Josh Ozersky has written on his carnivorous exploits for Time, Esquire and now Food & Wine; he has authored several books, including The Hamburger: A History; and he is the founder of the Meatopia food festival. Follow him on Twitter @OzerskyTV.
Happy burger season! As we do at this time every year, we begged our favorite burger expert, Josh Ozersky, for his Top 10 Must-Try Burgers list for 2014. Ozersky is the author of the excellent "The Hamburger: A History." He gave it some thought, and then handed over his awesome list, plus intel on why these places made the cut.
Only a madman or a glutton with infinite resources could hope to eat every hamburger in America. Think of how big the country is! And yet, it would be equally ludicrous to suppose that the 10 burgers I listed here last year are still the country’s best. Every year new hamburger debutantes have their coming-out parties, and each year obscure starlets emerge from the hinterlands to enchant even the most effete of critics.
Here then is this year’s edition. Not all are new; and not all are necessarily mind-blowing. A few, like Hildebrandt’s and Dyer’s, owe as much to their picturesque surroundings and rich history as they do to the salt and blood of their beef. But all 10 of these burgers deserve our attention, our respect, and most of all, our willingness to eat several of them, one after the other.
Get the recipe for the burger - The Little Owl's Bacon Cheeseburger from last year's list - shown above.
1. Harry’s Bar and Burger - Providence, Rhode Island
Like New Haven’s Yankee Doodle or Meridien, Connecticut’s Ted’s, this obscure Providence burger bar transcends its humble New England roots, producing a blue-ribbon slider so classic that it might have passed across a lunch counter in 1927. Salty, brown and with nary a daikon to be found, this old-school classic was my favorite discovery of 2013.
2. Montmartre - New York City
When Montmartre chef Michael Toscano told me that he wanted me to try a patty melt filled with béarnaise sauce and creamed spinach, my first impulse was to wince, and my second to run. I did wince; but I didn’t run. And I’m glad I didn’t. Generally, I find patty melts, essentially grilled cheese sandwiches with a burger patty in the middle, to be disturbing freaks, two fine sandwiches yoked into a unnatural union. Add in creamy, piquant béarnaise and creamed spinach, and the thing sounded like a recipe for horror. And instead it was great! All of the elements work together beautifully, and thing is lush and creamy and meaty and crusty all at the same time.
3. Alden & Harlow - Boston, Massachusetts
I’ve had Alden & Harlow’s Secret Burger only once, and that one was smuggled out for me without the chef knowing. Such is the reputation of this hamburger that I was afraid to get it in person. If, as I suspected, it was all hype I wouldn’t know it from the soigné product they put in front of me. But lo! The Secret Burger more than lived up to its reputation. None of the orthodox burger elements are omitted: the bun is squishy, the sauce Thousand Island-y, the lettuce and tomato dispensable, as always. I hated the dehydrated piece of Cabot cheddar, and almost left the thing off this list because of it. But there is no burger on this list that has more magnificent meat, a three-way Creekstone blend to which has been added some secret smoked element.
4. Knife - Dallas, Texas
It should surprise no one that John Tesar’s Ozersky Burger made this list; its creation was a shameless ploy for praise from a man he knew to be a hardened egomaniac. That said, the Ozersky Burger is fantastic. Seared, salty, squishy and with a pervasive perfume of soft onions, it takes a little bit of New Jersey into the Lone Star State. (Like Harry’s, the Ozersky Burger has a family affinity with White Castle.)
5. Trifecta - Portland, Oregon
I should say here that I like everything at Trifecta. But of all the things this Portland newcomer has going for it, a double pimento burger is—to me—the best. Pimento cheese has a Southern connotation, but it’s sweet and artificial and phosphorescent, and so looks good on crusty brown patties oozing juice and fluid. The fries are good, too.
6. White Hut - Massachusetts
Speaking of White Castle: In the wake of the chain’s success, the country was inundated with knock-offs and clones—Blue Castles, White Towers, White Mannas, White Diamonds, Royal Castles and many more. (Others, like Krystal and Kewpie, took on other names.) White Hut belongs to this ancient tribe, and with three locations in central Massachusetts more than lives up to their low standards of flat, greasy, onion-y, and soft-as-gnocchi hamburgers. There is likely some old-time burger shack somewhere near your house that is like White Hut, only not as good.
7. Dyer’s Burgers - Memphis, Tennessee
Sticking with the old school, Dyer’s deserves some credit here. The Memphis institution has one of the boldest and more revolting boasts in the business: It has been deep-frying hamburgers in the same dirty oil for more than 50 years. The bluesy, Beale Street setting adds much to the flavor, but it actually is a singular taste experience, because tallow, too, can carry a whiff of terroir.
Holeman & Finch burger
8. Holeman & Finch - Atlanta, Georgia
My previous list praised Company Burger in Atlanta, and rightly so, but that burger was generated by Holeman & Finch, a classy cocktail bar whose food program is under the owlish gaze of the great chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene. The burger, another double, departs from the old-school model in many ways—an in-house bun, artisanal ingredients—but it’s true to the spirit of the old burgers. Also it’s very good. Especially with a martini.
Learn how to make the Holeman & Finch burger at home.
9. Hildebrandt’s - Williston Park, Long Island, NY
There is a wistful, elegiac note to this list; some of the places on it might not be here next year. They therefore deserve to be honored now. Hildebrandt’s is primarily a candy store and ice cream parlor, and it looks like someplace where Archie might have taken Veronica—to name two more defunct figures. A small grill is usually occupied with flat burgers made from meat delivered daily by a local butcher. If there is a more quintessential hometown hamburger, I am sure I can’t imagine what it could be.
10. Mile End - New York City
The Smoked Meat Burger at first perplexed me. I love pastrami, and I love hamburgers. But putting pastrami on a hamburger strikes me as a cheat. But in packing both beef and finely cut pastrami into the same burger and aggressively cooking it on hot iron, some happy synthesis of the two is created, and when dressed with thick pickles, it makes me happy to be living in strange times.
More from Food & Wine:
33 Burger Recipes
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Delicious Veggie Burger Recipes
Best Bacon Burgers in the U.S.
30 Minute Burger Recipes
Do you agree with this list? Post your favorite burger joint in the comments below.
– Josh goes traditional and picks his: Top 10 burgers in the U.S.
– Then he gets a little wacky with the: Top 10 non-traditional burgers in America
– Advice from a backyard expert: Best. Burgers. Ever.
– The secrets behind America's Best Cheeseburger (according to Food Network)
– Step-by-step guide: Making the World's Best Bacon Cheeseburger (according to the London Observer and pictured above)
– Killer cheddar sliders from our battling spouses
© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.
Josh, I have to say, you're an amateur (at best) based on your boring, standard, has-been, burger selections. You need to get out more. Try Slater's 50/50 in SoCal, and get out of your mediocre burger box. EXCESSTASY !!
Those burgers were raw in the middle. Eating raw ground beef is a good way to guarantee some serious intestinal issues.
Only if you're eating the garbage ground beef packaged in plastic from the grocery store. If you grind your own carefully selected cuts on equipment that you maintain to a high standard, there's no problem with it.
I'm sure everyone has a place that they feel missed the list, but a burger list without mentioning Bulldogs in Wauconda, IL is incomplete! It's a Chicago institution and the best gormet burgers I've ever had, and I am a very big burger critic. Anyone ever been there and can back me up?
We have one burger place near me that charges about $30/ea. Must be a way of dealing with the skyrocketing price of beef?
hamburger with martini?!
Hate to state the obvious (since it's on every-other Food Channel show, but any random Oklahoma Onion Burger joint beats any prissy burger on Kaiser roll (didn't we whip the Kaiser in the big one, WWII?) with arugula and designer mayo. A properly constructed burger consists of the following: fresh 73/27 with a pile of sliced onion squashed into it, fried on a flat top in it's own grease until a crust forms. Flipped and fried until it gets crunchy on the outside (but still juicy on the inside). Now salt the non-onion side Plain white oversized bun buttered and grilled next to the burger which has had AMERICAN cheese melted on it. Served the same way that The Lord eats his: mustard, pickles, lettuce and the now fried onions only. Of course, as it says in the Bible in the First Book of the Five Guys, according to dietary laws, must be served with an overly large portion of fresh cut, not frozen fries. That, my friends, is the recipe for cholesterol/crack that you've been looking for.
The Kaiser was WWI
Hmm, I suppose if I were anywhere near any of those places I would give them a try,,.
Bison / Elk burger at the Happy Gnome in St Paul MN. OMG and I love me a regular burger but if ever in the twin cities,GO! for the burger and the outstanding beers on tap.
What about The Counter in Los Angeles. The best!
I spend too much time in Atlanta, I always can't wait to get out. I most always eat out there and have run the gambit. I have to disagree with the Holeman & Finch selection. I guess if you love hobb snobbery then its the place for you. Honestly, their food is as mediocre as a warm flat beer.
Such first world problems...
shut it, we're eatin here
Rider's Club Cafe. San Clemente, California. Best burger in this country. Hands down.
step out of the OC bubble dude
Lame article. I was hoping for actual recipes for these supposedly great burgers, but all they provide is links the the restaurants. Which I'm never ever going to visit.
You left out Rotier's in Nashville. A burger or cheeseburger on toasted French roll.
Beef – For those who can afford it.
Dyer's is NOT the best burger in Memphis. That honor belongs to Huey's. The original in midtown, not Huey's East.
McDonalds has the best burgers in Memphis.
Sweet, more gay and women directed advertising. Men looking for news or grilling recipes should use Reuters or BBC News because CNN isn't the straight forward news desk it used to be.
recalled meat burgers deluxe
You left-out the bacon cheese chicken fried triple decker with bacon rinds in-between. Those lucky enough to detach their jaws like anacondas enjoy these greatly.
White Hut has three locations, none of which are in central Massachusetts.
No Hodad"s in Ocean Beach CA. How dare you... Been around since the 50's. Check it out on Diners' Drive iIns and Dives. It definatley is a dive, but that's one of the many things that makes it GREAT
i saw a ranking list of the best burgers in san diego and hodads was number 1. it lost all credibility within 5 seconds when phils bbq and In-N-out were ranked 2 and 5
Hodad's is where it's at. Great example of a classic American burger. Best of that style I've ever had.
Blk Burgrz in Ladera Ranch, ca is my Favorite.....They have Kobe Beef which melts in your mouth...Try the stuff blue cheese burger with avocado and pepperjack cheese and the brioche bun.....So Good.
6 burger joints from the northeast and not a single one from the Midwest or California (the burger mecca)? Something is wrong here.. ...
Ben's Porch, Sandhills Golf Course, Sandhills ranch country, Nebraska. Local beef, local seasoning salt, local cowboy chief, these are the best burgers in the world. There's nothing even close!
I want to go to there!
He had me up until the American "cheese" slices. American cheese is not cheese. It sticks all over your teeth and lacks any real cheese flavor. It's made with vegetable oil, thickeners, and food coloring. Otherwise the burgers are very similar to my own. I also put curry in my spice blend. To my taste, however, a burger just isn't one without mustard, the artisan kind ground thick with lots of flavor is perfect for this burger. I'll have to try the pizza dough buns, though. Soggy buns are lame when eating a burger.
the debate goes on..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdQ2oUtTbR4
I'll vouch for White Hut in West Springfield Mass!
American God food. Give the Yanks a Bible and Hamburger. Health care is the right job in America, lol. Heck, with 60% of your population fat and obese. In the UK we eat better than this.
Yes, the UK is know for its cuisine. 😄
Le Roast Bef.
He's just jealous that our teeth can still function and break up meat.
Enjoy your beans on toast....now that's culinary genuis!
Two things, mate.
First of all, I've seen plenty of overweight folk in Britain and throughout Europe. Contrary to what you read in the media, we do not have the market cornered on obesity!
Secondly, from a culinary standpoint – each time I visit the UK, I have five words: Thank God for Indian Cuisine!
Cooked correctly, there is nothing wrong with the good ol' American burger! If you go with a good patty of top sirloin or chuck, you've got a lot of protein topped with fresh vegetables. I find that there is nothing that slays a hearty appetite like a great burger!
Dude, curry on whatevah, blood sausage, marmite, haggis, black pudding. You have no play here. Outstanding cask ales exempt. US beef is amazing.
English descendant and frequent visitor
Americans are already fat. Nice way to make them a lot more fatter, lol.
Americans are able to eat better Jafo because we have good teeth, unlike U. K. types. "You know, I've got bad teeth." – Austin Powers... Lol
Have you ever seen Ozersky? Google up a picture and it will all make sense.
I love old-fashioned hamburgers with tomatoes, onion, pickles, and lettuce. I even want mustard instead of mayonnaise. Nothing fancy for me.
Woah, woah woah... Where's Slaters 50/50 in San Diego??? Their 50/50 burger is 50% ground beef and 505 ground bacon!! Best burger anywhere!
Father's Office in Santa Monica. Father's Office Burger. It's awesome!
The article isn't titled 'best burgers anywhere'. Provinciality is dead.
Wassamatta? No "Shake Shack" burgers? I mean, THE BEST burger I have ever eaten in my life!
Hut's on 6th St in Austin. When in town try them. Many good places in town but Hut's is my favorite.
In the first item on the list, it mentions "Meridien CT"–there is no such place–it is Meriden CT.
Naps Grill in Hamilton, MT. Your list is invalid.
BLAKE'S LOTABURGER Green Chile Cheeseburger in New Mexico is the all time best! followed
by IN N OUT
Fire up the grill! 10 burgers you MUST try.........
I don't think so........I don't eat camouflaged GREASE.
Hopdoddy Burger Bar in Austin, TX!!!!
Kincaids in Ft. Worth, TX has everyone beat, hands down. I was going there when they were still a grocery store and we put our plates on high counters with groceries to buy underneath.
This misplaced old Texan now lives in Colorado and is the original Burger Boy who has traveled widely. Who would have guest that the best burger in the US is right here in Colorado? Yep. Bingo Burger in Pueblo, Colorado (and soon to arrive in Colorado Springs.
Oh, brother, yet ANOTHER Texan (or Californian) moving here. Texas is a great place, cheaper to live and has overall better food than here in our Colorado. Better not to tell people here that you're from Texas, bud. And other than that place in Pueblo, we have a coupla decent burgers here, not much, though.
Bigotry does not become you, Jim
Checker Bar downtown Detroit, MI.
My backyard. Buffalo meat mixed with onion soup mix and pepper. Walla Walla sweet onions, home made BBQ sauce, spicy mustard, tomatoes if you want. A selection of cheeses available, all served on an onion roll. I can do medium rare, or medium I'd you insist on it, my grill can't go past that.
Herd's Hamburgers in Jacksboro, Texas. It's a hole-in-the-wall from which burger greatness spouts.
Where's SF? 4505 Meats, zuni, nopa???
The "Lewis Burger" at Lewis's Bar and Grille. Norwood MA – "At the SE corner of Town Squuare"
Any good burger places in the Washington, DC area? Recommendations appreciated.
Ray's Hell Burger
How about bubba burgers grill them up yourself. Most likely better than all these burger joints combined together.
You are probably so right. Put a frozen bubba on the grill. Flip it once and it does taste better than anything served anywhere.
The burger test: order a plain burger, no mayo, no cheese, nothing, not salt nor pepper. Throw away the bun and just eat the burger. When you find a burger that tastes close to beef, you found a good burger joint.
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