of a griddled beef patty and American cheese on a toasted potato bun. If you aren't a regular who lives within a five-block radius, the bar burger really is the only reason to go to J.G. Melon, whose melon decor and green-checkered tablecloths haven't changed much since it first opened.
Armed with Southern hospitality, Wilma Jean in Gowanus serves up stackable portions of double cheeseburgers, fried bologna sandwiches, fried pickles, and its signature fried chicken, the latter of which is served atop a potato bun, on a stick, and in half-portions. Run by a husband and wife duo, the counter-service spot is a solid option for brunch, happy hour (its daily beer and wine deals are an added bonus), or for a late dinner, with the kitchen open until 10pm seven days a week.
The best fast food joints aren't chains but independently-owned hole-in-the-walls, like Petey's Burger. The Queens spot is known for its hormone- and antibiotic-free Angus beef burgers, especially the Triple, which appropriately comes with three patties and three slices of cheese. Aside from burgers, the menu is limited to fast food sides like Buffalo wings, onion rings, and fries, but there are also homemade veggie burgers that are just as flavorful (but admittedly not as juicy) as their beef counterparts.
More than a century ago, this SoHo watering hole was a hotspot for sailors waiting for their ships to dock. The Ear Inn is a designated landmark of the City of New York, and the cheeseburger is a designated bar burger of the City of New York (designated by Thrillist, of course). The prime sirloin number topped with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion is something you absolutely have to check off your NYC burger bucket list, whether you're from here or not. It’s big, it’s juicy, and it goes perfectly with a pint.
Famous for its rendition on the Juicy Lucy -- a burger with a cheese-stuffed meat patty, for you amateur gluttons -- Whitmans delivers on the American Dream with indulgent burgers and rich sides like deep-fried crack kale, fried pickles, and sweet potato fries. The ground-floor counter service is grab-and-go, but the downstairs dining area offers a more intimate and leisurely setting in which to court your peanut butter-bacon burger.
Stephen Starr, a Philly-based restaurateur who entered the New York scene with splashy hits like Morimoto and Buddakan, is behind this airy brasserie on Park Avenue South that takes its name from the California town where chef Justin Smillie grew up. The menu, which rallies around the seasonal themes of California cuisine, features oval-shaped pizzas topped with vegetables and flavorful cheeses; pasta dishes ranging from the traditional cacio e pepe to the entirely unique chicken liver estrella; grilled, smoked, and roasted meat and seafood plates; and a fairly affordable wine list.
Brace yourself: there is no actual happy hour at The Happiest Hour. But don’t fret, the Happiest Burger more than makes up for it, really. The double-patty, double-cheese, California-style burger is better than an In-N-Out Double Double and comes topped with a similar Russian dressing as the West Coast fast-food fave. The bar's resort vibes shine in its cocktail selection, which includes the Frozen Painkiller, a twist on the Tiki classic that pairs rum with crème de Pêche de Vigne liqueur and coconut, lime, and orange juices.
This Rockaway Beach pizzeria serves pies (no slices) piled with toppings, like prosciutto or classic tomatoes and mozzarella. Also, Whit's serves incredible burgers baked in the pizza oven and topped with cheese and jalapeno jam.
Housed in a historic arts building, The NoMad hotel is a stylish, Parisian-inspired luxury hotel with hardwood floors and handmade rugs. Inside the hotel is a bi-level library, an opulent lounge with a mahogany bar, and an upscale restaurant. Around the corner from the hotel is the much-lauded NoMad Bar (10 W 28th St), serving refined cocktails and upscale pub fare in a hip, lively space.
A New York institution, P.J. Clarke's has delivered on the fancy cheeseburger promise since 1884. And while Midtown in the new millennia no longer projects late-20th century old money glam, the venue continues to maintain a setting of demure class. Come for the bacon cheeseburgers, stay for the exemplary cocktails.
Born out of Astoria, Bareburger is a national burger chain known for its impressive variety of meat options (bison, elk, duck, ostrich, wild boar, and of course, regular beef) and untraditional sides like kimchi slaw, crispy Brussels sprouts, and sweet potato fries. The menu lets you build your own burger or choose one of the specialty combos, like the spicy bison El Matador, made with queso fresco, pickled jalapeños, guac, and pico de gallo.
From the outside, Corner Bistro seems like an unassuming dive, but step inside this iconic NYC establishment, which touts itself as one of "the last of the bohemian bars" in West Village, and you'll find plenty of local charm. A timeless NYC tavern and dive, Corner Bistro is renowned for its burgers; piled high with juicy beef, crispy bacon and melted American cheese, they're tasty, satisfying, and affordable.
The Meat Hook's Brent Young is behind Rippers, an oceanfront shack at Beach 86th Street that's known for its spring break vibes and snack bar menu. Thanks to Young's ground beef expertise, Rippers' burgers consistently rank among New York's best -- the soft and juicy patties are available in a few varieties, but you should probably go big with the double-decker Hard Body and a side of cheese fries.
This New York institution (opened in 1887) is specifically known for its old-school, impeccable waitstaff and its sizzling, perfectly cooked, buttery porterhouse. The wine list sticks to a strict but to-the-point number of options that pair perfectly with the dishes, and the lunchtime hamburger -- a mix of ground chuck and trimmings from the aged steaks -- is simply something you can't get anywhere else.
In the heart of Greenwich Village, Minetta Tavern boasts a classic oak bar, vintage photos on the walls, and supremely delicious burgers (amongst other menu items). Its Black Label Burger has quite the reputation -- it's an 8oz blend of Pat LaFrieda prime dry-aged beef, cooked until there's a nice, light crust on top, then dressed with caramelized onions on a custom brioche bun.
When Superiority Burger opened its doors in 2015, it started a bonafide veggie burger boom in New York. The hole-in-the-wall fast-food-like joint specializes in vegetarian food, and the menu centers around the namesake burger, made with a patty of beans, nuts, and grains and topped with Muenster cheese. There isn't much seating aside from a few chairs and a bench outside, but Tompkins Square Park is less than a block away.
The epitome of a greasy spoon, Joe Jr. serves typical American diner food and all-day breakfast. The kitchen cooks up one of the most underrated burgers in the city -- topped with crispy bacon and melted American cheese, it's exactly what a burger's supposed to be. The interior's worn formica countertops and retro diner stools match the simple menu and well-used bottles of ketchup.
An East Village mainstay for more than a decade, Marco Canora's Italian-American restaurant focuses on healthy cooking, which means good-for-you animal fats, fresh grains, and no processed ingredients. The result is a sophisticated menu where every dish feels like it's home-cooked, especially the meatballs. The restaurant feels like home too with wood floors, an open kitchen, and cozy leather banquette seating. Perhaps the most unique thing about Hearth is Brodo, its take-out window on First Ave that solely serves broth.
If you never thought you'd read the words "Brooklyn Heights" and "dive bar" in the same sentence, read on-- this locals-only hangout on Atlantic Ave is where you go to knock back shots and sip killer cocktails with the best of them.
This tiny spot with an Aussie inspired menu is worth squeezing into. Avo-toast, awesome burgers topped with beets & pineapple, and even vegemite are included on the menu -- but you might want to skip the vegemite.