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Closeup of a smashburger with double patties and melted cheese.
A Swagyu smash burger.
Swagyu/Facebook

20 Top-Notch Burgers to Try in San Diego

The bun stops here

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A Swagyu smash burger.
| Swagyu/Facebook

When it comes to burgers, everyone has an opinion. What’s better, a thick, juicy patty or a “smashed” patty with crispy edges? Is a sesame-topped, brioche, or egg bun superior? Do fancy restaurant burgers outrank inexpensive ones at casual places — or is it the other way around? And don’t overlook the ones from steakhouses or butcher shops, where the burgers are often made from steak trimmings.

This list of essential burgers includes everything from under-the-radar, under $10 selections to those with ingredients of such high quality that it proves that a burger can indeed be a very fine dish.

Is there a San Diego burger you can’t live without? Let us know in the comments.

Note: map points are not ranked.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Ty's Burger House

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Beef burgers aren’t the only stars at this Oceanside burger joint where the menu also features buffalo, elk, venison and lamb. But for those whose ideas conform to the beef-only burger, you can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s signature creations. Local favorites to consider include Bacon & Blue Cheese Burger, Jalapeno or the Bacon Mac & Cheese.

Loaded burger being held Ty’s Burger House/Facebook

Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar

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Known best for exquisite fine dining dishes, those in the know are hip to the fact that La Jolla’s Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar also serves a very fine burger. The half-pound patty, made of grass-fed beef, is served on a brioche bun with sides of pickled veggies and perfectly fried fries, which can also be truffle-ized for a few bucks more.

nine-ten burger Nine-Ten Restaurant/Facebook

Notorious Burgers

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The name refers to the speakeasy atmosphere of the bar area. It could, however, also refer to this decadent burger sharing the same name as the restaurant. The beef patty is seared (or blackened) in spices and then is topped with a heaping helping of bleu cheese, arugula and bacon, then dressed with apricot-onion jam, balsamic reduction and lemon-sriracha aioli. It’s one of several fancy burgers on the menu, including those made with turkey, lamb, or an Impossible Burger patty.

The Blackened Blue Burger at Notorious Burgers
The Blackened Blue Burger at Notorious Burgers
Phaedra Cook

Swagyu Chop Shop - Pacific Beach

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Though chef Steve Brown recently remodeled his Pacific Beach location into a more upscale restaurant, his signature wagyu burger is still available any time of day or night.

A burger on a tray in front of a butcher’s counter
The Swagyu burger.
Swagyu

Hodad's

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Byron and Virginia Hardin established Hodad’s in Ocean Beach as a burger stand in 1973. These days, there are two full-fledged restaurant locations operated by their grandchildren. Hodad’s is probably the most famous name in San Diego burgers, thanks in part to national recognition. The burgers are huge; a double bacon cheeseburger ordered “all the way” is half a foot tall and more than a meal for two. Get the best of two worlds and order “frings” — a mix of both the onion rings and wonderful fries with battered exteriors and interiors almost as tender as mashed potatoes.

Double bacon cheeseburger at Hodad’s
Double bacon cheeseburger at Hodad’s
Phaedra Cook

The Grill at The Lodge at Torrey Pines

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Easily one of San Diego’s most classic burgers, The Grill at Torrey Pines’ Drugstore Burger is a slice of Americana. A nostalgic ode to Midwest lunch counters of years gone by, the simple-yet-perfect burger consists of Niman Ranch chuck, housemade mayo, and perfectly crisp fries. An industry favorite, it’s also available at the hotel bar and by request at its fine dining restaurant, A.R. Valentien.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines’ Drugstore Burger Courtesy photo

Rocky's Crown Pub

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Known as the best burger in town to many San Diegans, little about no-frills, cash-only Rocky’s Crown Pub has changed over the years except that it’s become a bit more crowded due to its high-flying reputation. Proving that beauty often lies in simplicity, diner can order a perfectly greasy third- or half-pound burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese.

Seeded burger with pickles on top

The Butchery

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Don’t sleep on this butcher shop and specialty store’s kitchen menu, which includes a mighty-fine grilled steak tip sandwich as well as a standout burger comprised of a house-ground patty, grilled onions, American cheese, arugula, and tomato.

Starlite

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Starlite’s signature burger shines right alongside its well-loved cocktails. A half-pound Brandt beef patty is slathered in melted gruyere and caramelized onions. Is your burger feeling a bit naked? Tack on Nueske’s bacon for just a little more.

Big burger on seeded bun Starlite/Facebook

Juniper & Ivy

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A riff on California’s favorite animal-style burger, Juniper & Ivy’s In-n-Haute burger is still an off-menu delicacy. It’s made with chuck, brisket, rib meat and dry-aged fat from Marin Sun Farms and cooked with mustard. This burger eschews cheese, instead displaying its flavor power simply and elegantly with grilled onions, burger sauce, bread and butter pickles and a side of thrice-cooked fries. The burger available by request in limited quantities every day.

juniper and ivy burger CeCe Canton

Waterfront Bar & Grill

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One of San Diego’s oldest watering holes serves a burger that’ll supplement any beer on the menu locals burger aficionados come to for. It’s a generous third pound burger with two slices of American cheese on a seeded bun but it’s the pile of grilled onions that adds the punch of flavor.

Queenstown Public House

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This New Zealand-inspired restaurant group is known for its burgers, made with either New Zealand lamb or organic grassfed beef. The Bare Lamb Burger tops the meat with a flavorful mix of toppings that includes a fried egg, blue cheese, mint jelly, and sliced beets.

The Balboa

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After a closure during 2020 as a result of the pandemic, this Bankers Hill locale is up and running again with an updated cocktail menu and a return of some truly memorable burgers including the Original Balboa burger. Bigger appetites should opt for The Centennial, a double beef, double bacon creation. This outpost and its Chula Vista counterpart are now under new ownership.

Provisional Kitchen

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Available during weekend brunch at this Pendry anchor restaurant is chef Brandon Sloan’s take on burger, which stacks an angus beef patty with 10-year aged cheddar, heirloom tomato, caramelized onions, bibb lettuce, and pickles on a brioche bun.

MishMash

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MishMash in Barrio Logan specializes in a number of fusion dishes, like teriyaki pork belly, cuban sandwiches and snapper wontons, but diners should not ignore its special burger list. The decadent Clinton Burger, in particular, is a half-pound of beef stuffed with goat cheese and topped with an over easy egg, bacon, mozzarella and crunchy onions. All burgers can come with house-cut fries or Brussels sprouts, as well as additional toppings such as pancetta or avocado.

Among the restaurant’s many tempting brunch items, the burger is hard to ignore. The wood-grilled patty comes topped with asiago cheese, bacon-tomato jam, pickled onions, and arugula but don’t sleep on the optional house-cured bacon and fried egg extras.

A burger with fries and a pickle.
The burger at Trust.
Trust

Hayes Burger

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Simplicity is where it’s at when it comes to the burgers sold at this popular Barrio Logan joint. The streamlined menu offers just four options: a burger, cheeseburger, and a double cheeseburger. With comparisons to In-N-Out, the difference-maker is that Hayes uses local ingredients for its supremely tasty burger.

Char, grilled hamburger Hayes Burger/Facebook

The Wise Ox Butcher & Eatery

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Order from this butcher and know you’re getting quality burgers where beef is the star. The daily menu selection features two burgers: a double cheeseburger featuring two ground chuck patties thousand island dressing, lettuce and pickle. Then there’s the dry-aged burger where the meat truly shines and is accompanied by house cured bacon, havarti, mayo, mustard and dill pickles.

The Friendly

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At first glance, The Friendly looks like an unassuming pizza place. However, walk inside and check out the chalkboard for San Diego’s best burger bargains. The Dirty Flat Top cheeseburger features two patties smashed so hard on the grill that the seared edges turn remarkably crispy. Then a slice of good ol’ American cheese is applied and is so well-melted that it practically merges with the patty. The buns get equal time on the on the flattop so the overall result is a heavenly contrast in textures. .

The Dirty Flat Top Cheeseburger and the Hamburgers at The Friendly Phaedra Cook

Crazee Burger

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Crazee Burger is best known for its exotic wild game burgers with toppings to match, such as elk with port wine and currant jelly reduction and wild boar with red wine-poached pears, mushrooms, bacon, cream and plum jelly. But the more approachable burgers made with fresh black Angus meat shouldn’t be overlooked, especially by first-time visitors like their signature creation.

Chubby Charlie at Crazee Burger
Chubby Charlie at Crazee Burger
Phaedra Cook

Ty's Burger House

Loaded burger being held Ty’s Burger House/Facebook

Beef burgers aren’t the only stars at this Oceanside burger joint where the menu also features buffalo, elk, venison and lamb. But for those whose ideas conform to the beef-only burger, you can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s signature creations. Local favorites to consider include Bacon & Blue Cheese Burger, Jalapeno or the Bacon Mac & Cheese.

Loaded burger being held Ty’s Burger House/Facebook

Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar

nine-ten burger Nine-Ten Restaurant/Facebook

Known best for exquisite fine dining dishes, those in the know are hip to the fact that La Jolla’s Nine-Ten Restaurant and Bar also serves a very fine burger. The half-pound patty, made of grass-fed beef, is served on a brioche bun with sides of pickled veggies and perfectly fried fries, which can also be truffle-ized for a few bucks more.

nine-ten burger Nine-Ten Restaurant/Facebook

Notorious Burgers

The Blackened Blue Burger at Notorious Burgers
The Blackened Blue Burger at Notorious Burgers
Phaedra Cook

The name refers to the speakeasy atmosphere of the bar area. It could, however, also refer to this decadent burger sharing the same name as the restaurant. The beef patty is seared (or blackened) in spices and then is topped with a heaping helping of bleu cheese, arugula and bacon, then dressed with apricot-onion jam, balsamic reduction and lemon-sriracha aioli. It’s one of several fancy burgers on the menu, including those made with turkey, lamb, or an Impossible Burger patty.

The Blackened Blue Burger at Notorious Burgers
The Blackened Blue Burger at Notorious Burgers
Phaedra Cook

Swagyu Chop Shop - Pacific Beach

A burger on a tray in front of a butcher’s counter
The Swagyu burger.
Swagyu

Though chef Steve Brown recently remodeled his Pacific Beach location into a more upscale restaurant, his signature wagyu burger is still available any time of day or night.

A burger on a tray in front of a butcher’s counter
The Swagyu burger.
Swagyu

Hodad's

Double bacon cheeseburger at Hodad’s
Double bacon cheeseburger at Hodad’s
Phaedra Cook

Byron and Virginia Hardin established Hodad’s in Ocean Beach as a burger stand in 1973. These days, there are two full-fledged restaurant locations operated by their grandchildren. Hodad’s is probably the most famous name in San Diego burgers, thanks in part to national recognition. The burgers are huge; a double bacon cheeseburger ordered “all the way” is half a foot tall and more than a meal for two. Get the best of two worlds and order “frings” — a mix of both the onion rings and wonderful fries with battered exteriors and interiors almost as tender as mashed potatoes.

Double bacon cheeseburger at Hodad’s
Double bacon cheeseburger at Hodad’s
Phaedra Cook

The Grill at The Lodge at Torrey Pines

The Lodge at Torrey Pines’ Drugstore Burger Courtesy photo

Easily one of San Diego’s most classic burgers, The Grill at Torrey Pines’ Drugstore Burger is a slice of Americana. A nostalgic ode to Midwest lunch counters of years gone by, the simple-yet-perfect burger consists of Niman Ranch chuck, housemade mayo, and perfectly crisp fries. An industry favorite, it’s also available at the hotel bar and by request at its fine dining restaurant, A.R. Valentien.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines’ Drugstore Burger Courtesy photo

Rocky's Crown Pub

Seeded burger with pickles on top

Known as the best burger in town to many San Diegans, little about no-frills, cash-only Rocky’s Crown Pub has changed over the years except that it’s become a bit more crowded due to its high-flying reputation. Proving that beauty often lies in simplicity, diner can order a perfectly greasy third- or half-pound burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese.

Seeded burger with pickles on top

The Butchery

Don’t sleep on this butcher shop and specialty store’s kitchen menu, which includes a mighty-fine grilled steak tip sandwich as well as a standout burger comprised of a house-ground patty, grilled onions, American cheese, arugula, and tomato.

Starlite

Big burger on seeded bun Starlite/Facebook

Starlite’s signature burger shines right alongside its well-loved cocktails. A half-pound Brandt beef patty is slathered in melted gruyere and caramelized onions. Is your burger feeling a bit naked? Tack on Nueske’s bacon for just a little more.

Big burger on seeded bun Starlite/Facebook

Juniper & Ivy

juniper and ivy burger CeCe Canton

A riff on California’s favorite animal-style burger, Juniper & Ivy’s In-n-Haute burger is still an off-menu delicacy. It’s made with chuck, brisket, rib meat and dry-aged fat from Marin Sun Farms and cooked with mustard. This burger eschews cheese, instead displaying its flavor power simply and elegantly with grilled onions, burger sauce, bread and butter pickles and a side of thrice-cooked fries. The burger available by request in limited quantities every day.

juniper and ivy burger CeCe Canton

Waterfront Bar & Grill

One of San Diego’s oldest watering holes serves a burger that’ll supplement any beer on the menu locals burger aficionados come to for. It’s a generous third pound burger with two slices of American cheese on a seeded bun but it’s the pile of grilled onions that adds the punch of flavor.

Queenstown Public House

This New Zealand-inspired restaurant group is known for its burgers, made with either New Zealand lamb or organic grassfed beef. The Bare Lamb Burger tops the meat with a flavorful mix of toppings that includes a fried egg, blue cheese, mint jelly, and sliced beets.

The Balboa

After a closure during 2020 as a result of the pandemic, this Bankers Hill locale is up and running again with an updated cocktail menu and a return of some truly memorable burgers including the Original Balboa burger. Bigger appetites should opt for The Centennial, a double beef, double bacon creation. This outpost and its Chula Vista counterpart are now under new ownership.

Provisional Kitchen

Available during weekend brunch at this Pendry anchor restaurant is chef Brandon Sloan’s take on burger, which stacks an angus beef patty with 10-year aged cheddar, heirloom tomato, caramelized onions, bibb lettuce, and pickles on a brioche bun.

MishMash

MishMash in Barrio Logan specializes in a number of fusion dishes, like teriyaki pork belly, cuban sandwiches and snapper wontons, but diners should not ignore its special burger list. The decadent Clinton Burger, in particular, is a half-pound of beef stuffed with goat cheese and topped with an over easy egg, bacon, mozzarella and crunchy onions. All burgers can come with house-cut fries or Brussels sprouts, as well as additional toppings such as pancetta or avocado.

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Trust

A burger with fries and a pickle.
The burger at Trust.
Trust

Among the restaurant’s many tempting brunch items, the burger is hard to ignore. The wood-grilled patty comes topped with asiago cheese, bacon-tomato jam, pickled onions, and arugula but don’t sleep on the optional house-cured bacon and fried egg extras.

A burger with fries and a pickle.
The burger at Trust.
Trust

Hayes Burger

Char, grilled hamburger Hayes Burger/Facebook

Simplicity is where it’s at when it comes to the burgers sold at this popular Barrio Logan joint. The streamlined menu offers just four options: a burger, cheeseburger, and a double cheeseburger. With comparisons to In-N-Out, the difference-maker is that Hayes uses local ingredients for its supremely tasty burger.

Char, grilled hamburger