Oh man, I am celebrating the fuck out of this national food holiday! There are some holidays that, based on logistics or personal taste, I just can’t or won’t celebrate: I can’t always get my hands on a spiral ham on a day’s notice, and eating asparagus just isn’t my thing. But cheeseburgers? How can I say no to cheeseburgers?? The most basic definition of a cheeseburger is, simply, a hamburger with cheese. But in reality it is a world above those simple words, the magic of a melted slice of cheese–be it fancy like Swiss or Gouda or the old standard American–elevating the ground meat patty into something so delicious it’s nearly orgasmic. Yeah, I have a lot of feelings about cheeseburgers 😉 They can be made in so many different ways–cheese on top of the patty, incorporated into the meat–with nearly every cheese you could think of. And the different toppings! Cheese can transform a simple burger into a barbecue cheeseburger, with sharp cheddar, crispy bacon and smoky barbecue sauce; or into a delicate Swiss cheeseburger, with mild Swiss cheese and sauteed mushrooms. Or it could be something totally wild–ever try a Buffalo Sauce burger with crumbled bleu cheese? There are just so many possibilities on National Cheeseburger Day!
And while it may not be an inherently New York kind of food, like pizza or bagels, looking for the “best cheeseburger in New York City” is an extremely hot-button issue. The CBS show set in New York, “How I Met Your Mother,” even dedicated an entire episode to finding the best burger in the city–aptly titled The Best Burger In New York“. (This, and the episode after it, came during a pivotal moment in my life where I actually moved out of New York City. Lots of tears were shed and lots of burgers nommed.) Everyone’s got their own favorite place to chow down on a beefy, juicy cheeseburger–even if it is the much-lauded Corner Bistro. (I wasn’t going to take the easy way out on this one and recommend that place, everyone already knows about their burger reputation! And don’t even get me started on how many people said I should highlight Shake Shack’s burgers!) So I made my cheeseburger picks from various sources, and they might not be what you’d expect: a celebrated chef’s choice, a little-known place that’s making waves, and one of my own personal favorites.
Time to chow down!
I may not have taken his advice when he recommended a little pizza joint on the Upper East Side over the Brooklyn behemoths on National Cheese Pizza Day, but you’ve got to admit, celebrity chef Bobby Flay knows a good burger when he eats one. The chef known for New American and grilling cuisine would certainly be a credible source when looking for the best cheeseburger in the city, and he doesn’t disappoint: on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” Flay recommends JG Melon’s cheeseburger as the best burger he’s ever tasted. And he’s definitely not alone! This no-frills little bar and burger joint on Third Avenue hits the top of many a “best burger” list, topping some high-end favorites like 5 Napkin Burger and Peter Luger Steak House. Their burgers definitely stand up to the hype: their hamburger patties are made from super-fresh ground beef, and the cheese, while American, tastes exactly like you want a stand-up old-school cheeseburger to taste. The small dining area makes it difficult to get a leg-up during dinner hours, but if you do manage to make your order, don’t forget the bacon on top of your cheeseburger!
1291 3rd Ave (between 74th St & 75th St)
“To call the griddle well-seasoned would be the understatement of the year. The searing hot heavy-metal slab appears to shimmer and undulate as the grease and juices from hundreds of burgers splutter and bubble away. That griddle puts a perfect sear on the plump, generously sized patties. Although I estimate that it is around 6 to 7 ounces, it is so loosely packed that it appears far bigger. The pillow-soft white bun is so airy and light that it flattens around the burger yet somehow manages to remain intact.”–Serious Eats
“Upper East Side stalwart J.G. Melon has been producing wonderful, juicy burgers since it opened in 1972. There’s a lot of things about the place that work: it’s unpretentious bar atmosphere, the dining room in the back. The round cottage-fried potatoes are also a treat, perhaps a bit too easy to keep popping down. Good thing the portion size – both of the burger and the fries – isn’t too large.”–CBS New York
“Bacon, bacon, bacon…we love bacon. And if you’re looking for some serendipitous bacon, look no further. To date, we haven’t found a burger joint that can provide us with better cured pork. Marry that with the perfect execution of melted American cheese and you’ve got a winning combination of toppings. Throw on a few pickles, some raw onion, crisp fresh lettuce and a tomato, if you so desire, and you’re sittin’ pretty.”–The Best Burger In NYC
“The resolutely American menu is painted onto wooden boards and served daily from lunch until the wee-morning hours, with the famously thick, juicy hamburger acting as the house’s signature dish. At dinnertime Melon’s packed and lines run out the door.”–New York Magazine
“The amount of juice released with each bite demands a tall stack of napkins or else you’ll have grease down to your elbows. Be careful with the bun. It starts out chewy and delicious, embarrassing the hell out of those joints that stick to bland McDonald’s-style cappers, but if you’re lackadaisical with your chomping, you might end up with sopping bread plastered around your patty like papier-mâché. Eat fast, die young.”–Complex
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Great reputation that certainly lives up to its billing; the burgers are majestic. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger not once but twice it was that good. The beef is soft but doesn’t lack in taste and the puffy french fries are addicting (they come in a large bowl). The atmosphere is decent, not spectacular, as it’s depicts your typical pub. Definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area and be prepared as it’s cash only and often generates a significant waiting time.”–Luca M.
“As with all new (to me) eateries, I excitedly scrolled through Yelp recommendations and finally settled on the classic Cheeseburger ($9.25) and Cottage Fried Potatoes ($4.75). The cheeseburger was cooked medium and very good, nicely charred on the outside and juicy, but somehow the juice was contained within the burger, and the bottom bun stayed nice and dry, which my hands appreciated!”–Ida C.
Can’t muscle your way through the line at JG Melon? Want a burger that’s just as inexpensive without giving up on great quality? Head to Fort Greene, where the original 67 Burger still stands. With two locations now in the trendiest spots in Brooklyn, 67 Burger is making a name for
itself as a Shake Shack equivalent for the outer boroughs, with a few delicious twists. Their namesake signature burger includes bleu cheese and bacon bits–definitely a new alternative to the bacon cheeseburger! And if you don’t like the juicy burger combos they’ve already made–like The Goat (goat cheese and pickled onions) or The Greek (feta cheese and olive tapenade)–they have a make your own burger section for all your personalization needs. You can order a number of different meats on your burger, from the requisite all-natural beef to turkey, grilled chicken, and even flame-grilled tofu. And the cheeses they offer range from standards like American and cheddar to pepper jack, bleu cheese, feta, and parmesan. Cheese fans who want to really celebrate National Cheeseburger Day can sink their teeth into The Cheese Lover’s burger, which includes three different cheeses for an overload of cheesy goodness. And who wouldn’t want to wash down all that meat and dairy with the best of both adult and kid’s worlds–a beer milkshake? This place is a wonderland for the burger lover, at around the same price as those popular Manhattan burger joints–without the hour-long wait in line.
67 Lafayette Ave (between Elliott Pl & Fulton St)
“Sink your teeth into the signature 67 Burger (choice of patty, bleu cheese & crispy bacon, $9.25), or eschew basic burgers for the Oaxaca tofu burger (avocado, chipotle mayonnaise, Cajun spices & cheddar, $10) or Western-style turkey burger, piled high with BBQ-braised onions ($9.25). You can wash down your meaty meal with a cold brew (imported $5, domestic $5, tap $5.50) or Mondavi-based vin ($5), but why do that when there’s a beer milkshake on the menu?! That’s right—a beer milkshake. Vanilla ice cream meets Sam Adams and choc gets cozy with Greenport Harbor’s Black Duck Porter in these dessert bevs that seriously shouldn’t work, but totally do.”–Shecky’s Night Life
“This spot grills quite a juiced-up patty, bun soaking in fact. It’s a great start to what can be a great burger, depending on which of their choices you decide on. The Southwestern, for example, has a nice spicy kick to it, with roasted peppers, chipotle mayo, and pepper jack cheese. It’s an amazing burger. But 67 Burger offers some not-so-sure shots: Skip the Parisian and the Italian. But even with the lesser items, 67 Burger makes one thing obvious: Toasted bun are underrated. Just a little bit of crunch can dress up an otherwise uninspiring burger, especially when it ends up soaked in beef juice.”–Complex
“Get it classic cheeseburger-style. Accompaniments of interest include fried artichokes, pickled onions and blistering jalapeños. The standard fries, curly fries, and especially the onion rings are crisp and munchable. You can go for gut-bust and polish it all off with a surprisingly subtle beer shake (Sam Adams and vanilla ice cream). But you don’t need a beer buzz to leave this good-natured place feeling a little giddy.”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“He described a few of his favorites but when he mentioned that the 67 burger had melted blue cheese and bacon, I was sold! I also ordered a side of the regular fries with my burger but they also offer other variations. My burger was perfectly cooked to my request and was delicious. It had a great amount of delicious bacon and blue cheese which made me a happy camper. The side of fries was came in a huge basket and I couldn’t even finish it. I will definitely be coming back to try some of the other burgers they have.”–Jacob C.
“Made to order and ala carte, 67 Burger serves up a line of specialty burgers that rival some of the best burgers I’ve had. The creamy blue cheese and bacon burger is a definite stand out and is fluff with delicious cheesy goodness. My friend had the Ranch burger that was lined with a perfect blend of zesty-ness and crispy onions.”–Jonathan J.
I said before that I moved to New Jersey just as the How I Met Your Mother episode “The Best Burger In New York City” aired, which instantly made me homesick for the delicious, juicy burgers you could only get on that side of the Hudson. But, within a year of living here, I found a little burger joint that moved in right across the street from where I was living! (Of course, I ended up moving a week later, but I still go there!) 25 Burgers started out as my little burger joint, but within 3 years it’s ballooned to have nine locations throughout New Jersey–the closest to New York being in Linden. And the name is exactly what you’ll find there: 25 different varieties of burgers adorn the menu, from the classic cheeseburger to the El Paso Burger (roasted poblanos, guacamole, and pepper jack cheese), the Teriyaki Chicken Burger (with cheddar and Swiss cheese and, of course, teriyaki sauce), and, one of my favorites, the Gyro Burger (lamb patty with feta cheese, tzatziki sauce, and gyro strips on stop). Take one step into this place and it’s tough not to make it your life goal to try all 25. It may not be in New York City, but it’s become one of my favorite places to get a cheeseburger, so I wanted to share it all with you 🙂
510 E St Georges Ave, Linden (and various other locations)
“I made going here a project. My Eating Team and I went several times and we bought a bunch of burgers each. I’m happy that we got so many into the review, plus I’m happy that we got to have so many in the first place. This is a really cool place with great burgers and tons of choices. Go. If you don’t live close, then go on the weekend. You need to try these New Jersey Burgers.”–New Jersey Nick
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Hands down a fantastic burger. Good quality ground beef cooked up with crispy edges. So much of a food’s quality is in the texture, and for that 25 burgers wins. Like the name says they have 25 varieties of burger; 24 regular and 1 burger of the month. I stopped in for lunch and ordered the A-1 Bleu Burger that had A-1 steak sauce, bleu cheese crumbles, crispy onion strips and lettuce and tomato. The “Miami onion rolls” they serve the burgers on are a great addition. The fries are crispy and delicious- did not even need ketchup.”–Wes D.
“Cheeseburger – On my god, this was so comforting. I have had many cheeseburgers but this one stands out among the best. The meat is the star here, 100% Angus is so right in there. The toppings were fresh and the bread had a great texture. My fiance didnt even want to eat, but she ended up devouring it!!”–Murkur H.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!