The fast food hamburger is one of the truly great things about America. But what burger weighs supreme?
We asked our team of dads and came up with this complete-enough list, ranking the best fast food burger in the nation. Now, some of these burger chains are somewhat regional, and we may be missing your favorite burger, but here are the restaurants that received votes, and their overall rank. Just try to finish the list first before firing up the grill to flip some burgers of your own.
Please note, it was with heavy hearts that we had to omit Steak ‘N Shake from this list, because the mere mention of its name led to an hour-long argument about if Steak ‘N Shake counts as fast food or not.
16: Dairy Queen
Who goes to Dairy Queen for anything but the Blizzards? This is, at most, something to shove in your mouth so that you can wash it down with a delicious frozen treat. But no one really cares about the DQ burger. Poor fella.
15: Sonic Drive-In
Sonic’s burger is fine. Listen, at the end of the day a fast food hamburger is a fast food hamburger, it’s going to taste good on the way down, but be real, you’re here for the Limeade. Sonic’s is nothing special, so it finds itself languishing at the bottom of our rankings.
You know, while we’re at it, let’s just admit that no one really goes to a Drive-In restaurant for anything much more than the ambiance of going to a Drive-In restaurant. The burger is really just an afterthought. Pleasant enough to eat, but not the best option out there.
A&W makes a perfectly acceptable burger, but the burger is not the driving force behind this place. Obviously it’s the namesake root beer. And cheese curds. Their fried cheese curds are actually amazing, but this is not a list about fried cheese curds, it’s about burgers. So here A&W stays.
12: Jack In The Box
This chain is a bit more regional than some others on the list, but those on the west coast have undoubtedly gone through their drive-thru at two in the morning one time or another. But the burger isn’t even the top seller at Jack in the Box. That distinction goes to their tacos. Sorry, if your burger can’t outperform your tacos, you’re not an elite fast food burger.
11: Burger King
Those who attend the court of the Burger King will surely be disappointed to see that the flame-grilled Whopper couldn’t crack the top 10. That’s not to say that it isn’t good—the smokey flavor from the flame grilling does help set it apart from some of its fast food brethren, it’s just not something many get excited about.
Now, this is hard to rate, because the Big Mac is slightly better than the Whopper (you might feel differently—it’s okay, there’s no shame in being wrong) but the Whopper is substantially better than their typical single patty burger. But now that they’re starting to use never-frozen beef at some of their locations, the taste difference is noticeable, so they just barely squeak past Burger King.
Speaking of never frozen, Wendy’s has been on that game for years. And it shows. No offense to their spicy chicken sandwich, or their meme-able nuggs, they make a mighty fine burger. At the very least, the best of the big three fast food giants. But that still puts them in the middle of the pack.
8: White Castle/Krystal
While these are technically different restaurants, they basically serve the same burger. White Castle actually was the first fast food hamburger restaurant to open, and their simple steamed sliders still hit the spot like few other burgers can.What is it about the smattering of onions and the lone pickle that works so well here? Is it magic? It’s probably magic.
7: Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s
Thickburger. One word, three syllables, roughly a million calories. But oh so good. Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. actually are the same restaurant, just in different parts of the US with different marketing tactics. It doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day, they make a super serious burger that’ll put you in a food coma right quick.
You either are lucky enough to live in one of the states that has a Whataburger, or you’re at least blessed with the ignorance of not knowing what you’re missing. Whataburger makes themselves a fine burger that you can customize to your heart’s desire and they also manage to stay open 24 hours a day. And by fine burger, we mean they make a seriously fine burger.
Not every city or state has a Smashburger, and that’s a shame. Lately, smashed burgers have been becoming an increasingly popular approach to the humble hamburger, and we’re not here to deter that trend. By smashing the beef on a hot stove, a caramelized crust forms on the edges of the burger that is just divine.
This ranking is likely to cause some riots among our west coast readers, but at the end of the day we were strongly split between those who think that In-N-Out is the prefect burger, and those who think it is vastly overrated. People were called names. The secret menu isn’t a secret menu, their fries are trash, and the line is always long, and while everyone admitted that the burger does taste very good, not enough of us think it can justify being a top-three fast food burger. Apologies to the state of California.
If you live outside the Midwest, it’s very likely you have yet to try Culver’s, but trust us: it is worth it. Listen to us now. Butter burgers. Yes. Butter burgers. They sell butter burgers, and yes butter burgers are exactly what they sound like, and yes that is the most Midwestern thing to possibly exist. And it is divine.
2: Shake Shack
Shake Shack has taken the field by storm in recent years, and we’re not surprised at how fast it is growing, because they make a truly transcendent burger. Their sauce is possibly made out of crack. We don’t know for sure, but if it was, we’d still eat it. It’s that good. But it’s not quite the top burger. That honor goes to…
1: Five Guys
Yes, it has to be Five Guys. Within the past 10 years or so the chain has gone from being a fringe “new burger place” to a powerhouse in the fast food game. And that is based entirely on the strength of their burgers. Their delicious, meaty burgers. While it was a heated race to the top, ultimately, Five Guys took the prize of the best fast food burger in the nation.