The Ten: Best Burgers

Words and photo by Nevin Martell

So many choices, so little time. The Ten is your guide to the best of the best that D.C. has to offer.

This time around, we tackle one of the greatest American inventions of all time. No, not the iPhone or the light bulb – the burger. Though we will never stop loving the classic configuration, we always appreciate creativity. Here’s a rundown of our favorite prime patties around town. Spoiler alert: they aren’t all made with beef.


Ray’s Hell Burger

This Arlington institution sets the gold standard. Get the Big Punisher – a hand-ground 10-ounce patty infused with fiery chipotle chilies that’s topped with a melted slab of Pepper Jack, blackened jalapenos, strings of grilled onions, and spicy house-made Piranha sauce.

Shake Shack

We almost didn’t want to believe the hype when this NYC favorite set up an outlet in Dupont Circle. Then we tried the Double SmokeShack – two patties crowned with cheese, applewood smoked bacon, secret sauce, and cherry peppers. Suddenly, we were spouting more than our fair share of hyperbole.

Burger, Tap & Shake

If you’re in Foggy Bottom in the morning, then pull into this gluttonous pit stop for the best breakfast burger around. The Five Buck Chuck is actually a pork sausage patty that sports melted American cheese and an over easy egg. That’s the story, morning glory.

Green Pig Bistro

Chef-owner Scott Harlan is a mad genius. His bacon burger is two parts beef ground with one part bacon, so you never get a pork-free bite. It’s finished off with a gooey slab of hefeweizen spiked cheese that melts like American, but tastes like smoked gouda mixed with aged cheddar.


The signature burgers at this Falls Church favorite are only available at lunch or at the bar. The best of the three is the Daffy, a rich duck patty unrepentantly capped with foie gras and a rustic sweet ‘n’ sour onion jam.

Bourbon Steak

You would expect a steakhouse to have great burgers, but you wouldn’t expect them to have a killer Korean barbecue salmon burger with kimchi, grilled jalapeno rounds and spicy fermented kochujang sauce. That’s why this Georgetown standard-bearer rocks the casbah.

BLT Steak

It’s impossible to not love a cheeseburger called the Sloppy Joe Biden. In fact, pseudoscience backed up by actors in lab coats says you can’t hate on it. They say it’s like one of the basic rules of physics. Or something.


One of the District’s most respected fine dining flagships is also the home to one of the best high-end interpretations of the classic burger. Perked up with garlic mayo and truffled cheese, it’s served on a homemade buttered brioche bun with a side of pickled vegetables.  Simply divine.

Elevation Burger

An East Coast take on In-N-Out Burger with a focus on organic grass-fed beef that’s ground on site (but served in packaging that lacks the sly religious references). Order the Vertigo Burger and you can make a meaty monstrosity up to ten patties high. Then ask them to pack on the cheddar, Thousand Island-style Elevation Sauce, balsamic mustard, hot pepper relish, and caramelized onions.

Boundary Stone

The best burger at this Bloomingdale cornerstone comes slathered with sweet and swiney house-made bacon jam. Everyone knows that everything tastes better with bacon jam, and this stellar sandwich proves that point bite after bite.


A tip of the hat to @burgerdays for the invaluable input.


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  • El Perro Sato

    How come no one ever gives love to the Good Stuff Eatery? I love the burgers there! That both locations always have a line outside the door is a testament to their popularity. Could that many hungry mouths really be wrong?

    • snootypants


  • ek

    I think Dino’s burgers top many on that list.

  • WRWG

    Elevation burger should not be mentioned in the same breath as the legend IN n OUT. And frankly i’m mad i just did. Tapping into the psyche of us displaced Californians , knowing how we long for a double double! Only to pass that overpriced tasteless crap off and to pretend like you aren’t trying to copy. I would call you a fake IN n OUT Burger, but that’s what you want! Im on to you!

  • yair_marx

    elevation burger so is awful, how can it be on this list?