Best Burgers in the South Bay

Best Burgers in the South Bay

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Sadly, there is no such thing as the “perfect burger.” It’s too subjective. On one hand, there are the traditionalists looking for that juicy, cheesy ’50s-diner-style burger with crispy fries and a milkshake (and possibly a jukebox). On the other end, there’s the new generation of connoisseurs and gastronomes looking for the reimagined, deconstructed, reinvented burger on a bun (or not) that makes use of a master chef’s skills with sauces, seasonings and cooking styles. Most of us are somewhere in between. The only hope is that you live in a place with enough options in styles, toppings, proteins, produce and plant-based patties that you can find the perfect burger for you. Fortunately, the South Bay is such a place. Keeping that wide range in mind, here are our South Bay Best Burger picks, selected by our editors — look for our readers’ choice winner, selected by our audience.

Feature Photo: Konjoe Burger Bar

In and Around the Peninsula

Burlingame.Maverick Jacks.burgers.1200x800.@maverickjacks
Photo: Courtesy of @maverickjacks
1190 California Drive, Burlingame

As commuter trains rush by, diners at Maverick Jacks — a lively Burlingame neighborhood restaurant adjacent to the Caltrain tracks — dig into a variety of tasty burger combos made with all-natural Painted Hills beef. The Beermeister, for example, is topped with Jack cheese, sautéed mushrooms, deep-fried pickles, iceberg lettuce and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Mustard, while the Monterey Express features Monterey Jack cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, mixed greens, avocado, tomatoes and roasted garlic aioli. There are plenty of accompaniment options as well: French fries (classic, sweet potato and parmesan garlic); tater tots; onion rings; and those addictive beer-battered fried pickles. A selection of salads, sandwiches, an Impossible Burger and even a kids’ menu ensure everyone at the table is well fed. 

San Mateo, San Carlos.The Refuge.burgers.1200x800.@refuge_pastrami
Photo: Courtesy of @refuge_pastrami
Multiple locations: San Mateo, San Carlos
650.458.3044; 650.598.9813

Although it may be best known for pastrami, The Refuge also makes a mighty fine burger, and you can experience both specialties if you order the pastrami burger: a beef burger, sliced pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Or, try the brie burger smothered in brie cheese with mushrooms, tomatoes, oregano and aioli. Add a side of garlicky, cheesy, pastrami-covered “goofy fries” or house-brined pickled veggies and accompany your meal with a beer from the restaurant’s extensive selection of Belgians on draft — the largest in the Bay Area. 

Palo Alto.Gotts Roadside.burgers.1200x800@gottsroadside
Photo: Courtesy of @gottsroadside
855 El Camino Real #65, Town & Country Village, Palo Alto

There’s a reason Gott’s Roadside has expanded to so many Bay Area locations, including Palo Alto: The California-inspired fare, crafted with fresh, locally sourced ingredients is darn good — especially the burgers, which come in a variety of combos. You can’t go wrong with the California burger, topped with Cowgirl Creamery Wagon Wheel cheese, a fried egg, bacon, arugula and balsamic onions, but equally tempting are the kimchi burger and the green chile burger. Gott’s makes substitutions easy, too — swap the beef patty for a veggie patty or Impossible Burger patty, request a burger or sandwich with a lettuce wrap or swap the egg burger bun for a gluten-free bun. The tempting selection of soups, salads, tacos and sides are hard to resist, as are the organic shakes, and a menu of California-centric beer and wine is also available. 

A sub sandwich with a grilled beef patty, melted cheese, sliced tomatoes, red onions, and lettuce on a toasted sub roll, served in a green basket lined with black-and-white checkered paper. This creation is one of the best burgers in the South Bay.

This casual counter-service cafe in Palo Alto’s Town and Country Village is a popular lunch spot that is all about the burger. Patties come in ⅓ pound and ½ pound (the latter is more a rectangular slab on a roll), either of which can be dressed from a long list of premium toppings and sauces. Or you can just pick one of the specialty burgers, including the avocado-bacon burger or the Pineapple Express. Either way, save space on the plate for one of the 10 varieties of fries and rings, from Garlic Parm to Cajun Ranch. Tip: Take twice as many napkins as you think you’ll need.

In and Around Silicon Valley

An overhead view of a table with a variety of food items. The spread features the Best Burgers in the South Bay with different toppings, a white bowl of fresh salad with mixed greens and blue cheese, crispy potato chips, sweet potato fries, and several small bowls with dips.

Specializing in 100 percent grass-fed beef burgers with twists that are as creative and mysterious as the burger names on the menu. While the BCBC is your standard bacon, avocado and cheese burger, more adventurous diners can order the Angry Goat Cheese Burger (BCBC’s Angry Goat Cheese, sautéed jalapenos), the Psychedelic Goat Cheese Burger (truffle and mushroom goat cheese and chives), the Lady Marmalade (bacon marmalade on melted swiss cheese), and the Bleu Popeye Burger (sautéed spinach with red onions and bleu cheese).

Close-up of two of the best burgers in the South Bay with glossy buns. Each burger includes a beef patty topped with melted cheddar cheese, lettuce, and crispy onion rings. The background is slightly blurred, focusing attention on the delicious-looking sandwiches.

The owners at Main Street decided that burgers don’t have to be rocket science, and that all you really need is a juicy patty, melty cheese, fresh produce and a well-toasted brioche bun. That said, the menu offers a few creative twists, including the Caprese Burger with tomato, mozzarella, pesto aioli, balsamic glaze and fresh basil, and there are five vegan burgers and bowls using plant-based ingredients.

A close-up of one of the Best Burgers in the South Bay on a wooden table. The gourmet burger features a thick beef patty, fresh lettuce, kimchi, and a generous drizzle of white sauce, all nestled between a golden-brown brioche bun.
3555 Monroe Street, Suite 75, Santa Clara

The only thing better than a local burger bar with really high standards for quality and sustainability is that the place was started by a local guy. Joey Camacho, who graduated from Santa Clara University, says he aims to “set a new standard for quick-service restaurants” by using local ingredients — except, possibly, the milkshakes made with Italian gelato. The menu is divided between the more straightforward grass-fed beef burgers and the specialty burgers, which feature flavors ranging from shiitake mushrooms and sesame mayo to cucumber kimchi and Konjoe sauce, which has been called a cross between Thousand Island and Kewpie-style mayo.

A close-up photo of a fresh hamburger from the Best Burgers in the South Bay. The sandwich includes a beef patty, crispy bacon, green leaf lettuce, tomato slices, red onions, and a bun. The layers of the burger are clearly visible, showing a juicy and appetizing appearance.

This casual, friendly bar and grill has been a staple in Silicon Valley for more than 40 years and seems to pride itself on being a place for no-frills comfort food and atmosphere. Most of the menu is standard sports-bar fare, but St. John’s shines when it comes to sandwiches, including Char-broiled chicken sandwiches, Philly Cheesesteak and, of course, burgers. Highlights include the Bleu Bacon Burgers and the Cajun Burger, but guests who are up for a challenge go for the Big Daddy, three patties and three slices of cheese, about a pound of beef.

Santa Clara.The Stand.burgers.1200x800.@thestandrestaurants
Photo: Courtesy of @thestandrestaurants
785 Lawrence Expy, Santa Clara

Fans of SoCal-based The Stand can now dine at the recently opened Santa Clara, location — the first for the rapidly expanding fast-casual chain in the Bay Area. Choose a burger combo from the menu, including Big Blue with blue cheese, grilled onions, tomato, arugula and barbecue sauce or design your own from an extensive list of toppings. Adding to the flexibility, any burger can be beef, turkey, chicken or veggie, and options for buns include a lettuce wrap, gluten-free bun and pretzel bun. Beyond the burgers, The Stand also serves up a selection of “Standwiches,” wraps, salads, hot dogs, sides and desserts, as well as craft beer and wine, and there’s a kids menu, too.  

In and Around San Jose

A close-up of a burger in a takeout container. The burger features a beef patty topped with fresh green lettuce, sliced tomatoes, pickles, and a soft, toasted bun. Declared one of the Best Burgers in the South Bay, it takes center stage in the white container.

Well known locally for no-frills, straightforward burgers with good fries, shakes and plenty of options for toppings and upgrades. Probably the most noticeable difference is the menu, which includes what one Yelp reviewer referred to as “exotic proteins” — along with beef, you can order burgers made from bison, elk, ostrich, salmon, turkey and wild boar. For good measure there’s a Garden Burger on the menu, although it’s a safe bet that vegans are not a big demographic for this place.

In and Around the Coast

Half Moon Bay.The Barn.burgers.1200x800.@thebarnhmb
Photo: Courtesy of @thebarnhmb
3068 N Cabrillo Hwy, Half Moon Bay

Fresh, local ingredients keep fans coming back to this casual eatery with plenty of outdoor seating on Highway 1 time and again, especially for the burgers made from Pomponio Ranch grass-fed beef from San Gregorio. The Hot Farmer, featuring white cheddar cheese, fried onion rings, tomatoes, arugula and house-made buttermilk dressing, is a winner, to be sure (add house-pickled jalapenos and sriracha aioli for a spicy kick), but meat-free “The Pretender,” a patty made with farro, mushrooms, garlic, flax and parmesan, is also mighty fine, especially when you add the tart and earthy pickled beets. Accompany your burger with hand-cut fries, one of the seasonal Farm-to-Barn special salads, and a local beer or wine.

More Local Favorites in the South Bay

Who’s writing these?

Meet our always-hungry team of foodies who compiled this list.
Please let us know if we’ve missed your favorite

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