Looking for the Best Burger Joints in the USA? Just Go To Your Local Dive Bar
Before diving into the dive bars, however, a certain criteria should be established. A good burger should be simple, hearty, juicy and be served on a bun that does not overwhelm the meat. Toppings should be basic – lettuce, tomato and mustard or mayo and sliced, crisp onion – and properly accompanied by a thick Kosher pickle.
The places that continually meet this criteria are not fancy burger restaurants but dive bars that Keep It Simple Stupid. Perhaps it’s because their grill is so old and used that it has decades of drippings on it that the grill itself is flavorful, or that the unpretentious atmosphere is truly what an American burger was intended to be in the first place. But whatever the reason, the best burgers in America can be found at America’s dive bars.
PubClub.com’s Top 5 Best Dive Bar Burgers:
1.) Ercoles, Manhattan Beach, CA.
This is the standard by which all burgers – not just dive bar burgers – should be judged. It’s everything a burger should be, and it’s outstanding. At PubClub.com, we have these descriptions for it: 8-napkin burger. Conversation-stopping.
It’s as thick as the pickup lines here on weekend nights, contains high-quality meat and is accompanied by a bun that lets the burger be the star. The huge slice of pickle is nearly as thick and juicy as the burger. It is served not with fries, but a bag of chips, which is fine because in the case of the Erc’s burger, one does not want to be preoccupied with fries.
Or, until the burger is finished, conversations.
Related link: Manhattan Beach Bars.
2.) Pier 15, San Rafael, CA (SF Bay Area).
Burger heaven in the Bay Area is hard to find – it’s off the right side of the 101 North behind a Mazda dealership – but the rewards are well worth the effort once you get to Pier 15.
Located in San Rafael north of “the City” (it’s exit is East San Francisco Blvd.), there is no mistaking this is a dive bar. In fact, you have to walk past the long and narrow dive bar in the back to the restaurant. It’s a small area but glass walls expose the fact that Pier 15 is on a canal, so the view is nearly as great as the meal.
As for the burger well it’s head-shaking good. Which is to say you’ll shake your head from side to side several times while trying to savor every bite. The fresh ingredients are crispy but none of them take away from the actual burger taste. There are a few burgers on the menu but the one you want is the Bar Burger.
The thing that really takes the burger to the next level is the potato salad. It is terrific; about the only place you’ll find any better is to crash a Southern picnic with some grandmother who has made it from a decades-old family recipe.
15 Harbor Street. (415) 256-9121.
3.) Rocky’s Pacific Beach, CA.
Rocky’s is a basic sports bar on Ingram Street in Pacific Beach, inland from the main area of the bars in P.B. It’s dingy, has TVs showing games and a “matter of fact” bartender. Perfect!
All it serves are fries and 1/2-pound and 1/3-pound burgers, the kind that fall apart like Ryan Leaf because they are so juicy. This is one quality burger served in the kind of place that such burgers excel: A dive bar showing sports.
Related Link: Pacific Beach Bars
4.) Crystal Beer Parlor, Savannah, GA.
This is old school. So old, in fact, we used to joke that long-time waiter Smitty thought nickles were quarters. He didn’t, of course, but it just made for a better story. It is the second-oldest restaurant in this never-left-the-1800s Southern city.
The burgers are big and juicy and come with what actually may be the real food star here, the thick, fresh-cut fries.
Frankly, this is hardly one of Savannah’s most happening bars (far from it, in fact) but the place has character. Just get a load of its beer menu: Schlitz, PBR, Dixie, Old Milwaukee, Stroh’s, Budweiser, Miller High Life.
5.) Shipwreck Tavern, St. Thomas USVI.
This one got off to a bad start when PubClub.com’s burger arrived woefully undercooked. But, quickly another one was presented and it recovered faster than college student with a hangover on Spring Break. The burger here is large – a full meal in itself – and full of flavor. Burgers don’t actually mix well with rum drinks but hey, in the Virgin Islands one must adapt to the local beverage, so it’s not out of kilter to have one here with the meal.
The Shipwreck has really cool decor. It’s dark and looks as if its’ been, well shipwrecked.
Related Link: St. Thomas Bars.
• BURGER BONUS 1: Krystal Burger, Bourbon Street New Orleans.
Okay, this comes with an asterisk. It’s not those little square burgers that are the draw here, but the fact that after a night going strong on Bourbon Street, they are more tempting than the Hurricanes at Pat O’Brien’s. You’re pretty drunk by this point and without clear reason you order, oh, 6 or 8 of ’em, only to wake up the next morning with the bag on the floor and familiar “morning-after Krystal burger” smell in the air.
“Oh, no, I DIDN’T,” you say, then take a count of the empty boxes scattered about the hotel room hoping perhaps you only had one or two, only to discover all but one or two remain uneaten. “Oh well,” you say, safe in the knowledge that you otherwise survived a night on Bourbon Street relatively intact and happy that you choose the burgers over the slight more body-devastating Lucky Dogs.
• BURGER BONUS #2: The $100 Burger
Actually, it’s more like a $200 burger now. The burger itself only costs $9.95, and that comes with a side (and side with the cole slaw).
It’s getting to the burger that costs so much. At least for private pilots, who love getting into their planes and flying from Southern California to the “Airport in the Sky” on Santa Catalina Island. The place is actually called DC-3, but its likely many regulars don’t know that – they just know the burgers and juicy and great.
It’s well worth the 15-minute flight and expense. The expansive views from the top of the mountain over the Pacific certainly add flavor to the burger’s flavor.
Non-aviators can enjoy it too; they need to take the ferry ($65 each way from Marina Del Rey, San Pedro, Long Beach and Dana Point) then take a shuttle bus from Avalon harbor.
• BURGER BONUS 3: Fleming’s Steakhouse
Yes, this most certainly gets away from the “dive” aspect of this article but the places listed require one be in those particular locations to experience them. But here’s one good burger found in practically any city in the USA. And it only costs $6.
It’s the Happy Hour burger at the upscale Fleming’s steakhouse. It’s the Prime Burger and it’s made from Kobe beef and is outstanding. It comes with a sensational chipole Thousand Island-type of dressing on the side – enough to use as a dipping sauce for the lettuce wedge – and a huge onion ring.
The two strips of bacon are a bit overwhelming for PubClub.com, but some people see this as the burger in its full glory.
And yes, it’s only $6 and Happy Hour is seven days a week – including holidays – from 5-7 p.m.