If you ever break something, you’ll probably be able to fix it with duct tape. And in much the same way, if you ever have a bad or especially long day, a burger at a bar will help you feel whole again. So the next time you get stuck on a subway for several hours or send a text saying “Shut up” or “I love you” to the wrong person, use this guide. All of these spots have bar seats and great burgers, and they’re perfect for last-minute meals.
First of all, the burger at this Clinton Hill pizza spot is the best in NYC. It’s a single massive patty with melted cheddar on a pretzel bun, and it comes covered in a special sauce that drips off the sides the same way water drips off Niagara Falls. There’s a bar in the back that’s first-come-first-served, and you should make plans to sit there in the very near future.
Much like Emily, which is from the same owners, Emmy Squared is very good at two things: pizza and burgers. But we aren’t here to talk about the pizza. You want to know about the burger - which is both big enough to give you a whole day’s worth of energy, and so messy it should come with a napkin the size of a horse blanket. It has cheese, a pretzel bun, two patties, and waffle fries on the side - and eating it at the bar feels like the equivalent of finding an empty subway car (that doesn’t smell) or having a roller coaster all to yourself.
Bar Sardine is a very small West Village spot that tends to fill up, so if you grab a seat at the bar, people probably won’t notice that you’re dining solo (not that it matters). The burger is one of the best in NYC, with BBQ mayo and little shoestring fries on top - and the cocktails are excellent as well.
The burger at Virginia’s comes topped with melted white cheddar and a large amount of caramelized onions, and it’ll briefly transport you to a world where everything tastes good and also smells like beef. This is a very nice neighborhood spot where you’ll want to become enough of a regular that you can bring a date and employees will say, “Nice to see you.”
Bernie’s feels kind of like a neighborhood tavern from the 1970s. It’s small and dark, with checkered tablecloths and stained-glass lamps, and the menu consists of things like mozzarella sticks and a burger with two thin patties, plenty of cheese, and a handful of shredded lettuce. Find a seat at the bar up front, and pretend you’re in Cheers, but with a burger.
Is it 2am? Are you in the West Village or the Meatpacking District? If you’re hungry and you answered yes to both of those questions, go to Corner Bistro. The burger here is very normal in most regards, except for the fact that the patty is almost the size (and shape) of a tennis ball. It isn’t elegant, and it comes on a plastic plate, but it’s still one of our favorite burgers around. Just remember to bring cash to this old and somewhat divey institution.
Allswell is a very nice neighborhood pub on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, and the bar seats here are valuable real estate. There are only about 10 of them, and you should do your best to claim one the next time you make it through a long day solely by thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner. The burger is the best thing here, so you aren’t missing out if you come alone and only want to get one thing.
Maybe you just got promoted or learned that there’s pirate gold buried under your house, and you don’t have anyone to celebrate with because all your friends are out of town. Your options include staying home and baking yourself a bundt cake, and going to Union Square Cafe and sitting at the bar. The burger here is simple and excellent, and you should get dessert, too - you’re celebrating, after all.
If you’re on the Upper East Side and you want to eat burger by yourself, go to Eli’s Night Shift. This place is a cafe during the day and a bar starting at 5pm, and you can always grab a stool by the windows if you don’t feel like making small talk with anyone. The burger is pretty classic, with a big patty and a brioche bun, and there are a bunch of great house cocktails for you to drink alongside it.
At Forest Hills Station House, you can get a burger topped with cheese, fried onions, and brisket. It’s called the Decadent Burger, and it’s both comically tall and delicious. Sure, you have to squish it all together to take a bite, but it’s worth that little bit of physical effort. The bar is also pretty long, so you have a very good chance of finding a seat (unless a show just got out at Forest Hills Stadium).
The next time you’re in the East Village and realize there’s nothing you’d like more in the world than a burger - and nothing you’d like less than eating it with someone who might ask how your day went - head to Boilermaker. It’s a casual cocktail bar on Houston, and the burgers here come with either one or two patties, special sauce, and pickled vegetables (from Jeepney) that provide a little extra flavor. Add a side of onion rings, and you have an excellent meal.
Harlem Tavern is useful for a lot of things, partly because of its size. You can come with a few friends, bring your entire kickball team, or show up by yourself on a Thursday night and pretty much be guaranteed a bar seat. There’s a huge menu with multiple kinds of burgers, so you can eat some ground turkey if that’s what you’re after - but we suggest you stick with the classic.
Some people swear by the burger at Long Island Bar, and it is, in fact, very good. It’s a fairly minimalist burger with a squishy bun, two patties, and a lot of cheese, and it makes for a very compelling reason to stop by this place even if you don’t live in the area (Cobble Hill). We’re also big fans of the bar in general - it feels kind of like a fancy retro diner.