Oh, America. Land of the free, and home of the burger. In a young country with limited food traditions, the humble American cheeseburger has become a culinary icon. It’s a superstar in the U.S.A., an emblem of all that is good and tasty. The burger is the ultimate comfort food for us Americans, a handheld snack for when you’re on-the-go – greasy, cheesy, umami, perfection. Sure, we’ve been known to overdo it at times. We have stacked patty on top of patty, creating burger skyscrapers and layering in various toppings between the beef – pickles, bacon, cheese, onions, and sometimes even mac’n’cheese. If you can fit it on a burger, we’ve tried it. A surf and turf burger? Why not! A peanut-butter-and-jelly-slathered burger? Believe us, it’s been done.
But the best burgers are not these over-the-top monstrosities that dominate the food porn-saturated social media channels, they’re the simpler ones. The meat and cheese roadstand shack burgers and the craft burgers cooked perfectly medium rare, with only a few intentional ingredients there to enhance the high-quality meat. We’ve spent years trying all of the best burgers in New York City, from iconic restaurants like Peter Luger, The Spotted Pig, Le Rivage, and J.G. Melon, to Instagram fads like Burger Joint and Black Tap – and every fast food chain that’s opened in between. The following five burgers are our current favorites in NYC.
Looking for more great spots for food and drinks in NYC? Check out our city map of New York!
Our favorite burger in New York is found at a pizza restaurant in Brooklyn. What makes it so perfect? The Emmy Burger is made with extremely high quality meat (dry-aged and perfectly cooked medium rare) in one big, juicy patty; a healthy amount of melted cheddar cheese; sweet, caramelized onions; a fluffy yet sturdy bun that tastes like a brioche and pretzel bun hybrid; and a slightly spicy sauce that brings all the flavors together. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s an umami bomb exploding in your mouth. It’s not a cheap burger (it costs $31 USD), but it’s worth every penny. Note: Emily now has several locations and a few offshoots called Emmy Squared, but each shop has a burger that’s unique to that location. Only the original Emily in Clinton Hill serves this exact version of the Emmy Burger.
EMILY Address & Contact Information 919 Fulton St, Brooklyn, New York, United States Website Instagram Facebook
We’ve been long-time fans of Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s popular fast food burger chain, and use this burger as a baseline when testing new burgers around the world. Sorry, In-N-Out – Shake Shack is our favorite fast food burger chain, by far! On our most recent trip to NYC we got to visit the Shake Shack Innovation Kitchen, where the executive chef and culinary director of the brand test new burger ideas and seasonal specials. While at the Innovation Kitchen, we got to try the Seattle-exclusive “Montlake Double Cut,” a double cheeseburger with jack cheese, caramelized onions, and mustard mayo. We also had a Shack Burger fresh from the griddle and some new shakes still in the testing phase. If you visit the Innovation Kitchen location, you just might be the first to taste test some new menu items, but if you want to visit the original Shake Shack location, head to the charming, string light-illuminated stand inside Madison Square Park.
SHAKE SHACK Address & Contact Information 225 Varick St, New York, New York, United States Website Instagram Facebook
At a neighborhood restaurant in East Village, you’ll find one of New York’s best burgers. A thick, juicy beef patty comes sandwiched inside a toasted brioche bun, and is topped with Cabot cheddar, Vidalia onion, bone marrow marmalade, and mayonnaise. The burger is perfectly cooked, oozing meat juice, and we love the sweetness provided by the onions and cheese. Adding a slice of bacon is optional, but we are burger purists and prefer not to draw attention away from the beef. Note: Virginia’s is temporarily closed, but plans to reopen in the fall of 2022.
VIRGINIA'S Address & Contact Information 647 E 11th St, New York, New York, United States Website Instagram Facebook
Mighties is a new burger spot from chefs Fabián von Hauske Valtierra and Jeremiah Stone of restaurants Contra and Wildair. It’s located inside the Essex Market on the Lower East Side, and is a good option for a quick, on-the-go burger. Their classic cheeseburger is made with grass-fed beef, cheese, tomato, lettuce, and Mighties sauce, and is served on a Martin’s Potato Roll. This burger gave us some Shake Shack vibes, but the patty is thicker, with a pink center. Sometimes they serve limited-edition dry-aged burgers, patty melts, and smash burgers – stay tuned to their Instagram to see when they announce specials.
MIGHTIES Address & Contact Information 15 Delancey St, New York, New York, United States Website Instagram
Minetta Tavern is a New York institution. It’s impossible to have a conversation about NYC burgers without referencing this icon, so we finally visited this Greenwich Village staple on our most recent trip to New York. It was time to finally see what the hype is all about! There are two burgers on the menu: the Minetta Burger ($29), which has cheese, and the Black Label Burger ($36), which has no cheese but uses prime, dry-aged beef. All vegetables are served on the side, so you can decide if you want to add any lettuce or tomatoes. The Black Label Burger was significantly better than the Minetta Burger – you could really taste the difference in meat quality. It’s a good burger, but for it to be a perfect burger for us, it really needs cheese, it needs a little more seasoning, and it needs sauce. But, the burgers were perfectly cooked, and we appreciated the simple, meat-forward flavors. Pro tip: make a reservation in advance, this place books up.
MINETTA TAVERN Address & Contact Information 113 MacDougal St, New York, New York, United States Website Instagram
On our next visit, we hope to try the burger at Red Hook Tavern, once they reopen after the fire.
What’s your favorite burger in New York City? Let us know so we can try it next time!