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 Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

On Trend: Add a Touch of Velvet to Your Decor

Local designers say the fabric can give a room a luxurious feel. Here’s how to incorporate it into your home.

Spring Clean Your Attic at This Reuse Festival

Just in time for Earth Day, local organizations are giving you the opportunity to recycle, learn about sustainability and get rid of unwanted stuff at home.

Dish Osteria Will Reopen This Spring

After a two-year hiatus, Michele and Cindy Savoia's beloved restaurant and bar returns to the South Side.

7 Scenic Day Trips with Spectacular Views

By car, train, bicycle or foot, head outside to take in these unforgettable vistas.

Restaurant Review: LeoGreta is a Gem in the Making

With a few tweaks and a little time to settle in, LeoGreta will be the restaurant we all wish we had in our neighborhood.

The Pittsburgh Pirates' Last World Series

Forty years removed from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ most recent championship, the “We Are Family” Pirates reflect on the myriad differences between their game and the one played on the North Shore today.

Foreign Investment: Pittsburgh's Business with Israel

Pittsburgh has a robust Jewish and Israeli community, with scores of programs, both social and academic, bridging the ocean. The relationship, however, is increasingly about business.

Grandstand Gear: The Ultimate Baseball Scoring Pencil

A Pirates fan says she designed the perfect pencil for keeping score at baseball games — and it’s a hit.

Giving the Little Ones Room to Learn

An expansion at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf will allow the storied institution to better serve the needs of its youngest students.

Scrapbooks Share Pittsburgh's Subterranean Secrets

Beneath a longstanding Strip District church, visitors could once descend into catacombs.

Pat Toomey and President Trump: Not Always on Same Page

The Republican Senator from Pennsylvania discusses his differences with the President, avoiding another government shutdown and how to further combat the opioid crisis.

Hiking Through the Northern Suburbs with Rachel Carson

The Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy seeks to bring more people into the natural world via an increasingly interconnected network of suburban trails.

Our 50 Years: A Look Back at Ads You Won't See Anymore

An “In Memoriam” segment for those products and services that are unlikely to ever advertise again.

Rolling Pepperoni's Doughy, Delicious Dialogue

Katt Schuler serves West Virginia’s iconic pepperoni roll with a side of storytelling.

Brown and Bell are Gone – What the Steelers Need to do Next

Whether the Steelers are better or worse off, whether they’re culpable or deserve to be applauded for finally resolving two of their biggest problems remains to be seen.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Spring Clean Your Attic at This Reuse Festival

Spring Clean Your Attic at This Reuse Festival

Just in time for Earth Day, local organizations are giving you the opportunity to recycle, learn about sustainability and get rid of unwanted stuff at home.

Comments

Broadway in the 'Burgh: “Mean Girls” on Tap, “Hamilton” Returning

Broadway in the 'Burgh: “Mean Girls” on Tap, “Hamilton” Returning

Tony award winners, big-screen tie-ins and jukebox musicals are all slated to make 2019-20 stage appearances in Pittsburgh.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dish Osteria Will Reopen This Spring

Dish Osteria Will Reopen This Spring

After a two-year hiatus, Michele and Cindy Savoia's beloved restaurant and bar returns to the South Side.

Comments

Feel The Groove, and Fill Your Belly, at Fet Fisk

Feel The Groove, and Fill Your Belly, at Fet Fisk

The bi-weekly pop-up weaves vaguely Scandinavian cuisine and communal vibes for a transportive experience.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

The 5 Best Seats at PPG Paints Arena

From ultra-premium experiences to bargains with great views, here are five perfect places to watch the Pens.

Comments

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Fitness: Five Great Trails to Run in the Fall in Pittsburgh

Don’t resign yourself to the gym treadmills just yet – fall is one of the best times of the year to get outside and pound the pavement, surrounded by falling leaves and the possibility of grabbing a hot latte on the way home.

Comments


It's 2019. We Need a Modern, Dine-In Cinema

It's 2019. We Need a Modern, Dine-In Cinema

Pittsburgh is long overdue for a new movie palace where you can get an actual meal brought to your seat.

Comments

Unexpected Concerts with the Warhol

Unexpected Concerts with the Warhol

The museum’s “Sound Series” creates a setting for intriguing, intimate performances.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Brown and Bell are Gone – What the Steelers Need to do Next

Brown and Bell are Gone – What the Steelers Need to do Next

Whether the Steelers are better or worse off, whether they’re culpable or deserve to be applauded for finally resolving two of their biggest problems remains to be seen.

Comments

‘The Most Exciting Sporting Event in the Country’

‘The Most Exciting Sporting Event in the Country’

“March Madness” is as cruel as it is compelling. Just ask Robert Morris Head Coach Andy Toole, who has been there and hoping to go back again.

Comments


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

The 400-Word Review: Triple Frontier

Netflix's action flick is pretty good. It's also exactly what the streaming service should be providing.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: Five Feet Apart

The 400-Word Review: Five Feet Apart

The teen drama is a feeble knock-off of similar tales with no goal but mining cheap tears.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Big Fake Wedding Offers Everything But the “I Dos”

The Big Fake Wedding Offers Everything But the “I Dos”

This nontraditional wedding showcase gives couples real-world insight into planning their big day.

Comments

Sweet Designs: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

Sweet Designs: Our Cookie Table Contest Winner and Runners-Up

These Pittsburgh couples certainly know how to bring the cookie table tradition to life.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
On Trend: Add a Touch of Velvet to Your Decor

On Trend: Add a Touch of Velvet to Your Decor

Local designers say the fabric can give a room a luxurious feel. Here’s how to incorporate it into your home.

Comments

Leanne & Steve Dish on Season 2 of "Restored by the Fords"

Leanne & Steve Dish on Season 2 of "Restored by the Fords"

Siblings Leanne and Steve Ford talk renovating Steve’s new warehouse, Leanne’s new baby — and their two new HGTV shows.

Comments