2014 Burger Survey Results: Favorite Toppings, Buns & More

By Kelly Dobkin  |  August 26, 2014

The results are in: our annual Burger Survey delved deeper than ever this year by comparing burgers by their individual flavor, quality and value.

As we all know, some of the best burgers can now be found at fancy restaurants, dive bars and just about everywhere in between. We also took a look at burger prices (i.e. what are you willing to spend on a burger?) and more burning patty-related topics including favorite condiments, trends and more. Read on for all the juicy details.

  • How much are you willing to spend on a burger?

    Burger prices have skyrocketed over the years as more and more non-burger-specific eateries have added gourmet patties to their menu. But most folks aren't ready to embrace the pricey burger trend: only 20% said that they were willing to pay $15-$19.99 for a burger, only 5% would pay $20-$24.99 and only 5% would pay $25 or more. The sweet spot for burger prices seems to be $10-$14.99, as 52% of survey participants said this is the most they'd pay. But of course, there are those special occasions. But only 44% said they'd pay over $25 for a mind-blowing burger.

    Still, some high-priced burgers did very well in our survey, including the $27 Black Label Burger at NYC's Minetta Tavern, the $23 Bristol Burger at Boston's Bristol Lounge and the $34 Original db Burger at Miami's db Bistro Moderne, the costliest dish out of all of the winners.

    On the other end of the spectrum, the cheapest offering among our winners is the No. 5 "Double Meat" Special at Keller's Drive-In in Dallas. It's two patties with cheese and toppings for just $2.69.

  • Is Heinz still king?

    There's been a lot of hubbub lately about new gourmet ketchups being served at restaurants in place of the old standby, Heinz, which is made with high fructose corn syrup and nonorganic ingredients. We even made a video where we blind-tested Heinz against trendy newcomer Sir Kensington's. Overall, Heinz is still the favorite, but younger diners in their 20s are much more interested in artisanal alternatives, which means that the Heinz era could be coming to an end soon. 

  • Fad buns

    When it comes to great burgers, bread choice is an essential component. 55% of respondents said they preferred their burger on a gourmet bun like brioche or ciabatta, while only 23% said they liked the classic plain white variety. Lately there's been an increase in options for buns including the ramen burger, donut burger and more. Of these trends, it looks like pretzel buns are the only ones spiking in popularity: 64% of respondents said they have had or would order a burger on a pretzel bun, while only 30% said the same for the ramen burger bun, and only 23% for donut buns. Sorry, Paula Deen.

  • Meat Matters

    Gourmet meat blends are increasing in popularity, and many restaurants are having theirs customized by celebrity butchers like NYC's Pat LaFrieda to specification. While 84% found it somewhat to very important to use house-ground meat and 68% felt similarly about the use of grass-fed/organic meat, 63% of survey participants considered a gourmet meat blend somewhat to very important.

  • Temperature

    How do you want that cooked? Medium rare is the preferred burger temperature according to 43% of diners, with medium in second place at 35%. Despite what certain health codes mandate, only 13% preferred theirs medium well.

  • Credit: Danya Henninger

    Chains vs. locals

    Despite the ubiquity of national burger chains like Shake Shack and Five Guys, independent restaurants were the overwhelming favorite of our surveyors. Only six national chains and 10 regional chains were represented in our Top 10s, leaving the rest of the 129 spots to independent operators. Even though celeb chefs like Bobby Flay and Daniel Boulud have stepped into the burger game, most of our winners were not TV types, just local heroes making excellent burgers.