The 19 Best Burgers In NYC
photo credit: Alex Staniloff
This wasn’t an easy list to make. There were nights we woke up screaming from nightmares of burgers chasing us along cliffsides, asking why they hadn’t made the cut. Whole days were spent in conference rooms with no food or water, and no one going in or out until we came to a consensus. And while some of that might be an exaggeration, you should know that we have eaten a lot of burgers, and we are, in fact, burger experts. So here it is: our list of the best burgers—smashed and otherwise—in NYC. Trust us when we say that you’ll want to know what every single one of these tastes like.
Red Hook is from the folks behind Hometown Bar-B-Que, so they know how to make a thick, quality beef patty that’s so tender, it falls apart like it had a long day and is eternally grateful to be at home in your mouth. The burger doesn’t need anything else, but the salty melted American cheese and the thin slice of raw onion certainly make it better. Order one, have a couple of beers in the saloon-like space with floral wallpaper and walls lined with wine bottles, then order another.
The burger at Raoul's is unlike any other on this list—because every inch of the patty is encrusted with black peppercorns. If you like black pepper, you'll love this thing. If you don't, you'll still probably enjoy it. Rather than cheddar or American, the burger comes topped with creamy St. Andre cheese (in addition to cornichons and watercress), and the whole thing is intensely buttery. The fries that come on the side are also perfectly crisp and salty, and you should dip them in a side of au poivre sauce.
We know the smashed vs. un-smashed debate comes down to personal burger-eating preferences, but after having both options at Nowon in the East Village, here’s where we stand: You’ll taste every ingredient more prominently in their dry-aged, thick, 8 oz burger. Some of those ingredients are tangy kimchi mayo, actual kimchi, and American cheese. If you like high-quality steak meat in your burgers, you’ll love this version, but it's a tough call—and the double smash definitely earns its spot on our Smashburger Power Ranking. Nowon also has a location in Bushwick.
At $38 the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern was one of the first super-luxe burgers in the city—and it’s still one of the best. The butter-basted patty is made from dry-aged ribeye, and it's topped with a mound of caramelized onions on a Balthazar bun. The Minetta Burger ($31) is slightly juicier, with a little less funk, and it comes with cheddar. Reservations can be hard to get on short notice, but try for a walk-in bar seat (we've also seen them packing this burger out for delivery).
Despite having only a few ingredients, the cheeseburger from 7th Street keeps digging its way into our brains Inception-style. Roughly-chopped sweet onions are pressed into a 75/25 Schweid & Sons beef patty as it’s smashed with a spatula, resulting in something that’ll remind you of a White Castle slider. The whole thing, with its gooey yellow American cheese, is an unapologetic salute to salt and fat. When you stop by the original East Village location, you’ll probably see a big crowd, and you should join it. But 7th Street has quickly expanded, and now has outposts all over the city.
Diner is a classic Williamsburg restaurant located in an old dining car, where the nightly-changing menu will be scribbled onto your paper tablecloth by a server with better hair than you. While anything that person writes down will be fantastic, the best thing here is the one thing that never changes: the burger. It’s a thick but not too-thick piece of meat with sharp cheese, a soft bun, and fat, crispy fries. You could split it with someone, but please don’t.
4 Charles is from the people behind Au Cheval, and the $38 burger here—cut tableside by a white-gloved server—is similarly fantastic. Like the burger at Au Cheval, the one at 4 Charles has tons of cheese, and two wagyu patties seared on the outside but still juicy inside. This small West Village spot looks like a rich uncle’s cigar room, and it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation before 11pm. If you know someone “important” like an ex-President who can get in anywhere, it’s time to call in a favor.
Though more accessible than 4 Charles, this is still one of the more annoying-to-acquire burgers on our list. Le B sells just nine burgers a night, and they’re only available off-menu at the bar, so you should make an early reservation. The thick, dry-aged patty is slathered with a healthy dose of l’affiné au chablis cheese, which provides just the right amount of creaminess and lactic funk, and sweet, red wine caramelized onions. This is a burger of excess, including its $38 price tag and big pile of fries—pair it with an expensive cocktail while sitting in a comfortable bar stool under the glow of Le B's opulent chandelier.
In a city increasingly full of two-dimensional patties, the “Hot Mess” from Harlem Shake remains a top-notch smashburger. We never thought ground beef could get this crispy until we tasted the edges on these patties, and the pickled cherry pepper-bacon relish is a very nice touch. Not to mention that Harlem Shake is exactly the kind of business we love to support. The owners do their best to hire from within the community, and they donate part of their profits to local charities and initiatives.
At Keens, you’ll get a burger that would pair nicely with a few puffs from one of the 40,000 pipes on the ceiling. It has a thick hunk of meat with that uniquely beefy funk you get when a burger is made with steak trimmings, and enough juice in it to dye the bottom bun pink. Add the optional aged cheddar to the decadent, nicely charred patty on a toasted bun with a thick slice of tomato. The burger is only listed on their pub menu, but you can order it no matter where you’re seated (just ask).
The big, juicy hamburgers at Donovan’s Pub in Woodside have been part of neighborhood lore for decades. There are currently 18 burger options, but their most famous one is still the simplest: a half-pounder that comes perfectly cooked and seasoned with a bit of a crust, and holds together beautifully in between two charred sesame buns and melted cheese. Like any Irish pub that’s worth its salt, the burger comes with real deal thick cut and crispy chips.
With so many smashburger places in the city, you think we’d be tired of them by now. We’re not—especially if they’re this good. If you like the (also great) burger at Smashed, try the one at this counter-service spot in Chinatown. It comes with two thin, pressed patties with gooey American cheese and grilled onions in a soft and squishy bun. It’s bigger and less expensive than what you find at similar burger joints. On the side, get some extra crispy fries, which we prefer over their tots.
What’s better than eating one of the best burgers in the city? Eating it in a spot with a spectacular view. At Manhatta, on the 60th floor of a FiDi skyscraper, you can get both at the walk-in-only bar area. The burger comes with just the right amounts of sharp American cheese, caramelized sweet koji onions, and some mayo with bits of shiitake. That sounds like a lot of distractions, but none of the accessories take away from the prominent flavor of the dry-aged beef. For another perfectly-proportioned burger at a Danny Meyer restaurant, try the one at Gramercy Tavern.
We can’t tell you what’s actually on Emily’s burger. And that’s because you don’t experience the Emmy Burger as ingredients. You experience it as one cohesive unit of human emotion: joy, love, and fear that nothing else will ever come close to this. If you want to experience it for yourself, get here early. A lot of other people want to eat it too. (And if you really need to know about those ingredients, they are: dry-aged beef, onion, melted cheddar, “Emmy sauce,” and a warm pretzel bun.)
The grass-fed cheeseburger at this Crown Heights wine bar is so juicy, we wouldn’t be surprised if the kitchen is injecting meat juices into the patty with a syringe. That fact alone would make the burger spectacular, but ingredients like thick slices of Gruyère, remoulade made with fermented chili bean paste, and pickled green tomato take it to another level. The burger is only cooked one way, and thankfully, that’s perfectly medium-rare. Eat one at the long wooden bar, which we prefer to the skylit back dining room.
Saigon Social’s portly burger might convince you to abandon your allegiance to smash patties. This Vietnamese restaurant on the LES tops its burger with accessories typically found on bánh mì, like pickled carrots and daikon, pâté, a handful of cilantro, and a couple of jalapeño slices. And you can taste the quality of the meat, which is made with a combination of short rib and dry-aged rib eye. The burger isn't on the regular menu, but is often available as a special—or ask and you may be able to order one off-menu.
With its raw bar and sushi, Lure Fishbar in Soho is, ostensibly, a seafood spot. But you’ll see the Bash Burger on almost every table, because it’s the best thing on the menu. The sesame bun is soft and a little crispy around the edges, and the beef patty is thick and juicy. A few razor thin pickle slices help balance each bite, but what really sets this burger apart is the salty-sweet jam with bacon bits and onions. This restaurant can be a zoo, so plan a lunch or late dinner here.
When you try the signature burger at this tiny Pakistani place in Williamsburg (with outposts in food halls in Midtown East and Downtown Brooklyn), you’ll think back to a time in your life when you were constantly discovering great new things, like sunsets and scented markers. Instead of mayo or mustard, the burger has spicy mint chutney, and the big patty is somehow lighter than it appears. We could eat several of these in one sitting, and now that we’ve come up with that idea, we probably will.
Only served at lunch and brunch, Upland’s burger tastes like an In-N-Out double-double that started going to Crossfit, got jacked, and began wearing avocado and peppers. The whole thing is basically a love letter to California, complete with a tiny state flag toothpick that holds it together. And at $28, it’s also a lot less expensive than a flight to LAX.