San Diego
1. The Balboa Bar & Grill
Bankers Hill

A collective cheer went up from burger lovers across San Diego when The Balboa Bar and Grill reopened in April, 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.

2. The Friendly
University Heights

First of all, it’s a pizza shop, but don’t let that stop you—ever since The Friendly opened three 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 accoutrements; you can find those, sans the pizza, at their second location, The Friendly Tavern, in North Park.

3. Madison
University Heights

The Burger 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. Vegetarians can sub a flavor-packed chipotle black bean patty at no extra charge.

4. Fernside
South Park

The namesake Fernside burger layers two smashed burgers, charred on the outside and juicy pink inside, layered with gooey American cheese, shredded iceberg, house-made pickles and a dollop of Fernside sauce in a buttery grilled bun. 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 or a heady Spanish-style gin and tonic with Junipero gin, elderflower, and Becherovka.

5. Juniper & Ivy
Little Italy

Juniper and Ivy’s not-so-secret secret menu burger, the In-N-Haute, is Culinary Director 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 Flannery Beef patties, dry-aged 28 days, 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 a flavor bomb “animal” sauce. Fries (made using an involved, two day process) and house made kimchi ketchup come alongside. Did we mention they sell out fast?

6. Ranch 45
Solana Beach

Ranch 45 uses all natural Brandt Beef, your choice of smoked cheddar, gruyere, or blue cheese, and 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 for both lunch and dinner.