Boston's best burgers

Get your hands on a prime budget patty or a grass-fed gourmet version with Time Out’s guide to the best burgers in the city

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Hot buns: The best burgers in Boston range from cheap classics to gourmet variations

Hot buns: The best burgers in Boston range from cheap classics to gourmet variations Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz


The 21st-century burger boom shows no sign of abating and in most U.S. cities, opinions run high on who makes the best burgers (closely followed by the perennial best pizza debate). Many of the best Boston restaurants, including the excellent Craigie on Main in Central Square have a signature version on the menu, but cheap-eats aficionados love Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage, a Cambridge fast food legend since the 1960s.

RECOMMENDED: See the best Boston restaurants by cuisine

Craigie on Main

  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

The buzz surrounding this culinary hotspot has been palpable since renowned chef Tony Maws moved his tiny bistro into a new, larger space. It's retained the quirkiness of the previous location, while expanding its capacity to better accommodate the growing number of devotees who pack the house most nights for Maws' latest Franco-American creations—each born of his intense dedication to using the best local, organic ingredients. Craigie on Main's knowledgeable and friendly staff (including a handful of smiling cocktail mavens) will guide you through the seasonal menus. The ten-course tasting menu is a favorite, and might include crispy Florida frog's legs, hirmasa sashimi salad or rhubarb-hibiscus mousse. And the grass-fed beef burger is the stuff of legend.

  1. 853 Main Street, (at Bishop Allen Drive)
Book online

Beacon Hill Bistro

  • Price band: 2/4

This bustling French-style bistro and bursting corner bar sit in the ground floor of the charming Beacon Hill Hotel. Skip the huge line at the Paramount just across the street and tuck in to a more low-key brunch experience. Hotel guests and locals alike go gaga for the the early morning options (such as eggs with crispy chicken hash, a smoked salmon omelet or vanilla pancakes), but the duck and the burger are can't-lose items for later in the day.

  1. 25 Charles Street, (at Branch Street)
Book online

Russell House Tavern

  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

With patio seating, a stylish tavern upstairs and a cozy subterranean dining space below, Russell House has a place for everyone. In summer months, sip a cocktail from their list of classics and enjoy the prime people-watching location of the patio and the breezy open windows of the upper level. In chillier months, slip downstairs for pan-seared arctic char, slow-cooked chicken or a grass-fed burger. Russell House is also a popular brunch destination, serving up favorites like eggs benedict and stuffed brioche french toast alongside more inventive options such as a slow-roasted pork loin with hoisin-ginger sauce and a “dirty” caesar salad made with black kale. Anyone looking for classier late-night fare will love their $1 oysters, available every night of the week after 11pm.

  1. 14 John F. Kennedy Street, (at Brattle Street)
Book online

Kirkland Tap & Trotter

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 3/4
  • Critics choice

KTT is the latest from chef-about-town Tony Maws and his most casual offering yet. The space feels like a neighborhood hangout, with mismatched chairs, chalkboard specials and vintage ephemera on the wall, perhaps belying the quality of the food served there. The dishes are much more straightforward than his almost overwrought menu at Craigie on Main; there’s a house-made kielbasa platter with kraut and fries, a hearty vegetable and barley stew and, of course, a grass-fed cheeseburger with kimchee Russian dressing and emmentaler. Burgers are Maws’ signature, and while KTT’s isn’t the same as the bar menu legend at Craigie, it is a worthy sibling.

  1. 425 Washington Street, (at Beacon Street)
Book online

JM Curley

  • Rated as: 5/5
  • Price band: 2/4
  • Critics choice

With its locally-sourced ingredients, cozy interior and friendly staff, JM Curley is an oasis for the Financial District’s office crowd. The only downside is that this place is packed during the post-work hours. Plan to arrive early or prepare to wait. If you do manage to snag a table, the burger is the favorite, but also take the time to check the ever-rotating chalkboard specials­—which offers weekly variations of a burger, a daily catch and a “square meal.” Night owls can wait for the masses to subside and swoop in for the late night menu, which offers a smaller, slightly cheaper version of the star burger and dessert “concretes” (vanilla ice cream whipped with “tasty treats” including pretzels, bourbon soaked blueberries and bacon).

  1. 21 Temple Place, (at Tremont Street)
More info

Mr. Bartley's Burger Cottage

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

It's been around since the 1960s, and many famous faces have enjoyed the tasty patties at Mr. Bartley's—Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Jackie Onassis numbering among past patrons. There's barely room to move amid the memorabilia that clutters this Harvard Square institution, never mind the crush of diners scoffing thick, juicy burgers and even thicker frappes (New England-speak for milkshakes). But don't let that stop you; the tight squeeze is all part of the fun.

  1. 1246 Massachusetts Avenue, at Plympton Street
More info

5 Napkin Burger

  • Price band: 2/4

Five Napkin's namesake burger, a delicious Franco-American handful, features sweet caramelized onions, Comté cheese and herb-infused aioli. Ignore most of the menu, and stick to the burgers—there are ten to choose from—and all-American desserts like the rich and generous caramel-brownie sundae.

  1. 105 Huntington Avenue
Book online

Boston Burger Company

  • Price band: 1/4

Boston Burger Company might be the only burger place in Boston with more varieties of burgers—twenty-four—than seats. With offerings like The King (peanut butter, bacon fried bananas; $9.25) and the Artery Clogger (deep fried, beer battered burger topped with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce; $9.50), the Company can leave you dangerously close to a food coma. As if their (decidedly more than a) half-pound burgers wouldn’t leave you stuffed, each is accompanied by coleslaw and housemade chips.

  1. 37 Davis Square
More info

Four Burgers

  • Price band: 1/4

Though it also peddles hot dogs, sides, milkshakes and beer, Four Burgers (appropriately) focuses its menu on just four burgers: beef, turkey, salmon, and vegetarian. What the Central Square joint lacks in entrée variety, it more than makes for up with its nearly countless burger toppings (43 in all; we recommend the mango BBQ). Despite the diner aesthetic and at-the-counter ordering, this is no greasy spoon—the beef is local, all-natural and grass-fed, and the staff will even ask how you’d like your burger cooked. Particularly hungry? Add an order of half & half fries—half French fries, half sweet potato fries.

  1. 704 Massachusetts Avenue
More info


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