15 of the Best Burger Joints in San Francisco
From classic cheeseburgers to inventive new takes.
We may have spent the last year pretending that a burger tastes just as good if it’s delivered or picked up at the restaurant, but the truth is, a burger will never taste as satisfying and flavorful as when it comes straight out of the kitchen and onto your plate the way God intended. We’re so happy we can get back to that now, especially at all of these places (most of which also offer takeout and/or delivery), which have some of the best juicy beef patties tucked between buns in town. Whether you’re in the mood for a gourmet burger with fancy cheese and pillowy bread or just want to get down with a classic smashburger with American cheese and special sauce, this list has you covered.
Marlowe, home of the “Marlowe” Burger, has been temporarily closed since 2020, but you can still get your fix at Park Tavern, a spacious tavern/bistro with indoor and outdoor seating right across from Washington Square Park in North Beach. The juicy burger comes with caramelized onions, cheddar, and bacon, but it’s the horseradish aioli that really sets it apart from competitors. Ask for extra for maximum french fry dipping enjoyment.
Red's Java House
This classic SF establishment has been serving super affordable burgers with a side of sunshine and Bay Bridge views since 1955. The menu at Red’s is limited—it’s pretty much just burgers and hot dogs—but we’re not complaining because we would never order anything else. The burgers come on a sourdough roll with mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, and onions, and you can get a double for under $10.
How to order: Walk-ins only.
You might be hesitant to trust a burger at a bar that also serves really good tacos and burritos, but the Drive-In cheeseburger at Garaje will make you a believer. The burger is one-third pound of certified Angus, double American cheese, griddled onions, pickles, lettuce, tomato, Thousand Island, and ketchup, all on a toasted Acme bun. You can even make it a double if you’re extra hungry.
How to order: Walk-ins only.
The house-ground grass-fed hamburger on grilled rosemary focaccia with aioli and pickles is not as well-known as Zuni’s famous roast chicken for two, but is just as delicious. The aioli and pickles perfectly complement the salty, fatty meat, and even though focaccia sounds like an inferior choice for a hamburger bun, it’s light and airy in a way that miraculously works. It’s not cheap—$20 for the burger, another $2.75 for cheese, and, if you want shoestring fries, another nine bucks on top of that. That’s over $30 for a cheeseburger and fries, but as a special occasion burger, it’s well worth it. You’ll just have to make sure you’re celebrating that special occasion at lunch because the burger isn’t on the dinner menu.
Mission Bowling Club
Even if you’re not in the mood to go bowling (is that a thing?), it’s still worth going to this upscale bowling alley and cocktail bar for its burger made with aged, granulated short rib and chuck seared in beef fat then topped with Monterey jack, caramelized onions, and caper aioli on an Acme bun. Order one for yourself because just like in bowling, you won’t want to split it.
4505 Burgers & BBQ
If you’re gonna call a burger “The Best Damn Grass-Fed Cheeseburger,” it’d better actually be the best damn grass-fed cheeseburger, which 4505’s truly is (or at least one of the best) thanks in large part to the perfectly grilled grass-fed patty, effortlessly meltable Gruyère, secret sauce, and a buttery, grilled sesame and scallion bun. We don’t want to tell you what to do, but you can make it a double for four more bucks, and it would be a shame to pass up on an opportunity like that, don’t you think? Know before you go: Parking isn’t exactly easy in this neighborhood, and 4505 is counter service with heated outside seating only.
Even if you’re one of those San Franciscans who look down their noses at the Marina, a trip to Causwells for the Americana burger is well-worth putting those feelings aside for a couple of hours. The smash-style burger tastes like a sophisticated take on In-N-Out’s Double Double, but with way better ingredients and way more deliciousness. The double patties are mixed with dry-aged fat and covered in American cheese and then topped with lettuce, onion, lacto-fermented pickles, and a secret sauce (a combination of house-made Worcestershire, house-made Thousand Island dressing, and other proprietary stuff), all on a Petit Pain bun. You can add accouterments like avocado, bacon, and a fried egg, but you really don’t need any of it; this burger is perfection just the way it comes.
Gott's Roadside in the Ferry Building does a juicy double cheeseburger exactly the way a juicy double cheeseburger should be done—nothing too flashy, just one-third pound Niman Ranch Angus beef patties cooked medium well with American cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and secret sauce, all on a toasted egg bun. (Or in a lettuce wrap or a gluten-free bun if you prefer.) Gott’s also has a bunch of other tasty burgers with extravagant toppings, like the California burger that comes with a fried egg, Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagon Wheel cheese, Zoe’s bacon, arugula, balsamic onions, and mayo, and the Kimchi burger with a fried egg, kimchi, American cheese, Zoe's bacon, and spicy gochujang mayo, but the classic double is the one we go back to time and time again. (Not eating meat? Gott’s also has a veggie burger and Impossible Burger patties.) Gott’s is counter service and has tables inside and out.
The burger at this Cow Hollow institution is a little “controversial” for some because it comes on a baguette, but it's precisely that ingenious move that makes this one of the best burgers in SF. It comes with butter lettuce, butter pickles, and onions, and we suggest adding cheddar to complete your masterpiece. Enjoy it indoors or in one of the three heated parklets until 9 pm Sunday through Thursday and until 10 pm on the weekend.
When you have a hankering for a late-night burger, there’s nowhere better to appease it than this go-to SF staple that serves 29,000 of them a year. We’re still easing back into the old definition of “late night,” so the popular spot is currently open until 10 pm Tuesday through Thursday and 11 pm Friday and Saturday. Still, that’s plenty of time to have a few drinks and then enjoy the burger made with Five Dot Ranch chuck that’s ground daily and then grilled over a wood fire and served with melted cheddar, lettuce, and pickled red onions on a house-made brioche bun.
Anthony Bourdain called the double cheeseburger at Sam’s one of the three best burgers in the world. To be fair, he’d been vigorously imbibing beforehand, but if you’re at Sam’s, there’s a good chance you’ve been doing the same. There’s nothing gourmet about this affordable (for SF) burger; the magic is that it’s “just” a classic burger topped with American cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, lettuce, tomato, and onions on a sesame bun. It consistently hits the spot no matter the time of day, but it becomes life-changing after midnight—which is good since it’s one of your only dining options at that time.
WesBurger 'n' More
Once upon a time, a photographer named Wes Rowe decided that he would stop making his popular burgers just for friends and start offering them to all of San Francisco at a monthly pop-up. He won first place at the SF Burger Brawl not long after, which led to a weekly pop-up. Fast forward to now, and he has his own counter service spot in the Mission where people can feast on his burgers seven days a week. All of the burgers (“’n’ more”) at WesBurger are worthy of debate, but the champion is the original smash burger with mustard, pickles, ketchup, onion, and American cheese. The smash burger patties are only three ounces, so needless to say, you’ll want to make it a double.
Once upon a time, paying $22 for a burger seemed totally insane, but then along came the Spruce Burger, which is made with a blend of brisket, sirloin, and short rib that’s ground in-house every day, and topped with pickled red onion, pickled zucchini, tomato, and a caper remoulade, and suddenly $22 felt completely reasonable. The thing that really sets this burger apart from all of the others is the bun: a buttered English muffin made in-house and provides just the right bread to burger ratio. Oh, and the fries (which come with the burger, as they should for $22) are fried in duck fat and are oh so very damn good.
There’s nothing better than grabbing a seat at the bar at this cozy spot from the folks behind Fiorella and ordering an old fashioned and the Tavern Burger, a decadent combination of Flannery beef, Hobbs thick-cut bacon, American cheese, chipotle aioli, lettuce, onions, pickles, and shoestring fries. There is also an Impossible burger, which is very similar except for no beef or bacon.
Super Duper Burgers
People in California love to sing the praises of In-N-Out, but if we’re opting for a fast food burger, we actually prefer Super Duper’s slightly fancier version made with organic, locally sourced, humanely raised ingredients, including vegetarian-fed beef with an 80 to 20 protein to fat blend. It’s just a lot better, specifically, the Super Burger made with two very juicy four-ounce patties and topped with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and a secret sauce. Add cheddar cheese because a burger is always better when it’s a cheeseburger. And if you’re dining in, add a spiked milkshake to your order because … well, does it really require a reason?