May 24th, 2013
10:00 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

As the weather warms up, burger eating is pretty much mandatory. If you’re not working a grill, you’ll probably be standing near someone wielding some patties and a metal spatula. But, I generally look to the professionals for my burgers. I asked the top burger judge I know, Josh Ozersky, for his top 10 burgers around the country. (For a list of the 25 best burgers around the country, look out for Food & Wine magazine’s August issue, which features picks from Josh, among others.)

A little about Josh: He’s the author of the phenomenal book, "The Hamburger: A History." His website,, frequently includes entries like “The Burger That Made Me Whole.”

And he only likes hamburgers with squishy, unseeded white buns and American cheese.

Take it away, Mr. Ozersky.

Pie ’N Burger (Pasadena, California)
To me, this tiny, family-owned diner produces the consummate old-school, small-scale, traditionally orthodox hamburger: salted, griddled beef, capped with American cheese and nestled on a squishy white bun. The fact that it is located in the same city in which the cheeseburger was reputedly invented weighs heavily on me as well.

Company Burger (New Orleans, Louisiana)
Company has the highest and noblest aspirations of any burger restaurant I know, and comes closest to attaining them. The young chef learned to make the legendary burger at Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch and transported it to New Orleans, where he is constantly tinkering with it and trying to make it better. Like New York City’s Shake Shack, which I also admire immensely, it represents the best instincts of high modern gastronomy, grappling with something humble and traditional.

Brindle Room (New York City)
The best hamburger in America, in my professional opinion, is served at a small, unassuming restaurant in New York City’s East Village called the Brindle Room. Compact, flat, aggressively seasoned, seared in the flares and flames of an old cast-iron pan and composed entirely of dry-aged rib eye deckle, its simplicity and suppleness and beefy, crusty oomph put it in a class by itself. And, of course, like all great burgers, it is highlighted, rather than hidden, by its white, seedless, enriched bun.

The Fat Cat, Bill’s Bar and Burger (New York City)
Two crispy, greasy patties of rich Pat LaFrieda meat, cheesed, topped with caramelized onions and butter and served on a toasted English muffin: This sandwich isn’t technically a burger, and nobody goes to Bill’s for authenticity or atmosphere, but I don’t care. It’s the only burger in America I like that doesn’t come on an enriched bun.

Keller’s Drive-In (Dallas, Texas)
The quintessential old-school drive-in restaurant, Keller’s serves a thin, flat, wonderfully flavorful patty on a poppy seed white bun. I’m not sure why it’s so good, if the truth be told, maybe there is some MSG in there somewhere? Don’t say it’s the atmosphere, though. This burger would be a great in a Trailways bus bathroom.

Schoop’s (Multiple Indiana and Illinois locations)
Schoop’s takes the best part of the hamburger - the salty, brown crust - and essentially serves it by itself. This is a radical reimagining of the hamburger; it’s like a chicken that’s all thighs, or a brisket that is all burnt ends. I wish I were there right now.

Mar’sel (Palos Verdes, California)
I was completely opposed to this upscale California gourmet burger until I took one bite of it, at which point I became totally in support of it, and found myself doubting my own identity. It was that good.

Au Cheval (Chicago, Illinois)
This wildly hyped burger is so rare, in that it: (A) conforms to what a hamburger is meant to be (griddled, salted, four ounces, squishy bun), and (B) lives up to the hype. I prefer it with the copious mustardy dressing on the side, as one pinky smear on the bun is all anyone needs, but it’s a genuine fabulous burger. I love that they start with preformed patties.

Husk (Charleston, South Carolina)
Husk’s double cheeseburger is just fabulous. The meat, like everything else there, is made from local animals and has its own unique character. But the American cheese bonds it with our great hamburger union.

The Little Owl (New York City)
There’s not much to say about the Little Owl’s bacon cheeseburger (pictured above and recipe below), except that it is perfect in every way. It’s not too big, and it’s not too round, and it’s not oversalted or seasoned (although a whiff of curry and Old Bay add a piquant X factor). My first bacon cheeseburger wife was Veselka, also in New York, but I left it for the Little Owl, to which I have been married for years.

Courtesy Joey Campanaro
Serves 4


  • 1 pound ground beef brisket
  • 1 pound ground short rib
  • 4 slices American cheese
  • 8 slices precooked bacon
  • 4 homemade buns
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato, sliced
  • Purple onion, sliced
  • Pickles
  • Ketchup (suggested brand: Sir Kensington's)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons madras curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Cooking Directions

  1. In a small bowl, mix curry powder, cayenne, 1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper and 1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt until combined; set aside.
  2. Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium high heat.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix brisket and short rib until blended; season with salt and pepper. Separate into four balls and flatten into 3/4-inch thick patties. Season both sides of each patty with spice mixture.
  4. Place patties on hot grill or grill pan, cooking for approximately three minutes per side for medium-rare, four minutes per side for medium; top burgers with 2 slices bacon and cover with cheese during the last minute of cooking. Grill buns, turning over once with tongs, until toasted. Cover the burger with the top bun.
  5. Layer bottom bun with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and red onion before adding the burger and top bun from the grill. Serve immediately.
  6. Serve ketchup and extra pickles on the side for those who want it.

More from Food & Wine:

Best Burgers in the U.S.

America’s Most Over-the-Top Burgers

America’s Best BBQ Cities

Ultimate Burger Recipes

Summer Grilling Recipes

Do you agree with this list? Post your favorite burger joint in the comments below.

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Bite • Burgers • Content Partner • Food and Wine • Grilling • Sandwiches

soundoff (632 Responses)
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    August 18, 2014 at 9:41 pm |
  2. Bubba Lee McCoy Jr.


    July 2, 2014 at 6:04 pm |
  3. Bubba Lee McCoy Jr.

    Now I'm here to tell ya,Bubba's Burgers are the best! Not just sayin' that 'cause they're my name sake and all. They can be found in the frozen section of any Top's friendly market here in Western New York state.Fry a patty up in the old skillet,slap some lettuce,tomato,pickle and catsup on that sunofagun and yummy!Can't wait to get my food stamps on the 3rd so me and the misses can go get a box!

    July 2, 2014 at 5:59 pm |
    • Bubba's Conscience

      Get a job and stop sucking on the public teat.

      July 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm |
      • Bubba Lee McCoy Jr.


        July 3, 2014 at 10:24 am |
        • Bubba's Conscience

          This is your conscience speaking.

          July 3, 2014 at 10:28 am |
  4. NYC Fitness Events

    If i ever get to Pasadena California I will make it a point to go to Pie and Burger.

    January 30, 2014 at 12:12 pm |
  5. Verla Obenauer

    Your style is unique compared to other folks I have read stuff from. I appreciate you for posting when you've got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this page.

    November 24, 2013 at 4:36 pm |
  6. Craig

    No mention of Umami Burger? I've eaten at both the Santa Monica and San Francisco restaurants and have been mightily impressed.

    On the non-gourmet side, though, I have a torrid affair with The Stub at Digger's Diner (SF Bay Area): Beef, bacon, cheese, a fried egg, on Texas Toast.

    September 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  7. Yvonne Todd

    You must try the hamburger at One Stop of Texas in Runaway Bay. The meat is ground fresh on the premises and is never frozen. It is cooked to perfection with your choice of vegetables. Ask for grilled onions on a jalapeno bun with lettuce and tomatos. It can't be beat!

    July 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • wildwildwest

      Sounds delish, but alas, inside the Texas border. I don't have a "Texas" passport, and I don't plan on getting one any time soon, at least while Perry is in office.

      July 7, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
  8. farrolei

    If you really want an awesome burger, head over to the Burger Stand in Lawrence, Kansas. One bite may very well force you to re-do your entire list.

    July 6, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  9. farrolei

    You've obviously never been to the Burger Stand at the Casbah in Lawrence, Kansas. Now those burgers are the bomb. One taste of one of them and you'll have to re-do your entire list.

    July 6, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
  10. Lou

    1 Stop of Texas @ Runaway Bay, TX
    Best home made Ground Beef for a Cheeseburger
    Try the Jalapeno Hot meat for a Hotter Burger

    July 6, 2013 at 6:51 pm |
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