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

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

Sample cheese of every rind during the American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese.

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

The WTAE anchor was voted Best Journalist by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine. She answers 12 random questions ranging from her most memorable vacation to who should portray her in a movie.

Tax Credit Brought Mister Rogers Flick to Pittsburgh

The granting of the credit means the majority, if not most of the movie starring Tom Hanks, will indeed be shot in the Pittsburgh area.

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Jeff Goldblum Day is Causing a Stir in the ’Burgh

Local venues will be celebrating the native actor Friday with Goldblum-themed merchandise and events.

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Pittsburgh Developer Offers Location for Riverfront Swings

A developer in the South Side may fulfill KDKA anchor Ken Rice’s wish for shaded benches along the city’s riverfronts.

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Expert Opinions on How HQ2 Could Change Pittsburgh

From jobs to housing to technology, six areas which would be impacted if Amazon chose Pittsburgh for its HQ2.

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Netflix exclusive Josh Brolin flick is pleasant enough, but light on laughs.

The 400-Word Review: The First Purge

The prequel to the horror series has plenty to say. It's just no good at saying it.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

America’s “Gratest” Celebration of Cheese is Coming to Pittsburgh

Sample cheese of every rind during the American Cheese Society’s annual Festival of Cheese.

Comments

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

Watch: 12 Questions with WTAE's Sally Wiggin

The WTAE anchor was voted Best Journalist by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine. She answers 12 random questions ranging from her most memorable vacation to who should portray her in a movie.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

A Pop-Up Bar in Pittsburgh that Serves a Sober Alternative

Empath provides the vibe and social space of a bar, as well as stepped up beverage service ... without the alcohol.

Comments

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Willow Restaurant in the North Hills Lands a New Chef

Aaron Allen comes to Willow by way of 2-star Daniel in New York City. Plus, Greta Harmon joins the staff of the Ohio Township hideaway as the restaurant's new bar manager.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Six Underrated Kennywood Rides You Need to Try Again

Leave enough time in your next visit to Kennywood to revisit some old favorites and these underrated gems.

Comments

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

The Five Best Spots to Get Pittsburgh-Themed Merchandise

Looking to show off your Pittsburgh love? Get your favorite city printed on basically anything at these local shops.

Comments


Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

Stop Using Uber and Lyft, Renting a Bike is Better

You'll save money and have an easier time hopping between neighborhoods on a Healthy Ride bicycle.

Comments

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential July Events in Pittsburgh

Parking-lot punk, polished Potter and other July attractions.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

Compelling World Cup Worth a Periodic Embrace

The competition is as fierce as the fans are passionate and both can be appreciated without a firm grasp of the details.

Comments

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

Pirates Can Be Show Stoppers if They Follow Brault's Lead

A Broadway musical about the life and times of the Pittsburgh Pirates? The idea might not be as farfetched as you think.

Comments


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

The 400-Word Review: Skyscraper

If you want "Die Hard" with half the brains but three times the building, the new Dwayne Johnson flick will do a passing job.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The 400-Word Review: The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter

The Netflix exclusive Josh Brolin flick is pleasant enough, but light on laughs.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

I Do, Now Let’s Have Some BBQ

A five-course meal doesn’t fit with every wedding. These laid-back couples opted for casual — and delicious — cuisine perfect for their outdoor and barn receptions.

Comments

Want Unique Wedding Photos? Track Down the Furries

Want Unique Wedding Photos? Track Down the Furries

Anthrocon returns this weekend for its 22nd annual convention. Here’s the story of one local couple who took advantage of the fact their wedding coincided with the annual gathering.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

Head to the North Hills for Two Blooming Garden Tours

The Wexford Garden and Pond Tour and the Southern Butler County Garden Club tour both take place this weekend.

Comments

Cocktails in the Garden: How to Plant a Happy Hour

Cocktails in the Garden: How to Plant a Happy Hour

Plant and grow the ingredients you need to make a fresh summer drink.

Comments