When traveling to New York City, the first thing on your mind might be pizza or pasta. And that’s rightfully so, being that a significant percentage of the New York population has Italian roots, and entire neighborhoods are dedicated to slice shops, paninis, and old-school eateries with checkered tablecloths. As locals know, New York is home to a vast variety of cuisines and cultures, usually resulting in modern restaurants with fusion menus and explorative ingredients.
But sometimes as a diner you just want some good, old-fashioned American-inspired food to fill your tank. So below is a list of the best burgers in Brooklyn, comprised of local haunts, innovative blends, timeless chucks, and their accompanying sides: curly fries, shakes, beer, and onion rings galore. And for those travelers embarking across the East River into Brooklyn, they will be spoiled with burger options, from traditional American cheese slices to Japanese wagyu patties.
Bernie’s is a tried-and-true local hangout on the north side of McCarren Park in Williamsburg. It’s the kind of place where bartenders can become like family and diners don’t need to dress to impress. However, it’s a small dining room with incredibly classic American décor — think dim lighting, red-checkered tablecloth, vodka martinis, and ice-cream sundaes with a cherry on top.
Although the restaurant opened in 2018, it looks as if it could have thrived in any decade from 1950 onwards, sporting pendant lighting over a dark wooden bar where you can wait for your table. But beware, they don’t take reservations and if you try to put your name in after 6 p.m. on a Friday or Saturday, you might be tough out of luck.
The burger: “Cheeseburger Deluxe,” a double patty burger with American cheese and shredded lettuce and “the works”. Sides are sold separately. The price isn’t necessarily a steal, but keep in mind that you’re paying for a New York institutional experience, along with your tasty meal.
Strangeways opened in 2020 just before the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns, but it has proven its worth in the community despite the unfortunate timing. Nestled on a large plot with a cozy and plant-filled patio on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg, it not only has an incredible menu inspired by flavors from India, the Mediterranean, and Australia, but it also boasts hand-crafted cocktails that shouldn’t be missed.In addition to some of the best burgers in Brooklyn, their menu includes crispy rock shrimp with a spicy curry flavor and a vadouvan aioli, a tahini-seaweed Caesar salad, and a perfectly cooked piri-piri chicken served with preserved lemon mashed potatoes.
The burger: “Dry-aged cheeseburger,” served with cheddar, tomato-horseradish sauce, iceberg lettuce, and red onion served with fries or a salad. You can also add thick-cut bacon.
Situated on one of Greenpoint’s most bustling streets, Tørst is a cozy, modern Danish tavern known for their vast beer selection and shareable plates. They serve self-proclaimed “elevated bar food,” as well as wine and cocktails. The inside interior has a crisp, white ceiling and beautiful wood paneled walls. This spot is perfect for foodies in search of a handful of tasty bites to share, including a cheese plate, burrata dish, and baby greens salad.
The burger: “Dry-aged Burger,” with smoked tomato jam, gruyere, sprouts, and red onion on a toasted brioche bun.
Emily / Emmy Squared
Emily has locations in some of the most bustling parts of New York: the West Village in Manhattan and Clinton Hill in Brooklyn, as well as an Emmy Squared location in Williamsburg. They have a classic millennial vibe décor: long wooden tables, white subway tiles, shelves with plants vining down, and white walls. They’re known for playing 2010s music as you dine, the cherry on top of the millennial décor. While they are also known for their sheet-pan pizzas, their burger is a notoriously decadent and show-stopping morsel. After you order it once, it’s almost a sure bet you’ll get it every time you go back.
The burger: “Emmy Burger,” Pat LaFrieda dry aged beef with special “Emmy sauce,” caramelized onion, Grafton cheddar, on a pretzel bun with cornichon and skinny fries.
Maison Yaki is a French yakitori fusion restaurant in Prospect Heights by chef and owner Greg Baxtrom, also known for his sister restaurant Olmsted across the street. He’s famous for merging his love of French and Japanese cuisine to create an engaging menu from duck a l’Orange meatballs to octopus niçoise, or tempura frog legs to beef short-rib with bordelaise sauce.
The burger: “Raclette Wagyu Burger & Fries,” with umami and nori hollandaise sauce.
This is a classic New York style fast-food restaurant: it serves affordable, delicious food, but also serves alcohol and has a modern, inviting interior. Located in Bedstuy, Home Frite sells some of the best burgers in Brooklyn. They also serve up patty melts, chicken sandwiches, loaded fries and boneless wings, along with boozie milkshakes or classic cocktails for a steal of a price
The burger: “Award Winning Cheeseburger,” with caramelized onions, American cheese, pickles, secret sauce, and a toasted brioche bun.
Cozy Royale is the sister restaurant of Williamsburg’s Meat Hook, which is a modern, neighborhood butcher. So you can be absolutely sure that the meat is top-notch and cooked to perfection, resulting in some of the best burgers in Brooklyn.
The restaurant is a small, homey dining room that looks similar to what a grandmother’s might: an elegant and somewhat gaudy chandelier, a mounted fox surrounded by black and white framed photos, a green bar stocked with wine and spirits, and dark wooden furniture. They serve a combination of traditional French plates mixed with some Polish and American classics, like lobster pierogies, steak tartare, moules frites, and a bloomin’ onion.
The burger: “Royale Burger,” with Red Rock cheddar, red onion, leaf lettuce, tomato, pickles, dijonaise, sundried tomato ketchup, served with fries.
BK JANI is a Pakistani eatery known for kebabs and burgers with two Brooklyn locations, one downtown and one in Bushwick. The restaurant has ceiling lights, chess tables as dining tables, murals painted on the walls, and tables covered in art. It’s as eclectic and creative as the neighborhood it lives in. Meals are served on wooden trays or paper plates, and their order-at-the-counter-menu includes a seekh kabab, chicken tikka, masala fries, and a fried chicken sandwich.
The burger: “The JANI,” a half pound burger cooked medium rare with mint chutney, grilled tomato, and a pinch of raita, which is a traditional yogurt-based condiment packed with cucumber and mint.
Blue Collar is designed after your favorite American diner experience. Imagine tin signs, fountain sodas, hand-made milkshakes, and red and yellow ketchup and mustard squeezers on each table. Diners order at the counter in a fast-food style, and the menu has all-day breakfast, onion rings, buffalo chicken tenders, and chili fries. This will transport you to a small-town drive-in right in the middle of Williamsburg.
The burger: “Flat Top Burger,” upstate brisket smash burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, and special sauce on a potato bun, or make it a combo with fries or onion rings and a soda.
Located in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, Two8Two is a bar and burger restaurant specializing in craft cocktails and craft beer. Their menu has over 10 different burgers to choose from, as well as chili cheddar hotdogs, nachos, a BLT, and onion rings. In addition, there’s a back patio with picnic tables and an inside pub-feeling dining room. Come here for some of the best burgers in Brooklyn.
The burger: “Pub Burger,” an eight-ounce hamburger with grilled onions, cheddar cheese, bacon, and two8two sauce.
Molly Wilcox is a New York based writer with a passion for travel and food. When she’s not reading and writing, she’s usually biking around New York City in search of new flavors and sites. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, Architectural Digest, Cultured Mag, SFGate, Salon, Observer, and V Magazine, among others. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mol_wilcox