When it comes to the definition of culinary comfort, some might prefer a hearty bowl of pasta from one of the best Italian restaurants in Boston, but we think the burger, no longer so humble, is the ultimate comfort food. From classic, no-frills patties to creative gourmet versions, the best burgers in Boston are sure to rock your culinary world. Some are served at casual, wallet-friendly eateries, while others can be found at the city’s priciest restaurants. True aficionados consider a top-notch burger the highlight of their night, while others seek out some meaty goodness for a solid base before heading out to the best bars in Boston or one of the incredible Irish pubs in town.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston
A burger destination we love so much that we welcomed them into Time Out Market
Very few viral burgers stand up to the hype but Craigie on Main's certainly does. Local “snout-to-tail” pioneer Tony Maws remains at the top of his game at his flagship operation. The chef-proprietor uses the best local and organic ingredients for his culinary creations. Locals and culinary tourists fill the dining room, where only a four course prix-fixe menu is served. The casual, welcoming bar area, now known as COMB (Craigie on Main Bar), offers an a la carte menu and monthly-rotating burger specials, along with the classic, grass-fed Craigie on Main Burger. Arrive early if you’re craving one of the burgers, as they’re sold in limited quantities and often sell out.
Lovers of Tony Maws' iconic burger at Craigie on Main head across the river to Time Out Market Boston for the first and only Craigie Burger location. Local, seasonal and organic ingredients make up the “OG” Craigie Burger (Northeast Family Farms beef, sharp cheddar, signature Craigie ketchup), and Maws presents new variations topped with kimchi Russian dressing and swiss cheese or burnt bread steak sauce and charred umami onions.
Best burgers in Boston
The bare-bones tavern is an old friend to carnivores who crave straight-up delicious patties made from lean ground beef. Juicy burgers come in dozens of varieties; the creamy blue cheese burger is topped with spreadable blue cheese and bacon, while the Dirty Bird is topped with a fried egg and homemade BBQ sauce.
Alden & Harlow’s “secret burger” is sold in limited quantities and sells out just about every night. (It’s easier to acquire during weekend brunch service.) Chef Michael Scelfo starts with a mix of Creekstone Farms ground brisket, short rib and beef, tops it with a parmesan crisp and his secret sauce, and encases it in a homemade roll.
The Bristol burger has long been a city standard-bearer, winning many a burger competition. A half-pound of ground chuck is topped with Grafton cheddar, cognac-bacon and onion jam, and Thousand Island dressing on a brioche bun. Head to the lounge on Wednesdays for Burgers & Burgundy: four variations of the Bristol burger to choose from, paired with two tastings of Burgundian-style wines for $35.
The Gallows bills its burgers - a custom blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib - as “west coast, flat-top patty style.” The Maverick burger features confit pork belly, a sunny egg, American and cheddar, truffle aioli, and onion strings, while the chile relleno burger features cheddar cheese, cotija, pickled jalapenos, charred poblano, and jalapeno aioli.
The Standard Burger, like Eastern Standard itself, is sometimes taken for granted. It’s the ES curse: they’ve been doing so many things right for so long that its excellence can become overshadowed by the Next Big Thing. But it’s high time to revisit this classic, a hearty blend of chuck, brisket and ribeye underbelly buffed with Vermont cheddar, all contained inside a sturdy brioche bun.
jm Curley's glorious, half-pound burger is made from grass-fed beef, and then topped with cheddar, grilled onions, pickles and a homemade Russian dressing. Regulars tend to go all in, adding a fried egg, house-made slaw and, sometimes, an additional patty.
Once upon a time, local kitchen legend Michael Schlow plated one the city’s most famous burgers at his flagship restaurant, Radius. When the restaurant closed in 2013, gourmands mourned the burger’s assumed demise. Today, Schlow serves his signature burger at Tico; topped with cheddar, crispy onions and a horseradish-black pepper sauce, the burger hasn’t skipped a beat.
A boisterous Harvard Square landmark since 1960, Mr Bartley’s gets as many points for its celeb-inspired burger naming as it does for the concoctions themselves. The menu changes constantly—we’re guessing the Melania Trump won’t be on there forever—but the Triple D is a mainstay, and a Guy Fieri favorite: a massive double burger groaning under the weight of bacon, cheese, barbecue sauce and grilled onions.
One of the city’s top-rated bars is known for its customized cocktails, but many customers leave raving about the burger. Formerly an off-menu cult order, the Big Mac-inspired entry is still as coveted as ever, a Colorado Wagyu beef double cheeseburger topped with American cheese, Bibb lettuce, house pickles, shaved red onion, black pepper mayo and ketchup, piled on a toasted Hi-Rise Bread Company bun.
Don’t be distracted by the bacon-wrapped hot dog—the Hojoko cheeseburger is the star of the show at this Japanese tavern in the Fenway. Yet another paean to the fast-food burger, the burger is an umami-forward blend of Snake River Farms Wagyu chuck and short rib. Slathered in American cheese and a special sauce, the sandwich gets texture from red onion and dashi pickle chips.
The potent Shojonator™ takes its inspiration from the Wendy’s Baconator, though in a far smaller package (this is more slider than burger). The patty is topped with a pile of smoked bacon and kimcheese (that would be kimchi velveeta) and, in a nod to Shojo’s Asian menu, encased in a steamed bun.
While many chefs play with umami to upgrade their burgers, chef Tim Wiechmann sticks with salt—specifically, a pretzel roll bun that adds just a little something extra. The bun plays bookend to a blend of beef brisket and bacon adorned with comté cheese, ketchup and mustard. A farm-fresh egg is an optional add-on.
With connections to two dearly-departed nearby hangouts (the East Coast Grill and B-Side Lounge), The Automatic sports strong bloodlines. Perhaps the most popular item off the eclectic menu - which includes everything from Sichuan-style beef jerky and buffalo-fried sweet plantains to a “frito pie from hell” - is the Flat Patty burger. Topped with American cheese and a “super secret sauce,” the burger pairs well with several of the shot-and-a-can drink specials.
This homegrown mini-chain has a lengthy list of over-the-top burger varieties. Try unique options such as the Artery Clogger (deep fried, beer battered burger topped with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce), the Hot Mess (bacon, sweet potato fries, homemade thousand island dressing, pickles, jalapeño, red onion, cheese), or the Mac Attack (4-cheese mac & cheese, bacon). As if you won't be stuffed already, burgers come with a choice of cole slaw or baked beans.
The original location of this homegrown burger joint is in Fenway. The retro vibe, reasonable prices and late hours have made it a local favorite and earned it the designation of official burger of the Red Sox. You’ll find the standard burgers and fries plus turkey burgers and veggie burgers. Try a refreshing, house-made lime rickey and a mini pie or a shake for dessert. Tasty Burger even has doggie treats for your canine friends, and plenty of outdoor seating where they can join you.
When you simply seek a juicy, drippy, timeless burger, this Harvard Square institution should be your go-to. The “ultimate prime burger” menu is justifiably revered. Some exotic choices abound, including the deep-fried, beer-battered burger. But the Upper Classic, with double bacon and cheddar cheese on a bulkie roll, makes a strong case for keeping it simple.