Burgers are inherently egalitarian eats, easy manipulated to humble comfort food or haute heights and enjoyed by all. So when it came time to vote for the best burgers in NYC, it made total sense to leave it up to, well, you! From top-rate cheap burgers to highbrow takes on the American classic, these are your 50 Battle of the Burger 2015 contenders.
RECOMMENDED: See more on the Battle of the Burger
In certain circles—where pork belly’s sustainability and the legitimacy of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants are subjects of debate—Wylie Dufresne can be as disruptive a topic as harem pants, cilantro or Benghazi. Drop his name into polite conversation and watch the mood ripple. The chef’s particular brand of gastronomic black arts has been dividing opinion for more than a decade at wd~50—the original nucleus of North American avant-garde cuisine.
At American Cut, Iron Chef Marc Forgione isn’t turning heads so much as laying down a safe bet. Unlike his other recent debut—Khe-Yo, the city’s first Laotian hot spot—his brassy Tribeca steakhouse delivers more of the same to a city already pumped up with marbled meat and Barolo. Furnished rosewood tables big enough for a poker game await hedge-funders eager to go all in on beef and booze.
Korean Restaurant & Bar, BarKogi specializes in Korean Fusion Cuisine & Korean Fried Chicken. Full Service Bar & Lounge with 20 Craft Beers on draft, BarKogi’s enticing menu of Asian fusion fare entertains taste buds with a tantalizing spread of fresh local veggies, juicy cuts of chicken and short rib, fresh seafood, and eclectic cocktails. The restaurant's signature Korean-style fried chicken dances across palates with the wholesome flavor of vegetarian-fed poultry free from hormones, antibiotics or opinions about whether the egg preceded it. As guests sip specialty soju cocktails or frosty draft beers, they can admire BarKogi’s ultramodern decor, which showcases onyx-black tabletops and pristine white furnishings.
After shuttering for two weeks in July 2014, Chez Sardine shook its Asian influences to reset with a more playful snack menu and a heavier concentration on cocktails. Chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly remains in the kitchen to dispatch elevated bar bites like black-garlic deviled eggs, herbed french fries with maple-mustard aioli and cod fritters with lemon mayo. The mid-20th-century space now has a larger bar run by Wisco alum Brian Bartels, who whips mint soft-serve ice cream into cocoa and cream liqueurs for the Black Pepper Grasshopper.
The menu at this chain's flagship centers on an intensely juicy burger, a custom mixture from Pat LaFrieda served on a soft, simple bun. Other offerings include hot dogs, chicken wings, onion rings, milk shakes and crispy veggie fries. The no-frills space offers refuge to local workers and tourists alike, with a bar area resembling an old-school pub lined with local paintings.
Michelin-starred chef Joe Isidori (Chalk Point Kitchen, Las Vegas's DJT) grills hefty sandwiches, like a chorizo burger with pickled jalapeño and a blue-cheese–topped steak au poivre, at this low-key patty joint pouring local brews (Sixpoint, Brooklyn Brewery).
From the Miller’s Tavern team, this cheery hole-in-the-wall is the Bruce Springsteen of burger stops—a no-fuss nod to the greasy-spoon glory days of roadside diners. The Flat Top burger—griddle-pressed à la In-N-Out—is swaddled in a squishy Martin’s potato roll with gooey American cheese, lettuce, tomato, chopped onion, pickles and mayo-based special sauce. Split-and-seared beef franks get a zippy lift from tangy kraut; shoestring fries are salty and crisp; and thick milk shakes (in vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, or cookies and cream) are hand-spun.
Kitsch and chichi mingle at this tiny, hidden spot in the posh Parker Meridien. It’s a perfectly re-created burger emporium circa 1972, down to the “wood” paneling, vinyl booths and iconic ingredients, such as Heinz ketchup and Arnold’s buns. The burgers are picture-perfect, too—juicy and flavorful with the perfect degree of char. Get “the works,” with tomato, lettuce, pickle, mayo and red onion. The fries are only fair, but milk shakes are thick and good.
The Commodore in Williamsburg, with its old arcade games, Schlitz in a can and stereo pumping out the Knight Rider theme song, offers the city’s best cheap-ass bar eats, served in a seedy venue where folks come to get blotto. The short menu reads like a classic collection of fryolator junk. Chef Stephen Tanner, formerly of Egg and Pies ’n’ Thighs, heads the kitchen, cooking up fried chicken that trumps even that of his former employers—three fat thighs with extra-crisp, peppery skin and tender brined flesh, served with thimbles of sweet-and-spicy vinegar sauce and biscuits with soft honey butter.
The West Village institution, open since 1961, debuts its first spin-off. Long Island City locals will find an identical menu, including, of course, the beloved Bistro Burger (broiled beef, cheese and bacon on a sesame-seed bun), along with 12 draft beers (Guinness, McSorley's Ale and Dark Lager). The decor also takes its cues from the flagship location: The laid-back 75-seat tavern features a mahogany wood bar and booths, antique brass chandeliers and a pressed-tin ceiling.
Woodside, Queens, bustles on, but this worn Irish pub stays the same. Well-lubricated old-timers line the front bar, while the wood-paneled dining room—made all the more classic with stained-glass adornment—recalls an honest age of prechain family dining. Irish-American pub fare like steak, roast beef and shepherd’s pie dominate the menu, but it’s the renowned burger that justifies the trek: loosely formed from freshly ground New York strip, broiled to a perfect char and simply decorated with lettuce and tomato—cheese and raw onion optional. In a city lousy with buzzworthy patties, this simple warhorse is still among the best.
Microbrews and copious amounts of Scotch, whiskey and bourbon are the poisons of note at this woodsy, two-floor watering hole—though a frosty mug of Smuttynose IPA is an ideal match for Dram’s solid griddle-cooked double cheeseburger. Settle in at the 33-foot bar or bring your brew to a spacious booth. Attractions like pool, darts and shuffleboard, favored by the postcollegiate crowd, stand to give the bocce courts at nearby Union Hall a run for their money.
Seamus Mullen's meat-and-provisions offshoot of his Gotham West Market tapas bar lives up to its name (el colmado means "the grocer" in Spanish). Along with small-plate staples from El Colmado (prawns a la plancha, lamb meatballs), Mullen is serving whole rotisserie chickens and large-format pork rib roasts, both of which are herb-brined for 24 hours.
Matthew and Emily Hyland follow up their former Park Slope pizzeria, Brooklyn Central, with another rustic pie shop. From the chef's table, watch Hyland dot his charred rounds with creative topping combinations, like pepperoni-and-pickled chilies and roquette-and-fig jam (a buffalo-mozz-and-basil pie is on offer for purists). The menu also includes main dishes—fired in a Pavesi copper-plated oven—such as duck breast with l'orange jus, and sausage with cheesy grits and pepper jam.
Venue says: “Join us for happy hour everyday from 2:30-7:00pm. Large groups welcome! For reservations please email firstname.lastname@example.org”
The Gander is Chef Jesse Schenker’s new American restaurant located in Manhattan’s Flatiron District. Schenker’s unique and imaginative style of cooking is reflected in his composed charcuteries, house-made pickles, fresh pastas and diverse selection of main dishes. The Gander boasts a deep, international wine program, in addition to a large assortment of spirits, all available at the expansive bar. Diners will enjoy innovative yet approachable cuisine tucked away in a warm and welcoming setting.
Once devoid of gourmet grocery options, Hell's Kitchen got a one-two punch in 2013 with the opening of both Brooklyn Fare and this block-long food mall. The 15,000-square-foot retail-dining mecca is divided into eight culinary stalls—such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Brooklyn Kitchen—as well as a full-service NYC Velo bike shop. The food court includes Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop, where the noodle guru offers his famed shio, shoyu and chili-sesame varieties; Little Chef, the salad offshoot of Caroline Fidanza's Saltie sandwich shop; and El Colmado tapas bar from Seamus Mullen (Tertulia). Each stall has communal tables, with garage doors opening to sidewalk seating outside El Colmado and the Cannibal's cocktail-and-charcuterie post.
Picture Don Draper on vacation: rum cocktail in hand, wind blowing through that meticulous coif. While you may never have Jon Hamm’s cut-from-glass jawline (sorry), you can make like a Sterling Cooper adman at leisure in this retro-kitted tiki lounge, from Tijuana Picnic partners Jon Neidich and Jim Kearns. The bi-level bar is crammed with mid-20th-century curios—a ’60s pop soundtrack; mod, half-moon booths; waitresses in Chuck Taylors—but it’s the customizable cocktails and breezy vibe that win over the crowd.
Pinoy pals Nicole Ponseca, Enzo Lim, Tomas Delos Reyes and Noel Cruz have been on a mission for a while to bring the Philippine cooking they knew as kids out of New York’s ethnic-food ghetto. With fresh-faced restaurants, they’ve been spreading the word to novice diners without watering anything down. Maharlika, their first venture together, combined traditional, sometimes challenging tastes with a cool downtown vibe.
The signature offering is a burger that invites comparisons to the revered Corner Bistro’s. Melon’s is pricier, at $7 for the very basic model, but it’s arguably just as tasty. Served austerely with a few slices of red onion and pickle, these handfuls must be eaten quickly, before the juice soaks through the bottom of the bun. Several of the genial bartenders, hosts and servers (in genteel ties and sweater vests) have been greeting patrons by their first names since the pub opened in 1972.
For three decades Keith McNally’s New York restaurants have defined effortless cool, generating the sort of overnight buzz—and long-running exclusivity—institutions are made of. His hot spots have become pop culture touchstones—delivering intangible pleasures that go far beyond food.
Like Michael Jordan in his prime, It chef Danny Bowien—who rocketed to culinary superstardom for his revelatory Szechuan at Mission Chinese Food—up and switched disciplines. While Bowien’s got more talent for Mexican than MJ had for baseball, at Mission Cantina, he’s far from the top of his game. He still plays to packed crowds of bohos and bankers, tinting them pink with neon lights, just like he did at that fun-loving weird disco of a restaurant, Mission Chinese.
Top Chef toque Camille Becerra (Paloma) steers the ship at this 51-seat, maritime-themed restaurant, offering a seafood-focused menu. A raw bar features uni toast, sardines with seed crackers, and blini topped with house-cured fish, while the kitchen turns out plates like gnocchi with tonnato (tuna-and-anchovy sauce) and a trout en croute for two. The WWII-inspired space is decorated with walls covered with military canvas and partitions made of naval signal flags.
For the white-collared wayfarers wandering the streets north of Madison Square Park, NoMad is a depressingly apt name. Sure, the neighborhood has seen a much-welcome rise in upstanding restaurants, but finding an any-day gastropub that doesn’t reek of postgrad brewskies is harder to come by. Who better to fill the void than Daniel Humm, Will Guidara and Leo Robitschek, the James Beard Award–winning trio behind neighborhood stunners Eleven Madison Park and The NoMad, who expanded the latter to include this elegant saloon inside The NoMad Hotel.
The celebrated saloon is long in the tooth (120 years old), but a recent face-lift (augmented menu, nightly specials) revitalized the old boy. The bar up front attracts the after-work pinstriped crowd, while the dining room pulls in a slightly older, blazer-wearing set. The hamburger is still honest and juicy; go ahead, customize it with cheese, bacon, chili or béarnaise sauce. Cobb salad, with bright greens and lots of blue cheese, is a meal in itself.
Although a slew of Luger copycats have prospered in the last several years, none have captured the elusive charm of this stucco-walled, beer-hall-style eatery, with well-worn wooden floors and tables, and waiters in waist coats and bow ties. Excess is the thing, be it the reasonably health-conscious tomato salad (thick slices of tomato and onion with an odd addition of steak sauce), the famous porterhouse for two, 44 ounces of sliced prime beef or the decent apple strudel, which comes with a bowl full of schlag. Go for it all—it’s a singular New York experience that’s worth having.
West Coasters love to tout the burger-building prowess of California drive-ins, but this Astoria fast-food spot gives them a run for their money. The addictive “double cheese”—a squishy toasted bun sandwiching two juicy patties cloaked in melted American cheese and brightened by raw onion, iceberg lettuce and tomato—is a gloriously greasy retort to Golden State smugness. A Thousand Island–like special sauce, slightly acidic, with a hint of ketchupy sweetness, drips through the whole messy package.
Irish pubs are a dime a dozen, but very few possess a history as star-studded as this one. The family-owned saloon, among the city’s oldest, has been at its present location since 1936 and appeared on classic NYC shows like Seinfeld and Law & Order. Sidle up to the oak bar for a few shots chased with the house’s own McManus Ale; if you get lonesome, slip into one of the two old-school telephone booths and drunk-dial.
Former Top Chef contender Dale Talde launched his own dive bar, Pork Slope, not far from his hot Pan-Asian eatery, Talde. The new project, opened with his partners in the first restaurant, was designed as a trashy homage to Patrick Swayze’s schlocky classic Road House, complete with a pool table, a PBR sign and taxidermied boars’ heads. The menu, a survey of bar-food classics, includes crisp, golden tater tots and better-than-average wispy, sweet onion strings, along with ribs, chili, fried chicken and wings. There’s also a too-faithful replica of a McDonald’s cheeseburger, right down to the gray patty.
Buzzing with urban-farming fund-raisers, local brewers pouring their ales and food-world luminaries fresh off Heritage Radio interviews, this sprawling hangout has become the unofficial meeting place for Brooklyn's sustainable-food movement. Opened in 2008 by Chris Parachini, Brandon Hoy and Carlo Mirarchi, Roberta's features its own rooftop garden, a food-focused Internet-radio station and a kitchen that turns out excellent, locally sourced dishes, such as delicate bibb lettuce with red-cherry vinaigrette or linguine carbonara made with lamb pancetta. It also doesn't hurt that the pizzas—like the Cheesus Christ, topped with mozzarella, Taleggio, Parmesan, black pepper and cream—are among the borough's best.
Restaurant power couple Francine Stephens and Andrew Feinberg coined a new food genre with their farm-to-table Brooklyn pizza icon Franny's in 2004. Now the trailblazing twosome is taking on the traditional neighborhood bar and grill, refurbishing the former home of their shuttered trattoria Marco's with salvaged school-auditorium seating, an Edison-bulb EAT sign lighting up one striped wall, and a selection of board games and card decks at the ready. Feinberg returns to the kitchen line for the first time since 2008, overseeing a pubby menu of cheese toast, ham-stuffed fried olives and a burger with Gruyère on a butter-toasted sesame-seed bun.
Danny Meyer’s wildly popular Madison Square Park concession stand is mobbed with hour-long lines during the summer; in chilly weather, heat lamps provide all the warmth you need. Sirloin and brisket are ground daily for excellent patties, and franks are served Chicago-style on poppy seed buns with a “salad” of toppings and a dash of celery salt. Frozen-custard shakes hit the spot, and there’s beer and wine to boot. It’s worth waiting in line for, if you ask us, but if you’re in a rush, the Upper West Side’s wait rarely exceeds 20 minutes. While the first Shack caters mostly to a working clientele, No. 2 is designed with families in mind: There’s a playroom and stroller parking.
Burger obsessives have a fresh joint to put on their to-do list: This cultish Denver-based chain delivers its signature smashed specimens at its first New York City location, in Fort Greene. Here, fresh, all-Angus beef patties are flattened and seared on the grill—a technique prized by patty aficionados for producing a crunchy crust—and then stuffed into butter-toasted buns. Pair your smashed sammie with toppings like applewood-smoked bacon, fried eggs or thin crispy onions, and sides including fries spruced up with olive oil, rosemary and garlic. Unique to this location is a specialty Brooklyn Burger, which is crowned with grilled pastrami, Swiss cheese, pickles, onion and yellow mustard, and sandwiched in a toasted pretzel.
Blame talented toque April Bloomfield for the inevitable wait at this still-hopping West Village gastropub—a pioneer in the kind of meaty go-big-or-go-home grub that’s proliferated since the spot’s 2004 opening. The Pig still serves one of New York City’s best burgers, a rare patty heaped with intense Roquefort cheese and served with a tower of rosemary- and garlic-kissed shoestring fries. Equally legendary is the crispy pig ear salad—among the city’s first cultish offal dishes—napped in a lemony caper dressing. Bookend this prodigal feast with pints of proprietary cask-drawn bitter ale and a spiced ginger cake with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert.
Despite the name, this Great Kills patty purveyor goes beyond standard hamburgers, tricking its burgers out with elevated foodstuff like grilled plantains, goat cheese and truffle aioli. Diners can also DIY their own burger, with choice of bun (potato, pretzel), protein (beef, lamb, veggie) and toppings (sautéed onions, jalapeños, angry mayo).
In a white-tiled slip of an East Village eatery, former James Beard Award-winning Del Posto pastry great and erstwhile punk-rock drummer Brooks Headley gives his über-popular veggie burger pop-up the brick-and-mortar treatment, offering the namesake patty, tofu-cabbage wraps, vegetarian sloppy joes and vanilla-labna gelato.
Housed in a historic chandlery—a supply warehouse for ships—this three-story restaurant delivers New American fare to the FiDi. Slide into a green-and-burgundy banquette for dishes turned out by chef Stephen Woods. Bartenders pour classic cocktails, wines and craft beers from a 30-seat walnut bar on the first floor, but whiskey enthusiasts should head to the brick-lined cellar, where they showcase 50 small-batch sips from Irish and American producers.
After more than 85 years, this clubby sanctum for the powerful remains true to its past while thriving in the present. Chef Sylvain Delpique offers revived classics like Caesar salad, crab cakes and chicken hash with mornay sauce. The famous burger boasts a prime-aged blend on a Amy's Breads challah roll with sautéed onion, sliced tomato and house-made pickles. Act like a magnate and sip an after-dinner drink in the front lounge Bar 21, where original Remingtons line the walls.
Burger buffs, brace yourselves—Adam Fleischman's L.A. patty sensation has finally come east with this much-hyped Village outpost. A champion of umami—that hard-to-place savory "fifth taste" found in everything from Parmesan to mushrooms—Fleischman spotlights the funky flavor bomb in sixteen burgers, including the beer-cheese–and-lardon-topped Manly Burger; a mook-baiting truffle-and-roasted-garlic variety; and an NYC-exclusive five-spice duck burger with peach-apple chutney.
California cuisine has always been a curious thing. It’s local but globally inflected, lean but filling, as driven by its ingredients as by the chef seasoning them. The vague concept is more an aura than anything else—for a homegrown likeness, see the farm-to-table Brooklyn-eatery stereotype—a Golden State glow that radiates throughout Upland, a glossy tribute to chef Justin Smillie’s hometown nestled at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains.
This vaguely-Tasmanian Kips Bay bar—named after the original name European settlers gave the eponymous Australian region—operates in standard sports-lounge territory, offering pub grub like buffalo chicken nachos, bacon-and-blue burgers and sweet-chili wings alongside craft beers, including Dogfish 90 Minute, Left Hand Milk Stout and Rogue Dead Guy Ale.
When it comes to the menu: fried chicken is king, served as a dinner platter, in a sandwich or on a stick. Comfort-food classics like corn bread, cheddar-cheese grits and tater tots round out the offerings, alongside lighter salads like a raw-collard-and-roasted-peanuts combo. Natural light floods the minimally adorned space, which gets a boost of Deep South hospitality courtesy of communal tables and original Hatch Show Print pieces.