George Motz is a reputed burger scholar, filmmaker, and author of The Great American Hamburger Book: How to Make Authentic Regional Burgers at Home. You can follow him @MotzBurger.
Burger lists make me crazy—except, of course, when they are mine. Most are maddening because they claim to direct the unsuspecting and hungry to the very “best” patties in the city. And as readers of these lists might suspect, a mention of one (whether it’s deserving or not) inevitably leads to a mention on the next, creating a yawn-inducing echo chamber. Yes, we all love Shake Shack, and Umami Burger has its own rabid fan base, but don’t other establishments deserve to share some of that limelight? What perplexes me is how some of the great burgers this city has to offer are not featured in these “definitive” round-ups—burgers that are created by chefs who pour their souls (and bank accounts) into their creations; burgers that I return to often, and wonder why they are not celebrated as they should be.
As a new burger joint seems to open here once every three weeks on average, the field expands, and so do the dining options. In a city exploding with bun-and-patty establishments, it’s not entirely surprising that a few of the noteworthy burgers slip through the cracks. But NYC is also an endlessly diverse place, and these lists should reflect that. Every regional method found throughout the country can be discovered here, from the green-chile cheeseburger of New Mexico, to the smashed patties of the Midwest. The oversight is not only a disservice to NYC’s ravenous burgerhounds, but it also undermines what makes burger culture in NYC vibrant in the first place.
Maybe you’ve been to a few of places on this list, and one may even be your go-to. But here I present to you a collection of under-appreciated burgers that must battle it out in an ultra-competitive field. In light of the burger’s humble roots, the best way we can honor its form is to root for the underdogs. Now, go get ‘em.