I eat a lot of hamburgers. I am even something of an expert. And I'm often asked what are the best burgers in America. I've thought about it for a long time. And here is my answer.
There is no final, perfect hamburger. No quintessence of burger greatness. But if there were one, it would be this incredible little Pasadena diner, a national Mecca for burgerphiles.
Vast, flat, oversized patties overflowing with cheddar cheese are the stars at this San Antonio classic -- but I prefer the burger, so brown and salty, with just some american cheese. Whatever you get, you haven't been to SA without a visit.
One of the oldest hamburger restaurants in America, Dirty's is one of the "holy trinity" of Texas burger classics -- the others being Chris Madrid's in San Antonio and Keller's in Dallas. Where is Dirty's in that mix? You'll have to decide for yourself.
The Spotted Pig invented the New York gastropub, for all intents and purposes, and it's still the best, thanks to the brilliance and integrity of chef April Bloomfield.
A forgotten but once-mighty hamburger variation, the "loose meat" sandwich is synonymous with Maid-Rite, a former chain and now one last beloved restaurant. It's just loose meat on a bun, but somehow it's more than the sum of its parts.
Keller's is a drive-in burger joint so exquisitely old-school that it's hard to believe it wasn't created as a retro tribute. But the burgers tell the real story: thin, salty, moist, and perfectly fitted to their poppy seed squishy bun. Wrapped up in wax paper and served with tater tots, this is The Great American Meal.
This tiny East Village hole in the wall pulls off a comfort food hat trick unmatched in New York City: a world-class hamburger, a top flight pizza, and a grade A fried chicken. The pork chop is pretty good too. The only thing missing is hard liquor.
I'm not a big one for modish, upscale burgers, but I will make an exception for Au Cheval, a stylish meatery in Chicago's West Side that makes, among other things, one of the best modern burgers in America (if not THE best.)
It's swankier than you would like, but this Palos Verdes bistro has a lot going for it, including what might be the single best upscale hamburger in LA (with apologies to 8 Ounce.)
The "Awful-Awful" is Reno's signature burger -- so called because it's "awful big and awful good." They serve them all over town but my favorite is the version produced in this celebrated diner. Watch out for the mountain of fries it comes on top of!
Celebrity Chef Michael Symon did the impossible with this fabulous burger joint -- he made a burger that lived up to its Food Network hype. I personally frown on all the crazy toppings, but locals love them, so who am I to squawk?
Adam Biderman, a young cook at Atlanta's Hollman and Finch, helped create their legendary burger -- and then left, spinning it off to his own New Orleans restaurant. Is it as good as the original? Or better? I don't know, or care. This is one of the best burgers in the country.