BRGR, various locations
This local better burger chain takes a look at Five Guys and runs screaming in the opposite direction. Here, it’s all about choices. The BRGR is eight ounces of dry-aged prime beef, topped with creamy Blue cheese, pickled red onions and oven-roasted tomatoes. There are ahi tuna, salmon, turkey, bison and veggie (black bean, roasted corn, falafel) burgers as well. Or, you can design your own from six different buns, nine kinds of cheese, 12 sauces and a ridiculous amount of toppings.
Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, Strip District
One of Pittsburgh’s best restaurants by any measure, Eleven goes all-in on high-end ingredients. Made with unbelievably rich, perfectly braised veal, topped with black pepper bacon, crispy onions and interesting cheeses (choice of Point Reyes Blue, River View Dairy goat cheese, Emmentaler Swiss or white cheddar), this is the upper crust of the burger elite.
Burgatory, various locations
It’s a big local burger chain that’s earned a lot of hometown love. If a backlash to their sheer ubiquity — eight locations, including Heinz Field and PPG Paints Arena — will eventually emerge, it hasn’t started yet. Made with a special blend of ground chuck, sirloin and brisket, and stuck inside a gigantic bun, these burgers aren’t to be taken lightly. For a change of pace, try the Elk Gone Wild, made with grass-fed elk burger, topped with smoked gouda, caramelized onion marmalade, bacon jam and arugula tossed in a roasted tomato vinaigrette. The Meat Your Maker features dry-aged Wagyu beef with a sweet onion crust, set off by rich, melty Gruyère, organic field greens, roasted tomatoes and truffled shallot aioli. Plus, you can pair it with a Prantl’s Burnt Almond Torte Shake (made with amaretto). For vegetarians and vegans, don’t miss the plant-based Impossible Burger.
Burgh’ers, Lawrenceville and Harmony
This is Pittsburgh’s latest contender (also one of our best new restaurants of 2017) for the ground beef throne. They use grass-fed beef from Jubilee Hilltop Ranch in Bedford County, with a bunch of unique toppings named after Pittsburgh neighborhoods. For instance, the Polish Hill is topped with a pierogi and caramelized onions, cheddar and mayo, of course. And the Bloomfield piles high the sauteed greens, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, fennel, pepper flakes and mayo. You can also get wild game burgers if you’re feeling extra carnivorous. This farm-to-table burger spot also brews their own beer so you should pair it with one of those.
Don’t let the name scare you away. Well off Butler Street in an industrial section of Lawrenceville that’s not yet overrun with robots, lies this sneaky little remnant of the old working-class Lawrenceville. Scale this extra thick chargrilled, half-pound meat mountain, and you’ll feel ready to bend steel with your bare hands. There are more than a dozen varieties of toppings, but the Classic Cheeseburger and regular American Burger are probably enough. Then again, you can get the Stinky Burger, topped with Stinky Fries (!) because, well … Pittsburgh.