We’re not afraid of making bold statements about the best things in Brooklyn, not when it comes to the things we feel really strongly about. We’ve covered everything from the best sandwiches to the best slices of pizza (that aren’t from di Fara), and now we’re tackling the borough’s best burgers. Why burgers? Well, while the hamburger might not be a New York icon like pizza (or imply the myriad combination possibilities of a sandwich), it’s still the kind of dish that can shine whether prepared in a classic style or adorned with whatever ingredient is currently on trend (chipotle-pancetta burger, anyone?). The following ten restaurants are home to our favorite burgers of the moment. Some of them are examples of a kind of platonic ideal of the hamburger, while others feature innovations that elevate this humble dish to new heights. All of them are, frankly, delicious. And, really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Yes. Yes, it is.
Photos by Austin McAllister
We’ll start the list off with this delicious riff on a classic burger. It’s just what a burger should be: pillowy sesame seed bun to soak up all the juices from the medium-rare patty; a melted slice of cheddar cheese; and special sauce. But this is no ordinary special sauce, it’s a blend of all the other things you’d usually find on a burger (lettuce, tomatoes, pickle, mayo, etc.), which all combine to make the kind of dreamy condiment that has you licking your fingers. And even—if you’re really desperate for more—the plate.
Served on a delightfully squishy potato roll, Thistle Hill’s burger is an organic, grass-fed beef patty that’s always cooked precisely how you want it (but, public service announcement, you want it rare to medium-rare), and is just fine without adding a layer of cheese or criss-crossed strips of the crispest bacon ever. But, you know, you only live once, so add the cheese and bacon. The richness of the burger will be cut through by the sour pickles, leafy lettuce, and juicy tomato slice that come with your sandwich. Oh, and the salt-and-pepper fries that come on the side? Those are also some of the best in Brooklyn.
This burger is best eaten at the spacious marble bar, ideally with a rye old fashioned as a companion (I’d get Templeton). It’s one of the most decadent burgers I’ve ever had, despite the fact that it doesn’t come with any special adornments. It’s straightforward in that it’s just a beef patty with caramelized onions on a simple roll (melted gruyère is an extra two bucks, but go for it, I say), but this burger adds up to so much more than the sum of its parts. Everything about it just tastes like more—the roll is lighter than any other I’ve ever had (though it holds up to all the juice from the meat); the patty is beefier; the onions are sweeter and richer. And it’s just the right size, so you leave feeling satisfied, not like you’re going to explode.
Brooklyn Beet Company
This non-traditional burger is the ultimate example of the good things that can happen when a chef messes with perfection. At the BBC, a juicy, medium-rare patty is swaddled inside lángos, a fried Hungarian flatbread. Also stuffed inside is a melty layer of Emmentaler cheese, beer mustard, tart pickles, and thick slices of bacon. Smear on some of the restaurant’s specialty beet ketchup, and dive into the best hot pocket you’ll ever have.
Sea Witch Tavern
The burger here is a blend of three different meats—short rib, brisket, chuck—that are high enough in fat that the patty explodes with flavor despite being one of the thinner ones on our list. The classic toppings—iceberg lettuce, tomato slice, chopped onions, American cheese—all add up to a burger that pretty much fits the platonic ideal of a backyard barbecue burger. Only you don’t need a backyard to enjoy this. Just $6.50 (making it one of the more affordable burgers on the list) and access to the R train.
Ox Cart Tavern
There’s a whole “Burger Board” at this Ditmas Park gastropub, and you can get everything from a turkey to a veggie to an ahi tuna burger. But we like the classic, half-pound “Ox” burger, which comes unadorned save for a tomato slice, lettuce, and onion. Slather one some house-made ketchup and enjoy.
Made with beef from local butcher Los Paisanos, Two8Two burgers are made from a special blend of chuck, brisket, and short rib and formed into flavor-packed 5 oz. patties. We’re particularly partial to the “Pub” burger, which actually comes with a 9 oz. patty (whoa), grilled onions, cheddar cheese, thickly cut bacon, and house-made Two8Two sauce, all on a Martin’s potato roll.
Fritzl’s Lunch Box
Oh man. This burger. The patty is an exceptionally flavorful blend of ultra-tender beef cheek and ultra-fatty chuck, which is then blanketed in cheddar, topped with pickles and onions, and given a smear of Fritzl’s “secret sauce,” which is nothing less than an umami bomb of miso aioli. Perfection.
The HotHouse adds to its excellent burger what we consider to be the ultimate topping: a fried onion ring. Seriously, why don’t more places do this? It’s so good! Sure, the HotHouse isn’t the only restaurant in Brooklyn to do this, but when added to a thick juicy patty with ribbons of meaty bacon? It all easily adds up to one of our favorite burgers in the borough.
After giving you a long list of pretty straight-forward burgers, we figured we’d end on this twist on the classic. And it’s quite a twist. Five Leaves loads its burger with a grilled pineapple ring, pickled beets, harissa mayo, and crowns it with a perfectly fried, sunny side up egg. It might seem like a lot to take in, but the combination of unctuous egg, tartly sweet pineapple, sour pickled beets, and spicy mayo are excellent additions to a perfect, juicy patty.
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