A while ago (OK, three months ago — what can we say? We got busy reporting other news), we asked readers who makes the best burger in the East Bay? The answers came in thick and fast: juicy grass-fed beef burgers oozing with cheese and bacon, nutritious veggie sliders accompanied by garlicky french fries, gourmet gluten-free or straight-up regular — there was no shortage of favorites.
The votes were scattered over nearly 50 burger purveyors, and there was little wiggle-room between the total tallies for each restaurant, which just goes to show how spoilt we are in the East Bay when it comes to that all-important decision: where to grab a superior burger right now.
So, with the understanding that this was a totally unscientific poll, and that everyone was a winner, we give you the most popular burgers as voted by Noshers — and we’ve also created a nifty interactive map with details about each spot, so you know where to head to try local favorites.
View East Bay Nosh readers vote on best burgers in a larger map
That’s the top five. Rounding out the top scorers come Barney’s, Luka’s Taproom and Lounge, Oscar’s, Wood Tavern and food truck Fiveten Burger (whose owner launched brick-and-mortar spot Handlebar after the votes were in).
Also in the rankings: 900 Grayson, Al’s Big Burger, Barclay’s, Bucci’s, Burger Depot, Claremont Diner, Elevation 66, Fat Apple’s, Five, Flora, Freehouse, Fuddrucker’s, Gather, George’s Giant Hamburgers, Grazzy Burgers, Gregoire, In-N-Out Burger, Joshu-ya, Kwik Way, Lalime’s, Nation’s, Original Pollo, Pappy’s Grill, Quince Café, Red Onion, Rick & Ann’s, Roam Artisan Burgers, Scolari’s Good Eats, Smart Alec’s, Source Mini, T-Rex, Table 24, The Starry Plough, Umami Burger, Val’s Burgers, Victory Burger. (Also see the full alphabetical list next to our burger map.)
There follow some takeouts from readers’ comments — all guaranteed to whet your appetite.
The classic burger
There was no shortage of praise for your regular beef burger, whether at a regular joint or somewhere a little more fancy. “I like to go down to Bucci’s in Emeryville where they offer a very upscale natural sirloin/chuck coarse ground burger, served with either fries or salad,” wrote Whoa Mule. One caveat was added: “Go by yourself because you wouldn’t want a loved one to see you this way.” Brad favors Gather in downtown Berkeley: “Gather is the current favorite. High quality beef, Acme bread.”
The non-meat burger
No No Burger, which makes “crave-worthy” organic soy burgers, currently only available at farmers markets like the one at Jack London Square, got a shout-out from a reader. “Please open a store now, I am having withdrawals!” she wrote. Meanwhile, A.L. wrote: “The veggie burger at Bongo Burger is still the best veggie burger anywhere in recent memory.” And Lin Brand said: “Nation’s Harvester is a garden burger, which is my favorite since it has a good texture. The portobello slider at Phil’s is pretty darn good, though.” Shutter wrote: “Nation’s and Red Onion are what going-out-late-for-a-burger is all about. Skip the overpriced snooty places, give me a real dive any night.” While 94703 neighbor thinks Source Mini has one of the best veggie burgers in the East Bay, “hands down,” writing: “their burgers have a fantastic texture — a nice crunch from a sear on the grill, and toothsome to boot.”
The good-value burger
Economics played a part for many. Wrote one reader: “Al’s Big Burger on San Pablo in Albany. Cheeseburger, fries, shake, under $10. Best value hands-down!” Chris P. also chimed in on Al’s: “Love the hickory smoked bacon cheese burger at Al’s Big Burger… winner of the ‘down and dirty’ class of burger (not gourmet).” Make a dash to Oscar’s, wrote Cathy B: “You can spend an outrageous amount on a burger in this town, but for simple satisfaction and change back from $10, head for Oscar’s. The grill is seasoned with decades of carbon, lending a depth to a standard patty. Burger and fries are cooked right in front of you, flames shooting up, the heat of meat wilts the shredded iceberg lettuce, melding it to the mayo. Hold the onions please. Add ketchup if you want. Basic, honest, burger.” And Duke voted for Victory Burger on Alcatraz: “Good beef, tasty breads miles ahead of most burgers. Less than $10.”
The burger with a twist
Nowadays restaurants out-do themselves providing creative embellishments to burgers, be it with what’s used to make the patty, or the many other ingredients that are chosen to keep it company between the buns. Indeed, the buns themselves can be a large part of the appeal. Julian’s vote went to the Kobe bone marrow burger at Joshu-Ya Brasserie: “[It’s] by far the best burger I’ve tried in the East Bay, and possibly in the Bay Area in general,” he wrote. Connie said Moxy Beer Garden has the “best blue cheese burger ever. Love the truffle fries too!” Ewok #5 put it this way: “Eureka Jalepeno and Egg Burger… Yum!!”
Voting for a favorite burger is fraught with difficulties, of course. More often than not, the answer will change on any given day because, in reality, it’s a big mash-up of the burger itself, the fries and extras, the shakes, the beer and wine, the ambiance at the restaurant, and the mood you’re in that determine what hits the spot.
Maybe Bill Newton summed it up best: “This is really hard…” he wrote. “For instance, I like Triple Rock and Luka’s for beer and burger and fries, with Moxy a nice third, but for burger, fries and a milkshake, well, you have to go to either Barney’s or Fat Apples. Of course now you’ve laid out a challenge and I’ll have to try a burger at the rest you’ve listed just to see how they compare.” He added: “Can you guys add a coupon for 10% off pants at REI or Macy’s or something, because I’m going to need a larger pair for sure!”
Burger map created by Emilie Raguso and Jasper Burget.
Who makes the best burger in the East Bay? (04.14.14)
Best pizza in Berkeley? Our readers have decided (06.10.11)
The verdict is in: Berkeley’s best ice cream (and gelato) (07.21.11)
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