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

Catching Up With Rivendale Farms Susanna Meyer and Neil Stauffer

The two foundational figures of Pittsburgh's sustainable farming movement blend old-school know-how with forward-thinking practices at the Washington County farm.

MultiStories: Three Times a Bust – The German National Bank

The bank was at the center of a corruption scandal which eventually led to an overhaul of Pittsburgh city government.

Matters of the Heart

In a city of eds and meds, it’s to be expected that some couples are going to meet in the medical field. We found some of the best “meet-cutes” from recent Pittsburgh weddings.

At Scene75, Be a Kid (or Bring Your Kids)

The entertainment center in Edgewood is a great time with or without little ones.

Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Thanks to wide receivers recognized for their blocking ability and an offensive line endearingly referred to as “knuckleheads“ –– the Panthers are one win away from making their head coach's bold pre-season prediction a reality.

Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Two Oakland restaurants now have shorter hours and a chef moves from Downtown to Lawrenceville.

What Unites Us In the Wake of the Tree of Life Tragedy

We asked local faith leaders for their response to the massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill –– and how we can come together and more forward as a community.

Pittsburgh Restaurant Review: Molinaro Ristorante

Ron Molinaro's Downtown restaurant offers high-end Italian dishes made with top-notch ingredients, but is it worth the price premium?

Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2018 Honorees

Pittsburgh Magazine highlights the unsung heroes of the health care field: our Excellence in Nursing honorees, chosen by our panel of distinguished judges in the field.

Nursing Shortage in Pittsburgh Calls for Creative Solutions

RetuRN to Practice entices retired nurses back Into the field.

Fine Art Meets High Fashion at the Carnegie International

With the Carnegie International as the backdrop, we feature work by local fashion designer Elaine Healey, who has been morphing from luxury womenswear to a more “non-binary” style.

The 400-Word Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While Harry Potter diehards will find more than enough sustenance in the sequel, non-devotees may have a rough time following the action.

Pittsburgh's Tomorrow – What We Need in the Future

As the year comes to a close, we look forward to what Pittsburgh can be –– and what we'd like to see change –– in the coming years.

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

Our guide to produce, pastries, libations and more will help your table brim with tasty treats from Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Drink Like the French on Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Why and where to celebrate on Thursday, which marks the annual release of the young wine.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags


Pittsburgh Just Dodged the Amazon Bullet

Pittsburgh Just Dodged the Amazon Bullet

We should be relieved that the tech giant opted not to move in.

Comments

It's Official: Amazon HQ2 is Not Coming to Pittsburgh

It's Official: Amazon HQ2 is Not Coming to Pittsburgh

Instead of one city, the giant retailer is splitting its second headquarters between northern Virginia and New York City.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Pittsburgh Restaurant News: Reduced Hours and a Chef Change

Two Oakland restaurants now have shorter hours and a chef moves from Downtown to Lawrenceville.

Comments

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

How to Shop Like a Pro for Thanksgiving in Pittsburgh

Our guide to produce, pastries, libations and more will help your table brim with tasty treats from Pittsburgh-area businesses.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
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

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

Love Sourdough? Find the Best There Is at These Five Bake Shops

We dove into the local artisan bread scene to find the best places that bake naturally leavened bread in Pittsburgh.

Comments


At Scene75, Be a Kid (or Bring Your Kids)

At Scene75, Be a Kid (or Bring Your Kids)

The entertainment center in Edgewood is a great time with or without little ones.

Comments

Five Essential November Events in Pittsburgh

Five Essential November Events in Pittsburgh

Avian art, altruistic alt-rock and more November nights.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Pitt Attaches Old-School Signature to Narduzzi’s Championship Prediction

Thanks to wide receivers recognized for their blocking ability and an offensive line endearingly referred to as “knuckleheads“ –– the Panthers are one win away from making their head coach's bold pre-season prediction a reality.

Comments

Steelers Have Changed the Narrative in Dramatic Fashion

Steelers Have Changed the Narrative in Dramatic Fashion

A defense that was groping to accomplish the simplest of tasks has started to dominate. The offense has stopped getting in its own way and started exploding scoreboards.

Comments


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

The 400-Word Review: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

While Harry Potter diehards will find more than enough sustenance in the sequel, non-devotees may have a rough time following the action.

Comments

The 400-Word Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The 400-Word Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The Coen Brothers' western anthology is less than the sum of its parts, but it boasts some great tales.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Matters of the Heart

Matters of the Heart

In a city of eds and meds, it’s to be expected that some couples are going to meet in the medical field. We found some of the best “meet-cutes” from recent Pittsburgh weddings.

Comments

‘X’ Marks the Spot for This Wedding Scavenger Hunt

‘X’ Marks the Spot for This Wedding Scavenger Hunt

She thought she was going on a simple scavenger hunt. She never dreamed it would end with a wedding.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Schoolhouse Electric Brings Hip Lighting, Coffee, to Pittsburgh

Schoolhouse Electric Brings Hip Lighting, Coffee, to Pittsburgh

The Portland, Ore-based lighting and furnishings store, which shares space with a high-end coffeehouse from the team behind The Vandal restaurant, is located in East Liberty's Detective Building.

Comments

Own a Piece of the Allegheny County Courthouse With New Gift Line

Own a Piece of the Allegheny County Courthouse With New Gift Line

Wendell August Forge is turning the century-old terracotta roof tiles into a line of collectible itms that include wall hangings and beer flight carriers.

Comments