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Classic Hamburger Joints That Never Get Old

hamburger joints - all american

Burgers have become so trendy. You’ll find them stacked patties high, topped with everything from fried eggs to waffles to truffle butter.  

Not that there’s anything wrong with innovation. But for those hankering for the blissful basics – excellent beef topped with lettuce, tomato and maybe a pickle, look no further than these old-school hamburger joints.

All American Hamburger Drive-In

Massapequa, N.Y.

A classic in every sense of the word: Drive up, get in line, order at the window, then grab your bag full of burgers and fries and dine under the glow of the neon sign at an outdoor table. Long Island’s oldest drive-in hamburger joint is a nostalgic throwback to the “Happy Days” era. The menu is, too, with recipes that haven’t changed since it opened in 1963. The burgers, which come single, double or quarter pounder, are served with a sprinkle of raw onion, pickles and ketchup. Get yours with fries, onion rings and a thick shake.

Al’s French Frys

South Burlington, Vt.

People drive miles just for the fries, which are legendary, and then end up loving the burger, too. Open since 1946, the restaurant has been named a James Beard American Classic.

Gilley’s Diner

Portsmouth, N.H.

This unpretentious diner is an oasis of old-school cool in downtown Portsmouth. What began in 1912 as a humble cart has segued into a brick-and-mortar hotspot, complete with a classic 1936 Worcester diner car. Locals and tourists head here for the atmosphere and the no-frills menu which includes a 100% chuck burger – order it with a side of poutine or a bowl of baked beans.

Louis’ Lunch

New Haven, Conn.

Fans claim the hamburger got its start here in 1895 and the Library of Congress agrees. Still family-owned, Louis’ has served the same classic hamburger sandwich – a hand-rolled double burger made with five different cuts of meat and served on white toast – for more than a century! Order one with cheese on top or cheese on the bottom, just don’t ask for ketchup. The only condiments offered are cheese, onions and tomato.

hamburger joints - red rooster
Classic hamburger served at New York’s Red Rooster Drive-In. (Karen Croke)

Red Rooster Drive-In

Brewster, N.Y.

This roadside drive-in, with its ice cream cone roof topper and mini-golf course, has been serving up the classics including burgers, shakes and fries, since 1963. Bon Appetit named it among the country’s best hamburger joints, labeling it “a perfect pitstop,” serving 100% Angus beef patties on a soft sesame seed bun.

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Stanley’s Famous Hamburgers

Central Falls, R.I.

Since 1932, “Stanleyburgers” have been a staple for Rhode Islanders and travelers alike. The patties, which are embedded with onions before cooking, get a flip on the grill, topped with more onions and pickles and then served on a pillowy soft bun. Regulars swear by the cheeseburger, single or double, with a side of dirty fries – French fries covered with Stanley’s own blend of herbs and spices. The retro diner has chrome counter stools, red leather booths and charming period art. Stanley’s has been honored as Rhode Island Magazine’s “best burger” multiple times.

hamburger joints - teds meriden
The “Everything” cheeseburger at Ted’s. (Karen Croke)

Ted’s Restaurant

Meriden, Conn.

Steamed burgers? Ted’s has been serving its square patties this way since 1959. Freshly ground beef is packed into individual metal trays then cooked in the original steamer. For Ted’s famous cheeseburger, white cheddar is steamed until gooey then ladled on top of the burger before it lands in a fresh roll. The “Everything” comes piled with lettuce, tomato, pickles, ketchup, mustard and mayo. Make sure to get a lot of napkins – this is definitely a two-handed burger! Ted’s is a homey joint, with a few counter stools and tables, as well as a small outdoor area.

White Hut

West Springfield, Mass.

Thin, griddled patties topped with white American cheese and fried onions and served wrapped in white paper have been the draw here since 1939. The Hut’s Hamburg and Cheeseburg (they leave off the “er” here) were named among the top 50 in the U.S. by Thrillist. After a change in ownership in 2020 (the White Hut had been family owned until then), the restaurant has been renovated and expanded, adding a food truck and a brand-new second location in Holyoke.

White Manna

Hackensack, N.J.

Burgers here, known as sliders, are made from extra lean ground beef cooked with onions and cheese and served on a soft Martin’s Potato Roll. Larger than an appetizer slider, but smaller than a full-sized burger, they’re perfect in multiples. And that’s how folks order them. In Hackensack since 1946, White Manna has become internationally famous due to appearances on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and lots of other media. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a line forming outside a retro aluminum diner with a distinctive red sign.  

Who do you think makes the best classic burger? Share your favorite hamburger joints in the comments.

Prefer hot dogs? Check out our story on GOAT hot dog joints and join the debate for top dog in the Northeast.


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22 Thoughts on “Classic Hamburger Joints That Never Get Old

  1. The best Classic Burger in Massachusetts would be CLASSIC BURGERS, 121 Westfield St., West Springfield, MA 01089 It’s under new management after not going in a few years I was taken back cause it was ok before but it AWESOME now and the FRIES are great. The decor is 50’s look with cars and 50 music always playing. The workers are great, and they sell homemade Ice cream!!!! The website is: http://www.ClassicBurgers.net
    The place is very clean

  2. White Manna is good if you like small burgers with too much onion. BUT if you like a man sized burger that you can construct to your liking, then trust me brother go to Cow Patty’s in Wantage, NJ!

    Best Burger I Have Ever Had!

    Big secret, they make a chocolate shake that will make you grunt with pleasure!

    Go there a become a convert!

  3. My favorite on this list is Ted’s. Steamed Hams that are actually steamed! With Aurora Borealis localized entirely within the steamer. If not for the steamer, you’d never know their burgers are steamed. I was messing with steamed hams on Wikipedia because of a Simpsons episode and that’s when I discovered it’s a real thing. I drove 60 miles out of my way just to eat at Ted’s, and it didn’t disappoint.

  4. As it relates to White Mana in Hackensack, the one thing that you omitted from the story, is that the onions are a slightly fried julienne cut, which makes the burger taste so much better, knowing you get a taste of onion in every bite.

  5. The Best Burger Joint a Shack in Garfield NJ
    Steve’s Burger off Rte 46
    Leaves the others in the Dust

  6. Try classic burgers at Hildebrandt’s in Williston Park & the Burger Spot in Garden City & JR in Calverton, Long Island

  7. A very large omission to this list is Shady Glen in Manchester CT. Crispy cheese is fried right on top of the burger (or hot dog) and served with an old fashioned tray of condiments. They make their own ice cream and waiters and waitresses have uniforms that haven’t changed from the 40’s. They have been consistently mentioned in many best burger lists and I feel they should be included here as well. Worth the trip from anywhere.

  8. El Caps in St. Petersburg Florida. Quaint little sports bar and hamburger joint in Florida. Best burgers around hands-down!

  9. White Mana Diner in Jersey City, NJ is better than White Manna in Hackensack. They were originally owned by the same man, but were sold off. White Mana is housed in the original 1939 World’s Fair building.

    Both are good, but White Mana tastes better.

  10. If you love burgers, there are two places you need to visit in North Adams, MA: Jack’s Hot Dogs and the Craft Food Barn. Jack’s is a classic “burger joint”, where the burgers have been fried on the same griddle for more than 100 years. The buns are warmed in an in-counter steamer of the same age. Eat in (on a stool bolted to the floor) or to go. When my parents were dating (in the 1930’s), my father would get off work, stop in at Jack’s, buy a sack of hot dogs and go eat them with my mother. There are customers there whose parents brought them there as children and now bring their own kids and grandchildren.

    Craft Food Barn is much newer, but has a broad array of burgers, each as big around as my hand and cooked to order. The fries are incredible and are seasoned with pepper as well as salt. They also have breakfast sandwiches, soup and ice cream. It’s drive up and take out only, but in clement weather, you can eat at a picnic table on the property. CFB is the BEST!

      1. There’s a LOT of stellar food in NYC but I can tell you, after almost 50 years there, that it really isn’t a burger town. That’s not to say that you can’t get burgers in any of the five boroughs but there’s no place that’s a “destination.” Sorry.

  11. No burger list is complete without mentioning Worthy Burger in South Royalton, VT. Superb local-sourced gourmet burgers and chicken, hand-cut fries, and plenty of local craft beers on tap.

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