Food & Drink

We Found SD's Absolutely-Must-Try Burgers

Published On 07/25/2016 Published On 07/25/2016

Davanti Burger

Davanti Enoteca

Address and Info

Little Italy and Del Mar

Davanti Enoteca might not be the first place that comes to mind when you’re jonesing for a hot beef injection, but the namesake burger is worthy of a dedicated visit. It’s topped with a bevy of exciting additions like griddled cheese curds, bacon jam, aioli, arugula, and confit tomato. The kitchen takes its burger game seriously, so if you like to see a little bit of red in the center of your patty, go ahead and order yours medium-rare. The one drawback is the shoestring fries. They’re a bit flavorless next to the patty, but perfectly delicious dipped in aioli (ask nicely for some on the side).


The Kraken

High Dive Bar & Grill

Address and Info

Bay Park

This massive burger demands an open mind and a completely empty stomach. Between two PB&J sandwiches (made with Sriracha-infused peanut butter and strawberry jam) is served a full pound of griddled Angus chuck topped with grilled onions, four strips of bacon, and a generous scoop of gorgonzola cheese. Even if you’re not convinced you can finish it in one go, you still need to try it at least once. The savory, salty, and sweet flavors work surprisingly well together, resulting in a burger that’s shockingly delicious.

Courtesy of Carnitas' Snack Shack

Snack Shack Burger

Carnitas’ Snack Shack

Address and Info

North Park & other locations

The namesake burger at this local chain is always a tasty option. It’s topped with the standard lettuce and tomato, but things get more exciting from there with the addition of smoky bacon jam, white cheddar, and aioli. The end result is a burger that is straightforward enough to appeal to purists, but so well-designed (and -executed) that even the hardest to please critics can’t deny its beauty.

Courtesy of Smashburger

San Diego burger


Address and Info

Downtown & other locations

Smashburger is fond of creating signature sandwiches for each city it has shops in, and luckily, the San Diego Burger is no slouch. Served on a telera-style roll and topped with fresh avocado slices, cilantro, sour cream, pepper jack cheese, red onion, and chipotle mayo (plus a lime wedge on the side), the San Diego burger handily plays homage to our fine city. Fun fact: you can get the same burger at the Los Angeles locations, though there it’s called the "SoCal burger."


Bacon Cheeseburger


Address and Info

Ocean Beach, East Village, and Petco Park

Hodad’s has been a San Diego institution for decades for all of the right reasons. Just look at this deeply satisfying burger, would ya? With the toppings taken into account, it weighs in at just shy of a pound, every ounce delicious. Two tips: get your onions grilled (it will make the burger more manageable to eat), and never remove the wrapper under any circumstances. A milkshake and fries (or "frings" -- fries and onion rings) are both highly recommended sides.

Sara Norris/Thrillist

Drugstore Hamburger

The Grill at Torrey Pines

Address and Info

La Jolla

When you crave a no-frills burger done absolutely right, this casual spot just steps from the greens at Torrey Pines is the place to go. The Grill’s Drugstore Hamburger stars 7oz of Niman Ranch ground chuck topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and mayonnaise on a sesame seed bun that’s briefly steamed in the beef fat and juices that pool below the patty as it cooks. No fancy gimmicks, just (arguably) the best classic burger you can get in San Diego.


Bare Lamb

Raglan Public House

Address and Info

Ocean Beach

Adventurous diners will appreciate this juicy grilled lamb burger topped with an eyebrow-raising (and strangely delicious) assortment of toppings, including blue cheese crumbles, mint jelly, tomato chutney, garlic aioli, and pickled beets -- all nestled between a toasted rosemary focaccia bun. If that's not enough, you can top your patty with a sunny-side-up egg for an additional charge. The lamb burger comes a la carte, and while fries won’t be necessary to fill you up, order some sweet potato spuds topped with blue cheese crumbles anyway. You can get the same burger from Bare Back Grill in PB; Queenstown Public House in Little Italy offers a similar, though slightly stripped-down, version.

Previous Venue Next Venue Venue Description
1. Davanti Enoteca 1655 India St, San Diego, CA 92101 (Little Italy)

This Italian mini-chain -- whose Little Italy location in San Diego is one of a few nationwide -- offers a fine selection of all your marinara-sauced favorites. Curated meats, craft cheese plates, and chicken liver pâté are popular shared options for groups, while Davanti's famed cheese curd-topped patties will thrill anyone looking for a new burger. The restaurant's patio -- lit up with twinkling lights -- is host to a regular evening crowd from happy hour through dinner.

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2. High Dive Bar & Grill 1801 Morena Blvd, San Diego, CA 92110

Park Bay's High Dive Bar & Grill lives up to its name with a laid-back and fun atmosphere, but surprises with indulgent and zany American food that your typical dive bar surely lacks. Twenty craft beers are on tap, plus a few spirits (options rotate but expect vodka, gin, or rum). Burgers are an obvious choice here, featuring unpredictable takes like a beef patty stuffed with cream cheese and jalapeños. The king of them all is the Kraken, a large beef patty sandwiched between two grilled, Sriracha-infused PB&Js. Swallow that.

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3. Carnitas' Snack Shack 2632 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92104 (North Park)

At Carnitas' Snack Shack, just about everything is influenced by pork, from the menu of bacon-heavy fare to the big black pig that sits atop the roof. In true southern California fashion, 100% of the seating is in an outdoor area out back that's shaded by umbrellas and wooden roofs. The space includes a spacious bar serving up wine, beer, and snacks (also pork-focused) like chicharrones and pork belly.

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4. Smashburger 801 Market St, San Diego, CA 92101

Sure, Smashburger is a chain, but it's a reliably good one. Burgers here are made via the namesake method of smashing 100% certified Angus beef, searing it to crispy, juicy perfection, and serving it more than a dozen different ways. A modest selection of salads is also available, but judging by the extensive list of fries (sweet potato, spicy buffalo, tossed in olive oil) and milkshakes (Oreo, salted caramel, Butterfinger), you're better off without the leafy greens.

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5. Hodad's 945 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101 (Ocean Beach)

A legendary burger dive, Hodad's has been serving face-sized burgers and even larger milkshakes to San Diego locals since 1969. You can choose to order your burger in mini, single, and double sizes, but be sure to pile on extras like cheese, bacon, and pastrami. The beachy interior is decked out with surfboard tables, memorabilia, and license plates. You'll likely have to wait in line, but it'll be time well spent.

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6. The Lodge at Torrey Pines 11480 N Torrey Pines Rd, La Jolla, CA 92037

The Lodge at Torrey Pines offers two separate dining experiences on a single property: A.R. Valentien, a top-rated restaurant with upscale cuisine and an elegant atmosphere, or The Grill, a convenient and casual space serving up modern fare like the Drugstore Style Hamburger. The classic burger at this latter spot is lauded for its above-par execution, and while it features no fancy add-ons, each ingredient is pickled, cut, and seared to photogenic perfection that makes its bunned bearer worthy of local fame.

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7. Raglan Public House 1851 Bacon St, Ocean Beach, CA 92107 (Ocean Beach)

A product of the Bare Back Grill's Kiwi crew, Raglan Public House is mellowed out with retractable front windows, picnic table patio seating, and surf-themed lighting fixtures -- all meant to evoke the laid-back vibe of the New Zealand surf town from which it takes its name. The Kiwi-inspired menu includes a New Zealand-style lamb burger dressed with mint and beetroot lettuce, and steak fries with homemade tartar sauce.