Eat & Drink

The Definitive Ranking Of America’s Best Burger Chains

Whether you’re a burger fiend from way back, doing it for the ‘gram, or simply need a feed, American burger chains are among some of the country’s most iconic eateries. But which ones should fuel your United States itinerary? Is In-N-Out Burger the out-and-out champ? Is Shake Shack supreme? Does Five Guys deserve five stars? And what’s the deal with Whataburger?

It’s enough to make any hamburger hound’s head spin. But don’t worry. You know we’re always on the search for the best burgers, so we’re here to sort the pretenders from the contenders. Here’s where you should chow down when you want to wrap your hungry hands around this American staple.

The Very Goods

Shake Shack

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by SHAKE SHACK (@shakeshack) on

The new(ish) kid on the block, Shake Shack started serving in 2004 and has grown from a food kiosk in New York to a national chain with locations in 27 states and Washington, DC. The burgers here, which will run you about US$6 to $8 (AU$9 to $11) for a single, are thin with a good homemade feel.

But Shake Shack’s finest achievement isn’t burgers. While “Burger Shack” isn’t the most inviting name (speak for yourself, I’d happily duck in for a bite to eat), it was a good move to highlight the amazing shakes. Don’t let the ranking on this list fool you – these are a phenomenal feed and the availability around the country is a plus. But Shake Shack doesn’t quite stack up to the others on this list.

Whataburger

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Whataburger (@whataburger) on

What a time to be alive and crushing burgers.

Whataburger’s orange-and-white striped roofs that dot the Southern American landscape are unmistakable, as is the spicy ketchup that’s become one of this institution’s delectable calling cards. These burgers are more your fast food fare (US$3 to $4 / AU$4 to $6) but are a step above offerings from Macca’s, Burger King (America’s equivalent of Hungry Jack’s), and the like.

However, here’s a bit of a curveball: Whataburger’s best bites aren’t big, beefy burgers. The Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich is massive and dripping with dark, sticky BBQ sauce, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better brekkie than a couple of Honey Butter Chicken Biscuits. That being said, even if you have a beef with chicken sandwiches, the hamburgers are well worth an order.

The Greats

In-N-Out Burger

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rebecca Ann (@rebeccaann_fl) on

The hamburger joint that launched a thousand posts. It’s pretty safe to say that In-N-Out (not “In and Out”, ya heathens) is the most ‘grammable spot on this list. In-N-Out has become synonymous with the classic American burger scene, so much so that its “secret menu” animal style offerings are now anything but secret. Its 70 years of existence have helped pave the way for the others on this list.

The beauty is in the simplicity of the In-N-Out menu. This chain is anything but a jack of all trades, instead mastering the necessities: hamburgers ($US2 to $4 / AU$3 to $6) and fries. The aforementioned animal style only adds to the whimsy and storied existence of this piece of Americana.

Aside from a handful of Texan locations (hello, Austin), you’ll be out of luck trying to track down an In-N-Out hamburger outside of Los Angeles and a few other states in the western United States.

Five Guys

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Five Guys (@fiveguys) on

First things first: Five Guys has the best burgers on this list. But the fresh handmade patties are just the start. You can also choose toppings from a lengthy list of awesome additions, from salad staples to grilled mushrooms, capsicum, BBQ sauce, and more, with no extra charge. Munch on free peanuts while you wait, and if you order fries (amazing skin-on beauties fried in peanut oil), they’ll chuck an extra scoop into the bag before you leave. Even better is that Five Guys’ hundreds of locations are spread all across the country.

But Five Guys doesn’t quite have the cultural cache of others on this list. And the price point is a bit stark. It’s more expensive (US$6 to $8 / AU$9 to $11 for your standard burger) than the others on this list, and that’s before you add fries. If you’re trying to ball on a budget, this could be an issue.

Five Guys is beloved by thousands of American eaters, but it hasn’t ascended to icon status here in Oz.

The verdict

The best burger of the bunch or the world-famous icon synonymous with the West Coast? Pound for pound, the burgers from Five Guys reign supreme. But dollar for dollar, and pic for pic, we have to give the crown to the wily veteran In-N-Out.

If you’re hungry, also check out the best American food you have to try in every state.

(Lead image: Shake Shack / Facebook)