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Le Pigeon (Portland, OR)
The burgers at Portland’s Le Pigeon are far from the only reason to visit said restaurant: the menu at Le Pigeon is deservedly acclaimed, and a cookbook of their recipes, Le Pigeon: Cooking at the Dirty Bird, was released in 2013. But the burgers here are, indeed, life-changingly good. And the view from the chef’s counter can be enlightening, while offering the opportunity to see the range of diners. Notes chef Gabriel Rucker, “Two people sitting at the chef’s counter from NYC having a seven-course tasting menu spending $200 that evening might be sitting next to two guys from Portland who order two Coors and two burgers.”
McDonald's (Downey, CA)
Part of the charm of burgers is the array of ways in which they can be served, and in the locations that they can be devoured. If you’re opting for a burger pilgrimage, taking in the oldest McDonald’s still in operation should be a stop on the route. The one in Downey, California, first opened its doors in 1953, and offers a glimpse into burger history.
Thistle Hill Tavern (Brooklyn, NY)
The food at Brooklyn’s Thistle Hill Tavern is sumptuous and satisfying. Their burger, served with salt-and-pepper fries, is among the menu’s highlights. Like its sibling restaurants Talde and Pork Slope, Thistle Hill blends savory food with a comfortable environment.
Shake Shack (Various Locations)
What began as a New York–only phenomenon has gradually expanded across the East Coast, with locations in Chicago, Las Vegas, and overseas as well. Shake Shack’s hallmarks are efficiency and high-quality food, and the clean design makes for a relaxing environment in which to enjoy your burger. Gabriel Rucker has a particular fondness for Shake Shack’s location at New York’s JFK International Airport. “I like a thin, greasy, flat top burger with American cheese, and it’s amazing to be able to get a great one in an airport,” he said. “It’s all about time and place.”
Woodsman Tavern (Portland, OR)
Gabriel Rucker has great things to say about the burgers at this Portland restaurant, opened in 2011 by Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson. “Theirs is a fancier burger,” Rucker said. “Their meat-to-cheese ratio is good, and they nail the secret sauce. I can’t tell you what’s in it, because it’s a secret.”
White Manna (Hackensack, NJ) & White Mana (Jersey City, NJ)
If you're looking to experience a bit of burger history, stopping in at one of the two White Man(n)a diners located in northern New Jersey will likely fit the bill. (Or both.) The Jersey City White Mana (the variation in its name due to a mishap when the sign was made) is housed in a building that dates back to the 1939 World's Fair, while its Hackensack counterpart is a bit more spry, having been built in 1946. And the burgers at each are the kinds of meals that inspire pilgrimages.
Band Box (Minneapolis)
Open since 1939, Minneapolis’s Band Box Diner was designed as a local historical landmark in 2000. Inside, the cozy environs offer a fantastic place to order an array of incredibly filling burgers, which range from the traditional to options topped with the likes of ranch dressing or bleu cheese. Satisfying and comfortable, it’s a welcome place to eat.
Carrino Provisions (Jersey City, NJ)
Dale Talde is one of the partners at this recently opened Jersey City restaurant, which also includes a market and coffee bar. “At Carrino Provisions, we wanted to treat the burger like a ridiculous experience,” he said. “We’re really proud of the food there, so we really wanted to go with it. We grind everything in-house from Allen Brothers, a brioche bun from Balthazar, and the patty is seared hard in the pan and basted with smoked beef butter and thyme.”
Two8Two Burger (Brooklyn, NY)
Dale Talde had great things to say about the offerings of this Brooklyn spot. “This burger is great,” Talde noted. “It’s a big burger, it’s really juicy, and most importantly, it’s seasoned really well.” The menu suggests a number of meat-heavy delights, including a half-beef, half-bacon patty. Throw in a terrific cocktail menu and a good selection of craft beer on tap, and you have an excellent destination for both food and atmosphere.
Chuck-A-Burger (St. Louis)
This drive-in diner is the last of several that were found in the St. Louis area starting in the 1950s. And while their burgers draw regular acclaim from food writers and St. Louis residents alike, given its ’50s roots, the space also draws regular automotive gatherings, allowing fans of burgers and classic cars to satisfy both needs in a single visit.
Hodad's (San Diego)
Hodad’s has three locations in the San Diego area, including one in the Ocean Beach neighborhood and one at Petco Park, home to the San Diego Padres. The decor at the Ocean Beach location is irreverent, with legions of license plates hanging down the walls from high ceilings; the burgers themselves are packed with toppings, seemingly designed to sate appetites many times over.
Bachi Burger (Las Vegas and Los Angeles)
With a number of locations in and around Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Bachi Burger has opted for a restrained, comfortable approach to their dining areas. The menu falls on the more luxurious side of burger-making, with an Asian fusion approach that makes for flavor combinations both unexpected and satisfying.
AJ Bombers (Milwaukee and Madison)
The decor at this acclaimed Milwaukee restaurant can prompt carnivalesque feelings: chalkboards abound, writing (intentionally) covers the walls, and some of the more industrial elements echo a World War II bomber deconstructed and scattered around the room. That anything-goes motif carries through to the food as well, with peanut butter and bacon being the toppings for one burger on the menu.
Kenny's Burger Joint (Dallas)
Featuring a well-stocked bar and a menu showing an equal aptitude for appetizers and salads, this Dallas restaurant offers diners an abundance of burger options. The range goes from the traditional (including a Juicy Lucy) to burgers making use of queso, eggs, and pulled pork.
The Company Burger (New Orleans)
Located in Uptown New Orleans, The Company Burger’s dextrous menu has earned them plenty of acclaim. Their house burger is made with a pair of patties, American cheese, onions, and housemade pickles. And the rest of the menu, including a solid array of cocktails and a selection of local (and not-so-local) beers, seems designed to satisfy.
Monkey Burger (Tucson)
At its pair of Tucson locations, Monkey Burger offers a selection of burgers that opt for creative combinations of toppings. Some, like the Sonora, which features Oaxacan cheese and bacon, embrace the region’s cuisine. Others bring together spices and cheeses in unexpected ways. It’s all served up in an expansive, cleanly lit space.
Petey's Burger (Queens, NY)
Noted chef and restaurateur Michael Psilakis is a fan of this relatively new establishment located in Queens’s Astoria neighborhood. The interiors are minimal, with one exposed-brick wall and restrained decor throughout. As a whole, the menu focuses on the classics — burgers, fries, and shakes — and Petey’s has earned an excellent reputation for doing so.
Hinano Cafe (Venice, CA)
Located near the Venice Beach boardwalk, this restaurant is a longtime favorite of Josiah Citrin, chef and owner of Santa Monica’s Mélisse. “It’s a great place to get a nice tasty burger and cold pint of beer,” he said. Whether your taste in burgers runs to beef, turkey, or veggie patties, this spot has you covered. Citrin is a particular fan of the burger served with a hot link on top.
Burger Brothers (Towson, MD)
Visit Towson’s acclaimed Burger Brothers, and you’ll see a straightforward space, designed with abundant seating and minimal decor. The food has made it a favorite destination of Baltimore residents for many years running.
The range of burgers available at this Chicago restaurant are born from a wide variety of inspirations: one comes complete with kimchi, while another looks to German food for its toppings. For all of the collisions of taste happening on the menu, the look and feel of the interior opts for a more restrained approach, allowing eaters to focus on the meal before them.
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