The Burger Issue: Cincinnati’s 29 Reader-Voted Best Burger Joints — For Meat-Eaters and Vegetarians

If you want to leave the burger flipping to someone else this summer, may we suggest stopping by one of these?

Jul 6, 2021 at 2:39 pm
click to enlarge Stellar Street Eats' Pimento Cheeseburger - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Stellar Street Eats' Pimento Cheeseburger

Is there anything more quintessentially American than a burger? Maybe apple pie or baseball. But nothing says ‘summer’ quite like a juicy meat patty hugged by a bun, whether you grill it yourself or visit any number of Greater Cincinnati’s excellent burger joints. And if you’re opting to leave the burger flipping to someone else, may we suggest stopping by one of these?

This issue features the 10 best overall burger joints in the city, as voted by CityBeat readers in the 2021 Best Of Cincinnati issue, plus our readers’ 10 favorite veggie burgers and top neighborhood-specific burger spots.

Note: Some of the reader picks are temporarily or permanently closed due to COVID-19.

Best Overall Burger Joints

Kimchi Burger from Gordo's Pub & Grill - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Kimchi Burger from Gordo's Pub & Grill

No. 10: Gordo’s Pub & Grill

Gordo’s Pub & Grill looks like an unassuming neighborhood burger joint on the outside. But inside, this Xavier University hang kicks things up with a menu of incredibly insane burgers (and an amazing craft beer selection). Opened by a friend of local chef Jean-Robert de Cavel, these half-pound burgers are deliciously clever creations boasting fever-dream ingredients. For example, there’s the Jean-Robert itself, with lettuce, grape compote, mayo, blue cheese and goat cheese. For something tangy, try the Korean burger, with kimchi, a fried egg, pork belly, pepper jack cheese and Sriracha mayo. And what if you just want it all? Opt for the Hangover: smoked gouda, smoked sausage, smoked bacon, cheddar, Canadian bacon, American cheese, onion strings and chipotle barbecue mayo. Bonus: Vegetarians can sub in a black bean burger for any Gordo’s creation. 4328 Montgomery Road, Norwood, — Maija Zummo

click to enlarge The Turf Club's Bobbie Jo Burger - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The Turf Club's Bobbie Jo Burger

No. 9: The Turf Club

Longtime Cincinnati restaurant fixture Tom Kunkemoeller (former general manager for the Montgomery Inn Boathouse) and his brother, Marc, bought Linwood burger joint The Turf Club from infamous former owner Terry Carter in 2019.  “I love Cincinnati burger joints, like Zip’s and Quatman’s and Arthur’s, but my favorite was always Terry’s Turf Club,” Kunkemoeller says. Keeping the same recipes the quirky, neon-lit restaurant was known for, Turf Club’s claim to fame is still its build-your-own-burger concept. Top your 8.5-ounce Brandy Meats beef patty or half pound Lehr’s Prime Market filet mignon burger — seasoned with a secret spice blend and nestled on a Sixteen Bricks bun — with any combination of 13 cheeses, 13 sauces and 14 toppings, ranging from horseradish cheddar and Nueske bacon to pineapple and the Guy Fieri-favorite Burgundy Wine sauce. “I don’t know that anybody in Cincinnati has an 8.5-ounce burger. They’re big. They’re juicy. We cook them to medium unless people specify otherwise. They’re just kind of over the top,” Kunkemoeller says. “I always tell people we put plenty of napkins on the table because you’re going to need them.” 4618 Eastern Ave., Linwood, — MZ

click to enlarge The Sammy Burger and Classic Burger from Sammy's Craft Burgers & Beer - Photo: Provided by Sammy's Craft Burgers & Beer
Photo: Provided by Sammy's Craft Burgers & Beer
The Sammy Burger and Classic Burger from Sammy's Craft Burgers & Beer

No. 8: Sammy’s Craft Burgers & Beer

Opened by former professional Mexican soccer player Sammy Flores, Blue Ash’s Sammy’s Craft Burgers & Beer has been around since 2009. ‘It’s one of those small-business owner, minority owner, American Dream-type stories,” says Jimmy Rocchetta, co-owner/partner. The focus here is on fresh: Ingredients are delivered daily and what isn’t sourced from local purveyors is made in-house, from the guacamole to the ranch dressing; they even grow their own microgreens. “We’re all about local. Everything we do here is local,” Rocchetta says. “The meats are local, the bread, the cheeses, the produce. The beer that we have on tap is local.” That includes Sammy’s Red Ale, brewed by nearby Fretboard Brewing. Their signature Sammy’s burger is the most popular. It comes topped with a fried egg, bacon, mozzarella, field greens, tomato and Flores’ secret sauce, all served on a bun that has been branded with an “S.” For vegetarians, the housemade black bean burger boasts fresh guac, flash-fried carrots, pepper jack cheese and chipotle mayo. 4767 Creek Road, Blue Ash, — MZ

No. 7: Quatman Cafe (TIE)

This no-frills grill has been serving Norwood patrons since 1966, when it was founded by high school buddies Albert “Albo” Imm and Ken Talmage. Their half-pound burgers are the epitome of simple: no special spice mix, standard 80:20 meat-to-fat ratio, served with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle on a plain old paper plate. Current owner Matt Imm says what makes them stand out is their use of fresh, local ingredients. Fans of the burger spot especially love dining on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, when less than $10 will get you a cheeseburger, fries or onion rings and a soda or draft beer. It’s hard to go wrong with that, but if you want to change it up, Quatman also sells some grub you don’t find very often, like mock turtle soup. Quatman also has a second location in Mason. 2434 Quatman Ave., Norwood; 224 W. Main St., Mason, — Erin Gardner

No. 7: Arthur’s Cafe (TIE)

Arthur’s is a Cincinnati staple that’s been open near Hyde Park Square in some iteration since the 1950s. After undergoing some name changes (it officially became “Arthur’s” in the 1970s) and some expansions, a trio of owner/operators — Joe Santorelli, B.J. Hughes and Susan Selzer — took over the bar and grill in 1998 and opened a second location in Anderson in 2014. Santorelli says they aim to provide better food and better service than a typical bar. “We try to create a whole dining experience,” he says. Part of that experience comes in the form of their popular burgers. Arthur’s offers two sizes of traditional beef patties: a half-pound burger or a 5-ounce “Sally” patty. Both use a special meat grind that’s hand-formed and seasoned before hitting the grill. And Arthur’s large, stainless steel flat top grill is its secret weapon. “It just allows you to hold the flavor of all your spices and the fats that are in the meat that really give it that juiciness and that big flavor,” Santorelli says. He says their best-selling burger tends to be “any combination of cheese with bacon,” adding that their signature Boursin Burger is also a hit. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, it’s “Burger Madness,” when, for $9.99, you can top your patty with whatever the heck you want at no extra charge — well, with two caveats: you must limit yourself to six cheeses, and gourmet toppings (fried egg, avocado, smoked gouda, etc.) are excluded from the deal. 3515 Edwards Road, Hyde Park; 8221 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, — MZ

click to enlarge Tickle Pickle's  Pearl Jam - Photo: Mary LeBus
Photo: Mary LeBus
Tickle Pickle's Pearl Jam

No. 6: Tickle Pickle

Every good burger joint needs some variety to make customers’ mouths water, and Tickle Pickle is no exception. From burgers covered with mushrooms or sauerkraut to ones topped with bacon and those namesake pickles, the music-inspired Northside mainstay has them all. But when you’re feeling indecisive, you can’t go wrong with the Breadzepplin, Tickle Pickle’s classic cheeseburger named after 1970s Rock icon Led Zeppelin. This thick beef burger is piled high with all the fresh toppings you’d expect, plus just enough char to activate all that flavor. “All our burgers are amazing because a lot of time and effort went into taste-testing flavor combinations to make some killer burgers to rock your taste buds,” Tickle Pickle owner Lea Dickman says. And if you’re feeling spicy, try the Pearl Jam, the eatery’s highest-selling, award-winning beef burger topped with jalapeno jam, goat cheese, tomato and caramelized onions and loaded onto a pretzel bun. 4176 Hamilton Ave., Northside, — Allison Babka

Good Plates Eatery - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Good Plates Eatery

No. 5: Good Plates Eatery

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Good Plates Eatery, which opened in the summer of 2020, emerged on top, landing itself on several Best of Cincinnati eats lists within its first year of business. Taking over the space formerly occupied by Clifton’s Cilantro Bistro, Good Plates Eatery focuses on simple foods and bold flavors, offering a variety of sandwiches and bowls (of the quinoa and salad variety) for both meat-eaters and vegetarians. Co-owner Andrew Schlanser says their adobo-braised brisket and cheese sandwich is the restaurant’s best seller, but the Smash Burger is a close second. “What makes our burger mouth-watering is just how juicy it is, but (it) still has a nice crisp to it,” he says. “The patties cook up quick — about two minutes — so they retain a ton of their flavor, but get that good sear from the flat top. That, mixed with cheese on top: Yes, please.” It also boasts pickles and an eight-ingredient burger sauce. 235 W. McMillan St., Clifton, — Hailey Bollinger

No. 4: Nation Kitchen & Bar

Nation Kitchen & Bar is no stranger to CityBeat’s Best of Cincinnati wins. The local burger purveyor launched its first location in Pendleton in 2015 and opened its second restaurant in Westwood last year. Aaron Kohlhepp, partner of Nation’s restaurant group Hickory Wald, says that the brand is currently working on its third location. While well-known for its burgers (both meaty and housemade spicy black bean) and monthly fundraising specials, the restaurant also offers a variety of starters, salads, sandwiches and sides, like the beloved tot bowl. The brand’s most popular burger is its namesake Nation Burger, made with two beef patties, smoked cheddar, housemade Memphis barbecue sauce, onion straws and horseradish aioli, but Kohlhepp says it’s the way they prepare the burgers that makes theirs stand out. “Instead of one large patty, all our burgers are two 3-ounce patties that are cooked to medium/medium well. Each patty gets its own slice of gooey cheese,” he says. “We also rest each burger for a few moments before building (it); this allows excess grease to drip off and lets the burger soak its natural juices in, keeping them in the burger and not on the bun.” 1200 Broadway St., Pendleton; 3435 Epworth Ave., Westwood, — HB

click to enlarge Stellar Street Eats' Ashlee Rose and Ryan O'Neil - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Stellar Street Eats' Ashlee Rose and Ryan O'Neil

No. 3 Stellar Street Eats

Although it’s a recent addition to the Greater Cincinnati burger scene, Stellar Street Eats — a food truck with a forthcoming brick-and-mortar in Anderson Township — has stolen the hearts and taste buds of its loyal patrons. The eatery-on-wheels’ matte black truck may be virtually void of pizzaz, but the spotlight shines bright on husband-and-wife owners Ashlee Rose’s and Ryan O'Neil’s scratch-made creations, like the cult-favorite Pimento Cheeseburger. Featuring a generous plop of homemade pimento cheese, two flat-top-grilled burger patties, tomato, lettuce and mayo, it’s no surprise this three-year-old business has landed itself on CityBeat’s Best Of Cincinnati burger list. The O'Neils' new permanent joint — dubbed Stellar Food Company — will be located at 6663 Salem Road. The fast-casual operation has plans for a grand opening in July. The restaurant's main function will be for grab-and-go, curbside and “delivery to the surrounding area,” Ryan says. It will serve the same menu as the food truck with some additions, including fresh-cut fries, salads and soup. — HB

click to enlarge Roney's - Photo: CityBeat Staff
Photo: CityBeat Staff

No. 2: Roney’s

Opened in 1969 in Union Township as part of the Roy Rogers chain of fast food eateries, Roney’s (as the restaurant came to be called after Roy’s dissolved) closed its original location in 2012. The restaurant and drive-thru reopened in Milford in 2015, and Cincinnatians rejoiced for the return of the classic menu and iconic wagon sign. With a diverse offering of comfort food — roast beef, burgers and fried chicken— Roney’s is unique because of its toppings bar, says co-owner Noah Loftspring. Roney’s burgers come plain but you can add your own lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion and condiments (including the eatery’s special barbecue sauce). The restaurant is renowned for its Lucky R burger: a quarter pound of beef topped with a slice of ham and served on a sesame seed bun. 314 Chamber Drive, Milford, — Grace Dearing

Double Zip Burger from Zip's Cafe - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Double Zip Burger from Zip's Cafe

No. 1: Zip’s Cafe

In 1926, Zip’s Cafe began as a bar that ran books under the table for local horestracks. Ninety-five years later, the Mount Lookout staple has continued to be a must-try burger destination because of its “classic American favorites, like cheeseburgers and french fries, and friendly service,” says owner Mike Burke. With meat delivered daily from Avril-Bleh and “simple but fresh” toppings, Zip’s classic burgers are grilled on a flat top, which cooks them in their own delicious fat. If you’re looking to expand your palate beyond the classic Zipburger — available with one or two patties — the cafe offers specialties such as the Flying Pig, topped with shaved ham and bacon, or the popular Girthburger (named by former Cincinnati Bengals punter Pat McInally), topped with a butterflied mettwurst. Zip’s is also known for its special-recipe chili. 1036 Delta Ave., Mount Lookout, — William Riesenberg

Best Veggie Burgers

No. 10: Taste of Belgium

Beginning as a waffle shop at Findlay Market in 2007, Taste of Belgium has expanded its Belgian-American menu to serve Cincinnati in seven locations. Over-the-Rhine welcomed Taste of Belgium’s first bistro in 2012, which brought in culinary and beverage officer David Kelsey. The head chef makes a traditional meat burger and veggie burger that are now well-known throughout the Queen City for their Belgian twists. The delicious ToB Burger includes “goat cheese with bacon… with caramelized apples and shallots, and Sirop de LiПge,” Kelsey tells CityBeat, and diners can choose a Beyond Burger patty for this and just about any other dish. To add even more to the Belgian aesthetic, sub in a Belgian waffle for the burger bun. Multiple locations including 1135 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, — WR

click to enlarge The veggie burger at S.W. Clyborne's - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
The veggie burger at S.W. Clyborne's

No. 9: S.W. Clyborne Co. Provisions & Spirits

This upscale suburban gastropub has been serving up made-from-scratch gourmet eats out of an unassuming Mason stripmall since 2018. When stepping through S.W. Clyborne’s Provisions & Spirits front door, guests are transported into a modern-meets-Victorian steampunk world complete with rich velvets, a gargoyle street light and metal gear side tables. Part of the Looking Glass Hospitality Group (which also owns TAHONA Kitchen, Fretboard Brewing & Kitchen and Emery), Clyborne’s menu ranges from sophisticated eats like the popular crab-crusted Lake Erie Walleye, to more laid-back creations like the hearty mushroom lentil burger. Made with roasted mushrooms, black beluga lentils, lettuce, pickled onion and housemade Sriracha aioli, this dish regularly lands on CityBeat’s top-10 lists. “It is made to hold up like a beef patty, and it doesn't fall apart like a lot of veggie burgers do,” explains Nancy Parrot, director of marketing at Looking Glass Hospitality. 5948 Snider Road, Mason, — HB

No. 8: Nine Giant Brewing

Nestled between the shops of downtown Pleasant Ridge, Nine Giant is a comfortable craft brewery and kitchen that brothers-in-law Brandon Hughes and Michael Albarella started in 2016. Hughes says Albarella is an “avid home brewer” and brings the brewing knowledge and traditions from his former home in Brooklyn, adding to Hughes’ San Francisco style to assemble the perfect Midwestern brewery and kitchen. Taking inspiration from the West Coast’s In-N-Out burger, Nine Giant uses locally sourced ingredients alongside a special pickle and burger sauce recipe that completes every burger. The veggie version is totally vegan: an Impossible Burger topped with tomato fresno chutney, dressed arugula, red onion, cashew ricotta and pink peppercorn on a toasted vegan bun. Every Tuesday, Nine Giant hosts a burger night when a “unique, one off” burger is available for that night only. 6095 Montgomery Road, Pleasant Ridge, — WR

click to enlarge Veggie burger from BrewRiver Kitchen at Sonder Brewing - Photo: Provided by Joby Bowman
Photo: Provided by Joby Bowman
Veggie burger from BrewRiver Kitchen at Sonder Brewing

No. 7: BrewRiver Kitchen at Sonder Brewing

An outpost of the Linwood-based BrewRiver Creole Kitchen, BrewRiver at Sonder Brewing is a from-scratch kitchen that draws upon the influence of New Orleans — and Sonder’s beers. “Our philosophy has always been to merge two river towns we love and have called home, New Orleans and Cincinnati, and to bring those food and beverage philosophies together,” says co-owner Joby Bowman. Michael Shields, also a co-owner, serves as executive chef. And while the brewery-based gastropub does offer a slew of wraps, sandwiches and the favorite Streetcar Burger, boasting housemade kimchi tartar sauce, CityBeat readers love the veggie burger. A hand-ground black bean and chickpea blend is infused with shitake mushrooms, cilantro and oats to “create a burger patty that could be served by itself,” says Bowman. “The flavor can't come from just the toppings. Each ingredient needs to be top notch, and layers of flavor need to be perfectly balanced and play off each other.” To complement the patty, the burger is topped with tomato, lettuce and housemade Baharat mayo and served on quality ciabatta. “No veggie hockey puck burgers at BrewRiver,” Bowman says. 8584 Duke Blvd., Mason, — MZ

No. 6: ESSEN Kitchen (TIE)

For plant-based burgers that are created with both thoughtfulness and excitement, you turn to Essen Kitchen in Over-the-Rhine. “The scene of Cincinnati is such a burger-loving place, but rarely are people doing a vegan burger. But now the movement is growing a little bit,” Essen’s executive chef Yasel LЧpez tells CityBeat. “I’m trying to please the omnivorous palate rather than just the vegan palate.” On a menu filled with delectable dishes, Essen’s Classic Burger is among the most consumed, with vegans and meat-eaters alike devouring the hearty Beyond Burger patty with toppings that make the protein pop. LЧpez says he aims to create for diners what he’s looking for himself: vibrant, layered flavors, especially when accented by a spicy mayonnaise. And with the mouthwatering meals LЧpez has created since the eatery launched in 2018, the chef has done just that. 1 Findlay St., Over-the-Rhine, — AB

Veggie burger from Maplewood Kitchen & Bar - Photo:
Veggie burger from Maplewood Kitchen & Bar

No. 6: Maplewood Kitchen and Bar (TIE)

Maplewood serves up dishes and ingredients that would be right at home on the West Coast: cold pressed juices, superfood salads, egg-white omelets and somewhat nutritious cocktails. Helmed by Thunderdome, the same team behind the No. 2 veggie burger at Krueger’s, the Maplewood veggie burger offers a different, non-fried take on a meatless sandwich. A housemade black-bean patty is topped with Havarti cheese, avocado, lemon-caper Dijonnaise and mixed greens on a Sixteen Bricks sesame bun. Note: Maplewood is keeping the doors closed at its downtown location for the time being but has reopened its Deerfield Township restaurant for dine-in and carry-out. 5065 Deerfield Blvd., Mason; 525 Race St., Downtown, — MZ

No. 5: Fork & Greens

Vegan comfort food food truck Fork & Greens closed during the pandemic.

No. 4: Nation Kitchen & Bar

A Greater Cincinnati staple for excellent and approachable burgers, Nation Kitchen & Bar is no stranger to CityBeat’s Best of Cincinnati wins. The local burger purveyor opened its first location in Pendleton in 2015 and its second restaurant in Westwood last year. Aaron Kohlhepp, partner of Nation’s restaurant group Hickory Wald, says that the brand is currently working on its third location (and won’t disclose where it will be). While well-known for its burgers, they also offer a housemade spicy black bean veggie patty. And while you’re likely quite familiar with black bean burgers, Nation’s brings a little more to the table. The patty is made with six different vegetables, tofu and panko bread crumbs. Kohlhepp says they sear the patty with some Sriracha once cooked for a little kick. 1200 Broadway St., Pendleton; 3435 Epworth Ave., Westwood, — HB

click to enlarge Inside Arthur's Hyde Park - Photo: Mary LeBus
Photo: Mary LeBus
Inside Arthur's Hyde Park

No. 3: Arthur’s Cafe

If you aren’t heading to Arthur’s for its hand-pattied beef burgers (see Best Overall Burgers No. 7), chances are you’re visiting for the house-made vegan black bean burger. Co-owner/operator Joe Santorelli says the patty is a blend of black beans, onion, pepper, corn and breadcrumbs, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles and a side of their “pink salsa.” The cult-favorite condiment isn’t complicated, but it is delicious. “Honestly, it’s just a mixture of our house-made salsa, Ken’s mayonnaise and sour cream,” says Santorelli. The black bean patties are also part of Burger Madness, when on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, you can top your burger with whatever you want for $9.99 (note: gourmet toppings aren’t included). “We’ve had people who come in and order double everything and try to finish it,” says Santorelli, which is partially why they limit customers to six cheeses. People had been getting up to a pound of cheese on their burgers, he says, and it just wouldn’t melt well. 3515 Edwards Road, Hyde Park; 8221 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, — MZ

Veggie burger from Krueger's Tavern - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Veggie burger from Krueger's Tavern

No. 2: Krueger’s Tavern

Over-the-Rhine eatery Krueger's Tavern is well known for its eye-catching and super crunchy veggie burger, which is bright red, delicious and made from red and golden beets — differing from the standard black bean or chickpea recipes of other standard options. Topped with pesto mayo, mixed greens and pickles on a challah bun, the team says that “even if you are not someone who likes veggie burgers, this burger is so unique and flavorful that you will end up craving it.” Although the restaurant is currently closed, parent company Thunderdome Restaurant Group says they aim to reopen it this fall. 1211 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine, — Olive Collins Niesz

click to enlarge Tickle Pickle - Photo: Mary LeBus
Photo: Mary LeBus
Tickle Pickle

No. 1: Tickle Pickle

Only in Cincinnati would you learn that one of the most popular vegan burgers around is inspired by a Hard Rock group from the 1980s. At Tickle Pickle in the Northside, Buns n Roses — named after “Paradise City” band Guns N’ Roses — is a thick black-bean burger topped with all the traditional fixings like lettuce, tomato, onion and condiments. “Our black bean burger is made in house and is like no other. Beans and quinoa make up the bulk of it with a few other ingredients to make it top notch,” Tickle Pickle owner Lea Dickman tells CityBeat. A regular award winner, the Pickle’s top-selling vegan option is hearty and reliable, just like every good burger should be. But if you’re in the mood for something a little different, try When Buns Cry, a mushroom cap that includes caramelized onions and balsamic dressing on a pretzel bun. 4176 Hamilton Ave., Northside, — AB

Best Neighborhood Burger Joints

Nation Kitchen & Bar - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Nation Kitchen & Bar


  1. Nation Kitchen & Bar
  2. Arnold’s Bar and Grill
  3. Krueger’s Tavern

Northern Kentucky

  1. Bard’s Burgers & Chili
  2. Herb & Thelma’s Tavern
  3. Coaches Corner
Quatman Cafe - Photo: Savana Willhoite
Photo: Savana Willhoite
Quatman Cafe


  1. Quatman Cafe
  2. Tickle Pickle
  3. Gordo’s Pub & Grill

East Side

  1. Zip’s Cafe
  2. Arthur’s
  3. Five Guy's
Incline Public House - Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Photo: Hailey Bollinger
Incline Public House

West Side

  1. Incline Public House
  2. Nation Kitchen & Bar (Westwood)
  3. Chandler’s Burger Bistro


  1. Arthur’s (Anderson)
  2. Quatman Cafe (Mason)
  3. Gas Light Cafe