The 20 Best Burgers In NYC
All the essential New York City spots where you should eat a charred patty between two buns.
This wasn’t an easy list to make. There were nights we woke up screaming, having dreamed 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 in NYC. Trust us when we say that you’ll want to know what every single one of these tastes like.
We can’t tell you what’s actually on Emily’s burger (without re-reading our review, but that would be cheating). 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.)
In a city increasingly full of two-dimensional patties, the “Hot Mess” from Harlem Shake remains a top-three 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 like Harlem Business Alliance, Harlem Children’s Zone, Harlem EatUp!, and so many more.
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photo credit: Emily Schindler
7th Street Burger
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, you’ll probably see a big crowd blocking the sidewalk. You should join that crowd.
When you try the signature burger at this tiny Pakistani place in Bushwick, 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.
Chicago’s best burger arrived with about as much fanfare as the royal family at Wimbledon, and while almost any other stack of bread and ground beef would disappoint considering that level of hype, the Au Cheval burger lives up to it. The “single” is actually a double, and the two patties, which are seared on the outside but still juicy inside, are topped with perfect portions of gooey American cheese, mayo, and pickles. It’s very good on its own, but opt to add thick-cut, peppery bacon on top, and you’ll be surprised when the burger doesn’t stop to give you a royal wave.
4 Charles Prime Rib
4 Charles is from the people behind Au Cheval, and the burger here is similarly fantastic. Like the one at Au Cheval, it has two patties, tons of cheese, and plenty of sauce. But while the burgers are pretty much twins, the end results are very different, like the Olsen twins in It Takes Two. At Au Cheval, your burger will likely share the table with a fried bologna sandwich, and you’ll be surrounded by people drinking picklebacks and tallboys. At 4 Charles, the burger is cut tableside by a white-gloved server, and it’s often shared as an appetizer before the $99 prime rib arrives. The small West Village space looks like a rich uncle’s cigar room, and it’s nearly impossible to get a reservation before 11pm (not to mention you have to reserve a burger a day in advance if you want it for takeout). But once you actually get to participate, it’s one of the greatest burger experiences in NYC.
photo credit: Donovan's Pub
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 on either side. If you’re feeling frisky, go for The Jack, and you’ll get some heat with jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and chipotle mayo. And like any Irish pub that’s worth its salt, the burger comes with real deal thick cut and crispy chips.
Yes, at $38 this burger is ridiculously expensive, but 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.
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, pate, a handful of cilantro, and a couple of jalapeño slices. Our favorite thing about their burger is that you can actually taste the quality of the meat, which is made with a combination of short rib and dry-aged rib eye. In case the burger isn’t enough to inspire you to come here, they also make one of our favorite fried chicken sandwiches in the city.
This burger, which is just available in the walk-in-only tavern section of the restaurant, is the Vitruvian Man of burgers. It has a lot going on—a thick patty, smoky bacon, melted cheddar, smoked onion aioli—but all of the proportions are ideal, so none of the flavors overwhelm the others. Even the bacon is cut in a way that allows you to get one slice in every bite, which we’d be willing to bet is how Da Vinci liked his burgers.
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 if you want to try the Bash Burger, plan a lunch or late dinner here.
Red Hook Tavern
Much like the burger at Peter Luger, the one at Red Hook Tavern is all about the meat. It’s just one big patty with American cheese and a cross-section of onion on a sesame bun that plays its role perfectly without causing any distractions. The burger is incredibly rich and salty—but we’re pretty sure we could eat several in one sitting. Maybe that’s because the patty is surprisingly light for its size, or maybe it’s because we lack self-restraint. The only thing we don’t like about this burger is that it comes with potato wedges, the least acceptable form of french fry. But we’re willing to take the high road and look past this.
Diner is a classic Williamsburg restaurant that’s located in an old dining car. The nightly-changing menu will be scribbled onto your paper tablecloth by a server with better hair than you, and 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 thick, crispy fries. You could split it with someone, but please don’t.
Only served at lunch and brunch, Upland’s burger tastes like what would happen if the In-N-Out double-double started going to Crossfit, got jacked, and decided to top itself with avocado and peppers. The whole thing is basically a love letter to California, complete with a tiny state flag at the top of the toothpick that holds it together. And at $27, it’s also a lot less expensive than a flight to LAX.
The name of this place says it all. At this LES burger spot, perfectly-seasoned patties are pressed flat like a CD, with ultra-crispy edges that spill over the sides of the bun. When you want something simple, get their Classic with American cheese, onions, pickles, and a house sauce. Or, if you’re in a maximalist sort of mood, go for the version with bacon, onion rings, sliced jalapeños, and BBQ sauce. Whatever you order, get a double.
Cafe Altro Paradiso
At some point over the course of history, burgers got unfairly stereotyped as un-fancy food. You could use a lot of this guide as evidence that burgers can be just as fancy as cucumber sandwiches (or whatever finger food royal people currently eat), and perhaps the best example of that is Altro Paradiso’s. Every ingredient is top-notch, from the wagyu beef patty to the toasted brioche bun to the gorgonzola, balsamic caramelized radicchio, and the skewer of caperberry and roasted red pepper on top. And you no longer need to come for lunch or sit at the bar to eat it, so there’s really no excuse for not checking this burger off your list.
We know the single vs. double 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 medium-rare Pat Lafrieda single-patty burger. By comparison, their double smash patty feels like eating (delicious) gobs of tangy kimchi mayo and American cheese with a side of burger. If you like to taste high-quality steak meat in your burgers, you’ll love Nowon’s thick version.
photo credit: Kate Previte
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, with enough juice in it to dye the bottom bun pink. Expect a decadent, nicely charred patty on a toasted bun with a thick slice of tomato and optional aged cheddar. Say yes to the cheddar. It goes perfectly with the nutty flavors in the meat. The burger is only listed on their pub menu, but you can order it no matter where you’re seated (just ask).
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.
Corner Bistro's burger is a classic, so it may be on this list, in part, for sentimental reasons. (We're similarly attached to the burger at J.G. Melon.) But also, this not-so-fancy burger with a massive puck of loosely packed beef is exactly what you want at 1am. Come after a long night out, and eat a thick meat sandwich that’ll make your hands smell like beef for days.