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.
8oz Seattle is a must try!
Anybody know why there aren't more of these top burger places on the west side of the country? I noticed that one west-coast favorite made it from Portland, OR, but any chance there are any really good burger places like these somewhere in the West?
Best burgers I've ever had were at Tadich Grill in San Francisco. Excellent beef – maybe ground sirloin with chopped onions within; very hot charcoal grill; sourdough roll lightly toasted; pepperoncini on the side.
As usual,What A Burger did not make the list–Typical Yankee mentality.
*typo*Ted's cheese burger is in Meriden CT
Keep in mind that the company that owns Sir Kensington's was a major Obama supporter. Therefore it is unfit for human consumption. Period.
Let's not forget that the northeast has lots of great "burger joints". Our favorite is Harmon's in Falmouth, Maine. The buns are steamed which makes a big difference! The hamburger is so tender and the cheese on the cheeseburger is the best. Let's get some of New England's "best" on the charts!
List can't be that good if the thinks Hildebrandt's is the best for Long Island. Every Long Islander knows about All-American in Massapequa as being the best on L.I.
I know you...you used to work at All American Burger...
I had just about every buger on Long Island and all American is the best.
In the top 10 ya'll forgot Muddbones in Bonham, Tx. Need to check it out if you can.
you're not cool unless you eat artisanal hamburgers.
Hodads in Ocean Beach , CA. The Best!!
WTF – This article proves how provincial Americans are abour foods and many other things. EVERY burger listed is from the USA. Believe me when I tell that good burger do exist in other plaes besides the USA!!!!!! By the way, I am an American living overseas!!!!!
Wow, of all the things to get upset about. If it hurts you so much why don't YOU finance a trip around the world and sample burgers in every country. Then found your own news website that has a food section. Then post your results there. It couldn't be easier!
S&B Burger Joint in Oklahoma City! The fries are the best!
A patty melt is not a burger. So #2 fails right off the bat.
Tool. Troll. Only a couple letters different.
Not a troll, just a stickler. If a patty melt is a burger then I guess any ol' roast beef and cheese sandwich is a reuben. Same basic components, right?
Since I often choose to have my burger bun-less, is there a special name for that? Or maybe I can say, "bunless burger" or "lettuce-wrapped" burger?
Yes, technically a patty melt IS a burger on one slice of bread (cheese on top assumed, hence the melt part).
Yeah, a bunless burger is called a "wussburger".
Only 1 west of the Mississippi? Really
Try the burger @ Mad Fresh in Fort Myers Florida. Nothing compares!
Overpriced and probably over-rated. So much depends, not on a red wheel barrow, but on time and place, and how hungry you are! Best burger I ever had was in Pacheco Pass, California, and I recall the dill pickle and BBQ sauce even now, 50 years later. But it might not be the best burger you ever had, by any stretch. Get over this and just try to eat sensibly–you'll live longer!
The best part of this article is all of the folks posting their favorites, which you can never have enough options. I agree that White Hut doesn't belong but nowhere does he say, "Best Burgers", just ones we should try. Yeah, it is missing Rocky's and Hodad's in San Diego, but those are my favorites and are must haves every trip home.
For those of you without a globe or access to Google Maps, Portland, Or is on the west coast, not the NE and Dallas, Tx.. well Dallas is a planet on its own ( also not NE). Keep posting your favs.. so us burger lovers can try them when we are nearby.
If your burger isn't made with Midwestern corn-fed beef, FAGEDABOUDIT! Two from Des Moines, Iowa that are a must are the half and half burger at Tally's, (meat is half steak, half bacon, ground together) and the burgers at Zombie Burger and Drink Lab.
The BLEU CHEESE BURGER at Two Rows in Allen Tx is delicious
Bleu cheese crumbles, grilled red onions, Honey Pepper Bacon, merlot mushrooms, jalapenos & mayonnaise. (although I cut the mao=yo and get bleu sheese dressing on the side to dip) as is their TWOROWS FAMOUS CHEDDAR & HONEY PEPPER BACON BURGER – they have the BEST bacon!! Sample their burgers next year!
Shore Fire Grill in Barnegat,N.J. THE BEST
Josh Ozersky you have wasted my time! just about everything you mention is in the Northeast. don't ever try to rate the best of anything if your ass doesn't travel around the country. seriously dude, don't waste my time!
I agree.. your time is better spent familiarizing yourself with where Portland, Or and Dallas and South Carolina are if you think they are in the NE.
That reading comp class isn't doing you ANY good.
A must try is The Strip Club 104 (a steakhouse) in Greer SC, they only serve burgers for Fri. Lunch. They make a house made pastrami for their pastrami burger. So delicious!!
Well I have had the Dyer's burger in Memphis, and it was NASTY...not a surprise considering that it is deep-fried in old grease...so it makes me wary of all the other recommendations in this article. I'll just stick with 5 Guys and In-N-Out.
I live in western mass and white hut is awful. How they made this list is beyond me. Five guys and red robin are far superior and even they are just average.
Did Josh's plane not make it to the West Coast?
as it's cheaper just got a Burger food,I often use fast food.
The“ Blackened Sabbath Burger from The Burger Dive, Billings MT. It won 'Best of the Bash" at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival Burger Bash. Chef Brad Halsten has a full menu of excellent burgers.
What about McDonald's? A gazillion (and counting) can't be wrong...
Yes, they can be wrong...and they are. Yoga mat buns, factory farmed meat, living in a cardboard box wages for employees...I'm sure anywhere and everywhere in America has some local place that makes a burger at least as good as, if not better than, Mickey D's and should be supported by the locals. And if you can't afford to do that, stay home and make your own burgers with the best ingredients you can afford within your budget (and avoid buying the yoga mat buns...if you don't know what that is...google it).
Studies show vegans have no sense of humor. The least you can do is learn to recognize sarcasm.
Seriously...yoga mat bun? Do you realise what naturally occuring chemicals and compounds occur in fresh fruit alone? Will you boycott apples because they contain formaldehyde? This stuff is in everything we eat. Unless you eat the same thing every day, in huge portions, it is going to have ZERO effect on your long term health. And by that stage, the general unhealthiness of the food you're eating will have well outweighed the effects of a bit of azodicarbonamide. I am a vegan, but people like yourselves who scream and shout about it do the rest of us a disservice. The whole thing was obviously sarcasm too...
Tommy's Burger Stop in Anchorage, Alaska!
ANGELS BURGER in philippines!
Bin 707 in Grand Junction Colorado!!
FIVE GUYS!!!! 43 55 th Street NYC FOREVER !!!!!
If you prefer quant ity over quality, by all means ....
3% of Americans live in NYC, but 33% of the best burgers live there. Weird.
Yes, most all the good burgers live near the CNN offices.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, Josh Ozersky is a lazy moron. Unless he gets some graft he isn't moving more than a couple of miles from his little fat shack.
Charlie Beinlich's – Northbrook, IL
CARNEY'S – Sunset Strip or Sherman Oaks CA......... #1
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