10. The Whopper, Burger King
I remember when flame-broiling a burger meant something in this country. Sadly, Burger King is better known for its creepy-ass monarch than making good burgers these days.
9. Cheeseburger, Five Guys
There shouldn’t be such a thing as “too greasy” for a cheeseburger, but somehow Five Guys always manages to hand you a paper bag that’s damn near soaked with the oil sweats.
8. Double-Double, In-N-Out
When In-N-Out arrives in your town, it’s an event. But six months later, you can’t remember why you thought it was so great. Fine if you’re super hungry; super mediocre the rest of the time.
7. Truffle Mushroom Swiss Black Bean Burger, Smashburger
The only veggie option that dare show its face on this list is an excellent-in-its-own-right Lent option that has a delicious patty and the toppings to back up the promise that it won’t be a rubbery excuse for a meat substitute.
6. Bacon ‘n Cheese Single Steakburger, Steak ‘n Shake
Midwesterners have rhapsodized about this chain forever and the flattened but juicy burgers are almost (ALMOST) as good as the incredible shakes. Shake Shack could never.
5. Cheese Slider, White Castle
White Castle is about volume, with burgers small enough that you can take down six at a time (and then order six more if it’s that kind of hunger). Even the frozen, microwavable White Castle sliders you can get at the supermarket aren’t so bad, which is kind of an amazing feat for a fast-food burger.
4. Patty Melt, Whataburger
My Whataburger biases are as follows: 1) I worked there in high school. 2) They named a burger after me, “The Omieburger,” which was double meat, double cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, and ketchup. 3) I still eat there at least once every two weeks. 4) I live in Texas. The Patty Melt is on Texas toast and has an amazing pepper sauce drowning those grilled onions — it really earns its placement on the chain’s “All-Time Favorites” submenu.
3. Dave’s Double, Wendy’s
You had us at square patties, but you kept us with that perfectly toasted bun and excellent thick fries made to dip in a Frosty.
2. Famous Star with Cheese, Carl’s Jr. / Hardee’s
Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s are the same thing now — a single menu that changes its name depending on where it is. The Famous Star looks fine, but it tastes surprisingly fresh and never disappoints.
1. Big Mac, McDonald’s
Iconic, stacked, instantly identifiable. Even if you haven’t eaten one in decades, you know exactly what it tastes like. If you flew halfway across the world, you could find one and it would taste exactly the same. McDonald’s is easy to hate, but it’s been the top fast-food restaurant for half a century for a reason. A very salty reason.
*Honorable Mention: Jack in the Box — but only because of those awesome antenna balls.