A hamburger is the quintessential American food. Dating back to the 1800s, its first incarnation was a quickly grilled meat patty served between two slices of bread. The burger has come a long way since then.
Arguably the culinary capital of the United States, New York offers an endless array of burgers, from classic to cutting edge. Let these 20 serve as a sampling of the rich diversity available.
Jimmy’s No. 43
This underground gastropub in the East Village makes a fine stop for a late night bovine craving after a show at the nearby Public Theater (birthplace of Hamilton) or an evening of bar hopping. Cooked on a hotplate and sourced from Fletcher’s Craft Butchery, this meaty orb is a grass-fed custom grind that goes down oh-so-smoothly. Served with pickled onions, a healthy dose of melted cheddar and fat potato wedges, Jimmy’s burger will keep you satiated throughout the night.
43 East 7th Street
This Uptown spin on the popular Shake Shack chain model counts chef Marcus Samuelson, former president Bill Clinton and TV host Jimmy Fallon as fans. Their signed pictures adorn the walls of this turquoise-striped throwback that evokes the malt shops of the 40s and 50s. Their griddled patties, from Pat LaFrieda (who sources the meat for nearly all of the city’s upscale burgers), can be topped with an array of options including jerk fries, fried pork rinds and pickled cherry peppers. Wash it down with their signature red velvet shake or an old school vanilla malt.
100 West 124th St
This humble hole-in-the-wall makes a persuasive case that the beef does not make the burger: Superiority Burger’s patty is made with beans, grains and nuts and has just enough savory heft to meld nicely with muenster cheese and standard Shake Shack accompaniments: lettuce, tomato and pickle. It also helps that the owner, Brooks Headley, was previously the pastry chef at Del Posto, Mario Batali’s homage to decadent dining. Save room for Headley’s gelatos.
430 East 9th St
A short ride away from Midtown Manhattan on the 7 train, this dark wood-paneled pub in Woodside, Queens, is a glimpse of old New York. Beer is served in actual mugs, and the patty comes between two slices of melted American cheese. The menu is penned in calligraphy, but the theme of this dish is simple perfection. Served with hand-cut potato wedges, lettuce, tomato and little else, Donovan’s burgers transport diners to a time when people didn’t even think about taking a picture of their food.
57-24 Roosevelt Ave, Woodside, NY
It’s tempting to order the steak frites here, but the cheeseburger is at least as good, and at half the price, a bargain for this famed bistro that stays open late. The service is warm, making it easy to linger, especially given their reputation for celebrity sightings. remains open late. There aren’t a lot of adornments, but the burger-to-bun ratio is perfect, with the billowy bun providing ample casing for the generous, griddled patty. The fries have just the right balance of airiness and crunch — the result of meticulous preparation.
80 Spring St
Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien
This no frills mainstay is tucked inside the four-star Le Parker Meridien hotel and upholds a New York melting pot tradition of cramming utility alongside elegance. The menu can be summed up in three simple questions: Do you want cheese? Do you want fries? Do you want a second patty? Have these answers ready beforehand to keep the line moving at an efficient clip. Pitchers of craft beer can also be had for a boozy respite from the surrounding museums and shops.
119 West 56th St
Biting into the Black Label burger here is like ripping into a fine steak. This classy spot dates back to 1937 when regulars included Ernest Hemingway and Eugene O’Neill. The atmosphere is far more formal than the name implies, including white tablecloths and waiters in perfectly pressed uniforms. All else fades away, though, when the burger arrives, accompanied by a mound of skinny fries and topped in caramelized onions alone. Anything else would obscure the funky flavor of the dry-aged beef.
113 MacDougal St
This Czech gastropub on the southern edge of Park Slope deep fries its burger whole for a few minutes, giving it a golden sheen of deliciousness and a convenient pocket for the toppings, once sliced in half. The original is filled with applewood-smoked bacon and Emmentaler cheese, while other options include a spicy garlic aioli, a beef blend with slow braised pork neck and in-house fermented sauerkraut, and even a roasted beet-walnut-black eyed pea patty.
667 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY
Chef and co-owner April Bloomfield is legendary in these parts for her burger at The Spotted Pig, which can only be ordered with pungent Roquefort cheese. For those not among the throng of devoted followers and looking for something milder but no less decadent, Bloomfield’s Uptown spot is the place to go. Both the classic and namesake burgers at Salvation Burger are sourced from White Gold Butchers, an old-school whole hog chop shop on the Upper West Side. The former is a transcendently elevated fast food burger, while the latter plays off the complexity of slightly funky taleggio cheese.
230 East 51st St
5 Napkin Burger
Decorated like a French bistro with a menu designed for a hungry Midwesterner, this joint lives up to its name, requiring a fistful of napkins for the mess their juicy delights leave behind. The 10-ounce namesake 5 Napkin Burger is a gut challenge built to satisfy even the most ravenous of appetites. Gruyere, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli are the other stars. Sliders can be had for cheap at happy hour. Bunless options are also available for those who need the guise of eating a salad. For everyone else, 5 Napkin is a shrine to meaty indulgence.
630 9th Ave
150 East 14th St
1325 2nd Ave
For those craving McDonald’s and feeling guilty for doing so in a food Mecca like New York, Sadelle’s has the perfect fix. Their double-patty-stack cheeseburger pays homage to the Big Mac with noticeable upgrades. The beef is dry-aged, bringing a welcome funkiness to the sweetness of the Thousand Island concoction that seeps into the airy bun. The restaurant’s towering brick walls evoke SoHo’s bohemian past while the modern chandeliers provide the appropriate lighting for a burger of this stature.
463 West Broadway
The bold and colorful décor of this newly opened spot in Chelsea matches chef Mario Hernandez’s inventive take on Mexican street food. The burger is one of the more creative offerings in the city and begins with a chile ash brioche bun. Inside is a grilled short rib patty from Pat LaFrieda slathered in Manzano cheese, a Spanish mixture of cow, sheep and goat. It’s topped with a Negro Modelo morita glaze and served with spicy fries.
198 8th Ave
DB Bistro Moderne
The Original DB burger makes a case that decadence and excess can lead to transcendence, at least when it comes to food. This sirloin burger is filled with braised short ribs and a rich foie gras center and topped with black truffles. Served on a Parmesan bun that almost makes it a cheeseburger, this is the kind of meal that both excites and tests the senses. Arrive with an empty stomach and clear the rest of the day for the impending food coma.
55 West 44th St
Bedford & Co
Wood is the theme at this elegantly cozy spot tucked inside The Renwick Hotel. Not only are the walls, ceiling and floors covered in thick, knotty panels, but the hefty burger is also grilled over a wood fire. It’s topped with a Bloomsday (named for James Joyce’s “Ulysses”) cheddar along with caramelized onions and pork belly. To balance all the savory goodness with a healthy dose of tart, owner John Delucie includes a thick wedge of the restaurant’s house-made pickles.
118 East 40th St
For those who wish more burgers didn’t have buns (or more steaks came coated in cheese?), pioneering farm-to-table chef Marco Canora is serving what he calls a “variety burger” at his flagship restaurant. The aforementioned “variety” comes from the burger blend, which contains not just the standard chuck and brisket but also heart and liver. These additions give the patty an extra depth of flavor that shines through the gooey coating of fontina cheese and caramelized onions. Look for this masterpiece on the menu under the category “offal.”
403 East 12th St
Bell, Book and Candle
This intimate basement spot, tucked away on a leafy West Village street, brings back the patty melt in high fashion. Picture a buttery grilled cheese oozing melted aged cheddar with a juicy burger sandwiched in-between. It’s topped with a pickle that comes from the restaurant’s own year-round aeroponic rooftop garden that uses vertical garden technology to grow dozens of vegetables and herbs. Come for happy hour to take advantage of their extensive cocktail list. The smartly decorated and dimly lit dining area makes it easy to linger.
141 West 10th St
For those longing to combine the tiered enormity of a club sandwich with the casual gravitas of a burger, Quality Eats, on the edge of the West Village, is the place to have that quest satiated. The patty melt club burger is exactly what it sounds like, served in a giant bowl with a heap of spicy coleslaw plopped in the middle of its four quadrants. It probably goes without saying that this sand-burger is not the easiest to eat, but with some difficulty comes great reward.
19 Greenwich Ave
The burger at this East Village offshoot of the popular Mexican restaurant Fonda in Park Slope is laced with a guajillo chili paste, mixed in prior to cooking to allow the subtle yet persistent spice to disperse throughout the generous patty. It’s then topped with pickled red onions, avocado and Pasilla de Oaxaca salsa and served on a gluten-free bun with sweet potato fries. Available for brunch and dinner, this creative burger could make for a mean hangover cure.
40 Ave B
This Los Angeles import is usually packed and for good reason. They serve a variety of just-unique-enough burgers along with an array of salty, crunchy accompaniments, like fried pickles and mounds of shoestring fries. The default is medium rare and each bun is branded with their signature “U” char. Highlights include the Manly Burger — with bacon lardons, smoked salt onion strings and a house-made cheddar beer cheese — and the slightly more restrained Truffle Burger, caked in truffle-infused cheese and topped with an equally earthy aioli.
432 6th Ave
225 Liberty Street Suite 247
158 North 4th, Brooklyn, NY
Despite its name, this trendy SoHo spot is anything but a typical deli, though the menu often rifts on classic fare like the Reuben sandwich. The burgers include turkey and salmon in addition to a standard beef, which is served on a soft potato bun. Toppings abound. To really go all out, order the Signature, whose bounty of pork belly, charred tomato and a fried egg requires a bun upgrade in the form of brioche coated in cheese sauce.
54 Prince St