From double-deckers served in greasy paper bags to patties made from organic, free-range, multilingual cows who spent their final moments gazing at the Pacific Ocean, SF is home to many excellent burgers. We’ve scoured this city (i.e. eaten our weight in meat sandwiches) looking for the real standouts, so you won’t ever waste your time on a mediocre burger again. Here are our favorite places in San Francisco to get a burger.
We’ve nicknamed this the “Tom Cruise of burgers.” That’s because everything on Nopa’s menu is fantastic, but even against the rest of the food, this burger still has ridiculous star power. It’s got a thick wood-grilled patty and pickled onions, and getting it topped with bacon is a must. If you walk in late at night and sit at the bar, you’ll hear the bartender joke that it’s Burger Hour, but we’d come here for this anytime.
The brunch food at this Marina spot includes mini biscuits and gravy, chilaquiles, egg plates, and, of course, an awesome burger. The burger comes two ways: the Americana burger is two smash-style patties with American cheese, some magic Thousand Island-y sauce, and pickles; while the brunch burger is one patty with cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. Both are serious contenders for best burger in the city, and this is not a thing we say lightly. Fresh ground beef, a sturdy but not hard (but not soggy) bun and the special sauce are the keys. You need one of these burgers on your table.
The new all-day spot in NoPa is home to freshly-baked bread and pastries, sandwiches, and espresso drinks. It’s also where you’ll find a decadent smashburger that has regularly appeared in our daydreams ever since. Their Cheezy Buddy features two crispy patties and garlicky cheddar on a pillowy milk bun, plus a tangle of pickled onions with the slightest hint of dill. You’ll devour the whole thing in less time than it takes to order another. And save room for the brioche donut, toast with maple custard, and other desserts—they’re all fantastic here.
There are a lot of good reasons to go to this Mission spot—from the mac and cheese with onions and cheese sauce to tater tots with queso, caramelized onions, bulgogi bacon, and special sauce. But these are all secondary to the burgers, which you can get smashed or “classic.” Our go-to is the Hot Wes with thin, crispy fried onions, pickled jalapeños, and queso.
The charcuterie and cheese boards at this Mission bar are great to have over a few cocktails, but if you actually want a full meal, get the ABV burger. The patty is more on the red side and it comes with secret sauce, two slices of white American cheddar, razor-thin pickles, and red onion with a side of spicy chips. It’s cut in half so you can share with your date, which is why you’re probably at ABV in the first place.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
The all-day American restaurant in SoMa is always bustling with folks grabbing team dinners after work or friends catching up, and more often than not, there’s at least one burger on every table. Marlowe’s version comes loaded with caramelized onions, cheddar, and bacon, and gets a peppery kick from the swath of horseradish aioli. The soft bun soaks up all of the juices from the meat without falling apart. This is the burger that might actually make you look forward to hanging out with your coworkers instead of going home and binge-watching Lost.
4505 Burgers & BBQ
We don’t know why, but this is what we imagine burgers were like in the ’70s. It’s a wider, flatter burger with lettuce, onion, gruyere, and special sauce on a griddled sesame seed and scallion bun. While we doubt that too many people were springing for fancy cheese on their burgers during the Carter administration, this flying saucer of meat is still somehow a trip back in time. If you want, you can get a second patty, bacon, and an egg added. Just don’t be surprised when you spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch.
The burger at Zuni comes with pickled onions, aioli, lettuce, and sweet housemade pickles on rosemary focaccia, and nothing else. Left alone, this burger is already so good that we don’t even think of it as a burger as much as the answer to the meaning of life—but if you add cheddar cheese and a thick slice of heirloom tomato, it’s somehow even better. Make sure to order extra aioli to dip your haybale of fries into while you wait for the burger’s arrival.
There’s only one burger on the menu at this French restaurant in Hayes Valley, but it’s more than enough. On the menu, this burger is described as “fully dressed,” and we can assume they mean dressed in flavor—this is one of the best burger patties you’ll find. But the onions and Comté cheese it comes with are pretty great, too.
Roam Artisan Burgers
Roam in Pacific Heights has every type of burger you could possibly want, but the French N’ Fries with a bison patty is our personal favorite. The meat is the perfect balance of lean and fat, and avocado, gruyere, and truffle fries are all sandwiched between the sesame bun. You can also go with a beef, veggie, or turkey patty.
This is the burger that studied abroad in Paris and came back to the US wearing a beret. The all-day spot in Cow Hollow serves it on a baguette, which definitely feels weird at first. But that baguette-as-a-bun move also results in something that tastes like a grilled cheese melted around a burger, which is just as good as it sounds.
The New England Burger from this Castro spot is the ideal hangover burger. And is also frankly ridiculous. It involves a maple syrup patty and brown sugar-candied bacon, and is topped with cheddar that will instill a profound sense of respect and admiration for the many gifts Vermont has bestowed upon us.
This is the burger you want to eat on the days when it’s hot enough for time to stand still. There’s nothing revolutionary going on with Red’s burger, except that it comes on a chewy sourdough roll, but it’s well done and simple enough to merit going out of your way for. If you have a lazy afternoon with nothing to do, sitting on their waterfront patio and eating one of these with a cold beer and some fries is as close to a perfect day as we can imagine.
Gott’s is a great burger spot when you’re in the mood for fast food, but don’t want to sacrifice taste or quality. The California Burger has a fried egg, Cowgirl Creamery’s Wagon Wheel cheese, mayo, and bacon that is on the correct side of crisp. It’s the perfect lunch spot to hit up after a day eating pluot samples at the Ferry Building farmers market.
The only appropriate beverage to consume with a burger is beer (except for maybe a milkshake). And any place with 200 beers to choose from needs to serve a burger. So luckily, the one at Monk’s Kettle is awesome. The onion jam and gruyere make it feel a little fancier than your normal meat sandwich, and it’s always cooked perfectly. We wish the hop salt fries it comes with were served everywhere.
When the craving for beef hits at 10:30pm, this spot on the border of Russian Hill, North Beach, and Chinatown is the place for you. Sam’s keeps it simple with their burger—it’s just loaded with shredded lettuce, cheese, onion, tomato, ketchup, mustard, and nostalgia. But grabbing a seat at the counter and diving into a burger here late at night is one of the happier half hours you can spend in SF.
While it’s slightly confusing that a mezcal bar serves both a cheese plate and a burger, we’re not complaining because Mezcalito does a stellar job with all of it. Juicy is the only appropriate word to describe this creation made of meat, gouda, and caramelized onions. We’re also strong supporters of the potato bun, which is the only potato-adjacent item here—but grab a side of chips and guacamole and you’ll be happy.