The Best Burgers in Manhattan: Our Top 12

It’s hard to imagine now, but there once was a time when the humble hamburger was strictly the domain of fast food joints and no-frills diners. But then something interesting happened.

The year was 2001 and French super chef Daniel Boulud decided one day to stuff some foie gras into high-quality ground beef, cook it until medium rare, slap some buns around it, put it on the menu at a very haute price at his Midtown restaurant db Bistro Moderne, et voila! The gourmet hamburger was born.

If you’re craving a burger on your trip to NYC, bookmark our list of the best burgers in Manhattan.
If you’re craving a hamburger on your trip to NYC, bookmark our list of the best burgers in Manhattan. Photo credit: Jonathan Borba

And now today, it’s weird if there isn’t a burger on the menu. You can find them on bar menus and in Michelin-starred restaurants. The burger is ubiquitous. But that doesn’t mean each one is created equal. There are a lot of mediocre versions out there. If you’re craving a burger, here are our sure-thing, always-great burgers in Manhattan.

Au Cheval

When this legendary Chicago burger spot first fired up its grill in March 2019, the city’s burgerati were salivating. One caveat: Au Cheval is not cheap. The Dry-Aged Tavern Cheeseburger plus an order of fries is going to set you back about $40 before tax and tip.

Is it worth it? For one of the best burgers in Manhattan – and all of New York? Yes!

Burger Joint

Located behind a nondescript curtain in the lobby of the Parker New York Hotel, Burger Joint is as famous for being hidden as it is for its excellent burger. The patties here are of the thin variety and they’re excellent.

Just walk into the lobby and spot the small neon hamburger above a curtain. Pull back the curtain et voila! You’re in burger heaven.

You'd never guess that one of the best burgers in Manhattan is located in such a hidden location.
You’d never guess that one of the best burgers in Manhattan is located in such a hidden spot. Photo credit: vincent desjardins

Fairfax

When owner Gabe Stulman’s Bar Sardine shuttered at the beginning of the pandemic, he quickly added the restaurant’s burger to his other restaurant across the street, on the improbable corner of West 10th and West 4th Streets. It was a wise move, as the burger has been a hit since day one.

Fairfax’s Bar Sardine Burger, as it’s called, is a thin patty topped with smoked cheddar cheese and, oddly delicious, shoestring fries, adding a lovely textural crunch to the eating experience.

Emily

When is a pizzeria not a pizzeria? When you order the burger at Emily, a fantastic pizzeria in the West Village, that happens to make one of the best burgers in Manhattan.

The Emmy Double Stack Burger—a thick juicy patty topped with American cheese and caramelized onions on a pretzel bun—has become a thing of legend among the city’s burgerati.

Emmy Double Stack Burger is one of the best burgers in Manhattan
The Emmy Double Stack Burger has a bit of a cult following. Photo credit: Bex Walton

J.G. Melon

Since 1972, this no-frills tavern on the Upper East Side has been churning out an excellent hamburger. The bacon cheeseburger at J. G. Melon consists of a nicely charred, thick patty and coated in melted American cheese and topped with crispy, crunchy bacon.

Black Iron Burger

There are a few unexpected things in the food and drink world that the Spanish have mastered: the gin and tonic, for example, is now solidly in the Spanish domain. And if you eat at Black Iron Burger, a Spanish-owned burger chainlette, you might say the hamburger too.

There are a handful of different burgers on offer here but first-timers should try the Iberico Burger, a lush and delicious patty stacked high with—sorpresa, sorpresa—Manchego cheese and a slice of unctuous jamón ibérico. And just for good measure, they throw a fried egg on top too. There are locations on W. 38th St., W. 54th St. and in Park Slope.

Julius’

Set on the corner of W. 10th Street and Waverly Place in the West Village, Julius’ claims to be the oldest gay bar in New York City. Which is reason enough to visit this historic drinking den.

But there’s one other reason: they serve one of the best burgers in Manhattan. The concoction is simple: a medium-thick patty (cooked medium rare, of course) topped with melty American cheese and crispy bacon on a soft bun.

Julius has a friendly vibe - and one of the best burgers in Manhattan.
Julius’ has a welcoming vibe – and one of the best burgers in Manhattan. Photo credit: Waffle Boy

Lure Fishbar

Logic might suggest that you don’t order a hamburger when dining at a fancy fish restaurant. But you can toss that logic in the kitchen rubbish bin at Lure Fishbar in Soho.

The burger here began life as an off-menu item, but it grew to become so legendary that the restaurant had no choice but to add it to the print menu. The Bash Burger is a Pat LaFrieda blend of beef topped with bacon-onion jam, cheese, tomato, and shredded lettuce.

Minetta Tavern

This Greenwich Village tavern has been open since 1937 when it was a dive that attracted people like E.E. Cummings, Ernest Hamingway, and Ezra Pound, among others. But it only started serving some of the best burgers in Manhattan – and New York City – in 2009. That’s when restaurateur Keith McNally took over the place and revamped the interior and the menu.

The burgers in question are the famed Black Label Burger and the Minetta Burger, the former being the pricier of the two (clocking in at a whopping $38). In theory the Black Label Burger, a proprietary blend of Pat LeFrieda’s best ground beef, should be the better of the two. But hamburger lovers have been debating this question since the day Minetta Tavern reopened. You can be the judge.

Nowon

Nowon is a Korean-American gastropub in the East Village that also happens to have one of the best burgers in Manhattan. The plus-sized burger is unctuous and greasy in the best possible way and is topped with kimchi mayo and gooey American cheese.

Hamburger on a pretzel bun

We’re fans of the hamburger at Nowon. Photo credit: Varin

Insider’s Tip: In the neighborhood? Make sure to check out the rest of our recommendations for other Alphabet City restaurants.

Raoul’s

There used to be a nightly race to eat this once-elusive, Gallic-accented burger. Raoul’s, set in Soho, used to only make 12 burgers each night and by 7pm or so, they were usually gone.

Post-pandemic, though, the restaurant is making as many as are ordered. Thank godness for that. The thick burger is doused in a cognac au poivre sauce and topped with triple cream Saint-André cheese before being slid between two challah buns.

7th Street Burger

The new kid on the burger block, 7th Street Burger became a ground-beef-and-bun bonanza as soon as it fired up its grill in the East Village in 2022. They use the smash technique which is to press down on the patty with the spatula, flattening it and intensifying the flavor. They then added a slice of American cheese and a Martin’s potato roll, and your burger is awaiting your palate.