A burger is a simple premise, but doing them well is a dark art. Do you go with the classic sesame seed, potato, milk or brioche bun? Do you prefer American cheese, blue or cheddar? Caramelised onions, pickled or raw? Lettuce and tomato or cheese and pickles? Is your protein power chicken, fish, beef, or mushroom? And we haven’t even gotten to the question of fries yet. There are a thousand variations on a burger, but these are the 16 best in Sydney.
RECOMMENDED: The 50 best cheap eats in Sydney.
The 14 best burgers Sydney has to offer
Kirby Craig’s katsu chicken burger is one of the best hot sandwiches we’ve eaten in this city. The chicken thighs are wider than the sweet bun so that hot, juicy, crunchy bites stick out on all sides. The sweetness in the tonkatsu sauce is good, the subtle citrus in the yuzu mayo is even better, and they jam enough finely shredded cabbage and the right amount of raw onion to keep things feeling fresh, not fatty
This cash-only operation is a well-oiled machine masquerading as a ramshackle burger joint by the roadside in Sylvania. In operation since 1957, they offer Australian-style burgers, meaning a cooked through (but still tasty) patty, fresh tomato, raw onions and lots of shredded lettuce come standard, along with free beetroot if you want it. Go the Works Burger, which adds crisp bacon, a fried egg and pineapple.
These guys are the kings of the good quality, American-style burger with that low-brow fast food flavour. They started the trend and none have matched them for consistency or popularity. The secret is in their beef patties made by a special machine in their CBD shop. Quality beef, cheese melted over the meat, lettuce, thick slices of tomato, white onion and Mary's secret sauce and smooshed into a soft white bun, and you should consider adding mash and gravy as a dip for your fries for a carb on carb party.
On an industrial street in Brookvale they are cooking up a banger of a classic beef burger, but they have a secret weapon that makes their chilli burger stand out – they make their own hot sauce in-house from Carolina Reaper chillis and it’s a showstopper. Fresh, fruity and properly hot, but not in a sneaky way. The heat goes up in even increments, so you don’t suddenly become the mayor of a mouth volcano.
The pub from the team behind Icebergs and Da Orazio have opened a really good venue on the mostly-toursity section of Campbell Parade, and it's where you'll get the double squish burger. What seems like a gimmick is actually a pretty genius idea. The usually fluffy bun is compressed down (a heated iron weight is responsible), toasting the outside nicely and soaking up the juices of the double meat patty, bacon and cheese. This results in a surprisingly neat and compact burger holding in all the flavours
The crew behind this Penrith burger bar have serious Sydney restaurant credentials, which goes a long way to explaining why the goods here stack up to any hot sandwich in the city. The burgers aren’t cheap - good ingredients aren’t - but their classic, American-style cheeseburger is excellent: juicy patty, tacky melted cheese, lots of pickles and onions and mustard mayo. Next time we might order the Louise, which adds lettuce and tomato to the mix, for some extra nutrients.
Lucky every table is stocked with wet wipes because the BL chicken burger are messy. The chicken burger has two pickle-brined-and-fried chicken schnitzels balancing on a Kraft single, pickles, lettuce, bacon, cheese and Sriracha mayo pierced with a skewer that we daren’t remove in case it all topples over. It’s a heart attack waiting to happen, but one we’d happily risk all over again.
The menu here is a veritable ode to Sydney rock royalty, and while you maybe tempted to try order your favourite band’s namesake sandwich, a surefire bet is the Classic Cog, which unlike prog-rock music, keeps things classic with tasty cheese, grass-fed beef, lettuce and tomato relish. Top marks for the bun-to-patty ratio – they complement each other perfectly. It’s also juicy but not a monstrous hot mess.
They're famous for their 16-hour brisket rolls with coleslaw and barbecue sauce (the pepper crusted bark is amazing), but these guys are also smoking a dense, flavoursome deliciously chewy wagyu patty that they squish inside a soft white bun with pickles, diced onion and enough tomato sauce and mustard to ensure it gets over your fingers.
At one of Sydney's original cult burger joints, the attitude towards lettuce is more "leave it" than "take it". Pickles and a thick, acidic tomato relish are the only plants you'll find on their "OG" cheeseburger – unless you count huge swirls of butter-yellow mustard mayo as a vegetable. Those condiments and a slice of perfectly-melted orange cheese are all that graces the pink, juicy patty and soft milk bun.
The Brooklyn takes all the best bits of your classic cheese burger – medium rare patty, sticky American cheese, mayo and lettuce and doubles the cheese, and doubles down on the mayo score, adding a chipotle chilli and a gherkin spiced version, and then adds spicy jalapeno slices to punch through all the fat. Frequent flyers will know to avoid peak times - these guys get serious queues forming from noon.
Brisbane's burger chain has opened a Sydney outpost that does a messy beef burger with cheese, and one of the best meat-free burgers on the fast food circuit. They sandwich a mix of gouda and Gruyère between big, flat, juicy field mushrooms and then crumb and deep fry it so that the shell is crunchy and the cheese molten. It's lightened and brightened by the requisite lettuce and tomato and delivered in a soft, white, sweet bun spread with the house secret sauce (a spiced mayo situation).
There’s a big difference between cheap and crappy, and at Superior Burger they are very particuar about their ingredients. They use pasture-fed beef and chemical free chickens, and they salt-age their meat for the patties, which they mince in-house so that the result is properly nubbly, juicy and rough, not frighteningly uniform like a mass produced product. You’ll feel quite nostalgic eating here, with potato scallops on the menu, plus a classic hamburger that doesn’t go in for orange American cheese – beetroot, proper barbecue onions and smoked barbecue sauce is how they roll.
The chipotle chicken burger outshines its beefy brethren here. Structural integrity isn’t this burger’s strong suit – but what it lacks in form, it’s makes up for in tiered textures. The fried chicken is coated in a crisp batter (which is seasoned with a mix of what resembles the KFC secret 12 spices), the bacon is juicy, soft avo, lettuce and tomato add freshness while the chipotle mayo brings it back into flavour town.
The burgers here are made from 100 per cent grass-fed beef. The chilli cheese is spicy enough to give flavour to the medium-cooked patty – the jalapeno peppers are not overly spicy though. The burger’s topped with a generous serve of crunchy pickles, onion and tomatoes, plus American-style cheese and a frilly leaf of lettuce. But the ‘secret sauce’ is what keeps us coming back for more.
The J burger is a modest, one patty tall classic. Here you can taste the best BBJ elements (juicy wagyu beef with American cheese, crisp and cool iceberg lettuce and artfully crinkled pickles) in a serving size that lets you eat your burger with your hands, as god intended. The all important sauce to filling ratio is mathematically rigorous, it’s a tad Hungry Jacks homage in its mayonnaise leanings, but that isn’t a complaint. The potato bun gives the J an edge too.