Critics’ choice best burgers: Ten NYC classics

Time Out New York editors scoured the city for Gotham’s ten best burgers, sampling beloved favorites and bold newcomers.

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Our critics have spoken. After hitting up New American gastropubs, Brooklyn hot spots and quick-service restaurants across New York City, TONY’s editors have chosen 2013’s standout buns. Meatheads, here are the ten best burgers you shouldn’t miss.

RECOMMENDED: All of NYC's best burgers

  • Photograph: Michael Rudin

    Cheeseburger at J.G. Melon

    Since 1972, this kitschy Upper East Side haunt—pressed-tin ceiling, vintage watermelon images—has been sating meatheads. The cheeseburger is a bite of a bygone era, simple griddled on a flattop and medium-rare juicy. The thick, eight-ounce burger arrives open-faced, peeking beneath a layer of melted American cheese on a pillow-soft, lightly toasted bun, with sliced tomato, crisp lettuce, red onion and dill pickle chips on the side. Skip the cottage fries (undercooked and in desperate need of salt on a recent visit) but don’t bypass the bacon—the deep-fried tangle is cooked under a broiler for extra crispiness and adds delicious textural contrast to the coarsely packed special-blend patty. 1291 Third Ave at 74th St (212-744-0585). $10.50.

  • Photograph: Dominic Perri

    Grassfed Burger at Diner

    Andrew Tarlow opened this indie-kid institution in 1999, before hipster was the word. So we can forgive Williamsburg’s locavore greasy spoon for serving blasphemous homemade ketchup (Heinz will do, thanks). Their outstanding burger doesn’t need a drop. The key is the house-butchered, grass-fed meat: The plump patty of short rib, chuck and round has an iron-y tang intensified by a proper sear on the grill. You can request cheese—a thin sheath of mild Vermont white cheddar—along with the house toppings of romaine, red onion and bread-and-butter pickles, all bundled in an airy sesame-seed bun made in-house. 85 Broadway at Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-3077, dinernyc.com). $15, cheese $2 extra.

  • Photograph: Filip Wolak

    Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern

    “That burger will change your life,” whispered a fellow bar patron on a recent visit as the mythical Black Label arrived. Whether you find it destiny-altering or not, this wallet-busting signature has undoubtedly altered Gotham’s burgerscape: The exclusive blend—debuted in 2004 by co-chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson—cemented Pat LaFrieda’s status as Gotham’s go-to burger butcher. And while the Black Label has lost a little of its shine as the competition has caught up, it’s still one of the city’s top brawlers. A muscular nine ounces of well-seasoned and marbled chuck, short rib, skirt steak, brisket and 45-day dry-aged prime rib perches in a light, seeded brioche bun, custom-made by Balthazar bread whiz Paula Oland. Caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and bright, dill-forward pickles come on the side, along with crunchy fries. 113 MacDougal St at Minetta Ln (212-475-3850, minettatavernny.com ). $26.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    Steak House Burger at Brindle Room

    Chef-owner Jeremy Spector sources dry-aged and deckle (a fatty cut of brisket) trimmings from his partner’s New Jersey chophouse for this stellar brunch-and-lunch patty. The pedigreed meat, boasting an almost peaty steakhouse smokiness, is aggressively seasoned with black pepper and seared for an admirably thick crust. Caramelized onions deepen the bass notes, melted American cheese provides a velvety layer, and a toasty bun clings to the perfectly proportioned package. 277 E 10th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-529-9702, brindleroom.com). $12.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    Original Double Cheese Steakburger at Steak ’n Shake Signature

    None other than Shake Shack kingpin Danny Meyer—a St. Louis native—has gone on record to say that Steak ’n Shake inspired his own burger empire. And the Midwestern chain holds strong against the city’s exploding ranks of hoity-toity artisanal incarnations. As with most smashed-style burgers, the way to go is the double. Two all-natural beef patties—featuring a bit of steak, as the name suggests—get a good meat caramelization from a quick sear on the grill. Then they’re topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, and cradled in a squishy, buttery bun. 1695 Broadway between 53rd and 54th Sts (212-247-6584, steaknshakesignature.com). $3.99.

  • Photograph: Alex Strada

    Chargrilled Burger at the Spotted Pig

    Just like April Bloomfield and Ken Friedman’s gastropub, the tavern’s much-lauded burger was an instaclassic when it debuted in 2004. Tangy Roquefort cheese highlights the mineral richness of the hulking, char-grilled half-pounder. A fluffy brioche bun ably soaks up all the juices, and a towering stack of tender, rosemary-scented Idaho shoestring fries will sate any hunger pangs the behemoth can’t satisfy. 314 W 11th St at Greenwich St (212-620-0393, thespottedpig.com). $20.

  • Photograph: Jolie Ruben

    Cheeseburger at Roberta’s

    The minimalist creation at this Bushwick game changer is only served at lunch Monday through Friday. But if you’re up for the daytime slog, you’ll be rewarded: A steal at $16, the pan-seared patty’s intense, dry-aged complexity belies its Pat LaFrieda bretheren. An überbuttery house-made roll reinforces the meat’s richness, while American cheese, onion and romaine are able supporting players. 261 Moore St between Bogart and White Sts, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-417-1118, robertaspizza.com). $16.

  • The Double ShackBurger at Shake Shack

    In a city awash with expense-account burgers, it’s a relief that Danny Meyer’s affordable, critic-approved chainlet has rapidly colonized various corners of Gotham (Brooklyn, the Upper West Side and, soon, Grand Central). Since its game-changing Madison Square Park debut in 2004, the New York–bred institution has maintained its favorite-son status among diners and the food cognoscenti. You may not find a more satisfying burger than the Double ShackBurger: Thin, all-Angus Pat LaFrieda patties are smash-griddled, blanketed in American cheese and tangy special sauce, topped with tomato and crunchy lettuce, and cradled in a perfectly squishy bun. And the price is hard to beat. Various locations; visit shakeshack.com. $7.20.

  • Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

    Cheeseburger at the Commodore

    The bar burger at this Williamsburg dive is more Chicago dog than greasy-spoon standard, thanks to its green-garden toppings. Vinegar-doused shredded lettuce and bright tomato slices on top, and pickles and onions below, give the sandwich an abundance of freshness. The boldly seasoned Pat LaFrieda patty, cloaked with American cheese and a slathering of mayo, stands up to the salad-like toppings; and a soft Martin’s potato bun pinned with a drink umbrella ties everything together. 366 Metropolitan Ave at Havemeyer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-7632). $7.

  • Photograph: Virginia Rollison

    Cheeseburger at Sea Witch

    It’s hard to believe that this obscure South Slope bar serves one of the best patties in town. The tidy, wallet-friendly standout features a disc of meat smashed and griddled Steak ’n Shake–style, which owner Andy Hawkins grew up eating in the Midwest. Crisp lettuce, a fresh slice of red tomato, melted American cheese and chopped white onion mixed with ketchup on the bottom of a Martin’s potato bun evoke a fresher version of the McDonald’s classic. 703 Fifth Ave between 21st and 22nd Sts, Sunset Park, Brooklyn (347-227-7166 , seawitchnyc.com). $6.52.

Photograph: Michael Rudin

Cheeseburger at J.G. Melon

Since 1972, this kitschy Upper East Side haunt—pressed-tin ceiling, vintage watermelon images—has been sating meatheads. The cheeseburger is a bite of a bygone era, simple griddled on a flattop and medium-rare juicy. The thick, eight-ounce burger arrives open-faced, peeking beneath a layer of melted American cheese on a pillow-soft, lightly toasted bun, with sliced tomato, crisp lettuce, red onion and dill pickle chips on the side. Skip the cottage fries (undercooked and in desperate need of salt on a recent visit) but don’t bypass the bacon—the deep-fried tangle is cooked under a broiler for extra crispiness and adds delicious textural contrast to the coarsely packed special-blend patty. 1291 Third Ave at 74th St (212-744-0585). $10.50.


Users say

5 comments
john
john

no korzo haus?

Bronxmom
Bronxmom

I know that these contests ignore everything in the Bronx -- but we have awesome food up here and one of the best burgers in the city (because, yes, we live IN THE CITY). It's called "Yo Burger" in Riverdale. It's okay -- there's no hour wait, so we'll just keep it to ourselves...;)

Chopper
Chopper

What?? How can a top ten list not include what is considered by many to be the best burger in Brooklyn? Have your critics heard of Burger Bistro?

Marta
Marta

BURGER HEAVEN UPPER EAST SIDE ( Lex & 63 lr 64th) Burger rare w bermuda onion and GOBS of the signature sweet red relish. This red relish was a carry over from the old Hamburger Heaven - a NY institution when I was a child in the 50's and 60's. My mother used to take me when we went shopping or after getting my haircut at Best & Co. Between that and the cool balloon I always got it made for a pretty great day. So delicious. But the burger must be rare. RUN DON'T WALK! p.s. Burger Heaven is a chain...they have a few others in the city but this is the only one I've been to. A little bit of home and remembering my Mommy..

panagiotis pagonis m.d.
panagiotis pagonis m.d.

Burger creations.....i cant believe you missed this one....close to NYU on 8 th street it has amazing burgers...onion rings are a meal themselves and the truffel fries are out of this world. P.pagonis m.d. subscriber

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