San Francisco wears its health badge proudly. We have enough kale salads, organic juice places, and pilates reformer machines to serve a city twenty times our size. But we can also be deeply unhealthy. Case in point: our burgers.
From double-deckers served in greasy paper bags to patties made from organic, free-range, multilingual cows who breathed their last breath overlooking 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 the 18 best burgers in San Francisco, ranked according to extensive research and analysis (a.k.a., multiple episodes of meat sweats).
Sometimes you want two things at once. Causwells’ brunch burger is the ideal vehicle for having your eggs and bacon while eating a burger too. Yes, a brunch burger is taking our number one spot - and for good reason. The combination of the perfectly-fried egg, crispy-but-not-burnt bacon, high-quality meat, and super-melted cheese is incredible. Especially if you choose to keep one foot firmly planted in Marina mode and add avocado.
Unlike the Apple Watch, the burger at Nopa actually lives up to its reputation. We’d even wear it on our wrists if we could. The beef is excellent, the bun is buttery and toasty, and the pickled onions are a nice touch. It’s simple and perfectly done every time. We’re also worshippers of the fries and the spicy mayo dip that comes with them.
Mixing bitters (yes, the ones in your cocktail) into a burger patty sounds like a gimmick. But if that’s why this thing tastes so good, we’re all for it. The Muenster cheese is nice and melty, there’s a layer of housemade pickles at the bottom, and they always cook the patty just how you asked for it. If you come in during happy hour (weekdays from 5:30-6:30pm and 10:30-11:30pm), you get a free beer with your burger, which is like bribing a kid to eat an ice cream cone.
It’s an act of confidence to name a burger the Best Damn Grass-Fed Cheeseburger, especially at a barbecue restaurant. And while it might not quite be the best burger ever, it gets very close - every aspect of it works. The bun is probably (definitely) buttered, there’s just enough gruyere, and the sauce ties it all together. Get the double and add an egg and bacon if you want, but this one is pretty great just how it comes normally. Also of note for when you’d prefer not to move: this burger travels extremely well.
At Monsieur Benjamin there’s only one burger on the menu, but it is more than enough. Despite really just being a patty and a bun, they describe their burger as “fully dressed.” We can only assume they mean dressed in flavor - this is one of the best burger patties you’ll find. And it can stand on its own without any unnecessary frills.
The burger at Zuni is organic, grass-fed, Ivy League-educated (we presume), and an all-around high achiever. It comes on rosemary focaccia bread and is topped with Vermont cheddar - all of which is a mouthful to say, but an excellent mouthful to eat. Zuni also has hands-down the best fries in the city, so definitely order them as a side.
The Brass Hat Burger at Southern Pacific has some slightly fancy toppings (pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions), but it’s the use of pickled jalapenos and sweet chili sauce that really sets this one apart. It’s sweet, savory, and spicy all at the same time, and we’re never not ordering it when we come here.
Shredded lettuce, a big tomato slice, and melty American cheese make this essentially an upscale In-N-Out burger, and we mean that as compliment. You’ll want to complete the fast food journey by eating the mountain of McDonald’s-esque fries it comes with. Not that you needed us to tell you that.
Spruce is a fancy, white tablecloth kind of place. But their bar is much more low-key, and it’s also the only place you can get their phenomenal burger. An English muffin as a bun normally isn’t our first choice, but Spruce gets away with it, because the patty is massive and the beef is super high-quality. Toppings (the standard lettuce, tomato, pickled onions, and mayo) come on the side so you can dress your burger as you see fit.
Roam has every type of burger you could possibly want, but the French & 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. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
This is the burger that studied abroad in Paris and came back to the US wearing a beret. It’s served on a baguette, which definitely feels weird at first. But that baguette-as-bun move also results in something that tastes like a grilled cheese melted around a burger, which is as good as it sounds.
When the cheese on the burger is melted to a liquid state and covers the whole thing, it’s a good sign the people making it know what they’re doing. The double cheeseburger at Popsons involves American cheese, two thin-ish patties, a soft and toasty bun, pickles, lettuce, and sauce. The fries are a little hit or miss, but the burger is excellent.
Kitchen Story’s Millionaire’s Burger is the ideal hangover burger. And is also frankly ridiculous. It involves a maple syrup patty and brown sugar-dusted bacon, and is topped with a cheddar that will instill a profound sense of respect and admiration for the many gifts Vermont has bestowed upon us.
The only appropriate beverage to consume with a burger is beer. (Except for maybe a milkshake.) Any place with 200 beers to choose from needs to serve a burger, and 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 never overcooked. Hop salt fries come with it, and have taught us that hop salt fries should be served everywhere.
While it’s slightly confusing that a mezcal bar serves both a cheese plate and a burger, we’re not complaining because they do a stellar job at burger-crafting. Juicy is the only appropriate word to describe this creation of meat, gouda, and caramelized onions. We’re also strong supporters of the potato bun, which is the only potato-adjacent item here - in perhaps the only indication that this is nominally a Mexican place, there are no fries on the menu.
Gott’s is the perfect 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, swiss cheese, mayo, and bacon that is on the correct side of crisp. Never underestimate the power of perfectly- cooked bacon on a burger. Go when you’re near the Ferry Building or when you need a burger in a time crunch.
The Black Sands Burger is simple. The double comes with two patties, American cheese, and their special sauce, but what it may lack in complexity it makes up for in solid execution. On those nights when you just don’t want to think about what to eat, head here, get this burger, and leave happy.