17 of the Best Burger Joints in San Diego

Go all out with a double smashburger or opt for a classic cheeseburger at one of San Diego’s best burger spots.

While our love of tacos, burritos, and all things south of the border often dominates San Diego’s culinary scene (and with good reason), in recent years, a good many restaurants, from diners and coffee shops to fast casual and fine dining, have come to realize that for some of us, diving into a big, juicy burger is an itch we just have to scratch, and often.

Whether you prefer your burger embellished simply with fresh lettuce, tomato and onion, or you love unusual and over-the-top garnishes, we’ve done the (delicious) work of seeking out the best burgers San Diego has to offer. From Little Italy to La Jolla and beyond, here are our picks:

MishMash

Barrio Logan
$$$$

Originally a pop-up serving the area’s breweries and farmers markets, Mishmash set roots down in Barrio Logan nearly six years ago. The Cheese Louise, is a third-pound, hand-pattied in house that ups the wow factor with your choice of three different flavors of house-made American cheese—regular, jalapeno, or habanero. The Thousand Island liberally applied to a toasted Sadie Rose bun is truly made from scratch; even the aioli base is handmade. Don’t skip the fries, either. Hand-cut and Belgian-style, they’re twice-fried and accompanied by your choice of two sauces from a list of six, all house-made, including the sweet and spicy cult favorite Sauce From The Black Lagoon.
How to order: Seating is available on a first-come basis. Order takeout via Toast.

Viewpoint Brewing Company’s Backyard Burger takes a thick patty, fresh from Chula Vista’s Hamilton Meats and Provisions, is crowned with American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, grilled onion, and tangy house sauce, all tucked into a Sadie Rose brioche bun. The vegetarian Farmers Burger features a hearty black bean and sweet potato patty with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, chipotle aioli, avocado, and crispy onion that can also be made vegan. Wash it down with one (or two) of twenty brews as you kick back and enjoy the expansive views of the San Dieguito Lagoon.
How to order: Reservations can be made via SpotOn. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Born and Raised
Photo by Mary Beth Abate

Born and Raised

Little Italy
$$$$

You’d expect a fine dining steakhouse to also do a fine burger, and Born and Raised does not disappoint. Using a 50/50 mix of ground aged and dry-aged steak scraps and a bit of bone marrow for a luxurious flavor and mouthfeel; only around 15 eight-ounce patties are available daily. Brioche buns are freshly made by sister restaurant, Ironside Fish and Oyster Bar. Drizzles of classic dressing, caramelized onions, and savory Gruyere cheese hit all the right notes. Don’t skip the house-made pickle; it’s a spicy, tangy palate cleanser.
How to order: Reservations are recommended. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations

Rocky's Crown Pub

Pacific Beach
$$$$

Despite small quarters and a parking-challenged location, Rocky’s Crown Pub has been serving one of San Diego’s best burgers since 1977. The 80/20 blend of chuck from Central Meat & Provision is hand-pattied daily and comes in two sizes, one-third or a half-pound, with or without gooey melted American cheese. Mayo, leaf lettuce, tomato, raw red onion (ask if you want it grilled), and pickle chips make this the burger you loved as a kid and still crave as a grownup. Fries can be added as a side order, and there’s a decent selection of beer to wash it down. Rocky’s is 21+ ID required only, and bring cash—no credit cards accepted.
How to order: Seating is available on a first-come basis.

Bleu Boheme
Photo courtesy of Bleu Boheme

Bleu Boheme

Kensington
$$$$

Bleu Boheme’s Frenchified take on the all-American classic is anything but conventional. The Croque de Garçon stars Angus beef that’s ground in-house and served open-faced on a slice of buttered, toasted brioche, adorned with Brie, slices of house-smoked bacon, melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked onions, and a runny fried egg. Crispy, herbs de Provence flecked pommes frites are the perfect side dish. Over thirty wines are available au pichet (quarter- or half-liter) to wash it down.
How to order: Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations
The Balboa Bar and Grill
Photo courtesy of The Balboa Bar and Grill

The Balboa Bar and Grill

Bankers Hill & Chula Vista
$$$$

A collective cheer went up from burger lovers across San Diego when The Balboa Bar and Grill reopened after owner Tom Logsdon had announced its permanent shuttering in July 2020. Thanks to an unexpected proposal from his landlord, it’s back—bigger and better than ever. 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. Add a finely crafted cocktail, sit back, and enjoy one of life’s perfect moments.
How to book: Seating is available on a first-come basis.

The Friendly

University Heights
$$$$

First of all, it’s a pizza shop, but don’t let that stop you—ever since The Friendly opened four or so years ago it’s been a favorite for its Dirty Flat Top burger. Order a slice or two (the correct choice here is pepperoni) along with your burgers; it’ll be up and piping hot for you to munch on while you watch the flat top magic happen. Two smashed patties, all crispy edges and juicy pink middles, get layered with melted American cheese, softly caramelized onions, and a swipe of garlic aioli in a buttered, griddled squishy white bun. It’s not pretty, but it’s one of the best damn burgers you’ll ever eat. By the way, don’t bother asking for fries, ketchup, pickles, or other accouterments; you can find those, sans the pizza, at their second location, The Friendly Tavern, in North Park.
How to book: Seating is available on a first-come basis.

Madison on Park

University Heights
$$$$

The Brunch Burger (available on weekends) from neighborhood eatery Madison on Park is made with Angus beef, seared and slipped into a brioche bun. But things get more exciting from there with the addition of sharp, aged white cheddar, pickled shallots and jalapeno-bacon sauce, served with waffle fries and house-made pickles. Weekdays, the Mediterranean Burger, a lamb/beef combo, topped with cucumber tzatziki sauce and feta, is a gyro-adjacent flavor bomb. Vegetarians can sub a zesty chipotle black bean patty at no extra charge.
How to order: Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Available for Reservations

Fernside

South Park
$$$$

The namesake Fernside Burger layers two smashed patties, charred on the outside and juicy pink inside with gooey American cheese, shredded iceberg, house-made pickles, and a dollop of Fern sauce between a buttery grilled bun, and comes in a one-patty version for lighter appetites. Pair it with crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside salt and pepper waffle fries and a boozy, refreshing slushee or a double craft cocktail—we like the Cobra Clutch for smoky mezcal/tequila sipping with a subtle absinthe finish, or a heady Spanish-style gin and tonic with Botanist gin, elderflower, and Becherovka.
How to order: Seating is available on a first-come basis. Order takeout via Toast.

Juniper and Ivy
Photo courtesy of Juniper and Ivy

Juniper and Ivy

Little Italy
$$$$

Juniper and Ivy’s not-so-secret secret menu burger, the In-N-Haute, is executive chef and newly minted James Beard semi-finalist Anthony Wells’ homage to In-N-Out’s Double Double. Only a dozen or so of the coveted burgers are available each day, and they sell out fast. What’s all the fuss about? Two dry-aged Flannery Beef patties, grilled medium rare, topped with local onions that are sous vide with mustard until tender and then tossed on the grill, pickles made in-house with local cucumbers, and house-crafted “animal” sauce. Fries (made using an involved, two-day process) and house-made kimchi ketchup come alongside. Did we mention they sell out fast?
How to order: Reservations are recommended but walk-ins are accepted if seating is available.

Available for Reservations
Ranch 45
Photo by Haley Hill, courtesy of Ranch 45

Ranch 45

Solana Beach
$$$$

Ranch 45 uses all natural Brandt Beef, fresh butter lettuce, heirloom tomato, and Bermuda onion on a soft brioche bun for their classic, craveable Brandt Burger. It comes with a generous portion of crispy fries and a tangy house-made pickle, and is available at lunch. At dinner, Thursday-Saturday from 5-8:30pm, indulge in the Brandt Beef Truffle Burger, made extra-fancy with truffle cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and garlic aioli.
How to order: Seating for breakfast and lunch are on a first-come basis. Reservations for dinner Thursdays-Saturdays are recommended and can be made online via Tock. Walk-ins are accepted for dinner if seating is available.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

J-FAT’s Famous Cheeseburger is as down-home as it gets. A plump, sizzling patty, oozing melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Thousand Island dressing on a warm, toasty bun, with a big pile of hot fries alongside (the upgrade to parm-garlic fries is totally worth the extra charge), or go for a crunchy coleslaw or the addictive house chips. The tavern does a fine job with plant-based burgers too—the Beyond Meat Burger tops the perfectly grilled patty with cheddar, spinach, avocado, and mayo.
How to order: Reservations are recommended and can be made online via Yelp. Walk-ins are accepted if seating is available or order online for takeout online.

Available for Delivery/Takeout

619 Spirits

North Park
$$$$

The Classic Cheeseburger at 619 Spirits, San Diego’s first urban distillery, sports two smashed patties, smothered in cheddar cheese, LTO, pickles, and house aioli on brioche. Enjoy it with a finely crafted draft cocktail, or a rotating boozy slushie.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order takeout via Toast.

Carnitas' Snack Shack

Embarcadero
$$$$

The sign may say “carnitas” but this local favorite hits high marks with burgers, too. Their tasty Blue Collar Burger, features a thick patty of lean ground chuck seared to perfection and topped with oozey American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and their special sauce, all on a brioche bun. Dress it up with bacon or a fried egg, and wash it down with a Prickly Pear Margarita.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order takeout via Toast.

Hodad's

Multiple locations
$$$$

Head to Hodad’s for their wonderfully satisfying bacon cheeseburger, available in mini, single, and double versions. It comes with all the requisite toppings—we recommend Blue Jay style, slathered in blue cheese sauce and softly grilled onions instead of raw ones. Add a side of frings (onion rings and fries) and a milkshake and indulge in one of San Diego’s most beloved burgers.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order online via Toast, but keep in mind that online ordering is not always available, and on weekends the Ocean Beach location doesn’t offer it at all.

The Grill at Torrey Pines
Photo courtesy of The Grill at Torrey Pines

While the surroundings may be as fancy as all get-out, the Drugstore Hamburger is a stripped down, essentials only burger. Don’t let that put you off, though. Niman Ranch ground beef, classic LTO, pickle, mayo, and a grilled sesame seed bun make this an elevated take on your childhood favorites, just right for the grownup you. Classic ingredients, perfectly executed.
How to order: Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 858-777-6641.

Available for Reservations

Raglan Public House

Ocean Beach 
$$$$

Juicy house-ground lamb is the star of Raglan’s signature Bare Lil Lamb, surrounded by an assortment of garnishes that, at first glance, sound crazy. Crumbled blue cheese, mint dressing, tomato chutney, garlic aioli, and pickled beets—it shouldn't work, but trust us, it does. If that’s not stuffed enough, you can add a sunny side up egg for a slight upcharge. Excellent fries come both matchstick thin and fat, or get the sweet potato version, the blue cheese topping provides a clever savory contrast.
How to order: Seating is on a first-come basis. Order takeout via Toast.

Available for Delivery/Takeout
Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.