This year saw the cicadalike assault of the anti-gourmet, squishy-bunned, American-cheesed, special-sauced $10-and-under burger. Here’s how they stack up.
5/5: Burger Nirvana
3/5: Solid and Satisfying
2/5: Perfectly Fine
1/5: Take It or Leave It
1. BurgerFi’s Cheeseburger
1571 Second Ave., nr. 82nd St.; 646-684-3172; $6.57
The chairs are made from recycled Coke bottles, the tables from reclaimed wood, and the service is decidedly Danny Meyeresque. The house cheeseburger (a double) is noteworthy, too—on the hefty side with two expertly melted, strategically positioned slices of cheese, and possessing a deep, beefy flavor. Plus: good fries and great onion rings.
2. Fatburger’s Large Fatburger With Cheese
509 Third Ave., at 34th St.; 212-630-0319; $7.68
Like Starbucks and Rochester Big & Tall, this California chain’s new Murray Hill outpost doesn’t do “small.” But skip the too-dry medium and go for the large, whose half-pound, flapjack-size patty is looser and juicier and still comes in under our $10 burger budget.
3. White Burger’s Cheeseburger Slider
650b Manhattan Ave., nr. Nassau Ave., Greenpoint; 718-383-3334; $1.50
Its likely model, White Castle, makes it shockingly cheaper. But bonus points for ingenuity: The scrappy operation shares space with a Subway shop and makes do with a griddle the size of a piece of carry-on luggage.
4. Clarke’s Standard’s Standard With Cheese
636 Lexington Ave., at 54th St.; 212-838-6000; $7.50
A big, thick, fairly flavor-packed puck of fresh beef undone by an overly assertive bun. That is the story at this P.J. Clarke’s spinoff where the slippery construction must have been endorsed by a committee of local dry cleaners.
5. Alameda’s Cheeseburger
195 Franklin St., at Green St., Greenpoint; 347-227-7296; $9
The patty is too densely packed, but the overall saucy, melty, well-proportioned package fixes you up, and there’s no swankier joint in Greenpoint to gobble a $9 cheeseburger washed down with a $10 cocktail.
6. Grass Cow’s Burger With Cheddar
347 Third Ave., nr. 25th St.; 212-889-0089; $7.50
Although the cheese is woefully undermelted, the nicely browned patty, fashioned from well-contented, pasture-raised cows, is plump and juicy and has what a drama critic would call good chemistry with its squishy-bun co-star. And given that grass-fed beef is high in linoleic and omega-3 acids, you can call it health food.
7. Fritzl’s Lunchbox’s Hamburger With Cheese
173 Irving Ave., nr. Stockholm St., Bushwick; 929-210-9531; $9
Chef Dan Ross-Leutwyler’s tender, juicy, super-crumbly six-ouncer on a Big Marty’s sesame-seed bun was inspired in part by the excellent Ryan Skeen burger at Resto, from whose kitchen he graduated, presumably summa cum laude with an advanced degree in beef blending. His house-ground mix is cheek and chuck, and it will make you glad you’re not a vegan.
8. Blue Collar’s Flat Top Burger With Cheese
160 Havemeyer St., nr. S. 2nd St., Williamsburg; 347-725-3837; $4.75 An unassuming, nicely proportioned, modestly accessorized old-fashioned burger with a fine texture and salty flavor that hits the spot.
9. Harlem Shake’s Harlem Classic With Cheese
100 W. 124th St., at Lenox Ave.; 212-222-8300; $6.45
High marks for the two-thin-patties-is-better-than-one-beef-bomb construction, and for how the floppy burgers bulge, tonguelike, out of the bun, like a Rolling Stones logo. But the well-done patties lack profound flavor, as if the fat-to-lean ratio needed a tweak.
More From Cheap Eats 2013
The Cheap List: 18 of Our Favorite New Eats
The Best New Cheap Cuisine, Culinary Mash-up, and More
The Year’s Hot New Batch of Donuts
Sandwiches That Would Make Dagwood Proud
Barbeque With a New York Accent
*This article originally appeared in the July 8, 2013 issue of New York Magazine.