July 6, 2022

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Food the meaning

The Best Fast Food Cheeseburger From The 20 Biggest Chains


There are lots of great drive-thrus and fast-casual restaurants where you can grab a tasty burger. Simply type “best burger near me” into Yelp or Google maps and you’re sure to find a joint that will satisfy your cravings. But “satisfy” isn’t good enough — we need our mind’s blown. We only want to eat burgers that ignite the tastebuds, activate the salivary glands, and inspire audible mmms and oooohhhhs.

Anything less just isn’t good eating.

With that mandate in mind, we’re running through the single best burger (spoiler: they all have cheese) at every single big chains across the fast food universe. Anything goes in this compendium of great burgers — we’ve included menu items, off-menu “secret” options, and even some tried and tested hacks. If you follow this guide you’ll have the keys to the best burger you can possibly eat at chains nationwide. You’re not going to be disappointed on our watch!

Let’s get to burger-ing!

A&W — Papa Burger

Best Burgers
A&W

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Unfortunately, this big burger list isn’t exactly starting our list off with a bang. In truth, A&W is only here for the sake of being complete — not because we actually think you should buy a burger from this chain. But if you do happen to find yourself wandering into an A&W with no other options in sight, you can’t go wrong with the Papa Burger.

Well, scratch that, you can go very wrong with the Papa Burger, sometimes the lettuce is so wilted it’s translucent, the cheese rarely melts, and the meat is always dry, but… it could be worse! You could be eating a Papa Burger with bacon, which A&W somehow messed up colossally — the bacon is chewy, oily, and never crispy enough.

Maybe just order a root beer float and call it a day?

The Bottom Line:

The Papa Burger stands as A&Ws best burger, which isn’t saying a whole lot.

Find your nearest A&W here.

Burger King — Rodeo Burger

Best Burgers
Burger King

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

For being a place called “Burger King” BK has some pretty consistently awful burgers. It’s ironic, considering the chain’s flagship burger is the “Whopper” — commonly defined something that is extremely or unusually large, or a gross or blatant lie. To me, the Whopper tastes like the latter definition. It’s dry, bland, and one of fast food’s worst burgers.

So is all hope lost? No. Grab the Rodeo Burger instead. The Rodeo Burger remedies some of BK’s Whopper issues. By slathering the burger in BBQ sauce, the often-dry beef takes on a sweet quality with a smokiness that plays in harmony with the charred flavor of BK’s grills.

We’re big fans of Burger King’s Onion Rings in general, but in this burger, they add a sweet and spicy bite that lingers on the backend. We add cheese, but on this rare occasion, you don’t absolutely need it. BK’s cheese doesn’t melt anyway.

The Bottom Line:

The best burger at a restaurant named for burgers that isn’t particularly adept at making burgers.

Find your nearest Burger King here.

Burgerville — Walla Walla Sweet Onion Cheeseburger

Walla Walla Onion Burger
Burgerville

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Other fast food joints must sorta hate Burgerville. They do so much right — menu items feel bespoke, the IRL food looks like a reasonable facsimile of the items shown in their ads, and they make use of local and seasonal ingredients. For those of us in Oregon and Washington, it’s more like a local burger spot that just so happens to have 47 locations.

Take the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Cheeseburger. It’s made with Walla Walla, Washington’s famous “sweet onions” — the highly seasonal produce that Seinfeld’s famed Mackinaw Peaches were based on — along with Tillamook white cheddar cheese, garlic aoili, and a sourdough bun. That’s inspired! If McDonald’s used one of those upmarket items people would lose their minds. At Burgerville, they all fit in the same menu offering!

This burger is like an In-N-Out Double-Double made by a seasonality-obsessed (but talented!) hipster chef. The onions are grilled with savory herbs, the burger patty is just big enough to keep this a one-hander, and the cheese is nice and melty (and real!). Sadly, seasonality does have its drawbacks — this is really only available in July and a few weeks of August. The upside? Those dates overlap with Burgerville’s similarly hyped Blackberry Shake Season!

The Bottom Line:

This burger with Walla Walla onion rings and a Blackberry Milkshake is one of the best, most deeply satisfying, unctuous meals in fast food.

— Steve Bramucci

Find your nearest Burgerville here.

Carl’s Jr. — Primal Angus Thickburger with Fried Zucchini

Best Burgers
Dane Rivera

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

I’m a little frustrated with Carl’s Jr because my local Carl’s keeps telling me that they “can’t” substitute Fried Zucchini into my Primal Angus Thickburger, which consists of a thick charbroiled Black Angus beef patty, layers of tender prime rib, sweet bbq sauce, smoked cheddar, and fried onion rings, even though they have a burger on the menu that already features the fried zucchini. They’ve straight up told me that it’s “not possible.”

So like a loser, I’ve been ordering the Primal Angus Thickburger with a side order of Fried Zucchini and assembling it myself because I swear to you, it’s the greatest Carl’s Jr. burger hack ever and I won’t stop eating it until Carl’s Jr’s Jurassic World promotion ends and they take this off the menu.

The only good thing the Jurassic World franchise has given us is this burger which is sweet, smokey, wonderfully savory, and refreshingly vegetal in every bite.

The Bottom Line:

Carl’s Jr’s Primal Angus Thickburger is only available for a limited time, so move fast if you want to hack together Carl’s best burger.

Find your nearest Carl’s Jr. here.

Culver’s — ButterBurger

Butter Burger
Culvers

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

The ButterBurger is a must for any cheeseburger list. I’m a big Culver’s stan, sure. But the ButterBurger actually delivers amazingly well for a fast-food chain. The burger is a smash burger — they call it “pressing” — that’s made from fresh meat to order for every single burger made. That alone is worth the price of entry. That burger is then sandwiched on a fancy roll that’s seared off on the flattop with butter. Think of it this way, once you have a ButterBurger, you’ll see where Shake Shack got their inspiration from.

The best part is that these are 100 percent customizable. You can get a standard Culver’s Deluxe, which is red onion, pickle, lettuce, and tomato with Wisconsin cheddar, mayo, yellow mustard, and ketchup. It’s like an old-school diner “deluxe” burger from back in the day. What I like to do is get a double with cheese with pickle and onion and the roasted garlic aioli from the Wisconsin Big Cheese Pub Burger. It adds a nice extra zip of tang to the burger overall. Plus, the minimal toppings let the smash burger and buttery bun really shine through.

The Bottom Line:

This is just a good burger all around. It’s fresh, made-to-order, and actually filling for a good price (a double ButterBurger is $4.29). Just don’t sleep on one of those creamy milkshakes or Culver’s own root beer off the fountain.

—Zach Johnston

Find your nearest Culver’s here.

Dairy Queen — FlameThrower 1/3 lb Signature Stackburger

Best Burgers
Dairy Queen

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

I’ve said it in multiple food rankings but I guess I have to say it again: go to Dairy Queen for soft-serve ice cream and Blizzards, not for burgers. I don’t know why Dairy Queen has food outside of ice cream, but they do, and as part of my job — and let me reiterate, only as part of my job — I’ve become pretty intimate with DQ’s food.

It’s all… sigh… fine.

It’s not horrible, but it doesn’t need to exist. So for our pick on the best burger on the menu we’re going with the FlameThrower, which features a layer of spicy bacon over two beef patties topped with Pepper Jack cheese, tomato, some of the saddest lettuce you’ll ever see, on top of FlameThrower sauced buns. The FlameThrower sauce is more sweet than spicy, but it has a cayenne pepper kick to it that pairs well with the pepper jack and bacon.

The Bottom Line:

Following up bites of this spicy burger with a few spoonfuls of your Blizzard creates an interesting spicy-sweet combo, which is at the very least novel and an experience unique to Dairy Queen.

Find your nearest Dairy Queen here.

Del Taco — Double Bacon Del Cheeseburger w Fries and Guacamole

Best Burgers
Dane Rivera

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

If you’ve never been to Del Taco or have only had the Mexican-inspired food on menu, you might not be aware that Del Taco makes a damn good cheeseburger. The beef here tastes great — it’s both beefy and juicy — and the burger is well assembled. But the whole thing tastes much better when you swap the burger sauce for guacamole, which adds a freshness to the burger while still managing to come across as decadent and hearty.

You can’t beat the flavor combination of smokey bacon and avocado.

I’m not entirely sure why Del Taco doesn’t already have a guacamole burger on the menu — at the very least can we get a burger topped with some fresh sliced avocado? — still, this is a pretty easy hack for the kitchen staff to execute.

The Bottom Line:

Del Taco’s best burger isn’t officially on the menu, but hopefully, the chain wises up and adds something similar to the lineup soon.

Find your nearest Del Taco here.

Dog Haus — Holy Aioli

Burger Ranking
DogHaus

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

For me at least, Dog Haus is a fairly new chain so I won’t pretend to be an expert on this menu just yet. But from what I’ve had of the burgers, Dog Haus’ Holy Aioli is a standout for me. The burger combines a crispy Maillard-kissed burger patty topped with gooey melted American cheese, layers of smokey bacon, sweet caramelized onions, and a robust garlic aioli holding it all together.

Each bite is pleasantly sweet and smokey, and the King’s Hawaiian bread bun adds an additional layer of sweetness to each bite that makes this burger taste remarkably decadent.

The Bottom Line:

It might not always scratch your itch for a classic cheeseburger, but if you’re looking for something a bit elevated in flavor, this smokey sweet, and garlicky burger is your best bet.

Find your nearest Dog Haus here.

Fatburger — XXL Double King Burger (The Works!)

Best Burgers
Fatburger

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Fatburger gives you a lot of options to soup up your burger, from adding chili, to a fried egg, onion rings, or bacon, but I feel like the best iteration of the burger is the simple Double King Burger. When you order this burger with “The Works,” you get two juicy beef patties topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, mustard, pickles, and relish atop a sponge-dough bun. You can order any combination of toppings, we won’t push you on The Works, because the real star here is the beef patties.

The beef at Fatburger tastes remarkably fresh, like the sort of burger you’d eat at a backyard bbq hosted by someone who grinds their own chuck and sirloin. It’s not the most exciting choice, but sometimes nothing hits the spot like a classic, beefy cheeseburger. If you’re looking for something at least a little exciting, add the onion rings, they’re also some of fast food’s best.

The Bottom Line:

When you want a classic cheeseburger that delivers the flavors you’ve come to expect but still tastes like something special and worth the money, it’s hard to beat a classic Double King Burger.

Find your nearest Fatburger here.

Five Guys — Bacon Cheeseburger With Grilled Onions + Grilled Jalapeños

Best Burgers
Dane Rivera

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Ridiculously inflated prices aside, Five Guys is one of the best chains to pick up a burger at. I ride hard for the brand and the ability to customize your burger any way you want is a big part of that. I’ve thought a lot about the perfect burger build at Five Guys and although my opinion is always changing, one that always stays in the rotation is this simple build: a bacon cheeseburger (which comes with two patties) with American cheese, grilled onions, grilled jalapenos, and A1 Steak Sauce.

You can choose mayo over the A1 (but it’ll be way less savory) or add grilled mushrooms for an umami kick, but the most important ingredient here is the grilled onions and jalapeño. The grilled onions come out a bit oily, but that oil immediately infuses with the grilled jalapeño’s spice — adding a savory and spicy character to the whole burger that will legitimately make your brow sweat.

Because Five Guys jalapeños aren’t pickled, they actually provide a fresh pronounced bite of spice with peppery vegetal notes that cut through all the unctuous flavors and take away the need for lettuce, which would only water down the predominant flavors here.

The Bottom Line:

Not just the best way to order your burger at Five Guys, but one of the best burgers across the entire fast food universe. Easily.

Find your nearest Five Guys here.

The Habit Burger Grill — Santa Barbara Char

Best Burgers
The Habit

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Despite the words “burger grill” being in the Habit’s full name, I honestly believe everything else this chain has to offer — from the chicken sandwiches to the salads — are superior to the cheeseburgers. For some reason there is a lot of character missing from The Habit’s burgers. They don’t taste bad, but it often feels like you’re paying a premium for nothing special.

At the very least, when coming to The Habit grab something unique to the chain, like the Santa Barbara Char — a patty melt with caramelized onions, big juicy tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, mayo, and fresh avocado. I almost always order this burger sans mayo, the avocado provides enough of a creamy mouthfeel to the burger, and the spongey grilled sourdough is oily enough as it is, so this burger tastes juicy without the need for sauce.

Each bite of this burger comes across as remarkably buttery and savory while maintaining a fresh vibe.

The Bottom Line:

Delicious, buttery, and hearty. One of the best avocado burgers in the fast food universe.

Find your nearest The Habit here.

In-N-Out — Double Double Animal Style w Chopped Chillies

Best Burgers
Dane Rivera

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

In-N-Out is pretty open about its Secret Menu, it even has a whole portion of its website dedicated to it, which would be great if In-N-Out wasn’t also for some reason keeping their best burger a secret. A quick way to improve In-N-Out’s already delicious Double Double is to order it “Animal Style” which includes mustard fried patties, grilled onions, and a double dose of In-N-Out’s spread that adds a tangy and savory sweetness to the burger.

Then you kick it up a whole other level by asking for your Animal Style Double Double with chopped chilies.

Adding In-N-Out’s chopped chilis to your burger adds some sharpness to each bite, with a sweet and subtle heat that dances on the tongue and pairs excellently with the caramelized onions. It makes the burger taste special and unique in a way that even the biggest In-N-Out doubters can appreciate.

The Bottom Line:

On a menu full of hacks, this is In-N-Out’s greatest secret.

Find your nearest In-N-Out here.

Jack in the Box — Sourdough Jack (with Curly Fries Inside)

Best Burgers
Dane Rivera

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

When Jack in the Box first launched the Sourdough Jack in 1997 it was unique to the fast food space as one of the few drive-thru patty melts. In 2022, the idea of ordering a patty melt from a fast food burger place isn’t quite as novel, which means Jack in the Box’s Sourdough Jack doesn’t have that same uniqueness factor to it. But considering this is kind of a mediocre patty melt (the sourdough bread is never crispy enough, it’s too soft and loaded with preservatives in order to increase shelf life) it needs some hacking to make it adequately palatable.

Luckily hacking this cheeseburger is as easy as loading it up with some of Jack in the Box’s Curly Fries. Once you add the fries, it adds some garlic and onion notes plus some nice texture to this otherwise sweet and buttery burger.

The Bottom Line:

Jack in the Box’s Sourdough Jack isn’t quite as novel as it once was, so load it up with Curly Fries and take it to the next level.

Find your nearest Jack in the Box here.

McDonald’s — Quarter Pounder With Cheese

Best Burgers
McDonald

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

McDonald’s tried a whole menu of hacks as a recent promotion and aside from having to assemble them yourself, most of them were major misses. When it comes to McDonald’s, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel — a simple Quarter Pounder with a side order of fries is still one of McDonald’s best orders, even with all the BTS and Travis Scott meals remixing the menu.

This burger just delivers that weird tangy and spicy combination of onions, pickles, ketchup, and mustard that tastes distinctively like McDonald’s and only like McDonald’s.

The Bottom Line:

If you want to get wild, feel free to throw some of your fries into this burger. But as it stands, the Quarter Pounder is easily McDonald’s best burger, no matter how much people swear by an order of two Double Cheeseburgers.

Find your nearest McDonald’s here.

Rally’s — Smokey BBQ Bacon Buford

Best Burgers
Rally

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

For Rally’s/Checker’s it was a toss-up between the Smokey BBQ Bacon Buford and the Classic Big Buford. We’re going with the BBQ because of its more decadent offerings. Two slices of crispy smoked bacon sit atop two thick Swiss cheese-topped beef patties slathered in BBQ sauce and topped with red onions, and pickles, sandwiched between two smokey mayo buns.

The smoked mayo adds some extra smokiness to the sandwich, while the BBQ sauce keeps things sweet and tangy.

The Bottom Line:

If you like BBQ sauce, the Smokey BBQ Bacon Buford will not disappoint. If you don’t like BBQ on your burgers, grab the classic Big Buford instead.

Find your nearest Rally’s here.

Shake Shack — Double Shack Burger with Crispy Shallots

Best Burgers
Dane Rivera

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Shake Shack’s meat patties are fast food’s finest, we know, we’ve tasted hamburger patties plain and this one came out on top, no contest. The beef is just too good here — it’s juicy with a strong beefy flavor encased in the perfect Maillard crust. Little needs to be done to elevate this already elevated cheeseburger, simply add an order of crispy shallots to the whole thing.

The shallots add sweet and delicate, almost floral notes to each bite that makes this burger taste much more expensive than it actually is.

The Bottom Line:

Simply the finest burger you’re going to find in all of fast food. No contest.

Find your nearest Shake Shack here.

Smash Burger — Smoked Bacon Brisket Burger

Best Burgers
Smash Burger

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

I love a decadent meat bomb of a burger, and it doesn’t get more decadent than Smash Burger’s Double Smoked Bacon Brisket Burger. Brisket burgers have been fast food’s favorite recent innovation, it feels like everyone is taking a stab at the style, from Carl’s Jr. to Arby’s, to Wendy’s, but nobody is doing it like Smash Burger.

This burger is super smokey, with a sweet and lusciously savory beef flavor, with a bacon-backed crunch and the right amount of tang to keep it from coming across as too sweet. Aside from the layers of beef and brisket, you get thick-cut pickles, crispy applewood smoked bacon, and layers of sharp cheddar, all between a soft toasted brioche bun.

The Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for the most savory, biggest, meatiest burger in fast food, Smash Burger’s Double Smoked Bacon Brisket will more than exceed your expectations.

Find your nearest Smash Burger here.

Sonic —SuperSONIC Bacon Double Cheeseburger

Best Burgers
Sonic

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Sure, Sonic has burgers, lots of them, but similar to Dairy Queen and A&W, the real draw of this establishment is the sides. Order a hot dog, an order of mozzarella sticks, or jalapeño poppers, but don’t order a cheeseburger. They come across as being too bland for their own good.

On this Double Cheeseburger, you get all the classics: ketchup, mayo, and mustard on the top bun with pickle chips, lettuce, and onion before that cheese, meat, cheese, meat combination, plus two slices of crispy bacon. The beef is a bit mealy and very dry, so why get a double over a single? Because the meat-to-cheese-to-bread ratio is better this way. Trust.

The Bottom Line:

We’d generally advise against getting a burger from Sonic in the first place, but if you must, the Bacon Double is the play.

Find your nearest Sonic here.

Wendy’s — Baconator

Best Burgers
Wendy

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

Wendy’s has a lot of great burgers on their menu but we’re giving this coveted spot on our roundup to the best bacon burger in all of fast food — the Baconator. A 1/2 pound double cheeseburger with two layers of American cheese, and two layers of bacon sandwiched between a mayo and ketchup slathered bun, the Baconator wisely ditches lettuce in its build, resulting in a smokey and savory meat bomb that delivers addicting bite after addicting bite.

This burger is incredibly salty, so be warned, it’s the type of burger that is guaranteed to put you in a mini food coma. You can remedy this by getting the Son Of Baconator, which is the exact same burger in a smaller footprint. But we suggest you always go all out on the main thing.

The Bottom Line:

One of the best bacon double cheeseburgers you’ll ever get from a drive-thru. The beef is fresh, the bacon is crispy and smokey, and the salty flavor is incredibly addicting.

Find your nearest Wendy’s here.

Whataburger — Whataburger Patty Melt

Patty Melt
Whataburger

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

The Patty Melt at Whataburger is the only way to go, especially if you’re not getting a fried chicken biscuit. The build of this hamburger sandwich is pretty big. It starts with two thick pieces of Texas toast with two five-inch beef patties each with a slice of Monterey Jack cheese. Grilled onions with a nice sweetness are piled on top of those cheesy patties. And then on that top piece of Texas toast, there’s a good dollop of Whataburger’s “Creamy Pepper” sauce. It’s sort of like a burger sauce with extra black pepper and chili peppers in there. It’s fantastic, creamy, and just the right hint of spice for this burger.

Pro-tip — order “extra” sauce when you get a Patty Melt. Moreover, when ordering any burger at Whataburger, make sure to get it with Creamy Pepper instead of mayo, ketchup, etc. It makes everything better.

The Bottom Line:

This is a big and bodacious burger on some serious toast. It’s amazing if you’re a little stoned or tipsy but works wonders any time of the ol’ day.

—Zach Johnston

Find your nearest Whataburger here.

White Castle —The 1921 Slider

Best Burgers
White Castle

Why It’s The Best Burger On The Menu:

White Castle’s sliders are more novel and nostalgic than they are delicious, but anytime I hit White Castle (which isn’t often, the closest one to me is four hours away in Las Vegas) I grab the 1921 Slider. What sets this apart from White Castle’s other sliders is that this is a fully-dressed burger.

The seared burger is topped with grilled onions, cheddar cheese, a slice of tomato, lettuce, and pickles. It’s everything you want out of a decent cheeseburger, in a bite-size form.

The Bottom Line:

It’s not life-changing, but if you want the best burger experience White Castle has to offer, grab the 1921 Slider.

Find your nearest White Castle here.



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