7 Best Sacramento Burgers
How do you pick one favorite burger gem in a city full of diamonds? I can’t mention the classic (award-winning) burger at Pangaea without giving a shout out to the OG Formoli’s Whiskey Burger. The b&b burger at bacon & butter is always a favorite, but the Juicy Lucy at Golden Bear is still props-worthy. There are so many prerequisite burgers that need to be sampled to even start a “best” conversation. That’s one of the reasons I love putting on the Sacramento Burger Battle, a charity burger cookoff where attendees get to try 15 of Sacramento’s best and cast a vote for their favorite.
Here are7 our current favorite burger fixes that will satisfy your Sacramento burger cravings:
Localis is the new kid on the burger block. If this list was literally NKOTB, Localis would be Joey. They might also be the last place you might expect to serve a burger, let alone an emoji fire, emoji bomb, emoji “100” worthy burger. At night, they serve up amazingly executed local, seasonal dishes with an optional 3 or 5 course chef’s tasting menu. For the purposes of this article, though, you’re going to want to get there Tuesday through Friday by about 11am to make sure you can grab one of their Spaniard Burgers before they run out.
I love how Chef Chris Dann isn’t afraid to go with nontraditional flavors for his take on a burger. He uses a locally baked, toasted ciabatta bun as a canvas to paint this burger masterpiece. The spicy romesco sauce sets the tone that you’re in for something different. The half pound, grass-fed, beef burger is cooked in their wood-fired grill oven and topped with creamy manchego cheese and fresh lettuce. Pro tip: splurge for the crispy jamon serrano upgrade for the full Spanish Burger experience and you’ll be craving it for weeks after your visit.
For 20 years, Waterboy has been serving up some of the best food Midtown has to offer. Although it’s mostly known as a neighborhood restaurant that features a seasonal European-inspired menu, true burger junkies know that when lunch hour rolls around, The Waterboy unleashes what is easily one of the best burgers in town.
Rick’s Deluxe Burger is what I like to call an “elevated classic cheeseburger.” Instead of wowing you with truffles or huge onion ring stacks, this burger will amaze with its attention to detail. Consistently executing a perfectly seasoned, cooked to temperature (medium rare please) 5 Dot Ranch beef patty is no small feat. And when those creamy melted white cheddar and grilled red onion flavors start working together, it’s truly something special. Lettuce, tomato, and Bubbies pickles bring a nice contrasting freshness and the special sauce they spread on the toasted bun really puts it over the top.
Yes, Revolution Wines serves food! This urban winery located in midtown has been serving up tasty bites since the move to their S Street location in 2010. Their burger is a more recent discovery. It was previously only available on Thursdays as part of their $15 burger and wine pairing special. With their recent kitchen revamp, they are now serving the burger for both lunch and dinner.
The “Red” Burger from Revolution’s Chef Teddy Gibanov is one of those rare burgers that tastes as good as the Instagram photo looks. The foundation of a great burger starts at the buns, and Chef Teddy bakes my favorite brioche bun in town. After the bun is toasted, it’s topped with his “KGB Sauce”, a half pound burger with melted American cheese (hallelujah), caramelized onions, crispy bacon, lettuce and pickles. This is a juicy, classic burger that would make vegetarians think twice about their life choices (kidding, they actually offer a house made veggie patty on request).
Empress Tavern is located under the Crest Theatre in downtown Sacramento and unlike its vegetable-centric sister restaurant, Mother, it is a meat lover’s paradise. The menu reads like a carnivore’s carefully curated to-do list. And during happy hour, my fellow burger fiends, they serve one hell of a cheeseburger.
This is one of the only higher end, downtown restaurants serving burgers with thin beef patties and I’m all for it. My favorite style of burger these days is a smashed and griddled (on a flat top) double cheeseburger and that’s exactly what Empress Tavern is serving up.
For the Empress Double Cheeseburger, they rub the two 3 ounce burger patties with mustard and griddle them with onions similar to In-N-Out’s animal style burger, and top it off with gruyère cheese, pastrami and butter lettuce on toasted, house-baked sesame seed buns. Pair it with one of the great cocktails at the bar and you’ve got yourself the makings of a good night out.
Although LowBrau opened in Midtown Sacramento in December of 2012, they only started making burgers in May of 2015. After only a few months of burgers under their belt, they took 2nd place in the 2015 Sacramento Burger Battle. This year they leveled up and won the People’s Choice Championship belt in the Sacramento Burger Battle!
Even with all these accolades, when I tell people one of my favorite burgers is at LowBrau, I still hear the inevitable, “They make burgers there? I thought they just did sausages?” Their 7-ounce chuck/brisket beef patty topped with white American cheese on a toasted pretzel bun is a must try. When that house-made spicy sauce hits you, I swear, fireworks go off. You decide what goes on it with the shredded romaine lettuce, grilled red onions and house-made pickles they provide on the side. Fully dressed or just meat/cheese/bun, this burger with one of their beers on draught is the lunch dreams are made of.
The Chef’s Table
Contrary to popular opinion, your food options don’t disappear once you leave the grid. In face, The Chef’s Table in Rocklin serves up some of the best New American fare in our region. Once a tiny nook in a suburban shopping plaza, the recently-expanded Chef’s Table now takes up two full suites during its bustling dinner service.
With its seasonally changing menu, you may find a new burger at The Chef’s Table every visit. One of their most recent creations is the spicy, sweet and savory beauty that is the TCT Bacon-Fig Jam Brie Burger.
But I’m here to let you all in on a little secret. One of the best burgers you’ll ever eat isn’t even on the menu. The PBBJS burger is to The Chef’s Table what the 4×4 is to In-N-Out. Not on the menu, but they always have the ingredients to make it for those in the know. And let me tell you, once you pick up this perfectly cooked SunFed Ranch grass-fed beef burger topped with melted cheddar, creamy peanut butter, spicy sriracha, crispy bacon, and grape jelly, you’re not going to want to put it down. Trust me, if peanut butter and burgers aren’t something you’d normally put in the same sentence, let this miracle of a modern burgerism be your first.
I feel like you can’t have a “best burgers” list without an honest to goodness, old school burger joint that has “burger” in the name. Willie’s Burgers is that place. With all the fantastic fancy burger options around Sacramento, it makes me happy to have a such a reliable, classic, no-nonsense burger holding its own for so many years. With locations off Broadway, on Arden and most recently in Old Sacramento, Willie’s is our own homegrown fast food joint.
Willie’s excels in a down-to-earth burger experience that fits right in with that lunchtime meeting, your affordable Friday family dinner plans, or that clutch late night after-bar burger run. Go for the Slammer if you’re a chili fan or the regular burger if you enjoy life’s simplicities. Any way you go, Willie’s is one of the reasons I stay Sacramento Proud.