19 Pittsburgh-Area Hamburgers That We Love


by Hal B. Klein | Photos by Laura Petrilla

‘What is the best hamburger in Pittsburgh?’ is a question without an answer. 

I could make an argument that the burger at Whitfield, which is prepared from a whole-animal blend of dry-aged Jubilee Hilltop Ranch beef, is the best because of the quality of its ingredients. I also could argue that the burger at Gab & Eat, with its umami-rich smashburger crusting, its fair price, and the restaurant’s nostalgic, lunch-counter vibe, is at the top of my list.

But where does that leave the decadent hamburger at Eleven Contemporary Kitchen in the Strip District, which, topped with braised veal, eats like a meal? The answer is they all are fantastic for equally valid reasons.

“What makes a great hamburger?” is a better question. It’s also one that, after eating scores of Pittsburgh-area burgers, I can answer. 
 


Thinner patties — the sweet spot is somewhere in the 6-ounce oz. range prior to cooking — tend to be better than thicker ones because they cook more evenly and don’t leave you feeling like you need to waddle to the nearest hammock. The best burgers are deeply caramelized on both sides, preferably as a result of interaction with their rendered fat. Speaking of fat — 20 percent fat by weight allows for an ideal mix of juiciness and flavor concentration without making the burger feel greasy.

Great hamburgers typically begin with a base of fresh-ground chuck meat and are enhanced by cuts such as short rib, brisket and other muscles; restaurants with in-house butchers have a leg-up here as they can add trimmings from prestige steaks, too. Loosely packed patties are superior to patties that are more densely packed. Order your burger medium-rare.
 


The best bun is the one that’s right for the burger. For example, a soft potato bun works perfectly for a snack-stand burger but would disintegrate with a complex build that calls for more support; you’d want a Kaiser roll for that. Toasting a bun is mandatory as it adds necessary structural integrity, crunch and, well, toastiness.

Simple is nearly always better than fussy when it comes to the toppings — and out-of-season tomatoes should be banished from burgers. Nostalgia, while not an actual flavor enhancer, can be an important factor in deciding where you want to eat a burger. 
 


Nearly everyone who eats beef has a favorite hamburger. Whenever I talked about my search for the tastiest hamburgers in Pittsburgh, I received terrific suggestions from friends and colleagues (including members of the The Hamburger Sandwich Benevolence Club) who pointed me to their favorite off-the-beaten-path locations (tip: always ask Rick Sebak). You might see your favorite burger on this list, you might not. But even if you don’t, I bet you’ll find one that’s going to make you very happy.  —HBK




Whitfield

Whitfield’s outstanding cheeseburger is a welcome offshoot of the Ace Hotel restaurant’s butchery program. A whole-animal blend of dry-aged Jubilee Hilltop Ranch beef is charred under a broiler and topped with cheddar, buttermilk-fried onions, mustard-infused mayonnaise and pepper jam. The brightness of the pepper jam cuts the funky back-note of the aged beef, and the onion straws add bite and texture. The Mediterra Bakehouse brioche bun is soft, buttery and perfectly toasted. Tip: At $15, this is one of the pricier burgers on our list (and worth every penny), but it’s $10 at the bar during the nightly happy hour.
[120 S. Whitfield St., East Liberty; 412/626-3090, whitfieldpgh.com]


photo by Teghan Simonton
 

Eleven Contemporary Kitchen

Looking to crush a decadent hamburger? Head to Eleven Contemporary Kitchen in the Strip District. The big Burrito Group’s contemporary American restaurant is home to one of Pittsburgh’s most indulgent burger builds. A mix of chuck, short rib, and brisket from Weiss Provision Co. is grilled, brushed with Worcestershire-horseradish butter and then topped with braised veal, bacon, crispy onion and a choice of cheese (I recommend Emmenthaler). The whole shebang is served on a housemade brioche bun. You might need to schedule a nap after eating the Eleven burger — but it’ll be just as satisfying as the meal you just finished.
[1150 Smallman St., Strip District; 412/201-5656, elevenck.com]
 

Gab & Eat

Lunchtime brings a hubbub of activity to this nearly 40-year-old diner. Gab & Eat co-owner Karie Goedert (who runs the business with partner Susan Smith) smashes half-pound portions of aged Angus beef from Curtze Meat in Erie on a red-hot, 2-inch stainless-steel flat-top griddle. Crusted brown on both sides — crispy, even, on the edges — and juicy in the center, the Gab & Eat burger is the Platonic ideal of a diner hamburger. It’s nestled in a lightly griddled BreadWorks bun and topped with traditional fixings such as lettuce, tomato and razor-thin onion slices. At $6.05 for a cheeseburger, this is a steal of a deal.
[1703 Washington Ave., Carnegie; 412/276-8808, gabneat.com]
 

Click here more more hamburgers that we love ...

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Hungry for Something Good, Pittsburgh? Where We're Eating in June

We're obsessed with Greekfreez vegan frozen treats, taking a first look at the new menu at Independent Brewing Company and traveling to The Tavern on the Square. Plus, we talk to Poulet Bleu pastry chef James D. Wroblewski II.

Working in a Steel Mill Turns Fantastical in 'The Glass Lung'

Pittsburgher Anjali Sachdeva’s first book blends the normal with fantasy in nine short stories.

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.

Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in June

PM Nightlife Editor Sean Collier explores the popularity of Coughlin's Law on Mt. Washington and the future of Jump Cut Theater.

Pittsburgh's Can't Miss Concerts in June

The Pittsburgh music calendar is packed this month. Check out some of our suggestions for the best ways to spend those steamy summer nights.

June: Best of Culture in Pittsburgh

Check out some of the finest stage plays, dance performances and exhibits taking place this month in Pittsburgh.

Undercover: What We're Reading in June

Reviews of Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance by Mark Whitaker and Abandoned Pittsburgh: Steel and Shadows by Chuck Beard

Perspectives: How Cold Is Too Cold for Spiders to Live?

A former Marine and Pittsburgh firefighter comes face-to-face with his biggest fear.

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh Faces Centennial Challenges

This year marks a milestone anniversary — and questions regarding the emerging digital economy — for the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh.

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

CMU Launches America’s First Degree in Artificial Intelligence

Starting this fall, undergraduates at Carnegie Mellon will have the option to earn a degree in one of the world’s fastest growing fields.

Hog Wild at Fallen Aspen Farm

Owners Jake Kristophel and Desiree Sirois are committed to compassionate animal husbandry at Fallen Aspen Farm.

This is Where ‘Pittsburgh's Paul Bunyan’ Would Have Lived

The living emblem of Pittsburgh steelwork, immortalized in a Braddock statue, has been reborn with a titular space in Bloomfield.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

Director and “Mr. McFeely” Discuss “Won't You Be My Neighbor?”

The director of the forthcoming Mr. Rogers documentary sits down with the longtime Mr. McFeely and Pittsburgh Magazine.

Comments

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Pittsburgh Teen Chess Phenom to Host Her First-Ever Tourney

Chess enthusiast Ashley Lynn Priore hopes to enrich the Steel City’s involvement in one of the most classic and challenging of board games.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

Lorelei Will Open in the Former Livermore/Pines Space

The owners of Independent Brewing Company and Hidden Harbor plan to bring a beer hall and cafe to East Liberty.

Comments

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

An Inclusive Community Breaks the Ramadan Fast at Salem's Market & Grill

The Strip District restaurant draws a diverse community to its nightly ifṭār buffet.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

Best Places to Introduce Children to the Performing Arts

When you see a show at one of these organizations, you may enjoy it as much as the children.

Comments

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

The 4 Best Sports to Try This Spring in Pittsburgh

Looking to switch up your physical activity now that it finally feels like spring? We found four sports you can play locally that you may never have considered.

Comments


Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

Highmark Stadium Struggles To Accommodate Music Fans

The Station Square venue could be a good place to see a concert. It's not there yet.

Comments

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

Take a Tricky Trip To Mars at Escape Room 51

The new escape room in Pleasant Hills is a great game for newer players.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

Here We Go? Steelers Have More Than a New England Issue This Time

At this time last year the Steelers perceived themselves, and rightfully so, as a team that was a mere win over the Patriots away from returning to the Super Bowl. This year, the focus is elsewhere.

Comments

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

Surprising Pirates Proving to be an Acquired Taste This Season

For the time being, at least, fans continue to send owner Bob Nutting a message wrapped in apathy.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The 400-Word Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Star Wars series experiments with telling an origin story, with mixed results.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The 400-Word Review: Pope Francis: A Man of His Word

The careful documentary is a valuable document of the pontiff's philosophy. As a film, there are issues.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Wine Classes Keep the Pre-Wedding Celebration Classy

Palate Partners School of Wine & Spirits offers a chance for brides- and grooms-to-be to explore libations before (or instead of) a night on the town.

Comments

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

He Recovers from Stroke to Officiate Granddaughter's Wedding

It was always Ashley Watkins’ dream to have her grandfather perform her wedding ceremony — but a serious illness almost got in the way.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

From Milan to Pittsburgh: These are the Kitchen Concepts of the Future

Local interior designer Lauren Levant traveled to Italy for the influential Salon del Mobile show featuring the latest innovations in the furniture and design industry. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, these are the kitchen concepts she says will be making their way stateside.

Comments

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Get Creative: Pittsburgh Podcast Inspires 'Girl Bosses'

Thinking about starting a creative business but don't know where to start? From photography to interior design, Gamechangers, the new podcast from local textile designer Savannah Hayes, gives a behind-the-scenes look at the design industry from the female perspective.

Comments