The Best 10 Burgers in Raleigh—Plus Our Casual/Meatless Faves

Raleigh has no shortage of bangin’ burgers—arguably stacking up against the best burger capitals in the country (comin’ for ya, Dallas). It’s been seven years since Raleigh Magazine crowned the best burgers in town—and a lot has changed on the beefy scene—so we decided it was time to dig in. We had a cow noshing our way through Raleigh’s meatiest masterpieces to suss out everything under the bun and crown our mighty burger kings. If you like big buns and you cannot lie, when it comes to perfect patties, 10 standouts hamburgled our hearts—aka the best burgers you can get our hands on—plus a smattering of walk-up ops, fries, sauces and more worth getting out of bed for. Hungry? Let’s meat up.

Neuse River Brewing Co.

Beer cheese and beef patties—name a better combo, we’ll wait. And add a brew for the perf meat-cute. Inspired by “flavor, flavor, flavor,” says co-owner and COO Jennifer Kolarov, “chef Mark Woodard is maintaining the legacy” of the NRBC burger originally dreamt up by chef Steven Jankowski that continues to achieve insane levels of satisfaction on the daily. The half-pound beef patty with NRBC beer cheese is also topped with roasted garlic aioli, crispy onion strings and housemade pickles on locally made Union Special brioche buns for a flavor bomb worth Gramming about.
@neuseriverbrewingco (Photo courtesy of Beck Laster)

A pandemic prodigy if you will, chef Oscar Diaz’s double smash burger first popped on the menu in 2020 as a solution to “bomb ass” comfort-food takeout while the dining room was closed—only to become so popular that it became a permanent menu staple. Bless! The smashing success belongs, of course, to the well-seasoned patties smashed as thin as possible—which helps with caramelization—NTM the housemade pickles, American cheese, lettuce and tomato that provide the “perfect grease-to-freshness ratio (that’s an actual measurement),” says Diaz. But the crowning jewel is the secret burger sauce—and though the ingredients are indeed a secret, you should def order extra for dipping. @cortezraleigh (Photo courtesy of May Caudillo)

Spice lovers—this one’s for you. If you can handle the heat, the Ranchero is guaranteed to tickle your taste buds thanks to crispy jalapeno bacon, pepper jack cheese and salsa verde—topped off with a fried egg. MoJoe’s kitchen manager Fidel Herrera Gonzalez garnered inspo for the spicy “sammich” in his family’s salsa verde recipe, finding it paired excellently with the creaminess of the cheese. And since there’s an egg on it, it also counts as breakfast—aka a perf hangover brunch meal that’ll kick ya back into gear after a night out. Feelin’ hot, hot! @mojoesburgers (Photo by Jennifer Robertson)

Standard Beer + Food

“Nothing fancy, no chef required.” If Standard’s, ahem, standard smash burger had a tagline, this would be it. “It’s pretty simple—as it should be,” says operating partner Cov DeRamus. Nevertheless, the burg sure doesn’t skimp on flavor. Made from two quality patties of coarse, ground, high-fat chuck + brisket, the killer handheld delivers on fat, salt, acid and heat—all thanks to thinly shaved Oklahoma-style onions, American cheese, a toasted buttered Martin’s potato bun, and dill pickles. And we can’t forget Standard’s slightly spicy special sauce, which was somewhat inspired by In-N-Out Burger… “because they are the best,” says DeRamus. But trust us, In-N-Out has nothing on these bad boys. @standard_beerfood  (Photo courtesy of brand)

Wye Hill Brewing

Beer love and burger love combine in this elite menu op starring a fried green tomato battered with the same local grain Wye uses to brew its award-winning beers. One of the resto’s most popular dishes, the meaty masterpiece is served with bacon, cheddar and Gouda cheeses (the more cheese the merrier!), and a chipotle crema that adds a delicious smokiness in every bite. We won’t say it’s necessary to enjoy this loaded burg with a Wye Hill brew on its treasured patio, but wye the heck wouldn’t you?! @wyehill (Photo by Food Seen)

Monday is arguably one of the most important days of the week at Mandolin, as its seasonally rotating burger (also available on the bar menu Monday through Saturday) is only 10 bucks (!). #Steal. The bun in a million changes regularly, but the patty—made with housebutchered beef shoulder and ground with housesmoked bacon—stays the same. Currently, it’s being dressed with a blue cheese remoulade, shredded lettuce, caramelized onions and house pickles. “It’s meaty, funky and tangy,” says chef de cuisine Dylan Shook—“and just the right amount of juice runs down your hand.” Better grab extra napkins. @mandolinraleigh (Photo courtesy of JNK PR)

Players Retreat

Raleigh’s long been howlin’ for this OG burger riff on the Carolina dog. You just can’t get more classic Southern than this aptly dubbed Wolfpack Burger lest you ride in on a decked-out truck blaring Darius Rucker’s version of “Wagon Wheel” (“And if I died in Raleigh, at least I will die free…”). Slathered in slaw, mustard and chili—don’t even think about asking for ketchup—and served on a Union Special seeded bun, the time-honored “slutty” classic is just one of PR’s mainstay menu items. Case in point: A burger has been on the menu as long as the Hillsborough Street institution’s been open (1951). Real Southerners will order it with a sweet tea—but beer works too. @theplayersretreat

Fine Folk

From the fine folks who brought you pandemic pop-up Gov’t Cheeseburger in Cary comes this damn fine cheeseburger inspired by “many trips to McDonald’s after a long shift, then hanging out at the bar,” says Fine Folk chef/operator Chris Lopez. After several iterations, hands and spaces, the burg now stacks up as two chargrilled patties, American cheese, shredduce, onion, pickles and special sauce on a seeded bun. Trust us—it’ll live in your dreams. @finefolknc (Photo courtesy of brand)

Capital Club 16

You’re the ~bun~ that I want. Literally Raleigh Mag’s publisher’s fave—because “everything about it is absolutely delicious,” she says—you can’t go wrong with 4 ounces of Angus beef patty (single or double) dusted in CC16 house seasoning, thyme and rosemary, then topped with melted Vermont cheddar, butter lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions, and slathered with a spread of 1000 Island burger sauce, all tucked in a brioche bun. Pro tip: “If you are super-hungry, you can double up the patty or add a fried egg and call it a Golden Buck,” says chef/owner Jake Wolf—before spilling some tea. … “A version of this burger will soon be able to be enjoyed on the road or on location out of our Wandering Wolf Food Truck hitting the streets soon!” Find us in the club… @capital_club_16 (Photo courtesy of Mariangela Perez Masud)

Life is messy—may as well lean in and slap that mess on a bun—er, croissant (who you callin’ flaky?!)—and go ham. Say au revoir to your probs with this steak burger topped with brie, bacon, caramelized onions and sunny-side-up egg on croissant (natch)—so, in essence, all the fan faves paired up in one sammich—messy and totally worth it—kinda like life TBH. Ooh la la…  @coquetteraleigh (Photo courtesy of brand)

Let’s be honest—the best burgers don’t have to be high class. If you’re on the go or not feelin’ fancy a la Iggy Azalea, these 4 Raleigh Mag picks promise to satiate a quick, casual craving of juicy, greasy goodness. 


Hamburger Steak Sandwich
“Simpler times, simpler choices” served via this OG burger with a legacy to boot. “Born in the ’60s at my father’s restaurant, the Gateway [shuttered 1972], across from NC State,” says Char-Grill co-owner Ryon Wilder, the classic splashed back on the scene in 1975 as the 8-oz. Hamburger Steak Sandwich we know and love today (the 4-oz. Hamburger Steak Sandwich Jr. was added later). And Raleigh still fiends for the top-seller—whether as a grab-and-go lunch, a fam tradition or a saving grace post night out. Cooked over lava rock (!), the chargrilled patty perfection comes with your choice of toppings: mayo, mustard, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, coleslaw and chili. The world is your oyster—er, burger! (Photo courtesy of brand)

Mama Crow’s

Reaper Burger
“Come on, baby, don’t fear the reaper.” … This burger joint’s Reaper is, well, killin’ it. “Bringin’ the heat to Mama Crow’s epic lineup of charred and true burgers,” says co-owner Jeanne Queen, there’s nothing grim about these two smash patties of perfectly seasoned coarse ground beef topped with melty homemade pimento cheese and assembled with housepickled jalapenos, a bed of spicy crispy slaw and globs of housemade Carolina Reaper mayo. @mamacrows (Photo courtesy of Chair8)

Meat & Bite

Double Smashed Cheeseburger
A smash burger is only as good as its meat—and smashing technique, of course—which is why this Jersey City- and NYC-inspired fusion “food exchange” uses 100% Angus halal beef for its signature burg. In true smash burger fashion (with an added twist!), it’s topped with fresh onions, American cheese and a special housemade aioli. #Juicy. @meatnbite (Photo courtesy of brand)


Truffle Burger
Bodacious truffle burger—aka umami bomb—found via 8 ounces of beef sourced from short rib, chuck and brisket (!), then topped with truffle aioli, caramelized red onions and smoked Gouda cheese, and placed on brioche with a hint of butter flavor. But the real star of this flavor explosion is the umami—natch—“followed by the sweetness of the aioli that complements the fatty and richness of our signature beef blend,” says chef/owner Dan Yeager. @cowbarburger 

(Courtesy of Char-Grill)

(Medium) Rare History

Among all the princely patties, there is but one true “burger king” when it comes to legacy beef. Raleigh’s OG Char-Grill has been serving up its fan-fave flame-cooked patties since 1960—and it’s been a treasured meat-up destination since. 

Fun fact—contrary to conventional wisdom, the burger joint wasn’t actually Raleigh’s first. … Per Char-Grill co-owner Ryon Wilder, fast-food spot Charcoal Grill on Capital Boulevard preceded it in late 1959—only to be put out of biz by Char-Grill a few months later when it bowed on Hillsborough Street. (Honestly, not surprised—it’s Char-Grill after all.) Despite a brief closure in the early ’70s (there were plans to demolish the building and use the land for a parking lot—sound familiar?), the Raleigh icon has stood the test of time as a go-to for NC State students, Downtowners and Raleighites for a down-home no-frills burger, fries and shake—with now an additional eight locales to feed the frenzy. “We’ve been here a long time,” says Wilder, “and we’ve had a loyal following for many years.”

As for the burger king’s future? Grab those shades—it’s looking bright as ever. In the next few years, the OG Hillsborough Street building will be demolished (pause for a moment of silence). But before we go bacon your heart, the casz burger behemoth will return. “We will remain open for ~two more years and then rebuild on the first floor of the new building,” says Wilder. The new digs will feature inside seating (!), and the iconic Char-Grill sign will be proudly displayed in the dining room. “Our goal is to recreate exactly what you see here 1685454718,” Wilder adds. And so, we will *meat* again.


Gov. Roy Cooper
“Quick, tasty, mustard-on-tie worth it—the best spot for a burger in town.”

Elizabeth Gardner, WRAL meteorologist
Neuse River burger, Neuse River Brewing Co.
“Two things: beer cheese and roasted garlic aioli—wow! Sooo delicious. Plus their location can’t be beat.” 

Bryan Blinson, North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association Executive Director
Steakburger Senior at the Char-Grill on Hillsborough Street
“I realized the Steakburger Senior was my go-to in 1980 when I was a freshman at NCSU—and it has been ever since. I am going to miss pushing my order down that iconic slide.”

Ellyn Daniels, comedian; writer, director and actor of This Little Show of Mine
Cheeseburger, MoJoe’s
“I love sitting outside, I love the old-fashioned burger-joint ambiance… and the cheeseburger with crinkly cut fries hit the spot when I’m nostalgic for the burgers of my childhood.”

Abby Lampe, NC State alumna + 2022 Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling race winner 
Southwestern burger, MoJoe’s
“MoJoe’s sauce slaps and I love the avocado. The flavors are immaculate!”

Brea Hollingsworth, CBS 17 co-anchor 
Quad Stack, CowBar
“My go-to burger place in town is CowBar. I’m a lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and bacon kind of girl, so I love their Quad Stack. Don’t forget the vanilla milkshake!”

Meatless Masterpiece

Wilson’s Eatery

Veggie Burger
No one’s wondering where the beef is at with this Wilson’s Eatery meatless masterpiece feat. housemade falafel and edamame, tzatziki, lettuce, tomato, house pickles, and pickled onions on brioche. Pro tip: Vegging out in the outdoor garden def ups the delish factor. @wilsonseatery 

You Want Fries With That?

Let’s be honest—it ain’t a bangin’ burger without the fries. … And it’s Fry Day every day when it comes to these 10 RM picks for your burger’s BFF.

If you’re a condiment queen—these 6 sauces are the boss.

Sweeten the Deal

3 sweet potato fries picks—if you are what you eat, then I yam what I yam.

Village Deli
Swap “rude” taters for a sweet spud basket.

Sweet spice a la basket served with a Cajun citrus mayonnaise 

For your inner wedge hog

Late-Night Meat Munchies


  • Hamburger: 7 oz. choice beef, mayo, LTOP—with op to add cheese, slaw, avocado, bacon, chili or fried egg—on kaiser roll
  • Open
    Sunday–Thursday till midnight
    Friday + Saturday till 2am
    Northwest Raleigh 


  • Texas Smash: 8 oz. ground beef, pork belly, BBQ sauce, fried onions on brioche bun
  • Open
    Sunday–Thursday till midnight
    Friday + Saturday till 2am 
    Seaboard + Person Street District 


  • Hanley burger: Pepper jack cheese, jalapenos, “Crilled Rasher” and fried over-easy egg 
  • Open
    Daily till 2am
    Glenwood South; North Raleigh 


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About the Author

Angela Brown
Angela Brown is the author of our Business & Economy section.