Nothing says summertime like a juicy hamburger. But where to start in a city so abundant with culinary options? Luckily for you, we've compiled an insider's list of the top ten burger joints in the city. Whether infused with red wine, served on an English muffin, or topped with fried pickles, each of these burgers offer something unique, and tastes so good that you'll savor every last bite.
Since 1972, Upper East Siders have flocked to J.G. Melon for their regular burger fixes. The fluorescent sign outside, like the checkered table cloths and kitschy art work, look like they haven't been changed since 1972, but that's just part of J.G. Melon's charm. Despite the influx of trendy, experimental burgers in Manhattan, J.G. Melon's burger is a big, juicy patty served with good old American cheese, just the way its regulars like it. Put bacon on top and order a slice of pecan pie for dessert - you won't regret it. For a classic American burger experience at a mom and pop shop, you won't get closer in New York than J.G. Melon.
- Location: 1291 3rd Avenue (at 74th Street)
- Subway Stop: 6 train to 77th Street
- Hours: Daily: 11:30am to 4am, Note: Cash Only
- Phone: 212-744-0585
New Yorkers love their street food, and Carnegie John's is no exception. A cart on 56th Street behind Carnegie Hall, Carnegie John's sells arguably the best street burgers in Manhattan: they've massive, oozing with cheese, and only four dollars. He sells kebabs and other Middle Eastern food, too, and the meat from the burgers picks up some of the Middle Eastern flavors from the grill, which we think makes them taste even better. If you're afraid of buying a meal from a sidewalk stand, don't despair - these guys continually pass health inspections without a glitch. Be sure to go for a weekday lunch or early dinner, though, since Carnegie John's is open only Monday through Friday and closes at 6pm.
- Location: 56th Street, near 7th Avenue
- Subway Stop: F train to 57th Street; N, Q, R, W trains to 57th St.
- Hours: Monday through Friday: 11:30am to 6pm; Saturday and Sunday: Closed
Located in the historically Irish neighborhood of Woodside, Donovan's looks like a typical pub, with its wood-paneled dining room, old-timers at the bar, and a menu offering roast beef and shepherd's pie. Don't bother to look at the rest of the menu, though - you know why you're there. Loosely formed from a New York strip steak, the big, juicy, messy burger is the finest pub burger in the city, and more than worth your trek to Queens. We recommend hanging around for a few beers afterwards and chatting with the regulars at this laid-back pub that feels far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Location: 5724 Roosevelt Avenue (at 58th Street), Woodside, Queens
- Subway Stop: 7 to Woodside-61st Street
- Hours: Monday through Friday: 11am to 11pm; Saturday and Sunday: 11am to Midnight, Note: Cash Only
- Phone: 718-429-9339
Located in Gramercy, Resto proves there's more to Belgian food than waffles and Brussels sprouts. The small, chic restaurant makes wonderful moules frites and a 'Belgian hangover pasta,' and with its creative and diverse menu, many might bypass the burger when choosing what to get. Don't make that mistake: order it and never look back. Deliciously fatty and made from a combination of local beef and pork, it's topped with Gruyere cheese and practically melts in your mouth. The frites, too, are thin, crisp, and excellently seasoned. For a fine dining experience, the prices are reasonable. There are also a plethora of beers and wines to wash all the goodness down.
- Location: 111 E. 29th Street
- Subway Stop: 6 train to 33rd Street
- Hours: through Friday: 12pm to 11:30 pm; Saturday: 10am to 11:30pm; Sunday: 10am to 10:30pm
- Phone: 212-685-5585
- Website: www.restonyc.com
Pianos isn't a burger place per se, but its Red Wine Burger is so outstanding that we had to include it here. This converted piano store is now a hip bar and showroom for the Lower East Side crowd that offers live comedy, bands, DJs, and a killer happy hour. The menu boasts a variety of interesting and delicious burgers, like the Grand Piano Burger with emmental cheese and a secret tomato sauce and the Gaucho Burger with chimichurri sauce, pico de gallo, and guacamole. The Red Wine Burger, though, is hands down the crown favorite. Infused with red wine and black pepper, and topped with bacon and caramelized onions, this burger tops our list as one of the most memorable in New York. To combine a great burger with a fun night out, Pianos is the place to go. Added bonus: if you order the house burger during happy hour, it's only five dollars.
- Location: 158 Ludlow Street (between Rivington and Stanton Streets)
- Subway Stop: F, V trains to 2nd Ave.; J, M, Z trains to Essex-Delancey Streets
- Hours: Daily: 3pm to 4am
- Phone: 212-505-3733
- Website: www.pianosnyc.com
The owners of DuMont, a lovely garden restaurant in Williamsburg, opened DuMont Burger in 2005 due to the overwhelming popularity of their big, buttery house burger. DuMont Burger is located on the hip Bedford Avenue, and inside it feels like a rustic barroom, with hardwood paneling, dim lighting, and a slew of beers on tap. Their ? pound burger is marinated in a secret sauce and placed between a grilled brioche bun. The result: a spectacularly rich hunk of meat that you'll try desperately to finish. For the truly intrepid, we recommend it with bacon and fried pickles, with a side of garlic fries. DuMont Burger is a favorite amongst the Williamsburg set, and many consider it the best burger in Brooklyn.
- Location: 314 Bedford Avenue (between South 1st and 2nd Streets), Brooklyn
- Subway Stop: L train to Bedford Avenue
- Hours: Daily: 11:30am to 2am; Delivery: Sunday through Thursday: 11:30am to Midnight; Friday and Saturday: 11:30am to 1am; Brunch: Saturday and Sunday: 11:30am to 4pm
- Phone: 718-384-6127
- Website: www.dumontburger.com
The Spotted Pig
A recipient of one Michelin Star, The Spotted Pig is an incredibly popular spot for New York gourmands. The West Village restaurant doesn't take reservations, and it's not uncommon to wait two hours for your table. Once you try the burger, though, along with anything else from the menu, you'll understand. The burger is beautifully presented: a perfectly round, 8 oz. hunk of meat glistening with juices and placed on a char-striped brioche bun. Melted Gruyere cheese is the star, complementing the sweet beef with its bold and tangy flavor. Matchstick fries are served on the side, and we think it's a wise pairing, as thick-cut fries would be too heavy with this massive burger. We recommend going to the Pig on the weekend, so you can skip the crowds and enjoy your burger in relative peace.
- Location: 314 11th Street (at Greenwich Street)
- Subway: 1 train to Christopher-Sheridan Streets; A, C, E, L train to 8th Avenue-14th Street
- Hours: Daily. Lunch: 12pm to 3pm; Bar Menu: 3pm to 5:00pm; Dinner: 5:30pm to 2am; Weekend Bruch: 11am to 3pm
- Phone: 212-620-0393
- Website: www.thespottedpig.com
Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien
Burger Joint is literally hidden behind a curtain in the lobby of this posh hotel, and remains a beloved burger sanctuary in Midtown. All you can order to eat are burgers, French fries, or a whole pickle. As stated on the tongue-in-cheek menu, 'If you don't see it, we don't have it!' You'll get your burger wrapped in wax paper and your fries in a paper bag. The burger itself, like the restaurant, is a no-nonsense matter, and you'll understand why New Yorkers tried to keep it a secret for so long. Striped on the outside from the grill, pink on the inside, oozing with juice, and framed by a fluffy bun, it looks and tastes exactly as a hamburger should. It's so tender it melts in your mouth. Order it with the works. You must get the French fries, too: they are thick, but not too thick, tender on the inside, and fried to perfection. You'll fight tooth and nail to find a seat at Burger Joint, but begging for one is just a rite of passage at this no longer well-kept secret.
- Location: Le Parker Meridien, 119 W. 56th Street (between 6th and 7th Avenues). Like we've said, it's hidden: the entrance is to the left of reception, behind floor-length curtains. You've found it when you see the neon sign with a hamburger on it. Note: Cash Only
- Subway Stop: N, Q, R, W trains or F to 57th St.
- Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11am to 11:30pm; Friday and Saturday: 11am to Midnight
- Phone: 212-708-7414
- Website: www.parkermeridien.com/eat4.php
Made from top-quality Kobe beef, the succulent burgers at Zaitzeff will make any carnivore swoon. The meat comes straight from a ranch in Nebraska, is cooked to order, and served on Portuguese muffins, which soak up every ounce of juice from the patty. Some complain about the prices, but we think the ? pound Kobe burger for $15.50 is fresh, tender, and worth every penny. Order the thick-cut sweet potato fries: the sweet fries and the savory burger are a match made in heaven. The ambiance in this family-owned restaurant feels relaxed and unpretentious, though many choose to order out or call for delivery. If you place a to-go order at the Financial District location, we recommend walking to nearby South Street Seaport and enjoying your burger on a park bench overlooking downtown Manhattan and the East River. Little could be better on a summer afternoon in New York.
Zaitzeff has two locations: the original in the Financial District, and a second on Avenue B in the Lower East Side. The LES location is open until the wee hours of the morning, and Alphabet City locals love to grab a late night burger there on their way home from the bars.
- Financial District Location: 72 Nassau Street (on the corner of John Street), Lower East Side Location: 18 Avenue B (between 2nd and 3rd Streets)
- Financial District Subway Stop: J, M, Z trains to Fulton Street, Lower East Side Subway Stop: F, V trains to 2nd Ave.
- Financial District Hours: Monday through Friday: 10am to 10pm; Saturdays and Sundays: 10am to 8pm, Lower East Side Hours: Monday through Wednesday: 9am to 11pm; Thursdays and Fridays: 9am to 4am; Saturdays: 8am to 4am; Sundays: 8am to 11pm
- Financial District Phone: 212-571-7272, Lower East Side Phone: 212-477-7137
- Website: www.zaitzeffnyc.com
The line is there for a reason. Fashioned as a roadside burger stand and located in the Flatiron District's Madison Square Park, Shake Shack serves the hands-down favorite burger in New York. What makes it so good? An unusually high fat content, of course. The beef is cooked to perfection on a griddle, so all the juicy goodness from the burger stays inside the patty, and ends up in your mouth, not dripping onto your plate. You can't go wrong with the Hamburger or Cheeseburger, but you waited in that line, so you might as well reward yourself with the Shack Stack. It combines the Cheeseburger with the 'Shroom Burger, a fried portobello mushroom topped with cheddar and muenster cheese, tomato, lettuce and the mayo-based 'secret' Shake Sauce. It's as every bit decadent as it sounds. Wash it all down with a milkshake - Shake Shack makes the best vanilla shake this author has ever tasted.
Shake Shack has three locations in New York. We recommend the lively outdoor ambiance at its original location in Madison Square Park, but the line tends to be shorter on the Upper West Side. There's a Shack in the Mets' new stadium, Citi Field, and there will be two more opening soon, one in the Theater District and a second on the Upper West Side.
- Madison Square Park Location: Southeast corner of MSP, near Madison Ave. and East 23rd Street, Upper West Side Location: 366 Columbus Ave. (at 77th Street), Citi Field Location: 12301 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, Queens
- Madison Square Park Subway Stop: R, W trains to 23rd Street, Upper West Side Subway Stop: 1, 2 or 3 trains to 72nd Street, Citi Field Subway Stop: 7 train to Shea Stadium
- Madison Square Park Hours: Daily: 11am to 11pm, Upper West Side Hours: Daily: 10:45 to 11pm, Citi Field Hours: Opens Two hours before game
- Madison Square Park Phone: 212-889-6600, Upper West Side Phone: 646-747-8770
- Website: www.shakeshacknyc.com