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boston's best burger

  • l

Ok, so I know we've beaten this topic to a pulp in the past...but just wondering what the hounds' overall consensus is on the best burger in Boston...and how you rate a burger. Flavor, size, juicyness, preparation, etc.

Last night I finally made it to RF O'Sullivan's where I have to admit I enjoyed a very good, juicy, big burger. I had it topped with sauteed onions and cheddar cheese; had a tough time getting my paws around this critter but i did it...! I thought it was very good...perfectly formed, cooked the way I had asked (though my friend ordered it MR and hers was on the medium well side of medium..)It was juicy, obviously carefully made over a grill. Service was very friendly and capable; I think the bar is the place to sit at this joint. Prices reasonable, between 7-8 bucks for a hunk o'meat. We went off the known path and ordered buffalo chicken fingers which were very good. A tasty, tangy sauce, not too spicy with good quality white meat, chicken tenders, very lightly battered. I know people go there for the burgers but these are pretty good buffalo fingers, for future reference.

So..bottom line...out of a scale of 1-10, I'm giving O'Sullivans an 8. Flavor of the burger was good, but not memorable...I really liked my burger at Audobon and for now, they rate a 9. I don't remember the burger being as big and hard to handle at Audobons - but I do remember the flavor - not that big is necessarily a bad thing...but to be honest I don't need a burger quite as big as O'Sullivans. I think I'd rather have a bit of a smaller burger with a more intense burger flavor.

I still have to make it to Tim's Tavern, Bukowski's...and when I've got a few extra bucks, the Bristol Lounge burger.

Anyone else?

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  1. >>>but just wondering what the hounds' overall consensus is on the best burger in Boston<<<

    And what makes you think that we ever reach a consensus on anything?

    4 Replies
    1. re: AlanH

      I haven't made it to Sullivan's yet, but I've been back and forth between Bartley's (Harvard Sq) and Miracle of Science (Central Sq) quite a few times recently. I surprised myself by finally deciding Miracle has the better burger, although Bartley's is more funky (nothing like having a waiter yell out "one Viagra and rings" at the top of his lungs!) and has those great onion rings. Then again, Guinness on tap at Miracle is more important than good onion rings, AFAIAC.


      1. re: Tir na nOg

        FYI, Miracle of Science is owned by the same people who runs Audubon in Fenway (mentioned also as a fine burger joint), and they own Red Line in Harvard Square as well. I'll vouch for the Audubon and Miracle of Science burgers, Audubon's might be slightly better.

        1. re: joypirate

          How 'bout Tim's Tavern vs. Audubon's or RF O'Sullivans?

          It's next on my list and I'm wondering what to expect.

          So far:

          1) Audubon
          2) RF O Sullivan's
          3) Costello's (in JP; a total surprise but a great little burger)

          Any clue where Tim's will fit in?

          1. re: joypirate

            this is a bit late -- but afaik redline is the grafton st. folks (also of temple bar). unless they also own miracle and audubon . . .


      2. First of all let me just say I'm more for the flat patties than the thick and juicy. I have had the Audubon burger in the past and it was tasty but my vote is a tossup between Charlie's Kitchen and the Harp and Bard on Dot. Ave. I guess I just like the premade ones thrown on a flattop.

        1. i

          Using a cheddar cheesburger as my benchmark, I have found the burgers at Bartley's and R.F. O'Sullivans to be the the best in Boston (if ever in NYC, run, don't walk, to the Corner Bistro for the platonic ideal). Although the Bristol Lounge provides a nice burger, it is akin to dressing a four hundred pound gorilla in a tu-tu. I'll always prefer a place where you're not ashamed to have a little grease on your sleeve.

          That being said, I had a suprisingly good experience with the burger provided at the restaurant attached to King's bowling alley in the Back Bay. Although they don't provide the menu in the bowling area, you can request a copy. The ground beef they use in their 1/2 pound burger had the right flavor and fat ratio.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Invinoveritas

            For burgers, I recommend Bukowski's on Boylston. It's just around the corner from the King's Lanes.

            I usually get the turkey burger with grilled onions and mushrooms. Boyfriend loves their beef burger with blue cheese. Also very good buffalo fingers, which are really honkin' big chicken tenderloins served with a sweet/spicy/sour dipping sauce. Last time they were a little dry, but they are normally excellent.

          2. I think the best is Joe Sent Me in Cambridge, on Mass Ave (closest to Davis T). I can usually only eat three quarters of it, but boyfriend can definitely polish off the whole thing, along with the hand cut fries, skin-on. The burger is always cooked to order, and we're fans of the blue cheese on it. Other "flavors" are very good too, like the "Long Bomb" which has teriaki sauce and sauteed mushrooms, onions, and swiss; you can get just about anything you want. (Oh and try dipping the hot fries in both ketchup and blue cheese!) Prices very good, 2 burgers 2 beers ~25$ :)

            1. It might just be my local geographic favoritism, but I'm a huge fan of both Coolidge Corner Clubhouse and Sunset Grill. Absolutely delicious, no matter what the toppings are (if any)! Granted, I love Bartley's and RF O'Sullivan's but I think because I've eaten them less frequently than CCC's and Sunset's I have a slight bias. Basically, you can't go wrong at any of the places mentioned on this board.

              1. I do not understand how people can say that pre-formed, froozen patties compare to handmade fresh ones. Granted, the former is often cheaper, which is nice, but in terms of quality, there is no contest.

                1. How 'bout Tim's Tavern vs. Audubon's or RF O'Sullivans?

                  It's next on my list and I'm wondering what to expect.

                  So far:

                  1) Audubon
                  2) RF O Sullivan's
                  3) Costello's (in JP; a total surprise but a great little burger)
                  4) Joe's American Bar and Grill (yep, a chain and somewhat pedestrian but the burgers are tasty)

                  Any clue where Tim's will fit in?

                  1. River Gods in Central Square

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: MJD

                      Boston's Best Burger is in Central Square?

                      Where in Boston is Central Square?

                      Seriously though, where is River Gods?

                      If it's good, we'll not get persnickity about city lines...

                      1. re: Win (Boston)

                        And if we allow a little more room away from city lines, then Old Village Inn in Ogunquit Maine is the absolute, hands down winner for a perfectly charred burger. Two points added for the fries. Not to mention the best martini in civilized suburbia.

                    2. Audubon great (but no fries!), Bristol Lounge great (good fries), how come no one's mentioned Eastern Standard? Great on both scores.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jacquelinec

                        I think it's a fine burger, but wouldn't rank it as one of Boston's best...fries are great though.

                      2. Because this thread is 3 years old!


                        1. I had a discussion with friends recently abot "restaurant" burgers vs. the flat patty variety. A number agreed that they like the flat kind better but there is the meat quality difference and that often disappoints. Later, a couple of us went to UBurger and had their standard cheeseburger (they now have a combo with fries or rings and a drink). The burger was delicious, and while I was eating it, watching them fry up some of their great homemade french fries (we can call them that again now!) I saw a sign saying that they grind their beef on the premises, so though a flat burger, not premade and frozen. I was happy.

                          1. Just to be an anti-gentrification advocate, I'm throwing my vote in for Tim's. Long live Tim's! (Oh. That's right. It's closed thanks to snobby neighbors and greedy landlords.)

                            (This comment will self-destruct in three...two...one...)

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Bostonbob3

                              I actually miss the twin cheeseburger special at Nick's Beef and Beer House in Cambridge (or as they called it, the double-bypass). Lots of good, cheap burger joints are long gone, unfortunately.

                              Actually, for those who want a good "downscale" burger, the ones at Kelly's on the beach are really good.

                              For upscale burgers, I like the ones at 75 Chestnut and the Mission Bar and Grill. Both places use top-quality meat, and the prices are fairly reasonable for what you get.

                              1. re: hiddenboston

                                Your Nick's memory remind my of the "Heart Attach" burger at the Tastee. The fact that it came with a fried egg in it was cool enough, but just the sheer grease volume makes me weep in remembrance.

                                1. re: hiddenboston

                                  Man, Nick's Beef and Beer. It was amazing how much food and beer you could get in that place for small money.

                                  I used to go there with my Ultimate Frisbee team and consume 3 or 4 thousand calories a person worth of food. And of course a pitcher for each of us as well.

                                  I won't pretend the quality was that notable, but back when quantity was key...

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    Nick's could have adopted the slogan of Crazy Jim's Blimpy Burgers, my favorite burger place in Ann Arbor, Michigan: "Cheaper Than Food."

                                    1. re: Blumie

                                      This comment prompted some discussion of Ann Arbor restaurants which has been moved over to the Midwest board. You can read it here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                  2. re: hiddenboston

                                    I think its "Nicks eef and eer ouse" as the sign used to say. There also was Buddy's Sirloin Pit which I barely remember in the square in the old days.

                                    For something sort of like a Tasty burger you folks should try a brazilian x-tudo. Not exactly the same thing, but along the same lines. Just I can't think of anywhere that serves one along with beer -- the stand next to Sammy's on revere beach (you can bring food in and they have pitchers) offered some brazilian snacks, but nothing noteable and I don't think a x-tudo was on the menu.

                                    1. re: itaunas

                                      My friend Alfonso is from Columbia, and has taken me to a few places in Eastie that serve almost all of their beef dishes with a fried egg on top. Good stuff.

                                      Germans do this sometimes, too. Leiberkase mit ei for example. Although that's pork.

                                    2. re: hiddenboston

                                      Before Nick's was Nick's it was Charlies Beef and Beer and there were two related locations, and the Harvard Square one is still there. The twin cheeseburger special is still available at Charlie's Kitchen in Harvard Square.

                                  3. I had an awesome awesome burger at 75 chestnut. Costs $11, but great for a pub burger. Better than O'Sullivan's, I think.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: tamerlanenj

                                      Better than O'Sullivans? Bite your tongue! :-D Actually, the burger I had at 75 Chestnut before they redid the place was almost as good as an O'Sullivan's burger (different, though). I had another burger there after they redid the place, and it was excellent, but not quite as good as the first one I had there.

                                    2. I think the Bartley's burger is overrated; kitch on the walls only takes me so far and I find the burger to be pretty standard stuff. I had some sliders from Flat Pattie's at the Oktoberfest thing in Harvard square a few weeks ago and they were little beef bombs. Delicious bombs full of onions and grease. They were cooked outside on a grill though so I can't vouch for normal Flat Pattie's.

                                      1. Update:

                                        I had two VERY good burgers recently.

                                        The first was at Solas of all places. INCREDIBLY juicy, thick pubburger. Tasted like a high fat chuck burger, I think. Nice outside char gave way to a perfect medium rare. They fries were very very good...especially drowned in malt vinegar.

                                        The second was at Bouchee. Not as juicy as the Solas burger, but one of the most flavorful burgers I've had in a while. Probably some sirloin or maybe even tenderloin ground up in the mixture...will have to ask. Surprisingly, I did not care for the frites, which I thought would be great.

                                        1. I don't get the fascination with O'Sullivan's. The place is a dump, the burger is an unseasoned ball of meat, the fries are horrible but the onion rings are OK and I do like the cook. I swear all the ball washing about that place on this board makes me think that O'Sullivan himself logs on here under 10 different names.... I'd rather eat a Big Mac or go to Wendys than O'Sullivans.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: ReaLuther

                                            O'Sullivan's is not my favorite Boston burger either, but your statement that you'd prefer a Big Mac or Wendy's is either incredibly hyperbolic or suggests to me that I should ignore your posts because your taste in food is so dissimilar to mine that I shouldn't give credence to anything you say.

                                            1. re: ReaLuther

                                              Based on the status of the guestbook at the O'Sullivan's Web site, I'm thinking that Mr. O'Sullivan is not computer-savvy enough to do something like that. ;-b

                                              1. re: ReaLuther

                                                O'Sullivan's truly is one of my favorite burgers in town. I see the "unseasoned" canard all the time, and it baffles me a little. I'm pretty sure they're using some salt and pepper, and with a quality, fresh-ground, never-frozen, reasonably high-fat-content burger, I think that's all you need.

                                                I agree that the place is a dive. That hardly disqualifies it in my mind: it's practically axiomatic here that great food trumps atmosphere. It's a neighborhood tavern, and that's all it's trying to be. How could anyone have a problem with that? It's not like it's unappetizingly dirty in there.

                                                I agree that the fries are weak, and the rings mediocre. I never have room for them, anyway.

                                                Every time I've had a Big Mac in the last 20 years (we're talking low single digits here), I have felt like vomiting about 20 minutes later. I would encourage folks to read Fast Food Nation, or see the movie, before they ever order another one.

                                                The notion that a griddle is inherently superior to a grill, when the desired output is a juicy burger, is just silly: all you have to do is sear it first. For examples, see every luxury steakhouse burger in town, and several other excellent ones (RIP Tim's).

                                              2. Have you seen this?


                                                It affirms much of what has been said on this thread.

                                                But doesn't Bartley's do their burgers on a flat top? How can the best burgers in Boston be cooked on a flat top?

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: lincoln

                                                  What are you talking about? Griddled burgers are so much better than flame-grilled burgers.

                                                  1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                    Oh. I thought there was consensus on this. Never mind.

                                                    1. re: lincoln

                                                      How can a burger swimming in its own juices not be tastier than one drying out on a grill?

                                                      1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                        Stop it! You're making me hungry and it's only 11:00.

                                                        It's really tough to compare burgers when they are prepared in such different ways. Maybe the question should be broken down into best griddled burgers, best flame-grilled burgers, etc. Personally, I like all types of burgers, as long as they are done right. O'Sullivan's and Kelly's on the beach are completely different burgers, but I love them both, for instance.

                                                        1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                          I might have asked the same until I ate my first (grilled) burger at Tim's, which was anything but dry.

                                                  2. Yes, like Dax said, a burger cooked on a grill doesn't necessarily dry out. And I generally like grilled better because of the smoky charcoalish outside that becomes of the burger.

                                                    1. It might be a question of burger style. For a thick pub burger, grilling is probably the preferred method, because you get that charry outside. But for fast-food style flat burgers, you want that juicy, greasy thing that you only get from a griddle.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: tamerlanenj

                                                        i like the idea of creating categories, and not comparing apples to oranges. but you'd have to add at least a third category: some places broil (Corner Bistro in NYC comes to mind).

                                                      2. BTW, I tried something rather different at O'Sully's last night. I had the gouda burger with mashed potatoes. The potatoes weren't all that great, but the burger was awesome. The smoky flavor (and smell) coming from the cheese really hit the spot.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: hiddenboston

                                                          Yum! Was it actually smoked gouda or was the smokey flavor from the grill? And why oh why can't they get the potatoes right?

                                                          1. re: yumyum

                                                            It was smoked gouda, with the addition of the smoky flavor from the grill.

                                                            I was so looking forward to the mashed potatoes (didn't even know you could get them with a burger and I've been there literally about 300 times), but they were lumpy and flavorless. I'll probably go back to getting the rice pilaf with my burgers--a strange combo, I know, but I'm not a fan of their fries.

                                                        2. Darkhorse candidate here: a couple of nights ago I was at West Side Lounge and nothing on the menu appealed to me. So I ordered the burger, something I rarely do at a general, non-burger-focused restaurant. It was stupendous. Angus meat, well-seasoned and juicy, perfectly medium rare, just a light coating of melted manchego (I think), on a pretty tasty bun to boot.

                                                          Like hiddenboston above, I've been to Sully's 300 times, but this burger was orders of magnitude better. Oh, and I forgot to mention: the fries (more like frites) with aioli were delectable enough to steer me away from O'Sullivans any give night.

                                                          1. $$$ = Bristol Lounge @ the 4 Seasons
                                                            $ = Flat Patties

                                                            1. I've just returned home from Bartley's where I had a fabulous cheddar burger (deluxe, with fries and rings). While trying to decide why I liked it so much more than an RFO burger, I came to the conlusion that size does matter. The RFO burger is, IIRC, bigger than the Bartley burger, and I prefer the Bartley size. Mind you, it's not small, but just not as large as at RFO. So as of this moment, Bartley still makes my favorite burger in Boston. (Of course, the fact that Bartley's fries, while nothing special, are better than RFO's, and Bartley's great rings are much better than RFO's, helps too. On the other hand RFO's beer is better than Bartley's!)

                                                              1. My new favorite burger is from Gargoyle's in Davis Sq. It's on their bar menu. Their fries are really yummy too. They make their own ketchup, but my husband and I are not fans... fortunately, they'll give you Heinz ketchup on request. I've been to Bartley's and RF O'Sullivan, but I still prefer Gargoyle's. It is $10 for the burger - but cooked really well, and the meat is very good.

                                                                1. Sorry fot my pretty off topic post but it happens that i am the son of one of the owners of Nicks Beef and beer.I am now 17 years old and i have only a few memories from the place but i can still remember that the portions of food that where served where more than enough. I can still remember the bouble burgers since from the age of 5 ...I would kill for another bite

                                                                  Sorry for my english.