A burger is perfection at its simplest. Take two buns, a patty, cheese, and some sauce, and you have the base for one of the most popular meals in the entire universe. On every corner of the Big Apple, you’ll find a new venue with a unique take on the burger—but where can you find the best burgers in NYC?
This was birthplace of the movement that removed burgers strictly from the fast-food realm, bringing them into refined dining experiences. So in the pursuit of a superb burger, many people tend to start from New York.
Like most simple things, the excellence lies in the details: how toasted is that bun and how juicy is the patty? Does the umami of the cheese balance well with the tang from the sauce? And how about other condiments—the pickle, the caramelized onions, the lettuce, and tomato?
As simple as it is, a burger is the perfect blank canvas on which cooks can work their art. Thousands of restaurants and diners worldwide sell their own versions, experimenting with an ocean of possibilities and coming up with flavors and presentations that make their dish unique and utterly different from the next one you try.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 best burgers in NYC for you to taste some of the world’s most delicious artistic expressions!
Best Burgers in Manhattan
Happiest Hour (West Village)
The Happiest Hour is one of the most recommended burger places in the city today, and it’s worth noting that most of the people who end up here actually came for a drink. It must indeed be something special for them to leave speaking so highly of the burgers.
The Happiest Burger, the house specialty, is the East Coast version of an In-n-Out double patty stack. It’s covered with cheese and topped with classic condiments like lettuce and tomato. Now add an onion confit, some pickles, a Russian dressing mixed with mustard, and you’ll taste one of the best burgers in NYC.
Minetta Tavern (West Village)
A butter-covered, dry-aged ribeye patty with caramelized onions and a crispy bun makes up the Black Label Burger at Minetta Tavern. Although it may be a little expensive ($36), every bite will be worth the money invested in this gastronomic experience.
There is no cheese involved in this mix. The burnt and toasty corners of the patty already grant a smoky flavor to the burger, and its juicy interior serves as the creamy breaking point.
Upland is originally an Italian restaurant serving pizzas and pasta. However, their burger has also earned quite the reputation, only being served during brunch and lunch hours.
The burger here is the love child of In-n-Out and a typical crowd-pleasing brunch menu. The thin patties are stacked with layers of American cheese in between, then topped with avocado and peppers. A little Californian state flag stands on top of the burger.
Burger Joint (Central Park South)
Burger Joint is a fast-food chain with many units across New York. However, let’s talk about one particular establishment, hidden inside the Le Parker Meridien hotel on 56th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues.
Follow the burger-shaped LED lights and go past the curtain to enter the small, dark shop. Here, the burgers are the classic greasy, after-hours snack, with melted cheese and a thick slice of pickle. You can grab it to go or wait in line for a booth.
Get a milkshake for the complete experience, and don’t forget to sign your name on the wall!
Corner Bistro (West Village)
Perfect for those seeking a greasy fix to a drunken night out. The burger at Corner Bistro is known for its massive ball of beef (eight ounces, to be more precise) in the middle of two tiny buns. The standard condiments follow: American cheese, bacon, tomato, and lettuce.
This classic original, served on a paper plate, is a nice break from the creative versions of burgers you may find in the city. You know you’ll enjoy it.
Raoul’s is a French restaurant that makes what is probably the most gourmet and unique burger on this list. The Burger Au Poivre, famous all over Soho, consists of a crispy beef patty inside a soft and squishy bun.
But what makes it different is the chef’s choice of condiments. A cognac and pepper sauce, paired with creamy Saint-André cheese, is the dish’s star ingredient.
Lure Fishbar (SoHo)
When a seafood restaurant makes it to the list of the best burgers in NYC, you know their burger must be exceptional. The secret here lies in the chef’s signature bacon jam, which pairs perfectly with the pickles and American cheese that follow it. The crispy potato bun and the juicy beef patty contribute as well.
J.G Melon (Upper East Side)
The burgers from J.G Melon are good enough to please all groups of people. Open for business since the early ’70s, their specialty is the bare-bone cheeseburger. It consists of a soft, toasted potato bun that hugs a beef-blend patty with American cheese.
Best Burgers in Brooklyn
Emily (Clinton Hill)
The Emily burger will make you believe in love. A mix of dry-aged beef, caramelized onions, melted cheddar cheese, and a special “Emily sauce” inside a warm pretzel bun makes this pizza joint the hottest burger spot in Brooklyn.
Peter Luger Steak House (Williamsburg)
Peter Luger Steak House, as the name suggests, is a diner specialized in steaks. The burgers here are only served during lunchtime and are perfect for those who enjoy a thick and juicy patty. The over-half-pound of dry-aged beef is followed by a single slice of raw purple onion.
At Peter Luger, the meat is so good it can be eaten by itself. However, to add more fun to the experience, add some bacon, cheese, and ketchup to elevate the flavors of the beef.
Red Hook Tavern (Red Hook)
A well-prepared and straightforward burger that doesn’t need many add-ons to be delicious. It is topped with raw green onions and melted American cheese.
Like Peter Luger, the magic here lies in the meat, followed by simple condiments that don’t obfuscate the flavor of the dry-aged patty. The result: one of the tastiest and best burgers in NYC.
Two8two Bar (Cobble Hill)
Here, the beef for the patties is fresher than ever. It’s ground daily by the butcher next door, guaranteeing juicy meat that can come in various blends. One of their most famous burgers is the Half and Half, with 50 percent being beef and the other 50 percent bacon.
They also have their special house sauce that’s featured on the Billy cheeseburger. For vegetarians, the Beyond Burger is also an option.
Threes Brewing (Gowanus)
Threes Brewing is one of those establishments that follows the philosophy of juicy simplicity. Their grass-fed beef patty is the star of the show, reaching the ideal medium-rare point. A blend of American cheese, pickles, onions, and the special house sauce follows.
This is one of the best burgers in NYC, and even better when served with a cold beer during a summer afternoon!
Cozy Royale (Williamsburg)
Cozy Royale has another meaty burger where the medium-rare patty is the star and doesn’t need a lot of other ingredients to be delicious. The crispy edges of the patty balance well with its pink, juicy interior.
Tarentaise cheese tops the meat, granting it a unique scent that is not at all overwhelming. Homemade mayo, pickles, and onions finish the job.
Best Burgers in Queens
Donovan’s Pub (Woodside)
Donovan’s is the typical Irish pub where you can grab a cheap beer and be in the presence of people who have been loyal customers for quite a while. It has been around since 1966, and the decorations in this establishment stand out, like stained glass and antique, vintage ornaments.
However, the burger here is pretty famous. It’s made with a half-pound patty of New York strip, medium rare, followed by melted cheese, a slice of tomato, and some lettuce. The fries are also thick, crispy, and salty.
Camila has lived in New York for over six years. Writing about food, drinks, and travel, she has moved around the city gathering tales, flavors, and restaurant recommendations for her fellow explorers. A lover of bars and baos, Camila can introduce you to the most famous and best-kept secrets of New York!