Tony Maws’ Cambridge bistro Craigie on Main limits itself to just 18 burgers a night, so get there around opening for your best chance at one. This off-menu treat boasts a homemade milk bun, cheddar, anchovy ketchup for an umami kick, and a special beef blend that incorporates bone marrow. Just in case you’d like to cut that fat with some acid, red wine vinegar pickles and celery root slaw are served on the side.
South End Staples
The best of what Boston puts between two buns.
Alden & Harlow’s “Secret Burger” is made in limited quantities and is released at 5 and 11 p.m. each evening; get yourself a seat ahead of time to secure yours. That foresight will be rewarded with a house-made Parker House-style roll, bread-and-butter pickles, a clothbound cheddar crisp, and an unnamed slather of what’s best described as “Big Mac sauce, but incredibly better.” Pro-tip: Your best chance to get the burger is at brunch, when it’s made in greater numbers throughout the day.
The Bristol Lounge
The Four Seasons’ elegant bar and lounge The Bristol dispenses with subtlety when it comes to its burger offering. This oversized rendition is slathered with Grafton cheddar, cognac-bacon, and onion jam—all served between two imposing brioche buns. Each Wednesday night in winter a “Burgers & Burgundy” special offers the chance to try one of four variants (Original, Montrachet, Croque Madame, or Au Poivre) with two tastings of Burgundy.
Frequent collaborators Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonette let their culinary freak flag fly at their globe-spanning third outpost, and Little Donkey’s burger is no exception. A foundation of dry aged beef is spruced up with buffalo pickles, onion soup mayo, jalapeño chips, and onion-wrapped pieces of foie gras.
The South End’s most eclectic watering hole, The Gallows mixes high and low with wild abandon, a philosophy that extends to the entire section of the menu marked “Burgers.” Here you’ll find such flat-top gems as “Carpet Burger” (buttermilk fried oysters, chipotle aioli, pickles), “La Hambourgeois” (Saint Agur blue, dijonaise, truffle aioli), and—in case those were getting too fancy—a back-to-basics “Our Way” (onions, American cheese, pickles).