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The Ultimate Midtown Burger Guide

Is Midtown NYC a burger destination? You better believe it!


When it comes to dining, and especially on a budget, Midtown doesn't get much respect. National chains, tourist traps, and just-about-edible commuter-orientated restaurants make up the bulk of the options. But, for the hamburger lover, things aren't nearly as grim. Quite the contrary, in fact: One can find almost any style of burger, and on most any budget.

More than that, Midtown also happens to be home to some of the most iconic and historically significant hamburgers. It's here that America's first gourmet burger was born, at 21 Club circa 1950. Later in the same decade, Midtown also saw the arrival of P.J. Clarke's bacon cheeseburger, which was dubbed "the Cadillac" by Nat King Cole later in the same decade. And the neighborhood is still home to a few remaining outposts of Burger Heaven, a diner chain that dates back to the 1940's. Plus let's not forget the db Burger, the rococo creation from chef Daniel Boulud that essentially kickstarted the chef-driven burger craze.

At the other end of the spectrum, Midtown even has a White Castle, one of only two remaining in Manhattan. It's included here because the chain is arguably the creator of the modern hamburger, and indisputably the inventor of fast food. Yes, the outpost now is a shadow of its former self, but if you've never had a White Castle, it's worth experiencing it at least once (it will make you stronger). For a far better slider, head over to Bill's Bar & Burger in Rockefeller Center, which serves a variety of styles based on the smash burger cooking technique.

The national fast food giants of course have a heavy presence in the area, but are not included here because New Yorkers deserve better. And there's no need for those when further up the food chain, a boutique burger chain war is raging. Shake Shack, Schnipper's, Bare Burger, The Counter, and Steak 'N Shake all have at least one location, plus the fast-growing Bare Burger (dreadful name, quality burgers) offers the eco-conscious eater some viable options.

smith & wollensky Photo by Nick Solares

And then there is the steakhouse. 45th Street used to be called steak row, and while the chophouses are a little less thick on the ground these days, Midtown Manhattan probably still has more steakhouses per square mile than any other place on earth. Many steakhouse burgers are less than inspired, and even the ones recommended here are just too damn big to eat with any level of civility without a knife and fork (and doesn't that defeat the purpose of a burger on some level?). But, the steakhouse burger is usually a great way to get dry aged beef for a song, and the options listed here all offer some of the best beef around.

Still, a burger should be about more than just the beef. It should be about the synergy of the experience, about getting everything into each bite, which is why the best burgers in this ranking are on the smaller end. Price can't be discounted here either. Case in point: Shake Shack, which delivers a burger for $5 that the competition has trouble matching for $7 or $8.

Here are 25 burgers that prove that Midtown is a neighborhood that should be envied for its burger options.

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