My Top Burger List

Adam Kuban over at A Hamburger Today asked me if I would submit a list of my favorite burger places, in honor of National Hamburger Month. Always willing to put my reputation on the line, I submit to you my somewhat slanted, but Bi-Coastal burger list, in no particular order of preference, with a few wildcards thrown in.

A. White Manna (Hackensack, New Jersey)


photo by "Daniel" on eG Forums

Got to have it as a double with grilled onions and cheese with extra pickle. Your stomach is going to rumble big time after eating four or five of these, but the indigestion and heartburn is well worth it. They look unattractive, lopsided and smooshed up. But they'll kick the crap out of you if you disrespect them. Kind of like most people from Jersey.

B. Louis Lunch (New Haven, CT)


They got weird rules, and they claim to have invented the burger (with the real possibility of it being true) The burger is bizarre, both in preparation and presentation, using a baroque gas grilling apparatus that dates back to the nineteenth century and held together with dining forks. It doesn't matter, it all seems to makes sense, in an almost proto-evolutionary Cro-Magburger way. It's like eating the missing link in burger anthropology.

C. O'Rourke's Diner Steamed Cheeseburger (Middletown, CT)


Connecticut is home to the esoteric burgers. While Ted's in Meriden is the steamed cheeseburger everyone has heard about, O'Rourke's really is the original. Make this place part of your lifetime burger pilgrimage.

D. NationWide Meats (Sacramento, CA)


Sacramento is hot as hell, but its also got one of the best burgers anywhere. The beef they use here is top quality, there's plenty of it, their burger dressing is outstanding and their super thick cut fries made from mutated huge Nevada potatoes are magnificent.

E. Burger Joint (San Fransisco, CA)


The menu is minimalist. The neighborhood is weird. Don't miss this place.

F. Blue Smoke/Jazz Standard Burger (New York, New York)


Before there was Shake Shack, there was the Blue Smoke Burger. Can't think of a better burger to have when listening to Jazz and having a cold beer.

G. Shake Shack (Madison Square Park, New York)


Yes, the place is hyped beyond belief and the lines are infuriating. Doesn't matter. Go, go, go. Even if you have to camp outside overnight to get a place in line the next day. Make sure you get a Concrete.

H. McSorley's Old Ale House (Greenwich Village, New York)


photo from

It's cheap, but its beefy, topped with raw onion, and it's the perfect accompaniment to some of the best ale (light or dark!) in town, in the oldest, surliest Irish Bar in the city.

I. Johnny Rocket's #12 Burger (Numerous Locations)


Something about the Red sauce they put on this thing, combined with the thin-style burger with crispy edges makes this one unique and worthy of mention, edging out the other Micro-chains.

J. White Castle (Numerous Locations)


Perhaps I have saved my favorite for last. In the eighty or so years before Harold and Kumar were even a bong dream, college and high school students have been making late night inebriated treks to the Castle. It's the ultimate working class burger, eaten in mass quantities due to its diminutive size, which proudly features grease as an ingredient. Don't forget the extra pickle, it brings everything into Zen-like balance.

16 Responses to My Top Burger List

  1. Yeah, In-N-Out makes a solid burger, as does Fatburger. But I had 2 other chains on the list, and I listed two other California burgers that I thought were unique. In terms of the California griddle-style grease pucks, the Nation Wide Meats burger blows In-N-Out out of the water, it doesn’t matter that you have to drive all the way to Sacramento to get it! I did say the list was slanted, you know!

  2. Jon says:

    Great list, Jay-o.

    I think it’s a pretty original one too. Some would focus on one style burger over another, but you’ve run the gamut.

    I’d add Pop Burger, in the NYC meat packing district to this list. It’s a mini-burger, like White Manna and White Castle, but unlike those two it’s nice and “clean”. So it’s kind of its own variation.

    NYC’s McHale’s on 46th Street & 8th would have once been a good obvious candidate for this list, but I understand they are gone now.

    I’m guessing Peter Luger’s isn’t on your list because they are kind of a “if I’m going to Luger’s why not have a steak?” thing, right?

    Glad Jackson Hole is nowhere near your list. For a brief shining moment a few years ago I thought they were okay, but its REAL easy to get over them.

    Equally glad you don’t have nonsense like the DB Bistro Moderne Burger or The Old Homestead Steakhouse burger on there. Luger’s is about as far afield as I think people should go for “premium” burgers.

    I wonder. Is there any room for [url=]Deep Fried Burgers?[/url] This is obviously one esoteric sub-section of burgerdom which is even harder to get than steamed burgers or mini-burgers or Prime meat burgers.

  3. Jon, you’re right that I tried to cover all the genres of burgerdom with this list. I had to narrow it down to 10 choices but certainly if I had to expand it to 15 or 20, there’d be some others on the list like Luger or even Wollensky Grill (but again, as you say, I’m there for the steaks). I haven’t been to Pop Burger yet or tried the David Burke burgers but that’s something I hope to remedy soon.

  4. ellen says:

    OMG-did you do you thesis on burgers-now I am hungry-I like Barneys Gourmet in San Francisco, Phyliss giant burgers in San Rafael, CA and Pinks in LA

  5. White Castle? Seriously? I’m guessing it’s nostalgia talking, because the burgers are terrible.

  6. It is what it is, Kevin!

  7. Gary says:

    You have got to try Webers Grill in LA. Located at Pico and National next to the fire Dept. They have a burger that goes has follows: Bun, lettuce, bbq pattie, grilled hotdog sliced in have (2 of them!)cheese, bbq pattie, tomato, grilled onion, yata yata yata, bun!

    Best burger I have ever had!


  8. Iain says:

    All of these (with the possible exception of White Castle – sorry, I’ve had these – I should say they had me – they are a great idea that just went wrong somewhere) sound really good. But they all need to move down this list one spot to make room for the best all-around American hamburger to be found anywhere – The Skyline Restaurant in Portland, Oregon. Doing it since 1935, their #12 Cheese Steakburger is the best I have found in the 48 contiguous states. A six inch bun covered in sesame seeds (just like days of old) sports a juicy, cooked-to-order beef patty of equal size, three slices of cheese, chopped onions, fresh lettuce, tomato slices, dill pickle slices and their mayo-based sauce make for one of the tastiest creations around, to say nothing of a visual work of art.

    Unfortunately, their fries are of the frozen, dried-out variety – but don’t let that stop you. If you’re in Portland, you owe it to yourself to get to The Skyline. But however strong the post-burger impulse, DO NOT MOVE HERE!


  9. Mike says:

    ORourkes makes the best burgers in all of the land

  10. And apparently they’ve just re-opened, after burning down a few years ago.

  11. Jamie says:

    i highly suggest the waverly restaurant in ny its on 6th ave. they have awesome cheeseburgers.. like, mouthgasm status. no joke.

  12. Tom says:

    I agree ORourkes steamed cheeseburgers are the best and they are reopen and better than ever.

  13. […] the top of "unofficial" lists for the best burger of both New York (1, 2) and America (1) and consequently its line stretches to Depression-era-bread-line levels almost every single […]

  14. w.h. folds says:


  15. […] My Top Burger List В« Off The Broiler May 17, 2006 … Make this place part of your lifetime burger pilgrimage. D. NationWide Meats ( Sacramento, CA) … […]

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