13 of metro Detroit’s best burger joints

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Canva

By Lisa Green

January 9, 2024

Whether you’re in the heart of Detroit or hanging out in the suburbs, we’ve got the perfect places to go and grab a burger.

MICHIGAN—From drive-thrus and carhops to the legendary tailgating parties for our collegiate sports, burgers are a big deal in the Motor City.

A survey performed this year by California-based real-estate brokerage Home Bay ranked Detroit as the city with the most “passion” for burgers. The Motor City scored a perfect 100 in Best Overall Passion Score based on Google searches for “hamburger,” “Big Mac,” and “burger near me.” And out of all of Michigan, the metro Detroit area seems to excel at serving up not only the tastiest hamburgers but some of the most unusual, as well.

As one of America’s favorite foods, the origins of the hamburger are hotly contested and the precise origin is unclear. Still, there’s plenty of Midwest spirit that’s existed in the culinary creation long before many of our favorite burger joints existed. One of the earliest origin stories for the American hamburger comes from Ohio, where brothers and food vendors Frank and Charles Menches ran out of pork sausage while selling food at the 1885 Erie County Fair. As the story goes, the Menches brothers retrieved ground beef from a local butcher, seasoned the meat, put it between two pieces of bread, and the rest was history.

Another possible origin story comes from Seymour, Wisconsin, a town just 20 miles west of Green Bay. That same year of 1885, a food vendor named Hamburger Charlie was selling meatballs at the Outagamie County Fair in Seymour. When those didn’t sell, as the story goes, Hamburger Charlie packed that meatball into a patty and put it between two pieces of bread. There are plenty of other possible origin stories of the American hamburger, all happening around the same time. However it started, today Seymour is home to what’s likely the world’s largest collection of hamburger ephemera.

Regardless of origin, there are plenty of Michiganders who have put their own Mitten State spin on the hamburger, especially in the metro Detroit area. If you’re ready to grab one of the Motor City’s finest patties, we’ve got a few suggestions.

Detroit

Mercury Burger & Bar

2163 Michigan Ave., Detroit

Not only does Mercury Burger & Bar serve up delicious hamburgers, they’re also the de facto classic location to get an original Detroit Boston Cooler with your meal. The Boston Coolers at this modern diner in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood come the old-fashioned way—in an actual glass with real Vernor’s ginger ale—and are a mainstay of the menu. But if you need a new spin on an old classic, you might also like the Rock and Rye Shake, made from Faygo pop. Spoon University called it the best shake in Michigan.

Mercury Burger & Bar is also a great place to get creative with your burger selection. The hand-pressed burgers are ground daily and several varieties make up a significant portion of the menu. You can get your hamburger served classic with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion. If you’re craving a Michigan-made Olive Burger, try the olive-topped Flint Burger, clearly inspired by Halo Burger.

The selections only get more creative from there, with the Southwest Detroit featuring a chorizo slider with candied jalapeno relish; the N.Y., N.Y. featuring corned beef with sauerkraut; the Not A Burger Salmon Burger featuring a quarter-pound salmon filet; and Before the Butcher featuring a plant-based vegan patty with dill ranch dressing. Gabriel Aikins of The Awesome Mitten wrote for the Pure Michigan campaign that his favorite Mercury burger was The Juicy, a cheeseburger with cheese inside the patty that is “cheese heaven,” according to him. Any burger can also be ordered with different signature sauces as well as add-ons ranging from six different cheeses to crispy onion straws, sauteed mushrooms, a fried egg, and more.

Royale with Cheese

4163 Cass Ave., Detroit

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Royale with Cheese via Facebook.

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino routinely makes fictitious product names for plot devices in his movies. His iconic 1994 movie Pulp Fiction introduced the world to the Royale with Cheese, a fictional quarter-pounder with cheese sold in French McDonald’s locations, as described by John Travolta’s character Vincent Vega. But Detroit actually made it real—and damn good. In fact, it ranks No. 45 on Yelp’s Top 100 Burgers in America.

Royale with Cheese is a Midtown burger joint in the heart of the Cass Corridor that focuses on locally sourced, good-tasting burgers at an affordable price. The Challah bread is made specifically for their burgers and the meats and poultry are sourced by a local butcher in Detroit’s historic Eastern Market. The trademark Royale burger is technically a barbecue sandwich, topping brisket that was smoked for 18 hours with smoked gouda and Royale sauce (a fondue-like cheese) along with caramelized onions, southwest corn relish, coleslaw, and avocado. Other signature creations work in additional references to the film, such as the Mia Wallace, a barbecue burger with mesquite chips and honey-ancho barbecue aioli; and the Vincent Vega, a Cuban fried-chicken sandwich with Cajun aioli.

Green Dot Stables

2200 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Green Dot Stables via Facebook.

If there’s one thing you can count on in Detroit, it’s foodie destinations and budget dining options. At Green Dot Stables in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, you can have both.

The restaurant has horse-and-jockey-themed decor, present since its former incarnation as a late-night bar frequented by police officers. Green Dot Stables is famous for its $3 gourmet sliders, allowing customers to mix and match mini-burgers on the cheap. The term “sliders” is used extremely loosely, however, as not all the sliders featured actually resemble a hamburger. You’ll find all kinds of creative combinations, including a Korean kimchi burger, a Coney dog slider, corned beef, and curried chicken breast. Those with adventurous palettes and appetites will love the rotating special Mystery Meat, which includes unexpected patties made of duck, elk sausage, wild boar, and sometimes even shark.

Honest John’s

488 Selden St., Detroit

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Honest ? Johns via Facebook.

You can’t go wrong with a classic pub burger, and in Detroit, one standout pub burger can be found at Honest John’s in historic Midtown. This charming bar has plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor, like a bright neon sign declaring “Sobriety Sucks.” It’s been a part of Detroit’s culture for a few decades now, earning the admiration of area natives thanks in part to founder John Thompson, who was “hands on” and focused on supporting the local community and surrounding neighborhood back when he still ran his namesake restaurant.

Though Honest John’s has a wide variety of bar food, there’s only one beef burger. The Burger is a patty of ground brisket and short rib paired with American cheese and piled onto a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, and special house sauce. Local Detroiters love it, and we trust their instincts.

The Telway Hamburger System

6820 Michigan Ave., Detroit

In the post-COVID era, it can be hard to find restaurants still serving up grub 24 hours a day. Fortunately, one of Detroit’s longest-running burger joints has kept many traditions alive, including its 24-hour operating time.

The Telway Hamburger System, also known as The Telway, is the most classic of classic, with cash-only registers and plenty of retro decor. The iconic hamburger destination first opened in 1944 and has kept the vintage vibe going for several decades and generations of Detroiters. Though the diner is tiny, they sell as many as 2,000 sliders in a single day.

The classic greasy sliders are no-fuss and dressed-down, but they’re so good they don’t need the bells and whistles. The patties use a top-secret seasoning that makes these inexpensive burgers worth more than they’re selling them for.

Telway Hamburger System has two locations, including the original in Detroit and a second one in Madison Heights.

Suburbs and Local Chains

Frita Batidos

117 W. Washington St., Ann Arbor
66 W. Columbia St., Detroit

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Frita Batidos via Facebook

One of the best burger joints in the Detroit area is actually a Cuban fast-casual restaurant. Frita Batidos ranked No. 31 on Yelp’s Top 100 Burgers in America, the highest-placing Michigan location on the list. The Cuban burger-inspired Frita, along with other Cuban-inspired street foods, are among the fare you’ll find here. The Frita is served on a soft egg bun with shoestring fries on top. It comes in customizable varieties of beef, chorizo, chicken, fish, and black-bean patties. The highly customizable Frito is so beloved it won the Detroit Burger Battle in Eastern Market in 2017 and 2018.

Frita Batidos has two locations, the original in Ann Arbor and a new second location in Detroit’s urban renovation project, District Detroit.

Ford’s Garage

21367 Michigan Ave., Dearborn
44175 W. 12 Mile Road, Novi

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Ford’s Garage (Dearborn) via Facebook.

Everyone loves a vintage restaurant, especially one harkening back to Prohibition and the Roaring Twenties. But this is the only one that’s officially licensed by Ford Motor Company. Because of this licensing deal, the automotive-themed restaurant has plenty of Ford brand imagery and memorabilia to see inside the restaurant, including a real Model T.

Ford’s Garage was initially founded in 2012 in Fort Myers, Florida, where famed Detroit entrepreneur Henry Ford kept his winter home. The centerpiece of the Ford’s Garage menu is its half-pound Black Angus beef burgers which are seasoned with in-house signature seasoning, complete with buns branded with the Ford’s Garage logo. Their Model “A” burger tops the list, featuring Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese as well as applewood smoked bacon, pico de gallo, arugula, and a sunny-side-up egg on brioche. The Ford’s Signature is the restaurant’s take on a barbecue burger, and the High-Octane is a spicier take featuring Tillamook pepper jack cheese, chipotle ketchup, and fresh jalapeno peppers.

Other popular options include the Estate Burger, which includes smoked gouda, crispy onion straws, sweet red onion marmalade, and white truffle bacon aioli; and the Black-N-Bleu, which uses blackened seasoning, crumbled bleu cheese, caramelized onions, and applewood smoked bacon on a pretzel bun. The restaurant also offers bison and veggie burgers.

Ford’s Garage has 23 locations across six states, including two spots in metro Detroit. The first Michigan location is in Dearborn, just west of Ford World Headquarters and near the Henry Ford Museum, with a second location in Novi at Twelve Mile Crossing.

Redcoat Tavern

31542 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak
6745 Orchard Lake Road, West Bloomfield Township

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This perfectly describes the Redcoat Burger, which has been served the same way by Redcoat Tavern in metro Detroit for over 50 years. The Brown family, which owns Redcoat Tavern, has been serving up this culinary classic since 1972 in a throwback atmosphere defined by red retro vinyl booths.

The Redcoat is a half-pound of a savory beef blend from Fairway Packing in Detroit served on a sesame bun. The exact blend is a trade secret, but it’s grilled on a flat-top with no additional seasoning. The burger is also served with a mayo-based special sauce, lettuce, and tomato. There’s a multitude of modification options including eight different types of cheeses; additional sauces like Detroit’s iconic Zip Sauce; fried egg; fresh or pickled jalapenos; raw, grilled, or burnt onion; sliced avocado; and more. You can also order the gourmet Brasserie Burger, which features bacon, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and Dijon mustard-mayonnaise, all on a toasted brioche bun.

The Redcoat Tavern has two locations, one in Royal Oak and one in West Bloomfield. The location in Royal Oak is the original.

One-Eyed Betty’s

175 W. Troy St., Ferndale

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of One-Eyed Betty’s via Facebook.

What is today a staple of downtown Ferndale’s dining scene actually started out as a business quagmire. One-Eyed Betty’s began as a hybrid Rosie O’Grady’s/Cantina Diablos, but then-owner Brian Kramer grew frustrated with the location’s poor performance. GM Beth Hussey offered to revamp the place and make it her own, and the rest is history. Hussey cracked open the layout to make it feel more open and invited local artists to work on the interior, making trademark murals and boxed art. Once it opened, it became Ferndale’s trademark craft beer bar, and where there’s craft beer there’s often burgers.

The trademark Betty Burger features pecan smoked bacon with sharp cheddar and garlic aioli on a brioche bun. An alternative is Betty’s Rodeo Burger, which includes white cheddar cheese, jalapeno pickle relish, crispy onion ring straws, and barbecue sauce. For non-carnivores, The Imposter uses Beyond Meat with traditional burger fixings like greens, tomato, onion, cheddar cheese, and aioli. Any of them go great with One-Eyed Betty’s rotating 44 craft beer taps.

Taystee’s Burgers

10419 Ford Road, Dearborn
26350 Ford Road, Dearborn Heights
5811 Telegraph Road, Taylor
30953 Mound Road, Warren
2689 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, Ann Arbor

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Taystee’s Burgers via Facebook.

Taystee’s Burgers is Dearborn’s original burger joint in a gas station. Two twenty-something entrepreneurs first opened the Dearborn location in an old BP gas station across from the Ford Drive-In Theater in 2015. In less than a decade, Taystee’s has expanded into four other locations, proving there’s something to the whole gas station/burger joint thing.

Taystee’s Burgers was included on MLive’s list of Michigan’s 10 best burgers. So what makes the burgers so good? To start, they are a third-pound of 100% halal beef. That’s great news for residents of Dearborn, which boasts the largest and most diverse Arab community in the US. The most popular burger, by far, is Ali’s Notch-Yo-Burger, which LoveFood called the best cheeseburger in Michigan. The burger is the perfect blend of crunchy, cheesy, and spicy, with four different kinds of cheese, jalapenos, hot sauce, and even Nacho Cheese Doritos. The burger won the Detroit Burger Brawl in 2016 and WDIV’s Best Burger title in three separate years. But there’s plenty of other delicious and inventive burger offerings, including a spicy chicken sandwich, the Cool Ranch Supreme that features Cool Ranch Doritos with sour cream and ranch dressing, and a Pizza Burger that includes mozzarella sticks and ranch.

There are five locations in the metro Detroit area. The original is located in Dearborn, with additional locations in Dearborn Heights, Taylor, a Marathon Gas station in Warren, and the newest location in a Shell station in Ann Arbor.

Basement Burger Bar

33316 Grand River Ave., Farmington
1326 Brush St., Detroit
42452 Ford Road, Canton

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Basement Burger Bar – Farmington via Facebook.

In 2010, two brothers bought the historic Cook and Company Building in downtown Farmington and brought their own version of Americana to it, creating their own history with amazing burgers. Ranked No. 73 on Yelp’s Top 100 Burgers in America, the Basement Burger Bar features made-to-order burgers with never-frozen handmade patties. Though they offer signature burgers, the main attraction is BBB’s simple BYO burger concept, which offers over 1 trillion possible combinations. You’ll find more traditional patties like the signature custom ground beef, American bison, and Wagyu Kobe-style beef, as well as vegetarian options like the Impossible Burger, falafel patty, black-bean patty, and portabella mushroom cap.

The Basement Burger Bar has three locations—the original in Farmington, with two more in Detroit and Canton. Also check out the 1Up Arcade Bar at the Farmington location.

Vinsetta Garage

27799 Woodward Ave, Berkley

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of Vinsetta Garage via Facebook.

Fewer things are more Detroit than classic car culture, which the Vinsetta Garage has in spades. More than just your average burger bar, the Vinsetta Garage on Woodward Avenue in Berkley is billed as the oldest garage east of the Mississippi. The menu is a nod to classic grub enjoyed by the Motor City’s mechanics of old. And not only did Vinsetta pull that off with flying colors, they did it so well they ranked No. 95 on Yelp’s Top 100 Burgers in America.

The signature burgers are made from a charbroiled ground-beef blend of ground chuck, short rib, and brisket. They also offer starters like chicken wings and cheese curds along with pizza, salads, and a diverse menu of sides referred to as “Sidecars.” Vinsetta Garage also serves the famous Clarkston Union Mac and Cheese, which Kid Rock highlighted on a 2011 episode of Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

HopCat

4265 Woodward Ave., Detroit
430 S Main St., Royal Oak
17800 Haggerty Road, Livonia
311 Maynard St., Ann Arbor

13 of Metro Detroit’s Best Burger Joints

Photo courtesy of HopCat (Detroit) via Facebook.

HopCat is a Michigan gastropub chain that started on the other side of the state in Grand Rapids in 2008. Fifteen years later, the chain has a total of nine locations, four of which are in the metro Detroit area. The name is inspired by founder Mark Sellers’ love of jazz music, combining the term “hepcat,” used to describe jazz lovers in the 1940s, with the word “hops,” the flower that beer is made from.

Although the HopCat burgers are plenty to rave about, much like jazz music, the standouts are the accompaniments. HopCat’s Cosmik Fries are famously delicious beer-battered French fries with cracked black pepper. Originally (and controversially) known as “crack fries,” referencing the cracked pepper and addictive quality, HopCat changed the name in 2019 to reflect CEO Mark Gray’s love for Frank Zappa and his song “Cosmik Debris.” Food Network listed HopCat’s famous fries on their list of America’s 10 Best French Fries. HopCat’s burgers also go great with any of their 130 craft beer taps, ensuring you’ll always be able to pick the perfect duet of flavor.

HopCat’s four metro Detroit locations can be found in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor, and most recently Livonia.

 

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