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Peter Luger, Au Cheval Rank Among Best U.S. Burgers: Report

But not all consumers are willing to spend $20 or more on a burger, the Zagat study showed.

A burger on a sesame seed bun impaled by a red plastic skewer.
The burger at Peter Lugers Steakhouse, New York City
Nick Solares/Eater NY

Zagat, the Google-owned guidebook that ranks restaurants based on a scale of 0-30, published its nationwide burger survey today, and many of the usual suspects more or less came out on top. Peter Luger, America's most iconic steakhouse, won for Brooklyn; Bowery Meat Company, helmed by Burger Bash champion Josh Capon, won for Manhattan; longtime Chicago favorite Au Cheval took top honors in the Windy City; and Pono's grass-fed patty edged out the Animal burger in Los Angeles.

But as is often the case with Zagat, the most interesting developments were to be found not in the rankings but rather in the survey data, the main takeaway of which is this: Consumers, even amid this era of sky-high beef prices, might not yet be ready to see burgers become as expensive as other main courses. Nearly half of all diners in every region of the country said the most they'd be willing spend on a burger was $10-$14.99 – but 50 percent of respondents also said they'd be willing to drop $25 or more on a "mind blowing" burger.

If these spending habits are reflective of the larger U.S. dining public (Zagat polled just under 9,000 people) it bodes well for the future of $5-$10 burgers at venues like Shake Shack, less so for pricier, cheffed up creations – outside the Northeast at least, where diners were willing to spend a hint more. Of the 17 regions surveyed by Zagat, the only winning restaurants whose starting price for a burger was $15 or more were located in New York (Bowery Meat Company, $24) or Boston (Craigie on Main, $18)

Keep in mind that the respondents were Zagat readers, who naturally might be more inclined to identify as food enthusiasts (and possibly spend more) than typical members of the U.S. population. Participants were screened for eating burgers out in a restaurant "a few times a year or more."

Here's some further granularity on the burger survey, followed by the full list of winners, supplemented by prices.

  • Overall, 49 percent of respondents said the most they'd be willing to spend on burger was $10-$14.99, while 25 percent said they'd be willing to pay as much as $15-$19. Only 7 percent said they'd spend $20-$24.99.
  • In the Northeast, patrons were slightly more inclined to spend a bit more on burgers, with 29 percent willing to drop $15-$19.99 (versus 25 percent nationwide), and 11 percent willing to spend as much as $20-$24.99 (versus 7 percent across the country).
  • Half the respondents said they'd spend $25 or more on a "mind blowing burger." That percentage was a bit higher for respondents in their 30s, 40s, 50s (61%), 60s, and in the Northeast (58%). Only 48 percent of respondents in their 20s said they'd be willing to spend more than $25 on a mind blowing burger.
  • Most respondents typically procure their burgers from a "specialty burger eatery" (56 percent) or a "general restaurant," (25 percent) versus a fast food spot (6 percent) or a diner (4 percent). Nine percent said they typically make burgers at home.
  • Men ate an average of a whole burger more per month than women, with males consuming 4.4 per month, and female respondents at 3.3.
  • Medium-rare was the preferred burger temperature among 47 percent of respondents, with 37 percent choosing medium and 12 percent opting for medium-well.

Best Burger, Brooklyn/Queens

1. Peter Luger Steak House ($14.95 + $1.50 with cheese, + $4.95 with bacon)

2. Donovan's Pub ($10.95-$11.70)

3. Pork Slope ($11-$18)

4. DuMont Burger ($14)

5. The Dram Shop ($12)

Best Burger, Manhattan

1. Bowery Meat Company ($24)

2. Black Tap ($14-$18)

3. Minetta Tavern ($22 Tavern Burger, $30 Black Label Burger)

4. Keens Steakhouse ($18.50)

5. Lure Fishbar SoHo ($21-$22).

Best Burger, Rest of The Country

Atlanta: Illegal Food ($12-$16)

Austin: Hopdoddy ($6-$10)

Boston: Craigie on Main ($18)

Chicago: Au Cheval ($10.95-$12.95).

Dallas-Fort Worth: Dugg Burger ($7).

Denver: Budd's Cafe & Bar ($3.90-$6.70).

Houston: The Republic Grille ($11) – Underbelly ranked 5th.

Los Angeles: Pono Burger ($10-14) – Animal ranked 2nd.

MIami: Jr's Gourmet Burgers ($6.50-$10).

Philadelphia: The Blue Duck ($11-$12).

San Diego: Rocky's Crown Pub ($6-$7.50)

San Francisco: Wes Burger (Wednesday night-only pop-up).

Seattle: The Swinery ($9.75)

Toronto: Holy Chuck ($5.99-$15 CAD).

Washington DC: Duke's Grocery ($11)

*An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the winning Los Angeles burger institution. It is Pono burger, not Kono burger.

Eater Video: How Peter Lueger chooses its steak