By Melissa Dempsey, Steve Fowler, Lauren Naru, Jonathan Ortiz, Meredith Phillips,
Susie Davidson Powell, Lizzy Sobiesk, Sabrina Sucato, and Kathryn Walsh
The perfect burger — ask 10 people to describe it and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. But therein lies the beauty of America’s most iconic food. Whether you’re a fan of fat, juicy half-pounders stacked with everything under the sun, or a purist who prefers a thin patty with nothing but lettuce, tomato, and ketchup on a potato bun, this list will come in handy. Use it as a guide to add a few new restaurants into your usual rotation, or keep it in your car as a reference for day trips. In the Hudson Valley, no matter where you are, a great burger is never far.
It may only be five years old, but this burger and frozen yogurt spot is beloved in Albany for its big builds and amped up flavors, including house-ground burgers made with an 85/15 chuck and brisket blend. A house favorite, the French Onion Burger is stuffed full of provolone cheese, topped with caramelized onions and seared rosemary-braised short ribs, and loaded onto a brioche bun. There’s even a side of French onion soup for dipping au jus-style.
The Barbecutioner Burger started as a special at this vegan delicatessen in Albany, but soon became a regular menu item due to popular demand. A beefless blend of soy protein and vital wheat gluten (often used to make seitan) gets stacked high with barbecue sauce, onion rings, cheddar, and jalapeños for a sweet, zesty — dare we say healthy? — meal.
At this hidden gem in Beacon, the burgers are made using grass-fed, grass-finished beef from Josef Meiller Farm & Slaughterhouse Farm in Pine Plains. Ground fresh every day in an 85/15 ratio, the beef is pattied by hand to trap the fat inside while cooking. The result is a melt-in-your-mouth creation that calls to mind some long-forgotten idea of what beef should taste like. Don’t even bother with ketchup on this one.
Put a little panache into your half-pounder! At Melzingah, the not-so-secret ingredient is their whipped feta, made with dill, parsley, scallions, pepperoncini, lemon juice, and olive oil. It’s a fresh, creamy complement to the Angus beef burger with lettuce, tomato, and onion, all sandwiched in between a brioche bun.
The New York State Special is Chef Brian Arnoff’s take on fast-food — with high-quality ingredients. A blend of chuck, brisket, and short ribs is ground for this quarter-pound patty, which gets a healthy sear on the flat top and is topped with New York State Muenster cheese and garlic aioli to play off the flavor of the beef, rather than overshadow it. Lettuce, tomato, onions, and pickled jalapeños are all optional (but highly recommended).
Reclaimed wood decor, artisan beef from a Hudson Valley butcher, craft cocktails made with in-house syrups — bah! Sometimes you’re just hankering for a good ol’ anti-fancy-pants kinda burger, one served in a dark-wood-paneled tavern in a little strip mall. Since 1967, the hand-formed eight-ounce patties at Squire’s have dazzled burger maniacs with their consistent, flame-charred juiciness. There are six specialty burgers, but the classic Squire Burger is the one to go for, splurging the extra coinage for some melty American on top.
You know what they say: Lamb is the new beef. Okay, perhaps that saying hasn’t quite caught on yet, but one bite of the burger at Clock Tower Grill and soon you’ll swear by it. Made with grass-fed lamb that restaurateurs Cassie and Rich Parente raise on their very own farm, the burger consists of ground shoulder and hind cuts, topped with tandoori yogurt sauce — a mix of local yogurt and red curry for a little extra zing.
Situated steps from Cold Spring’s Metro-North station, this is one of those rare places that is just as popular with locals as it is with tourists. Plan to make a mess here: The burgers are held together with a steak knife and filled with toppings like portobello mushrooms, jalapeño poppers, chipotle aioli, and fried onion strings. One of their most popular is the Double-Double (two four-oz patties with standard toppings like iceburg lettuce, tomatoes, and Thousand Island dressing). According to owner Greg Pagones, on a Saturday in the summer The Depot sells around 400 burgers.
At this classic red-stool diner, each quarter-pound Prime Angus burger is butcher-ground in Hillsdale, char-grilled, and loaded on a grilled brioche bun. A signature crowd-pleaser for 20 years, this thick, tender 80/20 blend patty comes with panko-breaded onion rings, hand-cut fries, a pickle, a choice of two toppings, from sautéed peppers to caramelized onions, plus the omnipresent lettuce, tomato, and onion.
518.329.3237; find them on Facebook
Inspired by Babe Ruth, a regular patron of the Taconic Wayside Inn on his upstate hunting trips, The Bambino Burger hits a home run with a juicy, all-beef, hand-packed patty cooked to order. House-smoked local bacon, crumbled blue cheese, and tomato jam steal all the bases, while an old-fashioned kaiser roll holds everything high and tight.
518.329.4401; find them on Facebook
The inspiration is the iconic Big Mac, but Chef Lou Brindley’s counter-service sandwich shop crafts its version with fresh, thoughtfully sourced ingredients. The Mason cheeseburger is a stack of two, four-ounce, house-blend patties, topped with ubiquitous L.T.O. and slathered in special sauce of cultish Japanese Kewpie mayo, Dijon mustard, and ketchup. The crispy fries, made with Kennebec Maine potatoes, are the perfect vehicle to sop up any drips.
There’s a full menu of appetizers, salads, entrées, and sandwiches here, but regulars wouldn’t think to look anywhere on the menu except the list of astounding, half-pound burgers made wonderfully juicy and flavorful by cooking under a dome on a flattop griddle. There are a dozen to choose from, but the Eastchester Burger is the star, topped with bacon and bright-yellow American cheese, and served with French fries, a couple of outsized onion rings, and a side of red bean chili.
Aroma Thyme’s Forager Burger exemplifies the bistro’s renowned dedication to sustainably sourced food: Six ounces of lean, pasture-raised beef from Wheatley Farms is topped with nitrate-free bacon, local apples, and 5 Spoke Herbal Jack, served on a pretzel bun. “My philosophy is real food, sustainably sourced, and local when possible,” Chef Marcus Guiliano says.
Beer might be the shining star at Fishkill’s Belgian-inspired watering hole, but the burgers are just as stellar. Stop by during the lunchtime rush, when, for an Alexander Hamilton, you can dig into eight ounces of medium-rare beef with lettuce, heirloom tomato, pickles, and onions atop a brioche bun. That is, if you don’t devour the perfectly crisped pommes frites first.
The 4/20 Burger is a tasty tale of human hubris — a Hereford beef patty and all of the classic fixings wedged in between two whole grilled cheeses made with Texas toast. What could verge on over-the-top is, in actuality, a delicious (if not decadent) treat for burger-lovers everywhere.
The nine-ounce, grass-fed patty in your beef burger at Café Mio didn’t travel far to reach your plate: Full Moon Farm is just down the road from the café. Assemble a choose-your-own burger from a large list of toppings, including various cheeses, bacon, fried shrimp, olives, and more. “It’s fresh, hyper-local, grass-fed beef so we keep it as simple as possible,” says owner and Chef Michael Bernardo. “We let the meat do the talking.”
Situated steps from Garrison’s Metro-North station — on the other side of the tracks — this riverside eatery/watering hole is a hidden gem. The views of the Hudson River and West Point and their deliciously juicy, grass-fed burgers are equally impressive. If you like your burgers on the salty side, choose top one with Prairie Breeze cheddar. The veg burger — made with “about 20 ingredients,” including walnuts and chilis — is also a standout. Both come with caramelized onions, pickles, pink sauce, and fries with aioli. Our readers agree: “Exquisite taste, texture. Umami delight!” declared one.
As if fried pickles weren’t good enough on their own, Kelley Jean’s fried pickle burger pairs these fried favorites with a Hereford patty, horseradish sauce, and cheddar, served on a kaiser roll delivered daily from DeFilippis Bakery in Middletown.
Thursdays are burger nights at this elegant, historic inn and tavern. Each week Chef Koury curates a menu of artisanal burgers, each more unique and delicious than the next. One favorite in the rotation is The Hangover burger, topped with bacon, a fried egg, frizzled onions, pickled celery, cream cheese, and Bloody Mary sauce. Can’t make it on Thursdays? The Stagecoach burger — topped with lettuce, tomato, frizzled onions, cheddar, and garlic aioli — is always on the menu.
Veggie burgers might have once had a bad rap as crumbly bean concoctions, but the organic vegan burger at The Egg’s Nest puts those stereotypes to rest. A crispy crust encases a savory blend of oats, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and vegetables, topped with chipotle “mayo” and served on a vegan, Bread Alone ciabatta bun. “The texture and flavor really stand out; it’s become a top seller, and not just among vegans,” says Eric Silver, who co-owns The Egg’s Nest with his wife, Cristina.
This unassuming, family-owned, family-friendly joint is housed in a red barn-like building and has a bar upstairs with a pool table, darts, and jukebox. (Note, kids can’t sit at the bar; there are two signs stating this, so they are serious). They specialize in wings — Thursday night it’s All-You-Can-Eat wings, ribs, and fries — but their burgers are also quite tasty and a bargain. The house burger is the most popular and comes with a choice of soup or homemade chili for only $10.50. Step it up a notch and get a signature Angus burger like the Angus Philly, or the Pulled Porky. Or go old-school and order our personal favorite: the Paddy Melt, a burger on grilled rye bread with American cheese and sautéed onions.
The Standard Burger will have you swooning over its pillowy, sesame seed brioche bun from Swoon’s sister bakery down the street, and farm-ground, all-natural, grass-fed Kinderhook Farm beef patties, skillet-seared to a rich umami-crust. Customizable with sautéed oyster and shiitake mushrooms, sweet onions, and house-pickled chilies for a little heat, the only question is whether to pair it with the house-made tater tots or fries.
You know this place: It’s the squat, steel building sandwiched between two row houses. Inside, they’re serving up grass-fed Black Angus straight from Grazin’ Angus Acres (GAA), owner Dan Gibson’s farm. “Every ounce of meat that we serve, every egg that we serve, comes from our 100 pastured cows, pigs, and chickens,” says General Manager Landon Powell, who came onboard in August 2019. To appreciate the full quality of this burger, go with the most basic, the Grazin’ Burger and get it done medium-rare with little or no toppings. But, if you must…there are plenty of farm-fresh fixings to choose from, including Ardith Mae goat cheese, GAA bacon, and pasture-raised eggs.
How does Restaurant Kinsley obtain optimal flavor for its cheeseburger? Chef Gabriel Ross presses six ounces of pasture-raised Kilcoyne Farms beef — blended specifically for Kinsley —into a blazing-hot plancha, maximizing surface area and intensifying crispness. “That extra crust is key to a tasty burger,” Ross explains. It’s then topped with caramelized onions, Grafton’s two-year-aged cheddar, and house-made pickle aioli on a potato bun. Pair this savory dish with a full-bodied Tempranillo.
It looks like an ordinary bar from the outside, but inside, this Midtown staple is a restaurant that specializes in whimsically named, grass-fed burgers made with Kilcoyne beef. It also has the best homemade tater tots we have ever tasted, a rotating tap line of 20 local and craft beers — and is family friendly. A reader tipped us off to their Elvis burger, which is topped with peanut butter and jelly. “Get it with bacon, and change your life forever.” We got it, but actually preferred the more popular French Onion Burger. The Cheezey Breezey (with a slab of mac ’n’ cheese on top) and The Burning of Kingston (apocalyptic Buffalo sauce and fresh jalapeños) made us want to return for more.
Our favorites at Ship to Shore include specials like the three cheeseburger with pork belly and the Chef’s Burger with Hudson Valley foie gras. The secret behind the flavor-packed foie gras burger is in the preparation. “We caramelize it into the burger so that the fat of the fois gras melts right into the beef,” explains Executive Chef and owner Samir Hrichi. Better keep your eye out for when these delicious renditions grace the lunch specials menu for the day.
Another burger made with beef from Josef Meiller Farm, the Gracie Burger is as made-from-scratch as it gets. A six-ounce, beef-and-bacon patty is smashed onto sliced onions on the griddle, thereby basting the onions in rendered fat while simultaneously steaming the beef. Once it’s cooked medium-well, the patty is topped with house-made American cheese, pickles, and truck sauce (a blend of ketchup, mustard, and mayo). Served on — you guessed it — a homemade bun.
With a sleek new space and a culinary program called Bonfire, EQ serves up food that’s just as good as its beer. A blend of chuck and brisket, the house-ground cheeseburger is cooked over a live-fire grill to infuse the burger with some extra flavor. Topped with house-smoked Gouda, lettuce, tomato, and pickled red onion, and it’s served on a toasted brioche bun.
This 8-ounce brisket sirloin Inn Burger that has been added to the menu at Henry’s is all about the classic indulgence. Served with lettuce, tomato, onion, and a pickle on a butter toasted brioche roll with a side of hand-cut fries, this may just check all the boxes for your latest burger craving. Guests can also add bacon, avocado, and their choice of cheese. “This is tradition at its best,” says Chef Peter Graziano.
Much like the atmosphere at this lively, loud, and loveable German-inspired pub, the Schatzi Burger packs a punch. Expect a smorgasbord of flavors and textures, like the crispiness of a potato pancake, the creaminess of Schatzi Sauce, a braised red cabbage aioli, a mouthwatering patty made with a blend of chuck and short rib, and the toasted pretzel bun.
Besides being seen in the 2001 hit comedy Super Troopers, The Golden Rail Ale House has a reputation for yummy twists on American classics, especially its burgers. Give the Peanut Butter Sriracha Burger — topped with thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon, sriracha sauce, peanut butter, and scallions — a try, and revel in the fact you cannot get this combo anywhere else.
845.565.2337; find them on Facebook
The burger at the bar-lounge of Liberty Street Bistro is so thoughtfully put together, it goes by the name the No Modifications Burger. “It may not be everyone’s perfect burger, but it is our perfect burger; and we won’t let you mess with our flavor opus,” share LSB chefs Michael Kelly and Maggie Lloyd. This unique burger is composed of a quality beef patty from Marbled Meat Shop in Cold Spring; a customized bun with everything bagel spices from neighboring Newburgh Flour Shop; a runny egg; oozy Muenster cheese; and a base layer of pickled mushrooms and onions.
A cash-only roadhouse with a proper jukebox, old-school arcade games, cheap beer, and friendly bartenders, The Blazer Pub opened in 1971 and is somewhere you might take a foreign visitor who wants to experience a “real” American hamburger. Most everything’s fresh (there’s no microwave and no freezer), including the rotund burgers that are expertly seared, require two hands to eat and may spray juices on any given bite. Seven basic varieties are on offer, but we choose the chili cheeseburger every time.
With 14 different kinds of loaded burgers, this twinkly spot just may be your jam…your bacon jam, found on the smoked cheddar burger. Want something lighter? Try the turkey burger with arugula, goat cheese, and honey mustard. Those committed to a surfeit of calories need look no further than the Spicy Three Cheese, a meltfest of mozzarella, cheddar, and American, offset by jalapeños and crispy onions — don’t forget the mayo!
About five years ago, this Hudson Valley destination finally decided to add some burger options to its menu. “If we were going to include a burger…it had the best, the ultimate burger,” says General Manager Andrew Sarubbi. “Hence the name!” The Ultimate Burger is made of Wagyu beef, on a toasted pretzel bun, and topped with a gratin of caramelized mushroom, onions, and Gruyère, and bacon-tomato jam. It’s so good it’s worth the $22.95 price — especially since you get a good-sized salad and baked potato fries. Finish off your meal with an ice cream sundae or pastry from the bakery attached to the restaurant.
We already know Westchester residents love this place — they voted it Best Burger at Westchester Magazine’s annual Burger & Beer Blast in 2015 and 2017 — but what makes a Coals burger so good? We think it’s got something to do with the way they imbue the eight-ounce patty with lots of charred, grilled flavor, yet still manage to keep it ultra-moist and intensely beefy.
If you’ve never had a vegan burger before, let the California Classic be your first. The patty, made of black lentils and mushrooms, is elevated with the addition of fennel and sage. Unlike some other vegan options, this burger isn’t mushy and doesn’t sacrifice texture or taste. Whether you are a vegan or not, the burgers at Fogwood & Fig are well worth a visit.
Each burger at Mill House is distinct, featuring a slew of gourmet toppings for complex, tantalizing flavors. The Porky Burger is the perfect bite. Mill House takes its fan-favorite Kilt Spinner beer and creates a barbecue sauce that is perfect atop pulled pork (smoked in-house for 16 hours), jalapeño mayo, homemade coleslaw, cheddar, and an all-beef patty.
Plot twist: Vegan burgers are the crowd favorite at Red Hook’s burger bar. On the Wildflower, the favorite burger on the menu, an Impossible patty that tastes deceptively like the real deal gets extra jazzy with avocado-lime sauce and chipotle mayo. Topped with lettuce and tomato, the patty finds its home on a plush pretzel bun. Add baked, vegan onion rings on the side, and meat-free has never sounded so good.
This hole-in-the-wall is easy to pass on the way to the heart of the village, but doing so would be a mistake. After pulling into the roadside parking lot, brace yourself for a thick burger that’s all about the hand-formed, local, grass-fed, grain-finished beef. Say yes to the house-made garlic mayo, which is generously slathered onto a potato bun and surpasses ketchup as a dipping sauce for the hand-cut, double-cooked fries.
Chef Josh Kroner might be known for his fine dining, but he also makes a mighty delectable burger. Available as either a half- or quarter-pound patty, the Hudson Valley Cattle Company beef is a wonder inside a buttery, local brioche roll. Spice it up with extras, like cheeses, sauces, and toppings galore, in the Red Bistro or get it with applewood-smoked bacon and Cabot cheddar in the dining room. House-cut shoestring fries on the side, please!
While we love upscale aioli and imported cheeses as much as the next person, there’s something so satisfying and familiar about a burger that’s uncomplicated and unfussy. At Kelly’s Sea Level, the 10-ounce sirloin-and-chuck burgers, served on a kaiser roll, are just that: juicy, stacked with your choice of toppings, and, like any good pub burger, cheap (a bacon cheeseburger is just $9).
Black Eyed Suzie’s gives their grass-fed beef burger a homemade touch with toppings and a buttery bun that are made in-house. “This burger is hand-formed and seared on cast iron for a nice, flavorful crust,” says co-owner Cheryl Paff. “We then add our special sauce and thinly sliced, house-made half sour pickles, which we think is the perfect combo.” They’ve also created a unique take on veggie burgers — and nailed it. The French lentil mushroom burger features turmeric fire kraut, avocado, baby kale, and harissa tahini sauce on a house-made bun.
Smoky, tangy, and just a little sweet, the Blue Burger at The Dutch is just begging to be paired with a beer. The patty — a mix of chuck, sirloin, and brisket — gets an added boost from applewood-smoked bacon, caramelized onions, and cold-smoked blue cheese, all drizzled with a balsamic reduction and served on a brioche bun.
If you prefer to build your own burgers, this is the spot for you. First, choose from The Seven Lake Burger made with local, grass-fed beef, or the vegetarian Beyond Burger. Then comes the fun part. Pick your own toppings from a delicious list of options ranging from the classics (lettuce, tomato, pickles) to the extravagant, like guacamole, bacon jam, truffle aioli, and everything in between.
This fine dining destination wanted locals to be able to get in and out for under $25, so they added a fresh-ground burger to an otherwise elevated menu. Every day they grind a mix of half chuck, one quarter brisket, and one quarter short rib, resulting in a tall, succulent, lip smacker topped with marvelous aged cheddar and served with herbed greens, house-made pickles, and oven-dried tomatoes.
At this popular retro-cool outpost, hyper-local burgers are made with a custom 80/20 blend of grass-fed, grain-finished Black Angus beef from JFF Farm, a mere six miles away. The basic Mama’s Boy on a toasted potato roll is just the start: Make it a double Mama’s Boy, with two three-ounce patties, for twice the caramelized char. Add cheddar and house special sauce, and you’ve got the Devil’s Tombstone, the house favorite.
When a farm-focused, nose-to-tail restaurant makes burgers the center of their lunch menu, you get gorgeous 75/25 ground beef patties from Highland Hollow Farm. The higher fat content results in a juicy, rich burger topped with melted house-made American cheese, house-made bread-and-butter pickles, and house-made special sauce — all stacked on a Prinzo’s Bakery sesame seed bun. Order the Everything for a monster triple cheeseburger with house-made bacon, caramelized onion and a fried egg.
Sofrito is the secret-ingredient flavor base for Latin cooking. So, when we found out Café Con Leche made an eight-ounce Sofrito Burger, our mouths were already watering. It’s topped with lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, Swiss, bacon, and a fried egg. Tucked into a dreamy, garlic-buttered brioche bun and smattered with secret sauce, this a burger to fawn over.
The fried mac ’n’ cheese burger at County Fare is the ultimate cheat-day indulgence. The cooked-to-order patty is near to bursting from underneath a toasted brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion. Grab a stack of napkins before diving in with two hands, then pace yourself if you plan on finishing even a quarter of the addictively crispy house-cut fries. Whatever you do, don’t forget to ’gram the #foodporn perfection.
The self-titled, signature burger at this popular Wappingers spot consists of a whopping half-pound patty, grilled and topped with sautéed onions that’s finished off with their house-made bacon jam and blue cheese dressing. Sandwich all of that between a brioche bun, and you’re in for a tangy-sweet delight.
Come for the dog-loving theme and stay for the burgers. Fetch takes an American lunch favorite and adds a Southern twist with their BLT Extreme Burger. Not only will you get bacon and lettuce, tomato-fanatics can get their fill with the duo of fried green tomatoes and beefsteak tomatoes.
The menu changes weekly at this rustic farm-to-table restaurant, but one thing remains the same — the burger lunch special. This decadent, farm-fresh burger is made with locally raised grass-fed beef from Lowland Farm and topped with aged cheddar, pork jowl bacon, and a fried egg. As one reader said, “It was by far the best burger I’ve ever had. You can really taste a difference in the freshness of the beef.”
TFS’s burger is no joke — each organic, grass-fed, hormone-free burger is ground fresh daily with a blend of brisket, short rib, and hangar steak. Their 35-day dry-aged steak burger continues to achieve top honors at Hudson Valley’s own Burger & Beer Bash. By the end of your meal, you’ll fully understand why TFS says, “We are the meat and potatoes of burgers and fries.” Note, their Palisades location, The Filling Station, is a roadside stand, with outdoor seating.
If any burger could epitomize the classic feel, giant portions, and attention to quality of a steakhouse, it’s this one. Weighing in at close to 12 ounces, BLT grinds its own mix of sirloin (for beefy flavor) and filet (for supreme tenderness), then smothers it in orange cheddar and tops it with Nueske’s bacon, L.T.O, and burger sauce. No frilly garnishes here (and available on the bar menu only).
Just like its sister restaurant Phoenicia Diner, Dixon serves classic comfort foods with a twist. Take their Dixon Burger, a 100% chuck blend from Veritas Farm topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and onion. “We wanted that really great, fire-grilled char that speaks on its own,” says General Manager Courtney Malsatzki. The twist? Amazing sauce options: the kimchi mayo’s tangy crunch is good enough to eat with a fork.