“A burger is something anyone can do. Just follow the rules.” – Anthony Bourdain
Last year, I wrote about the need to scale back on my beef consumption. And so I did.
My record for most burgers rated in a year was 30. Last year, I did 27. In this, the 13th year of my annual rankings, I did 22. And on top of that, I may do a veggie burger list. Stay tuned.
Every year, I try new burgers in hopes of finding a great one. I keep some of the most well-known and favorite burgers on the list. But, realistically, it also means I don’t get to some popular places that I’ve rated in the past like Želva, Meat and Greet, Sad Man’s Tongue, Nejen Bistro, and Meat Beer. So, if your favorite burger is not on this year’s list, that’s how the burger crumbles. You can read my reviews from previous lists or write up your own.
It must always be repeated that this is not a “best” burger list. This is a list of my personal favorites, based on what I consider important. It’s subjective. Another thing to remember is that restaurants are not always consistent, and you may not even have the same chef from one day to the next.
As for my personal parameters, I prefer high-quality beef, cooked medium, with a fat content of at least 20 percent. I prefer a patty that is flame-grilled or griddled, with a seared crust. The patty should be liberally salted on the exterior. I do not want salt mixed directly into the meat. I want lightly crisp (but not brittle, dry, or hard to chew), smoked bacon.
Well-balanced construction is important. I’m not interested in how much can be piled up on a bun. Careful, even-handed construction contributes to good overall flavor and makes the burger easier to pick up and get in your mouth. Lettuce falling out all over the place is particularly annoying. Don’t cut the tomatoes too thick. I consider both optional anyway.
It’s crucial to have a bun that is freshly baked, light, not dense, and that holds it all together, start to finish. Brioche-style is a favorite. The bread should be toasted or grilled. An oven-warmed bun gets brittle and flaky.
The burgers were rated as I experienced them, and this year I included some from outside Prague. If they got better or worse the week after I visited, and you have a different opinion, that’s great. I’d love to hear it. But remember, you didn’t eat the burger I ate on the day I was there.
Nine burgers on this list, almost half, were new to me this year.
Here now are Brewsta’s Burgers of 2020, from worst to first:
I had to go all the way to Brno to get the worst burger of the year at a place with such an ironic name. Please don’t remind me that there are so many better places in Brno. This was an impulse stop of convenience. No thought went into it, so I ended up with this abomination. I mean, just looking at it, you know something is seriously wrong. This Smoked Chipotle Burger was ridiculously tall, with mounds of lettuce and a deep pile of pepper sauce. It was a train wreck to eat, and I did not enjoy the texture of the ground beef. How someone would think this could be enjoyable to pick up and eat is beyond me. And I know it is not uncommon here, but I believe in eating burgers with a knife and fork is sacrilege. 229 CZK, fries not included.
Boteko is a fun restaurant in Vinohrady with good Brazilian food, interesting live music, and a super-friendly host/owner. I’d recommend it for those things. So I feel bad saying this: skip the burger. This Brazilian version didn’t work for me at all. The bun was stale and too hard. It was too tall, making it almost impossible to pick up and bite. The stems of the green peppers were sticking out in every direction. There was lots of mayo, and everything was falling out all over the place, a total mess. The ground beef, cooked medium, was good, but I missed the smoky flavor of their steaks. It was nicely spicy. 299 CZK with lots of fries.
This place put České Budějovice on the map for burgers, and they are in Prague, too. But based on this one from the original location, I don’t get it. The fat-bottomed bun did not rock my world. It was much too chewy, and it was not fun to eat something so out of balance, either. The San Francisco Burger had WAY too much salt. It was mixed directly into the ground beef, which I consider a sin. I asked for it medium, but it was cooked all the way through. There was too much mayo, and I didn’t like the batter on the onion rings on top. After I posted about it, the restaurant wrote to say that this burger did not appear up to their normal standards and asked when I was there, so they could have a word with the cook. 155 CZK, fries not included.
The burger at Let’s Meat near Flora tasted pretty good, had fine construction, and came on a good bun, but the patty’s texture was too chewy. It suffered from the age-old problem of mixing salt all the way through the ground beef. The salt pre-cooks the meat, which makes it rubbery. I rant about this every year because I hate it so much. This practice needs to stop. Salt only on the outside before cooking, please! It also had homemade ketchup that was too sweet, crisp pancetta, long-cut sour pickle slices, red onion, tomato, and Dijon mustard. 195 CZK, fries included. If they salted the meat properly, they’d move way up in the rankings.
It’s a Brewsta’s Burgers tradition that a fast food chain is on the list every year and not because they are good. Last year, I included McDonald’s. This year, I’m back to Burger King. Here, it acts as a subjective “control.” For millions of people, it’s a known quantity, though perhaps not quality. Think about it: If I like a BK burger more than the offering at a real, full-service restaurant, the owners and cooks should rethink what they are doing. It is also on the list to piss off people who take these things too seriously. This year, I got the Bacon King. The crumbly bread dominated the over-ground, smoky beef. Some of the bacon was hard to chew. Note to self: It would be better if I added pickles. As always, the looks in reality had nothing to do with the photo on the menu. 139 CZK
The Maple Bacon Cheeseburger (MBC) at Kaiser Franz in Vinohrady (not the pop-ups) had sweet, salty, crisp bacon that was super great. I was less impressed by the rest. There was quality ground beef, but it was bland and needed a heavy hit of salt to elevate the flavor. The warm bun had a hard, shell-like exterior that was not easy to bite. Tomatoes were cut too thick for my taste. I thought it would have also benefited from a sour note, either pickles or ketchup. Not bad, but not a burger I’d go back for. 190 CZK, fries not included.
The Royal Bacon Cheeseburger was not bad, not great. I liked the flavor of their buttery ground beef, cooked medium, the grilled onions, sour pickles, and sweet, brioche bun. I was put off by the very hard to chew bacon, bland cheese, gristle, non-classic, homemade ketchup, and pickles cut so thick they dominated everything. 259 CZK, including slaw and limp fries.
First, sorry about the over-exposed, over-saturated photo. Their slider had nice, crispy bacon. The peppery ground beef was overcooked. It was a little dry and dense but had great flavor from the grill. It was significantly more expensive than the slider at Mr. HotDog, which has a thinner patty but more bacon. Cali’s was 145 CZK, fries not included. Extra tip: Their jackfruit veggie slider was great.
The Smoky Dish Burger had very salty, crisp bacon, salty cheese, excellent sour pickles, decent barbecue sauce, white cheddar, smoked pepper mayo, and dark leaf, curly lettuce (not a favorite). I liked the crunchy, fried onions. The bun was a weak link, with bottom bigger than the top. Overall, there was too much bread overshadowing the patty, which was very good and cooked medium. It was very messy to eat, with a large quantity of juices squirting out. 225 CZK, fries not included. I should add that I also had a bite of a friend’s burger at the new Dish restaurant on Belgická shortly after it opened. The patty had a dry, chewy texture that was not nearly as good as the original location. I hope it was just a bad early night.
They have a very good slider with great ground beef, freshly cooked, crispy bacon, cheddar, red onion, tomato, on a proper little fluffy butter bun. The one odd thing here is that they toss their shredded lettuce with mayo, which is interesting and makes it a little like slaw. It’s not bad, but there’s a little too much. It’d be even better with a sour note for balance, more ketchup and/or pickles. 119 CZK for one, fries not included.
On a warm, summer day, everyone I was with enjoyed the Bistro Bar 33 Burger. The Black Angus beef had a smoky flavor from the grill. The patty was soft to bite but still had a too-chewy texture. It could have used more salt. I wished for a sour note like pickles. I added ketchup, but they didn’t have Heinz, which I greatly prefer. The soft bun held up well though I didn’t taste much of the advertised onion infusion. There was also American cheese, red onion, lettuce, tomato, and rosemary-sun-dried-tomato mayo. It was 219 CZK when I had it, but the online menu now lists it for 289 CZK. It came with “Belgian” steak fries with seasoning.
I went to the new Žižkov restaurant shortly after it opened on Cimburková. Yes, I had the wings. But what really surprised me was their burger. Maybe I started with low expectations, but damn, it was tasty! There was delicious ground beef, crispy, smoky bacon, and a light but strong bun (199 CZK). To make it top class, it needed a better-balanced build, with less chaotic lettuce. Also the fries were not crisp enough and they didn’t use Heinz.
The Tavern Classic Bacon-Cheddar at U Kurelů is usually near the top of my list. This year, I was less thrilled, but it still made the top 10. They are always generous with their Beechwood-smoked bacon: three big strips stuck out over the patty. But the bacon was hard to chew in some spots. The bun was soft but didn’t seem so fresh. Their aged Irish cheddar tasted more like young American. The ground beef was very flavorful, cooked medium, but packed rather tightly. The burger also had shredded lettuce, pickles, ketchup, mustard and mayo. It was quite messy to eat, with juices and toppings landing on paper in a plastic basket, which can get awkward. 229 CZK, fries not included.
Another poor photo. Damn. Nicely done burger, though. I like a lot of the cooking at this American-style den of coffee and comfort food. They understand good ingredients and balance. It looks good (in real life) and tastes good. Their Classic Burger came with excellent cheddar, soft, smoky bacon, sweet, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and lots mayo. The patty had very good, well-salted ground beef on a top quality, toasted bun that was a little too large for the patty. 235 CZK with good fries included.
Their Bacon Burger had well-seared, very flavorful aged beef that was cooked medium, topped with cheddar and delicious, soft, freshly prepared, smoky bacon. Too often, restaurants commit the sin of pre-cooking their bacon and then reheating it quickly with a grill, microwave, or even deep fryer. Or not at all. It had thinly sliced sour pickles, onions, mustard, and ketchup. The bun looked like it was from Le Caveau bakery down the street. It wasn’t perfect: the top of the bun was toasted but the bottom was cold. Although some juices dripped out, the patty was a little dry inside and would have been better with a little more fat in the blend. I didn’t taste much ketchup or mustard, but I didn’t mind, because the flavor of the beef really stood out. 205 CZK, fries not included.
The American Dream Burger at Prague’s Blackdog Cantina has been among my favorites for several years. This time around, I again loved the combination of the thick, ground-beef patty, light but sturdy toasted bun, strong sour pickles, and the heat happening from Sriracha mayo. Their smoky bacon adds good flavor, but it’s on the soft and hammy side. It was topped with stretchy, basic-tasting cheddar, along with tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and onions. I had the 140g version for 225 CZK without fries. There was also a 200g patty for 265 CZK.
Hillbilly Burger lived up to their boast: “F***ing Good Burgers.” High points included a thick patty of great ground beef, well-seasoned and cooked medium, a perfectly toasted, buttery brioche bun, tasty, tangy Hillbilly dressing, and sour pickles that balanced out the salty cheese. The bacon was tasty but a little too brittle. Rucola is not a classic topping, though not bad, but I’d have preferred less. Red onion was falling out. It was a very tall burger and hard to get a bite out of it, even after palm-pressing it down. My opinion has been up and down on this popular burger from year to year. This year, I give it big thumbs up. 199 CZK, great fries not included.
The burger at this little butcher shop has regularly been one of the best in town. The 200g patty was thick and hefty, dry-aged ground beef, proper fat content, and cooked medium. Top quality meat was the star. I saw the chef add only a pinch of salt. I added a lot more, which really elevated the flavor. I got the double cheese burger. It came with mixed-leaf lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. I deleted mustard and had them add ketchup. I got chipotle bacon for an extra 10 CZK, but some of it was too hard to chew. The cheese was beautifully melted. The really nice bun held up well. 220 CZK, no fries.
You’ll find a great, classic American bacon cheeseburger at Bad Jeff’s. That’s no surprise because the popular restaurant is owned and operated by an American chef. Top quality, house-ground beef, cooked medium, was served up on a bitchin’ buttered bun. I’d been hard on Bad Jeff’s buns in the past (yeah, you read that right), but the switch to better bread from Mansson’s Bakery was a great move that bounced their burger up toward the top. This one came with aged white cheddar, red onions, shredded lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard. The two slices of crisp bacon were on the dry side. I really like pickles on my burger. Theirs, served on the side, could have been sliced thinner. I added Heinz, which they provided gratis in a bottle on request. There was great balance and build, and it was served with the bun lid and toppings on the side to keep them from getting hot and mushy. So thoughtful. I wished for more sear/grill flavor on the juicy patty, and I wouldn’t mind a higher fat content. I still miss their old flame grill that they had to get rid of. 255 CZK. Curly fries are an extra 55 CZK.
The Bacon Cheese Sliders here have been at the very top of my list a couple of times. Why? They pack so many fantastic flavors into a small, perfectly built package. Their crisp bacon is great, and there was a ton of it on the toasted bun. I’d almost say there’s too much bacon overshadowing the ground beef, but a sentence with “there’s too much bacon” just looks so wrong. Their sour pickles and tangy slider sauce balanced the salty elements. Grilled and diced onions make themselves known, but don’t jump out at you. A light amount of shredded lettuce adds texture but doesn’t distract. Eaten by itself, I wouldn’t rate their ground beef patty among the very best, but eaten together with everything else, it was just right. I regularly crave this slider, which is one of the ways I determine how it should rank. 99 CZK
When I try new burgers, I’m always hopeful I’ll strike gold. More often than not, I strike out. When it first came to my table, I was captivated by the good looks and beautiful build of RAM’s Matured Beef Burger. And then it was love at first bite. It’s not exactly what you’d expect at a new restaurant that specializes in expensive lobsters along with other seafood and Asian-influenced offerings. The terrific ground beef was well-salted, top and bottom, and flame-grilled in their Big Green Egg. The smoky meat, with rich fat flavor, had a soft bite that reminded me of Shake Shack. Their only fault was that I asked for it to be cooked medium, and it came cooked all the way through. The chef showed attention to topping details: smoked, grilled onions, fermented ketchup (needed more), house-made pickles, mustard, a little shredded lettuce, and cheddar. Their buttery brioche bun was so good: weighty, but soft and just the right size. Overall, there was a beautiful balance. The decadent burger had a great combination of high-quality familiarity but also originality that sets it apart. The burger, without fries, was 240 CZK and worth it. All the other dishes I’ve tried there have been delicious and well-prepared, but be prepared to pay bigger than burger prices.
Yep, it’s still my favorite burger place in Prague. It’s just what you’d expect from this palace of a butcher shop. The aged beef burger is topped with their distinctive, creamy cheese, red onion, and pickles. The patty was quite thick but, overall, not very large. I wished the whole thing was bigger. It usually comes with mustard, and I asked them to add their homemade ketchup. Also, it is standard for them to wrap it in gold foil, which I think is wasteful and hurts the looks. I asked them not to do that. What makes this a winner for a second year in a row? The buttery taste of that grilled ground beef is HUGE. 228 CZK. The aged beef has a distinctive flavor that reminds me of the famous burgers from Minetta Tavern or Emily in New York City. I contemplated and savored every bite. And I’m equally in love with all their burger variations: Wagyu, veal, and regular beef. And I’m not the only one to lavish love on this place. If you don’t like crowds or struggling for a seat, don’t go during prime eating hours. But even if you have to go at 3 p.m. like me, I’d say it’s more than worth the inconvenience.
That’s my list covering the burgers of 2019. Feel free to agree, disagree, and/or share your own rankings on Facebook. I’ll be lurking around to answer questions, defend decisions, or just enjoy the debate.