With Uproxx in the full swing of Burger Week, our writers reveal where you need to plan your next road trip if you’re hankering for the most delicious meat, cheese, and bun combos in the country.
Au Cheval (Chicago, IL)
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I remember the first time I had a cheeseburger with bacon at ‘Small Cheval’ — the old school-feeling Au Cheval offshoot that only serves simple burgers and fries. I was about halfway through my sandwich when I looked up at the buddy who’d brought me there and said, “Oh! Oh….! I think I’m having the best burger of my life!”
“I know, right?” he said. “I just realized it one bite ago.”
The burger was dead solid perfect and though it’s a challenge to describe the strange alchemy that creates such a burger, I’ll try: The patty was… just slightly loose. Fast food patties — even the beloved In and Out patties — are full of binders and they feel tight (Shake Shack excepted). This patty wasn’t crumbly, but it didn’t feel artificially sealed together in any way. The bun was impossibly soft and airy but still passed the “uncanny valley created by good-tasting food filled with chemicals” test. The sauces and cheese were simple and straightforward but just… better than fast food burgers or the average roadside hole in the wall.
In the years since, I’ve gone to Au Cheval and Small Cheval several times and I’ve yet to be disappointed by either location. Best burger in the country? It’s got my vote.
Fountain Porter (Philadelphia, PA)
You’ll find many a tasty burger in the City of Brotherly Love, but the city’s best (or worst, depending who you ask) kept secret can be found at the Fountain Porter, a tiny watering hole in South Philly at the corner of 10th and Tasker. For just $5 (yes, you read that right) you can order the bar’s signature “Cheeseburger,” which is as no frills as the name suggests. It’s about a quarter-pound patty, perfectly seasoned, seared crisp on the outside and medium rare on the inside, served on a potato roll with lettuce, tomato, American cheese and two pickle slices on the slide.
Matt’s Bar and Grill (Minneapolis, MN)
The secret to the “Jucy Lucy” is its simplicity. The selling point is a gimmick — in that the cheese is in the center of the patty, rather than melted on top. But this burger goes far beyond schtick, evoking the cast iron skillet-seared burgers that your father or grandmother made you as a kid (or at least mine did). Simple seasoning, a simple bun, and the strong but pleasant presence of grease and salt. The cheese inside is indeed melted perfectly, and mixes with the patty’s umami-ness to create the ideal of what a cheeseburger should be. I’m not saying you should go to Minneapolis just for this burger, but I’m not NOT saying that.
(The restaurant recommends that you allow the burger to cool before digging in, lest you burn your mouth up with molten hot cheese, and I recommend that as well. Trust me. The burger will still be plenty hot, but give it a couple minutes.) — Bill Hanstock
Daddy Jones (Somerville, MA)
Gerard’s 1907 Tavern (Bowling Green, KY)
Kentucky is more known for its BBQ than its burgers, despite miles and miles of delicious cows lining the back roads of the state. Even a cursory Google search turns up subpar results. But I’m here to tell you great burgers do exist in the Bluegrass State and they live at Gerard’s 1907 Tavern in Bowling Green. A hole-in-the-wall on the downtown square, Gerard’s serves up 6oz burgers made from locally sourced beef and blended into a propriety concoction by the local butcher. Three burgers are always available, with some specials if you’re lucky. Unless they run out of meat. Which has happened to me before because their burgers are in high demand so go early or go during the week!
My personal favorite is the Kentucky Sunrise. It comes on a brioche bun, and the burger is accompanied by a fried egg, aged cheddar, ham, garlic aioli, and vegetables. Together with the meat, the Kentucky Sunrise is just gooey enough to melt in your mouth without turning into a burgoo mess that can’t be contained by its bun. The meat itself is seasoned only with salt and pepper, and honestly that’s all it needs. Gerard’s buys small batch, so the beef is always fresh. No freeze-dried nonsense here. The juicy hand-packed patties crumble in your mouth just enough that you can taste the medium-rare meat itself. Truly, the sign of a good burger is how willing you’d be to just stick your hands into a vat of it and shovel it into your mouth. I’m 100% willing. –Donna Dickens
Port of Call (New Orleans, LA)
For me, the best burger in New Orleans, or anywhere for that matter, is the burger served at Port of Call, which is a burger that falls very hard into the old school/classic category.
Port of Call is a bar on Esplanade in the back part of the French Quarter that feels like an old surfer bar, except it’s a considerable distance away from any beach. It opened in 1963 and doesn’t feel like it’s been updated much at all since then. Visiting Port of Call is like a journey back in time. It’s part of the charm. And as crazy as this may sound, I feel like the setting accentuates the taste of the burger they serve.
Here’s why: the burger at Port of Call is about as old school as you can possibly get. There is absolutely nothing fancy about it at all. It’s just simple, American goodness. A big hunk of meat (half pound) topped with grated, unmelted cheddar cheese, sandwiched between the two halves of a sliced bun. It doesn’t get much more simple than that. And it’s served with a fully loaded baked potato. No fries at this joint.
As the story goes, Port of Call was intended to be a steakhouse when it originally opened, but in it’s early days customers often asked for burgers, especially at lunch, so they started offering a burger made from the ground up steak scraps in the kitchen. But then the burger was so good that it became the most popular item on the menu. (I’ve probably eaten at Port of Call 100 times in my life and never ordered a steak.) And the baked potatoes became a thing when the restaurant’s deep fryer crapped out one day, years ago.
“The story about the baked potato is we used to have a deep-fryer here for French fries, but it broke,” Port of Call GM Mike Mollere told the Times Picayune in 2014. “We started putting the baked potato on the hamburger plates. And that was it.”
I wouldn’t want it any other way. —Brett Michael Dykes
Big Four Burgers and Beer (Jeffersonville, IA)
The next time you’re in Indiana and you find yourself hungering for a burger, do yourself a favor and head over to Big Four Burgers and Beer. Their gourmet burgers are created using a secret blend of ground chuck, ribeye, and sirloin, and my husband would give up a non-vital organ to ingest their famous Henry Baines Burger. But while you might expect me to also wax poetic about a burger that comes slathered in pepperjack cheese, bacon, crispy onion straws, and Henry Baines sauce, I’m going to zig instead of zag: get the turkey burger.
This is not a joke. I have never in life thought “Sweet Burger Jesus yes, give me a turkey burger” until Big Four. Usually a turkey burger is eaten begrudgingly because you’re watching your calorie or fat intake. But not the Turkey Cranberry and Brie burger. Somehow adding roasted garlic aioli, soft cheese, baby greens, and cranberry sauce transforms a turkey burger from borderline punishment to foodgasm. The buttery nut flavor of the brie with the sweet tang of the cranberry combined with the smokiness of the seared turkey patty will have you wondering why no one else has figured out how to make turkey burgers this delicious yet. –-Donna Dickens
Uneeda Burger (Seattle, WA)
There are so many good burgers in Seattle. I can’t choose a single favorite without out at least shouting out Loretta’s down and dirty Tavern burgers, Ma’Ono’s burger washed down with some whiskey, and Zippy’s Crown Burger with its heaps of pastrami. But I have to go with Uneeda Burger up in Freemont.
Uneeda hits the spot with a succulent and well-charred grass-fed beef patty. And that’s where the Uneeda rises above. The taste and depth of the beef shines through, with deliciousness meatiness. What gives Uneeda the full win is the price. A Classic Burger with crisp romaine, fresh tomato, sour pickle, and house sauce is only $5. That’s an upscale burger, in a hip neighborhood, for fast food prices. Pair that with a blackberry Snoqualmie ice cream shake and you’ve got a lips-kissing-fingers meal. –Zach Johnston
Burger Tap & Shake (Washington D.C.)
Okay, maybe I’m showing behind the curtain here a little bit, but my choice in DC is also a great burger for a really good price. You can pay $15 to $20 for a burger around DC and they’ll be fantastic. But that much cash for a burger seems wrong to me, so I’m going with the messy and insanely well-priced Six-Buck-Chuck from Burger Tap & Shake in Foggy Bottom.
BTS sources everything locally and it shows in the crunch of their pickles, the beefiness of meat (a 30 day dry-aged chuck and brisket mix), and the soft sweetness of their homemade burger buns. This is a serious burger for six dollars. The patty is char-grilled to crispy and salty perfection — the velvety meat interior is surrounded with a crisp char crunch. The addition of brisket gives the whole sandwich a nice extra layer of texture that’s often missing from your average burger. Throw on some pimento cheese and fire roasted green chili peppers and you’ve got yourself a satisfying burger. –Zach Johnston
Fort Defiance (Brooklyn, NY)
In a secluded little neighborhood in south Brooklyn, twenty minutes from the closest subway stop, and closer to the water itself than any other recognizable landmark, a bar and restaurant called Fort Defiance has been quietly making the best damn burger in New York for several years now.
The beef is sourced from Pino’s Prime Meats, just up around the corner in Carroll Gardens, so it’s fresh and of the highest quality. The 8 oz patty is perfectly suited to a stable, fluffy brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion and special sauce. It comes not with fries — we’re not peasants, this is Brooklyn — but with carefully roasted red potatoes, the GOAT of any and all potato. The burger is also highly customizable, you can add any of the following for just $2: grilled onions, blue cheese, gruyere, cheddar, bacon, an egg, or bacon-onion jam (this bacon onion jam is to die for).
Here’s my perfect order: Burger, medium rare with blue cheese added and a glass (or three) of whatever punch the brilliant bartenders have whipped up. Do yourself a favor and wander off the beaten path that the subway weaves through Brooklyn, head down to the waterfront, and wrap your head around the best burger in the city. P.S. If you tell them I sent you, odds are you’ll get at least one drink on the house. Now if that isn’t worth the commute, I don’t know what is! –Caitlin White
Frank Allen’s Market & Grill (Sevierville, TN)
As of this morning, I weigh 236 pounds. Before you ask: no, I’m not seven feet tall and, no, I’m not a body builder. I’m a flabby, pasty, easily-winded millennial who plans meals like generals plan battles. That’s why, when I tell you about the world’s all-time best hamburger, I hope you’ll understand that I’m speaking from a place of absolute authority. Because my favorite hamburger — the best hamburger I have ever or, likely, will ever eat — is served at a gas station in Seiverville, Tennessee called Frank Allen’s Market & Grill.
The establishment is one completely stripped of pretense, with a sparse menu that includes hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and chicken fingers (you know, for the kids). But the majesty of the Frank Allen burger isn’t found in its simplicity, it is instead created by an ancient, likely-never-to-have-been-cleaned grill, stained a deep opal black by the generous application of decades of meat grease. Now, that might sound disgusting, but we would do well to remember that hamburgers aren’t supposed to be healthy. They’re supposed to be greasy, juicy, and absolutely life threatening.
That’s why Frank Allen’s burger is my all time favorite — because it’s a burger that refuses to hide behind avocado slices and exotic fruit compotes. It’s a simple burger, but it brings with it the flavor of tradition and history and integrity. Trust me, if you’re ever on your way to Dollywood, please take a moment to stop into Frank Allens and treat yourself to the world’s best burger. After all, I wouldn’t be morbidly obese if I didn’t know a thing or two about grilled meats. –David Pemberton
Mom’s Ol Fashion Burgers (Fresno, CA)
There are a ton of places that are innovating with the classic elements of the burger by using unusual meats and introducing new flavor profiles. Mom’s isn’t. They’re making classics that are balanced and well-composed. Specifically, I am speaking of their veggie burger (I have never eaten a hamburger made with meat). When you’re on that meat-free tip, ordering one of these nets you a squishy white bun, a Gardenburger cooked until it has a little crisp on the outside, sliced fresh tomato, shredded iceberg lettuce, razor-thin onion slices, pickles, and a generous slather of mayo. Paired with their steak fries, that burger was one of my college staples.
Plus, the food was always prepared by a really scary man with a long ponytail covered in evenly-spaced rubber bands. He was part of the experience, too. I wonder how he’s doing. — Alia Stearns
Black Star Co-Op (Austin, TX)
While there are no shortages of great burgers to be had in Austin, few offer up a basic, no-frills burger that hits the spot every time. This consumer-owned co-op, where tipping is forbidden, offers up locally-sourced beef, Bibb lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles, and their house made beer mustard and mayonnaise. For those who want to go even further, you can add avocados, bacon, a fried egg, or your choice of fresh peppers. But even if you choose not to embellish yourself with add-ons, the Black Star Burger is still about as close to burger nirvana as you can get. Along with your choice of cheeses (I lean towards the gruyere, myself), Black Star will cook the patty to your liking — even rare, which seems to be an increasingly, um, rare option these days. But there’s no better way to really appreciate a quality patty than to take it off the flame a bit early to fully savor the deliciousness. — Christian Long
Stuffed (Montclair, NJ)
When it comes to burgers, one meat is good, two meats are better. If you go crazy and add more, you risk creating a monstrosity that lives only to wow on Instagram but maybe not fit in your face. And of course, we all know the pain of just eating a one-pattied burger without bacon or pulled pork or love. In Montclair, New Jersey, such plainness is guarded against at Stuffed.
The norm is smoked bacon, which accompanies most of their burgers, but two exceptions are worth noting: A Reuben burger with pastrami on top and a pulled BBQ brisket topped burger stuffed with havarti cheese and crowned with two onion rings. It’s got the right amount of grease to be only a little wrong and the brisket is tender enough to blend nicely with the 100% grass fed ground beef, as you bite into it and experience the mix between Havarti and barbecue sauce flavors.
There are a bunch of hipper places in the town on Bloomfield avenue, but what’s cooler than a classic? –Jason Tabrys
Sir Scott’s Oasis Steakhouse and Lounge (Manhattan, Montana)
There are no fancy burgers at Sir Scott’s Oasis. No crazy ingredients or sauces. They have a cheeseburger and a hamburger. And they come on an in-house baked bun with the standard lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. Anything else, frankly, would be an insult to the meat. And the meat is why you come to Sir Scott’s. It is delectable, juicy, melt in your mouth beef that’s a revelation to hamburgers. There are no tricks here, no powerful flavors added to fool you into thinking the burger is better than it is. It’s all about actually tasting the meat. And it’s really, really amazing meat.
There are a lot of incredible burgers in Montana, but the simplicity and taste of Sir Scott’s can’t be beat. The burgers are hand cut and ground in the restaurant. In fact, Scott Westphal spent 30 years cutting meat in the back of the house himself. It’s high quality beef served with complete purity.“There’s no fillers, no stretchers,” het told the Belgrade News in 2014. “It’s 100 percent beef. Nobody can say that. There’s no water added, there’s no chemicals added.”
Plus, you’ll certainly enjoy the atmosphere of the family run joint. It’s a quintessential Montana eatery, a mom and pop operation surrounded by magnificent mountain views. From the wood walls to the kitschy Montana wall accessories (that make you wonder if they came from some sort of “Perfect Montana” kit) to the simple chairs and table cloths, walking into Sir Scott’s feels like the classic Montana experience.
The casual dining, small town atmosphere, and mind blowing burgers and steaks cause locals and visitors alike to flock to the iconic restaurant. It’s as good as it gets. — Allison Sanchez
Stanich’s (Portland, OR)
I’ve been eating the “Bo Burger” at Stanich’s since I was in third grade. In fact, my first-ever bite of this bacon cheeseburger with egg was what made me realize that there were better burgers than McDonald’s out there.
Thirty years later, Bo must’ve been fired, because his burger is off the menu. Still, Stanich’s is getting the recognition they deserve: Thrillist named theirs the best cheeseburger in the country.
Is this true? Hard to say. The bun isn’t exceptional, the condiments aren’t house made. Stanich’s saw the storm of Portland food culture descend on its neighborhood and never even blinked. But that burger and fried egg: they’re perfect. They draw a little grease off the grill, a few dripping remnants that have probably been there since my first visit, and they taste just blissful. You gotta love a burger joint that has hardly changed a single thing since first opening. That “stick to the essentials” thinking epitomizes burger culture.
Burger Bach (Richmond, VA)
I don’t know much about New Zealand beyond the Lord of the Rings movies or Flight of the Conchords. So when I first walked into a Burger Bach in Richmond, Va. (there are three locations around the city) I was surprised as to why they were advertising New Zealand, grass-fed beef. Is New Zealand beef a thing, or is this just another millennial advertising trick to get me to eat their burgers?
Turns out, whatever it was, it was delicious. All cows and sheep are grassfed on family farms in New Zealand, so maybe it’s worth it to use the imported beef. I’d go as far to say one of the best burgers in the mid-Atlantic east coast. And to represent that, I eschewed their regular, New Zealand-esque burgers in favor of their East Coast burger… one of the most popular options on the menu for local RVA-ers.
The flavors of the this particular area of the country seem to be well-represented here: Brie cheese, caramelized onion, garlic aioli, bacon, and… blueberry-chipotle barbecue sauce, which looks exactly like jam that you would spread on toast. As a southerner, it makes me extremely nervous to combine fruit with cheese and savory foods, like cheddar cheese on apple pie, but that is a popular East Coast tradition.
And believe it or not, at least in this instance… it totally works. No, like it’s the best thing ever. Like, you could get the Wellington (which my dining partner got) or the Original, but you’d be missing out on the bizarre flavor combination of the East Coast burger. The burger is so juicy it dripped down my arm when I took my first bite. It was so flavorful that you could easily enjoy it with just the bread and meat, but the caramelized Brie and onions add a depth of intensity that reminds you of fancy appetizers at rich people’s houses. Meanwhile, the blueberry-chipotle barbecue sauce kicks it up a notch along with the recognizable flavors of salty, uncured bacon and garlic aioli. The added seasonings, even the chipotle, don’t overtake the main flavor of BEEF, which is simply incredible. This isn’t just your average gastro-pub burger: this is something where the meat is front-and-center, and even the “weird” ingredients have an actual purpose in adding to the taste. —Jennifer Martin