Burgers are the quintessential American food. It seems that every restaurant, from fast-food joints and diners to high-end steak houses and American contemporary restaurants, does its own spin on this classic. For something so basic (meat & bun), a burger can be very individualized and downright eccentric in the hands of a creative chef (or cook). Here are 20 of the best, most delicious, mouth-watering, hamburger places from across America, as selected by the editors at LocalEats, listed in no particular order.
4601 Liberty Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224
Regarded for years as the best burger joint in the ‘Burgh, casual Bloomfield neighborhood bar and restaurant Tessaro’s earned its reputation serving perfectly charred gourmet burgers and steaks grilled over hardwood. When their preferred butcher shop closed several years ago, the Harrington family hired an in-house butcher, who was tasked to incorporate steak and filet scraps into the custom-ground chuck that goes into Tessaro’s hand-patted, half-pound wonders. The fabulous grilled home fries, instead of traditional potato wedges, and a hearty helping of coleslaw complete the trinity.
234 N Belmont Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46222
Why is it that the best cheeseburger is always found in a dive? Is there some mysterious combination of concrete floor, fluorescent lighting and Styrofoam cups that causes the grill to magically produce a burger of ideal proportions? The Workingman’s Friend must have stumbled onto that magic, because consensus is that its double cheeseburger is close to perfection. Crispy, juicy patties with melted cheese, shredded lettuce, tomato and onion on a no-nonsense bun, the burger packs the house at lunch every day. Originally opened in 1918 as a sandwich shop, the restaurant was later passed from founder Louis Stamatkin to the current owner, who knows not to mess with a good thing and prefers to stay behind the scenes.
BURGER JOINT AT LE PARKER MERIDIEN
119 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019
For most burger connoisseurs, there’s not much enthusiasm for formerly frozen fast food burgers, and $30 bistro burgers dressed with foie gras or the aioli du jour somehow seem to miss the point. True burger bliss lies somewhere in between. Thankfully, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien provides a happy medium, achieving the ideal balance of simplicity with fresh, quality ingredients and a backyard taste. From the elegant lobby of the four-star hotel, just look for the small, neon burger light on the wall. You’ll pass through a dark hallway and some black curtains before running smack dab into the line. The limited décor approximates a ’70s dive of sorts, with red vinyl booths, wood paneling, various knickknacks and burgers that come wrapped in white paper. Wash it all down with a thick milk shake or a pitcher of Sam Adams poured in clear plastic cups among friends.
3146 E Camelback Road, Biltmore Plaza, Phoenix, AZ 85016
Delux is nothing like your average burger joint. With a single location in the Safeway strip mall at 32nd and Camelback, the hip, urban atmosphere is a far cry from a standardized fast-food restaurant or roadside diner. Delux features a large, central community table, trendy flatware and unisex bathrooms. As for the signature Niman Ranch beef patties, choose from either the Standard Classic (with American, jack or cheddar cheese and lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle) or the Delux (with Maytag blue and Gruyere cheeses, caramelized onions and bacon). The bun is optional for either. Regular fries, sweet potato fries or a combination of the two arrive in miniature shopping carts, with one order large enough for two or three diners to share.
THE PHARMACY BURGER PARLOR AND BEER GARDEN
731 McFerrin Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Having spent a good bit of his youth in San Antonio, Terrell Raley dreamed of a combination soda fountain, burger joint, outdoor German biergarten and Texas ice house long before he made his mark as a bartender and restaurateur in Nashville. Consider dream realized in a major sort of way with the late 2011 opening of The Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden. It’s just around the corner from proprietor and co-owner Raley’s bar-restaurant hit Holland House in rejuvenating East Nashville. There wondrous things are happening with house-made, locally sourced burgers and sausages, dense but squishy buns made special by local bakery kingpin Provence, and fresh-cut regular and sweet potato fries.
BARNEY’S GOURMET HAMBURGERS
1600 Shattuck Ave, Suite 112, Berkeley, CA 94709
A Bay Area staple since 1978, Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers attracts a wide range of diners thanks to a seemingly endless array of burgers and gourmet sandwiches. Fresh bread and meat are delivered daily, so meat eaters love the all-beef, chicken or turkey patties with several dozen available toppings. Then there are the 20 varieties of garden or tofu burgers for the vegetarian crowd. Burger creations include: the Sunshine Turkey with cheddar cheese, sprouts, scallions and avocado on whole-wheat; the Pesto Chicken with Monterey Jack and garlic-pesto sauce on a baguette; the Greek Burger with feta, cucumbers, lettuce, tomato and avocado served in pita bread; and the Popeye Tofu with feta and sautéed spinach. The fries are also well loved, available in a thick steak cut, skinny cut or spicy curly. Orders are big enough to share.
HIRES BIG H DRIVE-IN
425 S 700 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84102
Serving great food since being founded in 1959 by the late Don Hale, The Hires Big H original Salt Lake location remains surprisingly unchanged. Locals of all ages, as well as reporters from The Wall Street Journal and Gourmet magazine, love the classic offerings. Favorites include the famous Hires Big H hamburger, hot dogs, fries and onion rings, frosty mugs of Hires root beer (in five sizes), and root beer floats. Thick shakes are available in more than 15 flavors, including pineapple, caramel and marshmallow.
2927 Bridge Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113
With its warm, homey atmosphere and romantic, flower-filled atrium, Heck’s Cafe doesn’t exactly scream burger joint. But this converted brick townhouse nestled in the heart of Cleveland is where locals and visitors have been coming for years to get their hands – yes, both of them – on one of the famed gourmet Heck Burgers. The half-pound of premium ground beef, grilled to order and served on a hand-knotted roll, is the base for a plethora of elaborate toppings, from mushrooms and peppers sautéed with garlic and white wine, to sour cream and crushed peppercorns. Otherwise, the American traditional menu offers a nice variety of sandwiches, salads, steaks and seafood.
MR. BARTLEY’S GOURMET BURGERS
Harvard University, 1246 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138
A local institution in a neighborhood that looks more and more like a mall every year, Mr. Bartley’s Gourmet Burgers in Harvard Square serves some of the city’s best burgers in a raucous, no-frills atmosphere. For more than 40 years, locals, students, tourists and professors have been squeezing into this cramped Massachusetts Avenue eatery for killer burgers, fries and onion rings, as well as milkshakes and raspberry-lime rickeys. A cash-only, no-booze, no-bathroom operation, the best way to experience Bartley’s is to take the train rather than look for parking in this part of Harvard Square.
2900 W Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL 60618
The signature Kuma Burger at longtime Avondale standout Kuma’s Corner includes bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg. But, we’re intrigued by the new “Corrections House” burger with braised pork ribs, apple butter BBQ, cheddar polenta, caramelized red onion and fresh arugula. These guys get extra credit for creativity.