Phoenix may be famous for its Mexican food and its pizza (thank you, Chris Bianco), but we have our fair share of great burgers, too. After all, Arizona is known for the 5 Cs: climate, cotton, copper, citrus, and cattle. Beef figures prominently here. Great burgers abound, and there’s a burger on this list for every kind of burger-lover. Some are classic, some ornate, and some downright messy. All are exceptional in their own way.Read More
10 Phoenix Restaurants With Fantastic Burgers
Where to find burgers worth your ‘bucks.
Paradise Valley Burger Company
Featured on Triple D, this funky burger shop (with a second location recently opened in Tempe) dubs itself “burger paradise,” and it’s not an idle boast. Eight different quarter-pound char-grilled burgers, all served on house-made brioche buns, are on offer, and while four of them are reasonably straightforward, the other four are decidedly quirky. Get a designated driver for the booze burger (beer battered patties, smothered in a green chile-bacon-vodka cream sauce, then topped with whiskey-pickled chiles), but don’t miss the signature Burger Brulee, topped with bacon, havarti, onion, a fried egg, pickled onions, and a schmear of Thousand Island dressing. The pièce de résistance is the sugar the kitchen torches onto the bun. Check Instagram for even wilder daily specials, such as the Santa Barbara Burger: two patties, goat cheese, arugula, strawberry vinaigrette, grilled jalapeño, bacon dust, spicy pistachios, and fresh basil.
Bootleggers Modern American Smokehouse
Bootleggers, which specializes in all manner of smoked meats (brisket, pork, turkey, and prime rib, for example), also turns out three excellent burgers. Except for its fancy Dijonnaise, the Capone Classic really is a classic, topped with the usual fixings. The Snitch Burger is a winner, combining bacon, white cheddar, crispy shallots, and a barbecue sauce jacked up with Dr. Pepper. But for straight-up decadence, it’s hard to beat the signature Bootlegger Burger, a towering stack of ingredients served on a sturdy pretzel bun. Think: confit slab bacon, Muenster cheese, whiskey-caramelized onions, creamy slaw, tomato, red onion, Dijonnaise, and “house sauce,” a thoroughly messy but deliciously sweet-smoky burger that’s impossible to eat politely.
Fire At Will
There’s only one burger on Fire at Will’s menu, but it’s a dandy — a classic burger made with certified Angus beef ground to specifications: 50 percent chuck, 25 percent brisket, 25 percent short rib. The result is an ultra-flavorful, juicy patty that really doesn’t need much adornment. Owner Dom Ruggiero puts it on a brioche bun baked by Noble and smeared with what he calls “fancy sauce” (a mixture of ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire, and the like), and mantles it in melting American cheese, before piling on caramelized onions and pickles. It’s named the Hush Burger because Ruggiero’s customers at Hush Public House (his original restaurant, also in Scottsdale), begged him to put a burger on the menu. He offered it in limited numbers on Wednesday nights, but these days, the Hush Burger lives only at Fire at Will, where it’s permanently — and prominently — placed on the menu.
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Technically, Otro is a Mexican restaurant, but that doesn’t stop chef-owner Doug Robson from putting three seriously good grass-fed burgers on his menu. He offers a traditional cheeseburger for the purists, but the standouts are the Pica Rica — layered with roasted green chiles, caramelized onions, and melty cheddar on a bun smeared with aji aioli — and the Pork Belly, a burger topped with fatty strips of pork belly, coated in a tangy citrus glaze, then topped with pickled onions and a spicy relish that cuts the richness of the pork.
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Because chef-owners Jason and Katherine Dwight have built their restaurant upon sustainability, items come and go, then return again, but there’s always a burger on the menu. The OG Burger — named for the original burger that the Dwights first offered at the farmer’s market back in the day — is a crowd favorite and shows up often. Fashioned from 90-day dry-aged and grass-fed beef, the burger is set on a fresh buttermilk bun baked by Katherine that’s spread with lemon aioli, and then topped with Point Reyes blue cheese, and arugula. A dab of vanilla-scented strawberry jam lends a sweet counterpoint to the salty cheese. It’s a fantastic, wonderfully grown-up combo, but really, it’s impossible to choose poorly here, so just order whatever burger is available.
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This friendly neighborhood dive bar has been around since the late ’50s, and its claim to fame is the wine burger, which sounds a lot fancier than it actually is. The guy at the flattop grill splashes a little red wine over the burger as it’s cooking. That’s it. People argue about whether the wine is even discernible in the burger. What they don’t argue about is the burger itself, which is juicy, supremely simple, and universally beloved. Pro tip: It’s best eaten with a generous melt of cheese, preferably American.
Chef-owner Bernie Kantak is probably most famous for the legendary Stetson chopped salad on the menu at Citizen Public House, the first restaurant he and partner Andrew Fritz opened in Old Town Scottsdale over a decade ago. But Kantak comes from a family of butchers, and many of his meat dishes at both restaurants are legendary as well, including the Commander Hamburger at the Gladly. A charred but juicy patty, fashioned from a blend of certified Angus beef and brisket, sits on a Noble Bread bun that’s been given a swipe of “special sauce.” The fixings are pretty straightforward: lettuce, tomato, onion, and sweet pickle, which supports the argument that simplicity is the height of sophistication. Another option is going to Citizen for the French Onion Burger, a certified Angus beef patty, served on a Fudd bun with horseradish aioli and Gruyere. It’s a meaty take on French onion soup (with hints of the French dip), served with a side of French onion jus.
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The Stand Arcadia Burger Shoppe
It’s drive-thru only at this mom-and-pop burger shop, where the beef is ground in-house, the fries are hand-cut, and the milkshakes are hand-spun. There are just five burgers on the line-up, most topped with two or three straightforward ingredients as well as the usual lettuce, tomato, and onion fixings. The Stand’s basic burger is called the Standard, and it certainly sets one for excellence. The only oddball (and it isn’t that odd) is the Big Kahuna, topped with thick-cut bacon, grilled and nicely charred pineapple slices, and a thin, spicy honey lava sauce that adds heat and balance. Don’t miss the shakes (the chocolate-chile is fantastic) to wash it all down.
Hamburguesas Y Cervezas
Terry Bortin (husband and business partner to America Corrales of America’s Taco Shop) partnered up with his brother Randy to open this airy, upscale burger restaurant downtown. As the restaurant’s name suggests, burgers and beer are specialties here although the menu features appetizers, salads, and tortas as well. There are 10 burgers from which to choose, all of them half-pounders fashioned from Angus beef and served on a Noble brioche bun. The Señor Al Pastor is terrific — a patty composed of chuck and ground pork amped up with a pastor marinade, which lends the citrusy notes characteristic of al pastor. The burger is then garnished with grilled pineapple, guacamole, white onion, lettuce, cilantro, and chile de arbol salsa. For something more savory but no less delicious, try the chorizo burger (combining chuck and Schreiner’s chorizo), topped with smashed tots, roasted poblano, white onion, mustard, lettuce, and pepper jack cheese. Pay $3 extra for a side of wispy-crispy onion strings. They’re worth it.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
At this wildly popular downtown brewery and beer garden, customers can build their own grass-fed beef burgers, but doing so means they miss out on some of the most wildly creative burger combos in town. Admittedly, the PB&J burger is nothing new, but it’s done especially well here, thanks to seriously spicy jalapeño jelly and homemade peanut butter sauce that doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. Combined with thick-cut bacon and white cheddar, this bad boy elevates a vaguely childish genre. Probably the most creativity is found in the monthly specials, however. Consider the Los Suns Burger (an ode to the home basketball team and its colors, probably gone now since they lost the series), combining wagyu beef, pimiento cheese, a sunny side up egg, lettuce, and rosemary aioli on a purple Noble Bread bun. Don’t forget the duck-fat fries.
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