The Best Burgers In San Francisco

The burgers in SF to hunt down.
The burger at Beep's.

photo credit: Melissa Zink

San Francisco is home to many great burgers, 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. We’ve scoured this city (i.e. eaten our weight in meat sandwiches) looking for the standouts so you won’t ever waste your time on a mediocre burger again.


photo credit: Melissa Zink



$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerFirst/Early in the Game DatesDrinking Good Wine
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Cancel all of your midweek plans for the foreseeable future: Wednesday nights are the only nights you can get the smashburgers at The Laundromat in the Richmond. You should be there to fulfill your weekly beef quota as often as humanly possible. The double burger, which is served with potato salad, is a decadent, napkins-required stunner. They also make a great vegetarian version (with a crisp-edged veggie patty) for the non meat-eating crowd.

When the meat craving hits past 10pm, Sam's on the Russian Hill, North Beach, and Chinatown border is your late-night burger joint happy place. The burger here is simple, like what you'd get at a backyard cookout. It's loaded with shredded lettuce, cheese, onion, tomato, ketchup, mustard, and nostalgia. Grabbing one of the few counter seats at this old-school institution and diving into a burger when it's pitch black outside is the best use of a half hour.

The smashburger at Maillards isn’t easy to get your hands on—but any effort spent tracking it down is well worth it. The patties (always go for the double) are the crispiest you’ll find in these 49 square miles. The beautifully lacy edges peek out from between a squishy potato bun, and every bite is packed with flavor from the caramelized shallots and tangy house sauce. Maillards is regularly open Sundays at the Outer Sunset Farmers Market, or Tuesday nights in the Richmond (they pop up at Heritage Restaurant & Bar).

The first thing you’ll notice about the burger at the Rabbit Hole on the Mission-Bernal border is that it’s loaded up with pickled vegetables. Carrots, cucumbers, peppers—it’s all here, and it’s what makes this smashburger stand out from the rest. The brioche bun is shimmering, and the smashed patties are layered with melted sharp cheddar that forms one of those ultra-crispy cheese crusts that, combined with the pickles, makes a satisfying crunch that’s about as loud as the sound of the fog horns on a summer day. It’s also served with a heaping pile of thinly cut fries topped with nori and a side of gochujang ketchup that was so great we had to beg for a second serving.

Beep’s is an Ingleside drive-in burger joint that’s been holding it down with the same old-school setup since 1962. Burgers are cooked to a juicy medium and are embellished with lettuce and tomato, plus tangy Beep’s sauce that drips down the bun. Order a side of the beautifully crispy curly fries that are never greasy, and the creamiest root beer float ever. The whole Beep’s experience is simple and might inspire you to go to a vintage car show, pose with a Mustang convertible, re-watch Grease, or all three.

The plant-based burger at this vegan restaurant in Cow Hollow would make plenty of the city’s meat versions go cower in a corner. It’s reason alone to get here for an extra-long lunch after picking up luxury dog treats in the area. The patty is made with a well-spiced mix of mushrooms and spinach and gets a nice crust around the edges that keeps the whole thing in one piece. Grilled onions, sweet tomato chutney, and a swath of chipotle aioli tie it all together.

photo credit: Spruce



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When you’re overdue for a fancy bar burger, Spruce is the answer. The American restaurant in Laurel Heights, typically packed with fur-wearing neighbors who walked here for a chill $115 prix fixe dinner, nails their version. The burger, which is served on an english muffin with all the accouterments on the side, is only served in the lounge or at the bar. It’s walk-in only there, and you won’t have to partake in the tasting menu. So it’s the ideal beef-centric meal for the days you want to pretend your net worth is double what it actually is while sipping classic cocktails from a cushy leather seat.

The burger at Zuni (only available at lunch) comes with pickled onions, aioli, lettuce, and sweet housemade pickles on rosemary focaccia. 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 heirloom tomato (available seasonally), it’s somehow even better. Also, make sure to order extra aioli for dipping the haybale side of fries into.

Native Burger in the Richmond excels in the art of the Big Ass Burger (BAB for short). The BABs here are stacked high with thick, perfectly juicy patties that are constantly sizzling away on the flat top grill. The menu has predetermined options in the toppings department, like The Northern with grilled mushrooms and swiss or The Classic with fresh red onions and pickles. But the consistent showstopper is The Native, which comes crowned with a pile of sweet candied bacon. Ordering that and a bowl of their twice-fried fries is a foolproof way to zhuzh up an otherwise boring weeknight.

The saltiness of the cheeseburger at Fort Point Valencia always hits the spot, especially when joined by the Korean-style lager you’ll inevitably choose to pair it with. It comes on a lightly buttered sesame seed bun, with super thin, extra crisped-up patties, two pieces of american cheese, a thick slice of tomato, and enough thinly shredded lettuce to somehow constitute your entire daily serving of vegetables. Eating this burger al fresco on Valencia St. on a sunny day is the right way to spend your Saturday afternoon.

At Pearl’s Deluxe Burger in Lower Nob Hill, napkins are stationed at the ready on every table, and white shirts are nowhere in sight. The grilled beef (or turkey, chicken, or veggie) patties are done up with over-the-top combinations, like hot dogs or housemade chili. Those special burgers are the way to go—they’re saucier and more flavorful than the standard options. We especially love the Bula, which is a behemoth slathered in spicy barbecue pineapple sauce that dribbles down your wrist in the best way. The onion rings at this counter-service spot are also crunchy and perfect, and you should always snag a thick milkshake to slurp up alongside all that meat.

Stepping into the butcher shop by Niku Steakhouse in the Design District might just give you whiplash. The staff is constantly yelling as if they're an In-N-Out at dinner time on a Saturday night to get more patties on the grill, and they’ll impatiently ask you how many of these smashburgers you want—even when they’re empty. At the end of this experience, you’ll get a $25 burger that is served in a to-go box and doesn’t even come with fries. But the chaotic experience (and the hefty price tag) are worth it because this juicy monstrosity is absolutely dripping at the edges—enough so to make us immediately forget about any gripes that we had with this place. There’s no indoor (or restaurant-specific outdoor) seating, so make sure to eat this on one of the public benches fast—otherwise it’ll get soggy. But that’s a risk we’re always willing to take.

The brunch food at this Marina restaurant includes mini biscuits and gravy, chilaquiles, egg plates, and, yes, an awesome burger. There are two versions, and you need one of them on your table. The Americana 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. The keys to their success: fresh ground beef, and a sturdy but not hard (and not soggy) bun.

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, mayonnaise, and bacon, and it's on the correct side of crisp. Gott’s burger-fries-and-soda meal makes it the perfect lunch spot, especially if you just spent the last hour nibbling on fruit samples and working on your appetite at the Ferry Building farmers market.

The ABV burger is probably the most basic burger on this list, but you can get it at a bar in the Mission until midnight any night of the week, making it one of the best late-night “meals” in the city that’s not a dirty dog. The patty is more on the red side and it comes with two slices of white american cheddar, razor-thin pickles, red onion, and lots and lots of secret sauce. It’s a simple burger, but sometimes simplicity is what you crave, especially at 11pm on Tuesday night.

The all-day American restaurant in SoMa is always bustling with people grabbing an after-work dinner or catching up with friends. You'll also see at least one burger on every table. Marlowe’s version is packed with caramelized onions, cheddar, and bacon, and gets a peppery kick from the horseradish aioli. This is the burger that'll make you look forward to hanging out with your coworkers instead of going home and rewatching Lost for the 10th time.

There are many compelling reasons to head to this Mission spot, which looks like a diner from the 1970s—from the mac and cheese to the fantastic fried chicken sandwich to the decadent tater tots topped with cheese, bulgogi bacon, and onions. But these are secondary to the burgers (and smashburgers). We’re into the Hot Wes full of cheese, pickled jalapeños, and crispy fried onions.

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