The origins of the burger are mysterious: Was it Fletcher Davis in Athens, TX who first served ground beef on a bun? Louis' Lunch in New Haven, CT? One of the many other claimants? The history is meaty, but I dare say the burger as we know it today was perfected over more than a century, so who really cares. Now the item is nearly obligatory on American menus, with chefs playing off contemporary burger idioms from the fast-food burger to the backyard burger to the steakhouse burger. These 25, most in San Francisco though with several necessary nods to Oakland, are among the best around.

4505 Burgers & BBQ
The 4505 burger was perfected over years by chef and butcher Ryan Farr, and now it has its own restaurant, where it stars on the menu alongside some very solid BBQ. It's delicious, well seasoned and well sauced, made with grass-feed beef, and served on a crisp, griddled and butter bun with lettuce, onion, and gruyere. (You can also make it a double, or add bacon or an egg). They dub it the Best Damn Cheeseburger for a reason, and you won't be disappointed. (And not that anyone's arteries need this, but you might also, at least once, want to try the off-menu "Big Mac," which is two cheesy burger patties sandwiched around their fried mac-and-cheese patty that has hot-dog bits in it.) —Jay Barmann
705 Divisadero (at Grove)

The obvious answer to where to go if you get out of work early (or if you're funemployed) and you're near Hayes Valley is Biergarten. On Wednesdays, they serve a half pound Prather Ranch burger, the toppings on which change every week (the one pictured above featured a pile of crispy shallots, sweet peppers, and smoked blue cheese). Every other day of the week, there's also their Gnomeburger, a quarter-pounder with swiss cheese, avocado, red onion, arugula, jalapeño and a garlic and herb aioli, served on "an organic Firebrand challah slider bun." Both are seriously goddamn good. — Jay Barmann
424 Octavia Street at Fell


Black Sands Brewery
Lower Haight brewpub-and-more Black Sands has tinkered with their menu throughout, but the "smashed double double" burger shows no signs of departure. Don't confuse this two patty creation (topped with lettuce, American Cheese, and "special sauce") with its In-N-Out inspiration: This is the one that's $12 ($2 more if you add bacon or an egg), and you won't be getting a chocolate shake — try a black IPA instead. —Caleb Pershan
701 Haight Street at Pierce

Burritt Room + Tavern
In addition to having a fancier steak-and-chop-house situation in the Tavern dining room, the Burritt Room bar serves a great, satisfying "Animal Style" (there's that In-N-Out hat tip, again) Burritt Burger ($15) with Tillamook sharp cheddar, caramelized onions, and 1000 Island dressing "special sauce." It goes terrifically well with a cocktail, and is a great, under-the-radar option when you need to grab food next to Union Square. — Jay Barmann
417 Stockton Street

Cafe du Nord burgervia Facebook

Cafe du Nord
Cafe du Nord's food menu from Chef Thomas McNaughton — specifically the cioppino, the Parker House rolls, and the big bad Burger du Nord ($16.50) with melty cheddar, lettuce, pickles, and "secret sauce" is a solid contender for your late night drunk meal, as the full kitchen is open until 1:00 a.m. — Caleb Pershan
2170 Market Street at Sanchez

Photo: Facebook

To create their memorable, addictive Americana burger ($15.99), Causwells took a cue from fast food, and simply dressed up the ingredients a bit for the SF palate. You've got two juicy, dry-aged patties layered with American cheese, topped with "Causwells sauce" (in this case house-made Worcestershire mixed with house-made Thousand Island), with lacto-fermented pickles and crispy onions on a griddled bun. It's some drippy, delicious stuff.— Jay Barmann
2346 Chestnut Street

Photo: Georg Lester

Epic Steak
Epic calls their offering a "Bacon-Cheddar Wagyu Burger," but for those averse to either they're happy to offer it plain, they tell us. For your $17, you get a coarsely ground patty made with house-ground American Wagyu raised by former Silicon Valley-er Clydene Bultman on Thompson River Ranch in Marion, Montana. Beware: The burger is only offered on their brunch and lunch menus, and when asked if they'd let you order it at dinner, we got an "ummm" followed by silence. But for the "kind of steakhouse burger that all steakhouses should have, but sadly don't" (as Jay Barmann put it) a trip during the day might be worthwhile. -- Eve Batey
369 The Embarcadero

Photo: Courtesy of Fog City

Fog City
Fog City serves classic American cheeseburger realness, if you are willing to accept "house-made American cheese" and "smoked tomato aioli" as classic. On top, you'll find the standard dill pickles, and you can ask for added tomato and onion — making for a haute big mac with beef you actually want to eat. -- Eve Batey
1300 Battery Street at the Embarcadero

Photo: Steph L./Yelp

Gott's Roadside
Another very humble, basic, American burger (which here comes in a few varieties) can be found at this Ferry Building spot, where people flock day after day to get their fix of the best fast-food-like burger this side of In-N-Out. In addition to a basic American-cheese-secret-sauce burger, you can opt for the Western Bacon Blue Ring, which comes topped with a fat onion ring, bacon, pickles, red onion, and blue cheese. — Jay Barmann
Ferry Building

Photo: Food GPS

Heirloom Cafe
What began as an "off-menu" item at this wine-centric Mission bistro is now a well known, clearly announced option upon arrival, though it's true that it does not appear on the printed menu. The delicious, red-wine-friendly masterpiece is made with mildly stinky Epoisses cheese mixed into the patty (with no cheese on top). It's an incredibly juicy, uniquely flavorful burger that tastes redolently of cheese, and I can't wait to have one again. — Jay Barmann
2500 Folsom Street

The Hi Tops burger pictured here in a form known mostly to the carb-conscious, with a salad instead of fries. Photo: A.W./Flickr

Hi Tops
Probably the best burger in the Castro is the bacon-beef burger at Hi Tops ($13), in which you have a classic combo of beef and bacon, but the bacon is always crisp and the patty is always juicy. The burger comes topped with Gruyere unless you say otherwise, as well as onion jam and aioli, and suffice it to say it is one of the ultimate hangover meals in the 'hood. — Jay Barmann
2247 Market Street between Noe and Sanchez

The Impossible Burger at Jardinière. Caleb Pershan/SFist

I don't eat land animals, but I hate veggie burgers so much that Jay mocked me to you last July. But, you guys, the Impossible Burger at Jardinière isn't like any veggie burger I've ever had. It feels, as Sylvester says, mighty real. You can enjoy Caleb and my he said/she said about the all-vegan burger here — and we even debated about including it on this list. Is a burger still a burger if it contains no cow? Is the Impossible just a novelty act? You could argue both of those points successfully. But I'll tell you this: Days later, I'm still thinking about that burger, and am plotting a return (on my own dime) to snarf it down again. It's really, really good, and feels so much like a burger that another woman at Jardinière's bar (which is where it's served — it's also at Cockscomb, but I haven't had their version yet) says "this is giving me an existential crisis." I don't eat animals because I have a strong emotional attachment to living, breathing creatures, not because I don't think meat is yummy (because it is!). If I can have my burger and eat it too, then, well, that's really something. — Eve Batey
300 Grove Street at Franklin

A KronnerBurger double. Courtesy of KronnerBurger

Salty, rare, and practically bone marrow sweet even without the addition of bone marrow (which is an option) the Kronnerburger ($14) might well be the Bay Area's foremost beef treat. Meat pilgrims have followed the eponymous Chris Kronner as he popped up here and there, but now Oakland is the place to get your fix. Everything up to the lettuce — pure iceberg — has been carefully calculated, so don't ask for "well-done." And, if it's not meat you seek, their veggie burger is its own kind of marvel. —Caleb Pershan
4063 Piedmont Avenue between Glen Ave & 41st Street, Oakland

Photo: Jay Barmann/SFist

It's one of those "why aren't more people doing this?" situations: The secret to Maven's delicious and uniquely spiced burger ($17) is a few dashes of Angostura bitters, which goes right into the meat. The bottle actually says it's great with meat, but those bitters are typically always trapped on the booze shelf. Anyway, it's one of the tastiest bets in town, topped with Muenster cheese and house pickles, and it's been a hit since this place opened in 2012. — Jay Barmann
598 Haight Street at Steiner

(Photo: Brian Smeets)

Mission Bowling Club
Bowling and burgers go together like bowling and burgers, and the granulated burger patty technique that chefs Danny Bowien and Anthony Myint perfected at Mission Street Food is used to great effect at SF's answer to your suburban alley. Cooked in a shallow pool of beef tallow to form a perfect crust, the patty is nearly subsumed by Monterey Jack cheese, caramelized onions, and caper aioli, all within a bun that's been toasted to perfection. Best of all, a buck from this $15 burger goes to benefit local non-profits, so you're doing good even as you stuff your face. -- Eve Batey
3176 17th Street at South Van Ness

The Marlowe Burger: Adele F./Yelp

Marlowe/Park Tavern/The Cavalier
You can find the Marlowe Burger ($16) at two of Anna Weinberg's area restaurants, Park Tavern and Marlowe, which means Chron critic Michael Bauer doesn't have to travel far to score the Niman Ranch and lamb patty over which he regularly rhapsodizes. Drenched in horseradish aioli and topped with caramelized onions, cheddar cheese and bacon, it's accompanied by some of our favorite SF french fries, making this can't-miss lunch or dinner. — Eve Batey
Marlowe: 500 Brannan Street at 4th Street; Park Tavern: 1652 Stockton Street at Filbert Street; The Cavalier: 360 Jessie Street at 5th

Photo via Mezcalito.

Mezcalito has only been open for just over a month, but it's already stolen a bit of our hearts. In addition to the huge selection of mezcals (yes please), the restaurant offers fish tacos and hamachi ceviche. But it is perhaps the gouda burger that has drawn the loudest praise. Kept pretty simple with toppings of caramelized onions and, of course, gouda, the burger elicits rave reviews from Yelpers who alternatively call it the best burger in the city or the best burger ever. Think high-quality ingredients cooked and dressed to perfection. And it will taste even better with all that delicious mezcal to wash it down. Yum. — Jack Morse
2323 Polk Street, between Union Street and Green Street

Nopa's Burger via Facebook

Nopa's relatively highbrow offering in the burger category still packs them in. For $17 expect a lean but formidable grass-fed patty grilled over wood, topped with house-pickled onions, homemade ketchup, and set beside some of the better fries in town. Lushes are advised to keep the Nopa burger in mind as a late(r) night option: The kitchen keeps cooking and the bar keeps pouring those drinks until 1 a.m. — Caleb Pershan
560 Divisadero Street at Hayes Street

1/2 pound Plum Bar burger via Facebook

Plum Bar
A burger from the Daniel Patterson Group? If that foodie cred alone doesn't sell you, the genuine article itself is sure to at Oakland's Plum Bar. You're going in for a1/2 pound cheeseburger ($14) with bread and butter pickles, lettuce, and caramelized onion. Yes, you would like smoked fries with that, so pony up for the world's most expensive "happy meal" ($25) — which is true to the McDonald's original in terms of value: It comes with bourbon and a beer. —Caleb Pershan
2216 Broadway between Franklin Street and Grand Avenue, Oakland

Succeeding where others have come up short in recreating the Shake Shack-style, thin patty, all American cheeseburger, Popson's is a totally welcome addition to mid-Market. The house-ground Five Dot Ranch beef tastes supremely beefy and rich without dripping grease, and the standard toppings (American cheese, special sauce, onions, lettuce) are just right. Even the seasoned fries are pretty good. I dare say it gives In-N-Out a run for their money. —Jay Barmann
998 Market Street at Mason Street and 330 Townsend Street between 5th and 4th Streets

Photo courtesy of Prospect

Prospect's burger feels even more exclusive when you try to order it for dinner and hear, nope, it's only available on their bar and lunch menus. A patty of house-ground Brandt Family Beef dressed in little gem lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, pickles, and "special sauce" between two slices of housemade bun, the simple, perfectly made burger comes on its own to you for $12.50. Toss on some Wagon Wheel cheddar for $2 more, bacon for an extra $3, and/or add fries for $5 to get yourself a real party. — Eve Batey
300 Spear Street at Folsom

Guests at the Hotel Zeppelin and anyone passing through the area need look no further for dinner than the newly opened Rambler, whose burger ($17) is a thing of mouthwatering beauty: A thick, expertly grilled beef patty with white cheddar cheese and the brilliant addition of red onion bacon jam. Rambler opened just this month, in the handsome space that once belonged to Wolfgang Puck's Postrio, accessible by its own door. Executive chef Robert Leva (formerly of Salt House and Redd in Yountville) is to thank for the burger, and Rambler itself comes from the Hat Trick Hospitality team of Adam Snyder, Hugo Gamboa, and Andy Wasserman, who have previously been behind The Brixton, Redford, Aventine, and Sabrosa. —Caleb Pershan
545 Post Street between Mason and Taylor

Photo of the True Deluxe Burger via Yelp.

True Burger
Sometimes when you want a burger, you want a burger — no frills, just a classic done to perfection. That's what you'll find at Oakland's True Burger, a spot which, as the name suggests, focuses on serving up hamburgers in their most iconic form. The Trueburger and Cheesy Trueburger come in at $6.50 and $7.50 respectively, so grubbing down here won't break the bank (fries cost extra, however). Vegeterians, don't worry, they've got something for you: Portobello mushroom with smoked cheese served up on a bun. The True Deluxe drops that veggie patty on top of a regular patty, letting you chow down on the best of both worlds. East Coast transplants might see some Shake Shack-like trappings, but there's no monopoly on the classics. — Jack Morse
4101 Broadway, at 41st, Oakland

Photo: Facebook

Umami Burger
This Los Angeles-based chain took SF by storm a couple years back, and while the raves for their burgers haven't flowed with abandon here the way they did when this place debuted in SoCal, they still make damn good burgers with a lot of creative toppings and various fixings. Each location has a slightly different menu — I like the Manly, available at most, with beer cheddar cheese, bacon lardons, and smoked salt onion strings — and they feature out-of-the-box versions of classics, like the Throwback: two 3.5-oz seared beef patties with white cheddar cheese, miso mustard, Umami house ketchup, soy pickles, and McDonalds-style minced onions. — Jay Barmann
242 King Street and 2184 Union Street, SF; 2100 Franklin Street, Oakland

Photo: Brian Smeets

Wayfare Tavern
Tyler Florence made sure there was a top-notch burger ($22) on his tavern's menu from the get-go, and though some of the rest of the menu has changed since Wayfare's 2010 opening, the burger hasn't. It's served on a delicious brioche bun and made with a proprietary, grass-fed beef mix and comes topped with Nicasio cheese, red onion marmalade, bacon, and an optional (I'd say mandatory) fried egg. It's a sloppy, satisfying mess to eat, and continues to be a top seller for the FiDi crowds. — Jay Barmann
558 Sacramento Street near Montgomery

Black Sands burger via Tumblr