It's a good time for hamburgers in the US. In recent years, a burger renaissance has taken place across the country as restaurants amp up beef quality and tinker with custom blends. New chains have popped up and high-end restaurants are taking a chance on a dish that is almost the definition of quick and casual. It seems only right that hamburgers would be the focus of Eater National's first-ever 38, a list of essential restaurants the local sites have been doing for years. Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the Eater National Burger 38, the 38 essential hamburger restaurants across the country.
There are thousands of decent-to-excellent hamburgers across the country, and getting the list down to mere 38 was not an easy task. So to start, the list was limited to new classics; decades-old landmarks were not considered. (That is, with the exception of In-N-Out. More on that in the map.) Much like the 38 Essential Restaurants lists on the local sites, the list has been tailored to allow for both geographic diversity and a variety of burger styles. The Burger 38 focuses on beef hamburgers: things like fries, shakes, and ambiance are nice but were not dealbreakers.
After composing a longlist of likely candidates, Eater consulted with a panel of curators consisting of television hosts, book authors, magazine editors, food writers of all stripes, current and former Eater editors, and other folks who are simply well-traveled burger fans. They didn't agree on everything. In fact, more often than not, they disagreed on everything. When there was a general consensus on a restaurant, it either made the list or was vetoed. In other cases, the most passionate voices won out. Either way, true fans of the art form vouched for the burgers below.
If the panel couldn't always agree on which restaurants to include in the 38, Eater certainly doesn't expect you to do so. Take a deep breath and air your grievances in the comments.
Special thanks to all of those who helped inform this list: Andrew Zimmern, George Motz, Lockhart Steele, Kat Kinsman, Rachel Khong, Francis Lam, Josh Ozersky, Zach Brooks, Mike Thelin, Ben Leventhal, Amber Ambrose, Jennifer Zyman, Ari Bendersky, Allecia Vermillion, Lauren Hendrick, Kyle Nabilcy, Hannah Sayle, and current Eater editors.
And now, without further ado and in alphabetical order, the Eater National Burger 38.