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The 38 Essential Burgers Across the Country

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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.


· Eater's 38 Essential Burgers Across the Nation [Foursquare]
· All Hamburger Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Burger Week 2013 Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Au Cheval

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800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 929-4580
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The cheeseburger at Au Cheval may look like a simple, griddled double patty burger, but don't be fooled: this burger is what food writer Francis Lam calls "tremendous work, thin patty diner style magic." Mike Thelin of Feast Portland calls it "the maximalist’s burger" while Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern adds it's "worthy of all the accolades." [Photo: Au Cheval / Facebook]

2. Bernie's Burger Bus

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Moving Target!
Houston, TX 77004
(281) 386-2447
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These burgers are served out of an old school bus, and accordingly the different options have names like "The Principal" (a classic burger with mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onion, lettuce and roasted tomato) and "The Bully" (a double patty burger with the same toppings as the Principal, plus cheese). All of Bernie's burgers are made with a custom Black Angus grind and homemade condiments, and Eater Houston editor Eric Sandler notes "They even make their own ketchup, and, unlike most ketchups, it's good." [Photo: Bernie's / Facebook]

3. Bocado

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887 Howell Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 815-1399
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Atlanta food writer Jennifer Zyman: "The Bocado burger stack is McDonald's gone gourmet. Beauty in simplicity. Just two house ground patties, gooey American cheese, and a pickle on a buttery and crispy H&F Bread Co. bun. It's supremely squishable and totally slutty." [Photo: Bocado / Facebook]

4. The Brindle Room

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277 E 10th St.
New York, NY 10009
(212) 529-9702
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The Brindle Room in the East Village serves a hamburger made from deckle, a heavily marbled section of the ribeye. According to food writer Josh Ozersky, it's also the "best new-school burger in America...[it] synthesizes the best of old and new: specialty meat, squishy buns, intense seasoning, and cast-iron searing." [Photo: Brindle Room / Facebook]

5. Burgatory

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932 Freeport Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15215
(412) 781-1456
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Pittsburgh's three-location Burgatory makes their patties from a custom all-natural blend of sirloin, chuck, brisket and short rib. Options include the Standard Deluxe, a steakhouse burger with red wine sauce, and the Farmer Brown, which is not only topped with an egg but also cheese and cured ham. The massively popular chainlet regularly has long lines, so do check their website's NoWait section before going. [Photo: Burgatory / Facebook]

6. Burger Bar

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3930 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-9394
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If you're looking for gourmet burgers, Hubert Keller is your man. With locations in Las Vegas and San Francisco, Eatocracy editor Kat Kinsman says that for a long time, Burger Bar was "my burger paradigm. It's Hubert Keller quality ingredients and preparation, and a rare to the point of bleating patty with a hefty slab of foie and a slather of mustard...haunted my dreams for a goodly long time." Eater Vegas editor Susan Stapleton adds that Burger Bar "really ushered in the burger restaurant era in Vegas." [Photo: Burger Bar / Facebook]

7. Burger Guys

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706 Main Street
Houston, TX 77002
According to Eater Houston editor Eric Sandler, "The Burger Guys success lies in the quality of their ingredients and the creativity of their toppings. That means 100%, hand-formed akahushi burger patties." Houston food writer Amber Ambrose adds that it's "criminal to eat one more done than medium here." Do try the pate and daikon-topped Saigon burger; Sandler calls it "banh mi on a bun." [Photo: Burger Guys / Facebook]

8. Butcher & The Burger

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1021 W Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
(773) 697-3735
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Plenty of restaurants on this list grind their meat in-house, but how many of them have a fully operational butcher shop on premise? Accordingly, Butcher & the Burger is all about customization: choose your meat blend, choose your seasonings (anything from regular old salt and pepper to curry-coconut-honey), choose your bun, choose your toppings (Benton's bacon or sauteed foie, anyone?). Bonus: B&B makes breakfast burgers, served with eggs. [Photo: Butcher & the Burger]

9. The Company Burger

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4600 Freret St.
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 267-0320
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Who knows burgers better than Company Burger's Adam Biderman? After working at Atlanta's Holeman & Finch (also on the 38), Biderman headed home to New Orleans. He now makes what Feast Portland's Mike Thelin calls his "favorite burger place." Eatocracy's Kat Kinsman adds, "They just give a gigantic and deep damn about the makeup of the meat and the buns are artful." Bonus: you can get the burger with tater tots. [Photo: Company Burger / Twitter]

10. Craigie on Main

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853 Main St
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 497-5511
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Tony Maws may be best known for the tasting menus at his upscale Cambridge restaurant, but he's making a name for himself in the burger world as well. Each night, Craigie on Main serves less than twenty of their off-menu burgers, which are made from a custom blend of three different cuts of meat, beef bone marrow and suet. Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern calls it an "underrated burger" and Eater Boston's Aaron Kagan calls it one of his top Boston-area burgers. [Photo: the_sbk / Eater Boston Flickr Pool]

11. Edzo's Burger Shop

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1571 Sherman Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 864-3396
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According to burgerexpert and host of Burger Land George Motz, "Eddie Lakin is pretty passionate about burgers and got it right when he opened. Old school feel, new school quality." How do you like your burgers? Edzo's does both a griddled patty — thin and crispy — and a thick, juicy char burger. [Photo: Edzo's / Facebook]

12. The Golden State

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426 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 782-8331
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The Golden State celebrates the foods of California, and obviously their burger is no exception: California beef cooked to order, California cheese, topped with bacon and arugula. The burger itself is char-grilled and served on brioche. Among the Golden State burger's many fans: Midtown Lunch blogger and 38 curator Zach Brooks and, obviously, native Californian/burger-lover/human lava lamp Guy Fieri, who featured the restaurant on his show. [Photo: djjewel / Flickr]

13. Good Dog Bar & Restaurant

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224 S 15th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 985-9600
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The Good Dog burger is a riff on the Juicy Lucy-style cheeseburger; that is, the cheese (in this case, Roquefort) is inside the patty. This is a cheeseburger that is good enough that it actually inspired Philadelphia restaurant critic Craig LaBan to write a song about it. called "Cheeseburger, I Hold." Yes, really. [Photo: Good Dog Bar / Facebook]

14. The Grape

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2808 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 828-1981
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Dallas bistro the Grape only serves its famous Classic Cheeseburger during Sunday brunch and on Monday evenings, but that's enough to have earned it a cult following. According to former Eater Dallas editor (and current Eater Austin editor) Andrea Grimes, the burger at the Grape is both "super epic and so well executed." [Photo: The Grape / Facebook]

15. The Grind

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3961 E Camelback Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85018
(602) 954-7463
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The secret to the burgers at the Grind is their coal-fired ovens: their website says they're "the first restaurant in the United States to utilize custom coal-fired ovens that cook at over 1,000 degrees." All kinds of patties get fired on that hot, hot heat, including a steakhouse burger, the Nogales burger (with chorizo), a barbecue burger, and more. [Photo: The Grind]

16. Grüner

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527 SW 12th Ave
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 241-7163
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Eater PDX editor Erin DeJesus calls this eight ounce, cooked-to-order patty "hands down the juiciest, best burger I've had" in Portland. The Grüner "hambürger" topped with choice of cheese, bread-and-butter pickles, Nueske's bacon, arugula, and house-made ketchup. [Photo: Gruner]

17. Holeman & Finch Public House

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2277 Peachtree Rd. NE
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 948-1175
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There was not a more-endorsed burger among the Eater Burger 38 panelists than the Holeman & Finch burger. Eatocracy's Kat Kinsman calls it "down, dirty, drunk food that unabashedly celebrates our basest burger impulses." Eater co-founder Ben Leventhal says, "In modern burger times, this idea that a restaurant would only serve 24 burgers and only every night at 10 PM? Stone cold genius. It could be a McPatty between two pieces of cardboard and people would say it's great. But, turns out, the burger plays. It's a tuned-up classic all-American and in the setting, in the moment, it's a true thing of beauty." Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern loves it. What more needs to be said? [Photo: Holeman & Finch / Facebook]

18. Hungry Cat

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1555 N Vine St
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 462-2155
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Lucky Peach managing editor Rachel Khong: "The pug burger [Ed: yes, "pug," not "pub"] is a California-y tower of thin bun, fat patty, avocado, bacon, red onion, bleu cheese, and more. It arrives, on the plate, in two halves for you to assemble yourself—probably because it'd topple on the way to the table otherwise. Get an extra napkin because it's shameful what you'll do to your first." [Photo: Hungry Cat]

19. Husk

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76 Queen St
Charleston, SC 29401
(843) 577-2500
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Infamously blended with bacon (see a full rundown on what this entails), the burger at Sean Brock's Husk in Charleston is a pilgrimage to be made by any burger fanatic. Eater co-founder and Curbed president Lockhart Steele says of the Husk burger, "Like everything at Husk, it sits in the pitch-perfect meeting place of high/low. Sublime." [Photo: Husk]

20. In-N-Out Burger

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2114 E Foothill Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91107
(800) 786-1000
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In-n-Out was a controversial pick for this list. On the one hand, some panelists firmly believe it's overrated, and it's technically too old to be included. On the other hand, how can you have a burger list without In-n-Out? Taking their recent Texas expansion and general zeitgeisty flavor into account, they've been allowed a pass on the "new classics" rule. Midtown Lunch's Zach Brooks puts it thus: "Best fast food burger in the country for the price. The end." [Photo: russelljsmith / Flickr]

21. Kuma's Corner

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2900 West Belmont Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 604-8769
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Big fat burgers from an insanely popular, insanely loud metal bar in Chicago, Kuma's corner is divisive in terms of ambience. Everyone loves the burgers, though: former Eater Chicago editor Ari Bendersky says it would be "blasphemous" to leave it off a list like the Eater Burger 38, while Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods also gives it his seal of approval. [Photo: toothrot / Flickr]

22. Latin House Burger & Taco Bar

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9565 SW 72 ST
Miami, FL 33173
(786) 564-5683
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The Mad Love burger is a big and juicy burger: over a half pound of a brisket, chuck, and sirloin blend served in a glazed brioche bun. The other option is the cheese-swathed Original with its "blanket of swiss, mozzarella, and provolone cheeses, 2 strips of pearwood smoked maple glazed bacon, sweet butter grilled Onions, Mushrooms, slices of Hass Avocado (when in season), Crema Mexicana, Avocado Lime sauce." According to Burger Land host George Motz, who nominated the burger, owner Michell "Chef M" Sanchez is "a genius with burgers." [Photo: Latin House Burger / Facebook]

23. Lure Fishbar

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142 Mercer St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 431-7676
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Eater co-founder Ben Leventhal: "80-20 blend, special sauce, shredded lettuce, tomato, yellow American cheese, brioche bun. Comes correct. When we close our eyes and imagine the taste of the burger of our dreams, this is it." [Photo: slice / Eater NY Flickr Pool]

24. Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky

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4437 California Ave SW
Seattle, WA 98116
(206) 935-1075
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You know a burger's good when the restaurant changes its name and entire concept, but keeps the burger on the menu. The Spring Hill burger (named after the original concept) is smoked ground chuck, bacon, a custom American cheese, lettuce and a special sauce (obviously) between two English muffins. Seattle Met magazine Food & Drink Editor Allecia Vermillion tells Eater, "I'm guessing they will never take it off the menu." [Photo: Ma'Ono]

25. Michael's Genuine Food & Drink

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130 NE 40th St.
Miami, FL 33137
(305) 573-5550
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Michael Schwartz at Michael's Genuine serves up a Black Angus burger on a brioche bun, with optional house-smoked bacon. According to Eater Miami editor Ana Heretoiu, it's a "reaaallyy good burger." Schwartz has been serving at South Beach Wine and Food Festival's Burger Bash for years — and sometimes, he wins. [Photo: MGFD]

26. Minetta Tavern

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113 MacDougal St.
New York, NY 10012
(212) 475-3850
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On the famous Black Label burger, Lockhart Steele: "At the high end, my personal favorite. Flavor overwhelms each time it is visited anew." Andrew Zimmern: "One of my top 10." Ben Leventhal: "It takes most burgers a whole lot of pomp and circumstance to get in range of where this guy wakes up." Any questions? [Photo: ulterior epicure / Eater NY Flickr Pool]

27. Mission Bowling Club

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3176 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-2695
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Lucky Peach Managing Editor Rachel Khong: "Reasons why this burger is the best: the patty is granulated, the buns have their tops cut off to perfect bun-to-ratio size. Anthony Myint espouses cooking beef in rendered beef fat. He is a wise man with a sound burger philosophy." [Photo: Mission Bowling Club / Facebook]

28. Nopa

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560 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 864-8643
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Grassfed beef on a brioche bun, with optional cheese. (You want the cheese.) Eater SF editor Allie Pape says, "Nopa is my favorite white-napkin burger by a mile." Bonus? It's served til 1:00AM. [Photo: Nopa / Instagram]

29. The Old Fashioned

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23 N Pinckney St.
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 310-4545
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Madison food writer Kyle Nabilcy: "The Old Fashioned, and its thick pub-style burgers, has (since its opening in 2005) provided a gateway for a younger generation's appreciation of Wisconsin supper club culture, and reminded an entire city that runny eggs on burgers are a very good thing. Mondays are two-for-one burger nights, and the crowd is bustling." [Photo: Old Fashioned / Facebook]

30. Off the Hoof Burgers

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Hwy 70
Arlington, TN
Pat LaFrieda blends in the middle of Tennessee? Yes: locals in Arlington are buzzing about the Steakburger at Off the Hoof burgers, and local burger blog Best Memphis Burger gave it their first-ever perfect five star review. Also, it's served on a croissant. [Photo: Yelp]

31. Off-Site Kitchen

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2226 Irving Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75207
(214) 741-2226
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Don't be deceived by simplicity: the basic order here consists of a quarter pound of house-ground Angus (chuck roll and shoulder), griddled onions, lettuce, tomato pickle and mayo. Eater co-founder and Curbed president Lockhart Steele calls it the "most perfect burger I've had in ages." [Photo: Lockhart Steele]

32. P. Terry's

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404 S. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78704
(512) 473-2217
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P. Terry's — the mini-chain with only six locations in Austin — makes a mighty fine classic California-style hamburger. The ethos of the business is somewhat atypical (and frankly, incredible) for a burger chain: small menu, locally-sourced whenever possible, no freezers, open kitchens, fresh cut french fries, pay above industry average, and no franchising whatsoever. Deeply loved by Austinites, at peak hours the drive-thrus often get so backed up they clog the already busy city streets. Do read this great interview with the founder/owner Patrick Terry; how many hamburger restaurant operators can claim that Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation is their "bible" and "the mantra that we operate under"? It's also worth noting the chain's dedication to quality design by hiring renowned Austin architect Michael Hsu (see photos). —Raphael Brion, Editor, Eater National [Photo: P. Terry's / Facebook]

33. Palena

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3529 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
(202) 537-9250
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Eater National features editor Amy McKeever: "People have been losing their minds for years over former White House chef Frank Ruta's cheeseburgers at Palena — and then they lost their minds some more in recent years when Ruta began offering it at brunch topped with a duck egg. This burger is a DC experience for sure." [Photo: Palena / Facebook]

34. Park Burger

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1890 S Pearl
Denver, CO 80210
(720) 242-9951
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Former Eater Denver editor Lauren Hendrick tells Eater, "When anyone asks me where they should go for a burger, I always recommend Park Burger." Park Burger is a fast-casual restaurant with two locations, and their thin patty burgers are famous for a crispy crust. And they serve them in many, many ways: plain burgers can be customized with toppings like fried eggs or pancetta, or you can get one of their specialty burgers like the New Yorker (topped with sauerkraut, corned beef, swiss cheese and thousand island). [Photo: Park Burger / Facebook]

35. Shake Shack

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11 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600
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Thoughtful food and thoughtful national expansion is the name of the game at Shake Shack, perhaps the most visible restaurant in the American burger renaissance. Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods calls it "one of the best in its category," and Zach Brooks of Midtown Lunch adds, "Every fast food burger should be salted like this, seared like this, and should come on a Martin’s Potato Roll. If it was half the price, the Shake Shack vs. In N Out Burger argument wouldn’t be an issue at all. Did I mention the Martin’s Potato Roll?" (Check out more on exactly what is in Shake Shack's burger.) [Photo: Shake Shack / Facebook]

36. Skillet Diner

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1400 E Union St.
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 420-7297
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Two words: bacon jam. That's the condiment served on the burger at food truck and now brick-and-mortar Seattle favorite Skillet Diner. Allecia Vermillion of Seattle Met magazine says it has "become a local classic." [Photo: Skillet / Facebook]

37. The Spotted Pig

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314 W 11th St
New York, NY 10014
(212) 620-0393
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No changes, no substitutions: April Bloomfield's burger is chargrilled and served with Roquefort. Eatocracy's Kat Kinsman calls it "monumental," while Eater co-founder Ben Leventhal says, "I cannot express in words how much I love this burger. It is aggressive, it is daunting, and it is perfect." [Photo: The Spotted Pig]

38. Victory 44

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2203 44th Ave N
Minneapolis, MN 55412
(612) 588-2228
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Victory 44 was nominated for the 38 by Minneapolis resident and burger fan, Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern. The burger is called the Perfect Burger for a reason: blended with frozen butter before being lightly cured, it's a messy, juicy wonder. [Photo: Victory 44 / Facebook]

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1. Au Cheval

800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607
The cheeseburger at Au Cheval may look like a simple, griddled double patty burger, but don't be fooled: this burger is what food writer Francis Lam calls "tremendous work, thin patty diner style magic." Mike Thelin of Feast Portland calls it "the maximalist’s burger" while Bizarre Foods' Andrew Zimmern adds it's "worthy of all the accolades." [Photo: Au Cheval / Facebook]
800 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60607

2. Bernie's Burger Bus

Moving Target!, Houston, TX 77004
These burgers are served out of an old school bus, and accordingly the different options have names like "The Principal" (a classic burger with mayo, mustard, ketchup, pickle, onion, lettuce and roasted tomato) and "The Bully" (a double patty burger with the same toppings as the Principal, plus cheese). All of Bernie's burgers are made with a custom Black Angus grind and homemade condiments, and Eater Houston editor Eric Sandler notes "They even make their own ketchup, and, unlike most ketchups, it's good." [Photo: Bernie's / Facebook]
Moving Target!
Houston, TX 77004

3. Bocado

887 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318
Atlanta food writer Jennifer Zyman: "The Bocado burger stack is McDonald's gone gourmet. Beauty in simplicity. Just two house ground patties, gooey American cheese, and a pickle on a buttery and crispy H&F Bread Co. bun. It's supremely squishable and totally slutty." [Photo: Bocado / Facebook]
887 Howell Mill Rd
Atlanta, GA 30318

4. The Brindle Room

277 E 10th St., New York, NY 10009
The Brindle Room in the East Village serves a hamburger made from deckle, a heavily marbled section of the ribeye. According to food writer Josh Ozersky, it's also the "best new-school burger in America...[it] synthesizes the best of old and new: specialty meat, squishy buns, intense seasoning, and cast-iron searing." [Photo: Brindle Room / Facebook]
277 E 10th St.
New York, NY 10009

5. Burgatory

932 Freeport Rd, Pittsburgh, PA 15215
Pittsburgh's three-location Burgatory makes their patties from a custom all-natural blend of sirloin, chuck, brisket and short rib. Options include the Standard Deluxe, a steakhouse burger with red wine sauce, and the Farmer Brown, which is not only topped with an egg but also cheese and cured ham. The massively popular chainlet regularly has long lines, so do check their website's NoWait section before going. [Photo: Burgatory / Facebook]
932 Freeport Rd
Pittsburgh, PA 15215

6. Burger Bar

3930 Las Vegas Blvd S, Las Vegas, NV 89119
If you're looking for gourmet burgers, Hubert Keller is your man. With locations in Las Vegas and San Francisco, Eatocracy editor Kat Kinsman says that for a long time, Burger Bar was "my burger paradigm. It's Hubert Keller quality ingredients and preparation, and a rare to the point of bleating patty with a hefty slab of foie and a slather of mustard...haunted my dreams for a goodly long time." Eater Vegas editor Susan Stapleton adds that Burger Bar "really ushered in the burger restaurant era in Vegas." [Photo: Burger Bar / Facebook]
3930 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89119

7. Burger Guys

706 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002
According to Eater Houston editor Eric Sandler, "The Burger Guys success lies in the quality of their ingredients and the creativity of their toppings. That means 100%, hand-formed akahushi burger patties." Houston food writer Amber Ambrose adds that it's "criminal to eat one more done than medium here." Do try the pate and daikon-topped Saigon burger; Sandler calls it "banh mi on a bun." [Photo: Burger Guys / Facebook]
706 Main Street
Houston, TX 77002

8. Butcher & The Burger

1021 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614