This LIC counter joint pays homage to roadside dining with improved fast-food burgers, meticulously built with plump Black Angus patties, fresh toppings and a decadently buttered Martin's potato roll to replace the usual flimsy bun. In a borough where the LaFrieda takeover has yet to reach critical mass, the star-butcher blend here---a four-ounce mix of chuck, brisket and short rib---is a legitimate draw. But it's the classic preparation (flattop-griddled, draped in junky yellow American cheese) that takes the sandwich to the finish line. No wonder Hamburger America filmmaker George Motz has given Burger Garage the nod as one of his favorite NYC newcomers. 25-36 Jackson Ave at 44th Dr, Long Island City, Queens (718-392-0424). $4.20 and up.
Burger and Barrel
Chef Josh Capon's burger stock skyrocketed after he nabbed the Burger Bash People's Choice honors at the NYC Wine & Food Festival last year. At his brand-new gastropub, you can get that award-winning creation---garnished with caramelized-onion-and-bacon jam, American cheese and shaved pickles---in addition to the more traditional "B&B Classic." It's easy to forgive the less exciting toppings on the latter (tomato, shredded lettuce, pickles) when you bite into Capon's signature beef blend (LaFrieda, natch), which makes as good a patty as you'll find anywhere. The six-ounce disc is fattened with marbled flat-iron steak mixed in with chuck and short rib, and the toque draws out the deep, mineral-rich flavor of the meat by swiping one side with Dijon before it hits the griddle (a bit of hocus-pocus he weaseled out of the beloved West Coast chain In-N-Out). He has other tricks up his sleeve as well, including a tangy secret sauce and a sturdy plain bun (from an undisclosed NYC baker) that stands up to the juicy burger. 25 W Houston St between Greene and Mercer Sts (212- 334-7320). $13.
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. 30-17 30th Ave at 31st St, Astoria, Queens (718-267-6300). $5.49.
The meatcentric spin-off of Frankies Spuntino lives up to its name with an exceptional Black Angus burger, ground daily from a well-guarded blend of both Creekstone Farms and DeBragga-sourced cuts. A satisfying crust from the grill gives way to a gorgeously pink interior that coats the mouth like steak tartare. Bibb lettuce, red onions and vibrant tomato balance the richness, and a house-made onion brioche seems scientifically engineered to withstand the gushing juiciness of the patty's half-pound construction. 465 Court St at Luquer St, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn (718-254-0327). $16.
This nautically themed Williamsburg dive has made a name for itself in gastro-circles with some of the city's best bar food, including this knockout cheeseburger. The combo of mayo and sliced half-sour pickles tucked beneath an amply salted LaFrieda patty recalls the first briny bite of a banh mi, while a vibrant salad of shredded lettuce and olive-oil--drizzled tomato on top is about the best deployment of veggies we've come across on a burger. Crowned with a playful paper umbrella, it's at once sloppy and thoughtful, with oozing American cheese and a Martin's bun for a classic finish. 366 Metropolitan Ave at Havemeyer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-218-7632). $7.
The Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel
Much ink has been spilled over April Bloomfield's lamb burger at the Breslin, but you'll have to step through to the Lobby Bar at the Ace Hotel to get your hands on the equally impressive Breslin Burger. The same celebrated LaFrieda blend used at the Spotted Pig is griddled rather than char-grilled (as at its predecessor), and instead of that divisive Roquefort, the thick, steaklike patty is covered with a blanket of assertive, mature English cheddar. Topping the whole thing off: supple slabs of house-cured Berkshire pork belly that infuse each jaw-straining mouthful with a salty intensity. You might want to book a room upstairs---you'll need a nap after this one. 20 W 29th St at Broadway (212-679-2222). $17.
We fantasize about the satisfying squelch of chomping into a Juicy Lucy—a Minneapolis burger variant cooked with cheese inside the patty rather than on top. If you can’t hop a Delta flight to track down the original article, find a locavore spin on the regional specialty at Whitmans. The handsome one-hander boasts prime ingredients, like a proprietary Pat LaFrieda rib blend, a seeded Blue Ribbon bun and crunchy McClure’s pickles, along with an added Southern twang: a gooey pocket of pimento cheese bubbling away in the medium-rare center. 406 E 9th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-228-8011). $9.
Fried chicken isn't the only classic comfort food that this homespun hot spot nails---there's also a fantastic steakhouse-style cheeseburger, available in the dining room or as a takeaway item from an airy downstairs lunch counter. The pedigreed patty---built with tangy dry-aged cuts of grass-fed Piedmontese beef---comes surrounded by a textural collage of house-made dill pickles, cave-aged cheddar, shredded lettuce and caramelized red onions, all held together by a Martin's potato roll. 325 Bowery at 2nd St (646-602-7015). $13.
Chef Jeremy Spector constructs his thick patty with dry-aged scraps and deckle (the fatty outer layer of the rib eye) salvaged from his partner's steakhouse in New Jersey. Seasoned liberally and pan-seared for a sturdy crust, the beef is the star of the show, gushing funky flavor that pools up in the loosely packed interior. A white-bread roll sops up the spillage and clings to caramelized onions and melted cheese. Served with excellent skin-on fries for just $12 during lunch and weekend brunch service (plus, occasionally, as a dinner special), this instant classic is a steal. 277 E 10th St between First Ave and Ave A (212-529-9702). $12.
Don't be seduced by the fish-shack persona of this West Village eatery---the landlubbing Choptank Burger is the real draw here. Sharp Grafton cheddar is a fine match for the concentrated beefiness of a juicy DeBragga-blend patty, while the bottom half of a Tom Cat Bakery brioche roll is slathered with a zippy mayo infused with house-pickled Anaheim peppers. Other accoutrements, including salty bacon jam and crunchy fried-onion strings, can be pushed aside or rationed to your liking---we think the buttery two-hander is rich enough as it is. 310 Bleecker St between Seventh Ave South and Grove St (212-675-2009). $15.
RECOMMENDED: All of NYC's best burgers
Cantina Taqueria & Tequila Bar
Though Cantina opened as a simple neighborhood bar that just so happened to sell tacos, it soon expanded to offer everything from nachos to rice bowls to burritos. Start with a classic frozen margarita ($10.95) or Corona ($4.95) and a dip sampler of queso, guacamole and three house salsas ($11.95). Then, choose from the extensive menu of Mexican favorites, like a chili-lime chicken rice bowl ($12.95), a pulled pork and pineapple burrito ($12.95) or three of the many varieties of tacos made with fresh corn tortillas (all $15.95). In addition to the pulled pork and chicken, there’s also brisket, grilled steak, baja fish and sriracha shrimp. Snack on a side of elotes, or Mexican street corn with crema and cotija cheese, or sweet plantains (both $4.95). Deal seekers might want to stop by for their happy hour from 3 to 7pm on weekdays to score $5 guacamole, $6 margaritas and $2.95 tacos.
Venue says: “Bottomless Brunch is back! Add it for $12.95 for 60 mins. It's a Harlem Thing -Mimosas, Margarita and Sangria.”