May 30th, 2014
12:15 PM ET
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Josh Ozersky has written on his carnivorous exploits for Time, Esquire and now Food & Wine; he has authored several books, including The Hamburger: A History; and he is the founder of the Meatopia food festival. Follow him on Twitter @OzerskyTV.

Happy burger season! As we do at this time every year, we begged our favorite burger expert, Josh Ozersky, for his Top 10 Must-Try Burgers list for 2014. Ozersky is the author of the excellent "The Hamburger: A History." He gave it some thought, and then handed over his awesome list, plus intel on why these places made the cut.  

Only a madman or a glutton with infinite resources could hope to eat every hamburger in America. Think of how big the country is! And yet, it would be equally ludicrous to suppose that the 10 burgers I listed here last year are still the country’s best. Every year new hamburger debutantes have their coming-out parties, and each year obscure starlets emerge from the hinterlands to enchant even the most effete of critics.

Here then is this year’s edition. Not all are new; and not all are necessarily mind-blowing. A few, like Hildebrandt’s and Dyer’s, owe as much to their picturesque surroundings and rich history as they do to the salt and blood of their beef. But all 10 of these burgers deserve our attention, our respect, and most of all, our willingness to eat several of them, one after the other.

Get the recipe for the burger - The Little Owl's Bacon Cheeseburger from last year's list - shown above.

1. Harry’s Bar and Burger - Providence, Rhode Island
Like New Haven’s Yankee Doodle or Meridien, Connecticut’s Ted’s, this obscure Providence burger bar transcends its humble New England roots, producing a blue-ribbon slider so classic that it might have passed across a lunch counter in 1927. Salty, brown and with nary a daikon to be found, this old-school classic was my favorite discovery of 2013.

2. Montmartre - New York City
When Montmartre chef Michael Toscano told me that he wanted me to try a patty melt filled with béarnaise sauce and creamed spinach, my first impulse was to wince, and my second to run. I did wince; but I didn’t run. And I’m glad I didn’t. Generally, I find patty melts, essentially grilled cheese sandwiches with a burger patty in the middle, to be disturbing freaks, two fine sandwiches yoked into a unnatural union. Add in creamy, piquant béarnaise and creamed spinach, and the thing sounded like a recipe for horror. And instead it was great! All of the elements work together beautifully, and thing is lush and creamy and meaty and crusty all at the same time.

3. Alden & Harlow - Boston, Massachusetts
I’ve had Alden & Harlow’s Secret Burger only once, and that one was smuggled out for me without the chef knowing. Such is the reputation of this hamburger that I was afraid to get it in person. If, as I suspected, it was all hype I wouldn’t know it from the soigné product they put in front of me. But lo! The Secret Burger more than lived up to its reputation. None of the orthodox burger elements are omitted: the bun is squishy, the sauce Thousand Island-y, the lettuce and tomato dispensable, as always. I hated the dehydrated piece of Cabot cheddar, and almost left the thing off this list because of it. But there is no burger on this list that has more magnificent meat, a three-way Creekstone blend to which has been added some secret smoked element.

4. Knife - Dallas, Texas
It should surprise no one that John Tesar’s Ozersky Burger made this list; its creation was a shameless ploy for praise from a man he knew to be a hardened egomaniac. That said, the Ozersky Burger is fantastic. Seared, salty, squishy and with a pervasive perfume of soft onions, it takes a little bit of New Jersey into the Lone Star State. (Like Harry’s, the Ozersky Burger has a family affinity with White Castle.)

5. Trifecta - Portland, Oregon
I should say here that I like everything at Trifecta. But of all the things this Portland newcomer has going for it, a double pimento burger is—to me—the best. Pimento cheese has a Southern connotation, but it’s sweet and artificial and phosphorescent, and so looks good on crusty brown patties oozing juice and fluid. The fries are good, too.

6. White Hut - Massachusetts
Speaking of White Castle: In the wake of the chain’s success, the country was inundated with knock-offs and clones—Blue Castles, White Towers, White Mannas, White Diamonds, Royal Castles and many more. (Others, like Krystal and Kewpie, took on other names.) White Hut belongs to this ancient tribe, and with three locations in central Massachusetts more than lives up to their low standards of flat, greasy, onion-y, and soft-as-gnocchi hamburgers. There is likely some old-time burger shack somewhere near your house that is like White Hut, only not as good. 

7. Dyer’s Burgers - Memphis, Tennessee
Sticking with the old school, Dyer’s deserves some credit here. The Memphis institution has one of the boldest and more revolting boasts in the business: It has been deep-frying hamburgers in the same dirty oil for more than 50 years. The bluesy, Beale Street setting adds much to the flavor, but it actually is a singular taste experience, because tallow, too, can carry a whiff of terroir.

Holeman & Finch burger
Holeman & Finch burger

8. Holeman & Finch - Atlanta, Georgia
My previous list praised Company Burger in Atlanta, and rightly so, but that burger was generated by Holeman & Finch, a classy cocktail bar whose food program is under the owlish gaze of the great chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene. The burger, another double, departs from the old-school model in many ways—an in-house bun, artisanal ingredients—but it’s true to the spirit of the old burgers. Also it’s very good. Especially with a martini.

Learn how to make the Holeman & Finch burger at home.

9. Hildebrandt’s - Williston Park, Long Island, NY
There is a wistful, elegiac note to this list; some of the places on it might not be here next year. They therefore deserve to be honored now. Hildebrandt’s is primarily a candy store and ice cream parlor, and it looks like someplace where Archie might have taken Veronica—to name two more defunct figures. A small grill is usually occupied with flat burgers made from meat delivered daily by a local butcher. If there is a more quintessential hometown hamburger, I am sure I can’t imagine what it could be.

10. Mile End - New York City
The Smoked Meat Burger at first perplexed me. I love pastrami, and I love hamburgers. But putting pastrami on a hamburger strikes me as a cheat. But in packing both beef and finely cut pastrami into the same burger and aggressively cooking it on hot iron, some happy synthesis of the two is created, and when dressed with thick pickles, it makes me happy to be living in strange times.

More from Food & Wine:
33 Burger Recipes
Best Burgers in the U.S.
Delicious Veggie Burger Recipes
Best Bacon Burgers in the U.S.
30 Minute Burger Recipes

Do you agree with this list? Post your favorite burger joint in the comments below.

– Josh goes traditional and picks his: Top 10 burgers in the U.S.
– Then he gets a little wacky with the: Top 10 non-traditional burgers in America
– Advice from a backyard expert: Best. Burgers. Ever.
– The secrets behind America's Best Cheeseburger (according to Food Network)
– Step-by-step guide: Making the World's Best Bacon Cheeseburger (according to the London Observer and pictured above)
– Killer cheddar sliders from our battling spouses

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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Filed under: Burgers • Content Partner • Food and Wine • List

soundoff (379 Responses)
  1. Thinking things through

    The best burger was Mom's. Lovingly made back in the day when real ground meat from a single cow (or bull) was ground up, she added diced onion, Worchestershire sauce, and seasonings. She'd round it into a patty that wasn't flattened into a hockey puck, and it would either be pan fried or grilled to medium rare, served with melted cheddar on top, often with toasted buns, and a choice of lettuce, tomato slices, sweet onion slices, mustard and/or ketchup. Now THAT was eatin'...

    I've come close, but it's just not the same without Mom.

    May 31, 2014 at 7:41 am |
    • Roger

      I agree, My mom never bought packaged hamburger. She would pick out a piece of chuck roast and watch the butcher grind it. She made a nice patty and pan fried it in a cast iron skillet with BUTTER. The only thing we added was a piece of sweet onion and mustard.

      May 31, 2014 at 8:12 am |
  2. New England

    I cant believe someone came to Providence and Boston and rated burgers and passed right by Lewis' in Norwood, Ma.
    Never getting to try the famous "Lewis Burger" on "Mother's Bread". Ciabatta bread with a juicy hamburger, cheese, ham, and topped with egg salad. Yes, EGG SALAD. Lewis' in Norwood, Ma.

    May 31, 2014 at 7:12 am |
  3. kevin flannigan

    Does a free bypass surgery, come with any of these grease burgers.

    May 31, 2014 at 7:08 am |
  4. hannah1

    "Must eat", eh? I wouldn't eat a dead animal carcass if you put a gun to my head!!! Save it for the cholesterol gluttons/cave-people! Have a salad, you'll live longer!

    May 31, 2014 at 7:03 am |
    • Thinking things through

      I'm not going to travel to all these cities just for a burger. Or for a salad, either.

      May 31, 2014 at 7:46 am |
  5. Floyd Schrodinger

    When I saw a ketchup bottle in the first picture of this article, I knew you didn't know ANYTHING about hamburgers.

    May 31, 2014 at 6:47 am |
  6. clubschadenfreude

    The best burger? One made of at least 80%-20% ground beef, and preferably more fat than that. This allows a full flavored burger and not the gravel made from something like 90% or 95% burger that must be essentially raw to be moist.
    Fry it or charcoal grill it to get a nice crust and enjoy.

    May 31, 2014 at 6:45 am |
  7. Jay

    Oaken Bucket in South Bend makes the best burgers on the planet.

    May 31, 2014 at 6:42 am |
  8. mobtown

    Check iut the hamilton tavern in northeast baltimore. Crosstown burger best in the state.

    May 31, 2014 at 6:31 am |
  9. Ani

    What about the Juicy Lucy from Minnesota? A cheeseburger with the cheese melted inside the patty.

    May 31, 2014 at 6:19 am |
  10. Frank Kreps

    4 words-Punch Burger Indianapolis, Indiana

    May 31, 2014 at 6:07 am |
  11. Provin

    You forgot about merrs oklshoma. It's like rap forgetting about dre

    May 31, 2014 at 5:11 am |
  12. jeff

    my dad loved a good burger. then he died from high cholesterol and had a heart-attack. mmmmm...mmm. loved his nice burgers.

    May 31, 2014 at 3:48 am |
    • Pragmaclast

      Your life must be so joyless. I pity you.

      May 31, 2014 at 4:41 am |
  13. jc

    I live in Western Massachusetts and am shocked to see White Hut on this list. White Hut is located in Western Mass, not Central, and one of the locations is in my hometown. Honestly, this place is horrible! It's never consistent and the burgers are not good at all! For a really good burger in our area try Local Burger in Northampton, Mass. Amazing food and they only use fresh, local meat and ingredients (which are all amazing since we're surrounded by farms).

    May 31, 2014 at 3:47 am |
  14. FAUXHAWK70

    Joe's in San Antonio Texas! Joe's has been around forever!

    May 31, 2014 at 3:23 am |
  15. Lovica Logue

    Want a great burger? I invite you to visit the Annex Lounge, 6305 E. Harry Street, Wichita, Kansas. Stop in and try our double Inside Out Burger, with fried onions. It doesn't disappoint. And don't ask for fries. Coldest beer in town. Our cook is 79. We've been in business since 1958. Fresh meat daily. Well- seasoned grill.

    May 31, 2014 at 3:21 am |
  16. Dre

    Funny how they use American singles as a cheese selection. One of the most important parts of a burger is the type of cheese you use. A thick slice of pepper-jack or medium cheddar are my preferences.

    May 31, 2014 at 3:18 am |
  17. jeff

    i like burgers. i like to get fat. get all greasy. nothing like a nice burger to get all fat and a little finger-licking grease on your hands. i don't even care that my burger is made up of a dozen or a hundred different cows. just put it in my face and i'm good and dumb. eat burger!

    May 31, 2014 at 3:16 am |
    • Sam

      Get a life Jeff.First it is heart attack and now it's killing cows.

      May 31, 2014 at 4:02 am |
    • Jay

      Jeff you have it all wrong. Soda and Little Debbie are doing the damage. Nothing wrong with have a burger and beer on the weekends.

      May 31, 2014 at 6:51 am |
  18. Bill Floyd

    Good list

    The best burger I have ever had by far was at "The Sport" in Livingston, Montana – no contest

    May 31, 2014 at 3:04 am |
  19. aslamproductions

    This is a very high-brow list. These are all burgers with gimmicks. Bad article. He couldn't order the burger from within the restaurant? Had to wait in an alley? Silly.

    May 31, 2014 at 2:58 am |
    • go eat a carrot jeff

      i agree. List is weakly researched and regionally slanted. in the author's defense, he does say its a whimsical list and changes every year

      May 31, 2014 at 7:01 am |
  20. Sahle

    50/50 Burger By Design in Rancho Cucamonga,CA One of the most amazing tantalizing delicacies that has ever graced my lips. The pattie is 50 percent beef and 50 percent bacon, Yeeeessssss! A once in 6 month treat mind you (unless your trying to commit suicide). And than the options of toppings are endless. Coleslaw, Huge Portbelo mushrooms, onion rings, and the lst goes on and on...

    May 31, 2014 at 2:35 am |
  21. Kevin

    I have traveled for 15 years all over the US and LOVE a great burger. Grazing Here in Peachtree City, Georgia is hands down the best I've had. Their sweet potato fries are beyond words. It is 100% grass-fed beef, so I guess that might be why. Had Holman and Finch in Atlanta and it good, but not a top 25 in my opinion. Gabby's in Nashville is worth a visit tho!

    May 31, 2014 at 2:24 am |
  22. digriz60

    Fiddlefart McClanahaster's in Rudonck, Indiana is BY FAR the greatest slab of ground beef in the visible universe.

    May 31, 2014 at 2:08 am |
  23. Nonyabidnes2

    What is a terroir? Or was the proof reader on vacation? Either way I still love the IN &Out Hamburger. Next time you want a real hamburger, ask for it, "Animal Style" it will not disappoint...

    May 31, 2014 at 2:04 am |
  24. Nonyabidnes2

    What is a terroir? Or was the proof reader on vacation? Either way I still lone the IN &Out Hamburger. Next time you want a real hamburger, ask for it, "Animal Style" it will not disappoint...

    May 31, 2014 at 2:03 am |
    • Blaow

      Clearly you don't have have a clue about enology, or the use of Google to look up words you don't know.

      May 31, 2014 at 2:29 am |
  25. Matt

    RIDERS CLUB in San Clemente, CA.

    If you're ever in the San Diego area you will not be disappointed with this burger. Rainbow sandals home store is just around the corner from it too.

    May 31, 2014 at 1:57 am |
  26. Dennis Schuster

    You forgot The Thurman cafe in Columbus, OH.... There's a reason for the usual hr wait to get in that place, maybe you should get out of New York a little more

    May 31, 2014 at 1:39 am |
  27. Okay

    So most of the places are in the Eastern US. Doesn't seem like the person who wrote this travels very much. There are some amazing hamburgers to eat in California. Just for everyone info, The Habit in Sacramento is the best place to get burgers here if you ever visit our god forsaken little city.

    May 31, 2014 at 1:29 am |
  28. Mrs Rob

    From a Memphian, I disagree, nice to see Memphis on the list but sorry to say Dyers in Memphis really has no taste it nice that the restaurant is on Beale Street but nothing spectacular about that burger other than the "famous old" grease they need to add some seasoning to the burgers.

    May 31, 2014 at 1:22 am |
  29. TadGormley

    Typo alert: Company Burger is in New Orleans, not Atlanta. It's the same burger from the same chef formerly at Holeman & Finch.

    May 31, 2014 at 1:13 am |
  30. greatgrizly4

    Nice to see chefs finally learning what I've been doing for the last 35 years. It's about time they arrive.

    May 31, 2014 at 12:57 am |
  31. Chi Town Soldier

    You left out Au Cheval in Chicago.

    May 31, 2014 at 12:55 am |
  32. westsidesouthpaw

    Josh great posts. Couldn't belive the Hut made it from my home town. only thing is we are definitely not in central mass. Western Mass. 413.

    May 31, 2014 at 12:39 am |
  33. Duke LaCrosse

    Ray's Hell Burger.

    May 31, 2014 at 12:29 am |
  34. gmichael52

    Just for the 32 percent. Because being the second fattest nation in the world isn't enough. Bring on hose cheap LCD Walmart TV's and Cheer's reruns!

    May 31, 2014 at 12:17 am |
  35. Joe

    Meridien, Connecticut? You spelled Meriden wrong!

    May 31, 2014 at 12:11 am |
  36. sd

    Bill's in The City.

    May 31, 2014 at 12:05 am |
  37. rangermania

    Knife? Obviously these people have never been to Del's in Richardson, Texas rated #1 burger in Dallas.
    And they have been delicious since the 60's. For a little over $5 you can feast on the best! However the
    decor is the same as it was back then and in the same building. Look at it online.

    May 30, 2014 at 11:55 pm |
    • PlanoBurger

      Del's? You have to be kidding. Boring, bland and hasn't been even thought about for 20 years. Forgot it was even there.

      May 31, 2014 at 6:11 am |
  38. Robert bourgeois

    Mickey-Lu-BBQ in Marinette, WI.

    May 30, 2014 at 11:47 pm |
    • Andy

      druken 'sconie

      May 31, 2014 at 12:01 am |
  39. JC

    Good list, but since he seems only to hit big cities (one or two exceptions) he misses out on delicacies at Billy's Burgers in Jackson,Wyoming and Graffiti Junktion in Orlando.

    May 30, 2014 at 11:46 pm |
  40. Ronnylee

    Josh Ozersky needs to head west if he wants a real burger. The Starburger at the Shooting Star Saloon in Hunstville, Utah will cause all the burger joints in the East to hang their head in shame.

    May 30, 2014 at 11:38 pm |
  41. Mike

    Um Burger Bar Las Vegas. This list seems really biased to the East Coast.

    May 30, 2014 at 11:27 pm |
  42. Caleb Boone

    Dear Ladies and Gentlemen:

    The only hamburger worth eating is a two pound or more patty made very, very, very rare.

    It must be very, very, very, blood, blood, blood rare.

    The bun must be grilled in lots of butter, but very crisp, crisp, crisp and brown. On both sides.

    The hamburger must be garnished with at least one pound of very crisp bacon, piled all over it.

    It must be served with large slices of white onion and red tomato and dill pickle pieces.

    Before eating this hamburger, one must have a very large, full plate, red leaf lettuce salad with oil, salt and pepper. A huge salad.

    And a soda pop.

    This is the only hamburger to eat.

    This is the hamburger everyone wants to eat but is afraid to order.

    Any other hamburger is a waste of time.

    Have a Dovely.

    Sincerely yours,
    Caleb Boone.

    May 30, 2014 at 10:41 pm |
  43. asdfboost

    alden and harlow's burger has a very salty ingredient in it. not that great.

    May 30, 2014 at 10:36 pm |
  44. Tony

    If you wanna have a delicious, mouth melting burger in NYC, then go nowhere but at Angus Club Steakhouse. Normally priced that burger was just the one makes you to come back to that place. Dont even think twice. We loved it.

    May 30, 2014 at 10:35 pm |
  45. Jerry

    If your a veegen is it ok to eat animal crackers..... A burger is a berger no matter how you eat it....

    May 30, 2014 at 10:20 pm |
  46. catbell7

    vegan corndogs are amazing from Trader Joe's I doubt anyone would even notice the difference - and I keep them from Morning Star Farms in my freezer - stock up when they're on sale or marked down here in South MS where we have no In-N-Out or Trader Joe's alas and I live behind a McD's and can't stand 99% of their crap – used to go for their buck side salad but now it is so little I don't think they are nearly as great as Wendy's Side Salads :) I keep Wendy's chili in my freezer broken up into 4 containers for my omlettes with fines herbs I put in the egg mixture :)

    May 30, 2014 at 10:19 pm |
  47. Vegan

    Hamburgers are barbaric. If Americans were in any way refined, they would be vegan.

    May 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm |
    • Medium Rare

      How can you tell someone's vegan? Don't worry, they'll tell you within 30 seconds of meeting.

      May 30, 2014 at 10:14 pm |
      • Calamus Nomen

        I like, "It doesn't matter, they'll tell you within 30 seconds of meeting".

        May 31, 2014 at 12:00 am |
    • bob

      If you love animals so much why do you only eat their food?

      May 30, 2014 at 10:25 pm |
    • Richard

      So you are going to kill a plant for food, sick, disgusting what did the plant ever do to deserve to die for you hunger?

      May 30, 2014 at 10:54 pm |
    • Pragmaclast

      What's barbaric is kids that grow up sick because vegans force their kids to eat that way without proper supplementation and refuse to get them vaccinated.

      Don't forget to take your B12 pill, bud. Try not to think about the factory from whence it was extruded.

      May 31, 2014 at 4:45 am |
  48. Saine

    Not impressed...
    Also – three places in NY? – Couldn't the writer be bothered to visit more than one place on the entire west coast?

    May 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm |
  49. Hamburger_Is_Goodz

    McDonalds Delux Quarter-Pounder. SO good!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 30, 2014 at 10:04 pm |
  50. Steve
    Best burgers in the Midwest!

    May 30, 2014 at 10:02 pm |
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