It should come as no surprise that America’s Best Beer city also serves some of America’s best burgers – after all, burgers and beers are a match made in heaven. Then again, so are burgers and ciders, spirits, sodas, shakes and pretty much anything else.
We asked our social media followers to name their favorite local burger joints. Here are the destinations that sizzled to the top, in descending order.
Photo by Stacy Feyer-Salo
53 Commerce Ave. SW, Grand Rapids 49503
GQ Magazine once hailed the Stella Burger as the best burger in all of America – and many local burger lovers agree. Stella’s Lounge garnered the most mentions in our survey, by a comfortable margin.
Stella’s uses 100% Black Angus Beef to make its half-pound burgers and complements the perfectly grilled patties with a delectable combination of ingredients, inside and out. (The Stella Burger is stuffed with blue cheese and bacon, and topped with blue cheese sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and an onion ring.) All burgers – including a couple of vegetarian options – are served with Chronic Fries.
Choo Choo Grill
1209 Plainfield Ave. NE, Grand Rapids 49505
The Choo Choo Grill is a cozy diner located along the railroad tracks just north of downtown Grand Rapids. (Look for the bright-red building at the corner of Plainfield Ave. and Leonard St.) This fun and friendly spot has been serving up fresh-made burgers since 1946!
The selections here are pretty straightforward – a one-pound(!) or half-pound cheeseburger, plus a handful of third-pound burgers with toppings like olives, cheese, ham and/or grilled onions. Seating is limited to 20 or so people, but you can always get takeout. The Choo Choo Grill is open through late afternoon, Monday-Saturday.
Carvers Grand Rapids’ Finest Meats
435 Ionia Ave. SW Grand Rapids 49503
Carvers is an artisan butcher and meat market located in the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. It also incorporates a full-service kitchen that transforms some of its high-end meats into ready-to-eat dishes.
The Carvers Cheeseburger, made with house-ground beef and topped with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion, pickled and Thousand Island, is a mainstay of the menu. It’s joined by a rotating selection of specialty burgers that are listed on the chalkboard menu every day.
966 Fulton St. East, Grand Rapids 49503
Opened in the city’s Uptown neighborhood in October 2022, Black Napkin has quickly become a local go-to. The menu features four different smash burgers that can be ordered as a single, double or triple. Each patty is made with Michigan Craft Beef and served on a sesame seed challah bun from Nantucket Baking Company.
Vegetarian and vegan burgers are available, and you can add a side of fries rolled in “custy dust” like kimchi and parmesan, smoked serrano chili and cheddar cheese, or salt and red wine vinegar. Order a house-made soda to wash it all down.
2101 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Grand Rapids 49504
There are actually seven area locations of this venerable fast food joint – the Lake Michigan Dr. site is the original Mr. Burger, opened in 1967.
There are nine different burgers on the menu here, all of which have their fans. But the real claim to fame is the Olive Burger topped with chopped green olives and mayo. This burger variation supposedly originated in Michigan, and Mr. Burger’s version is widely acknowledged as one of the best.
The Cottage Bar & Restaurant
18 La Grave Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The Cottage Bar is downtown GR’s oldest operating bar and restaurant – established in 1927 – and it serves some of the city’s most popular burgers.
The Cottage Burger, topped with green olives, Swiss and American cheeses, lettuce, tomato, bacon and house-made hickory mayonnaise, was named America’s Best Burger by USA Today. There are 11 additional burgers on the menu, including turkey, whitefish and black bean versions. Want fries with that? Choose from four different kinds, or opt for onion rings or tater tots.
Photo by Nonla Burger
449 Bridge St. NW, Grand Rapids
Another relative newcomer to the local burger scene, Nonla Burger opened in the Bridge Street Entertainment District in December 2022. Locals fell fast and hard for the funky, retro diner feel of this elevated fast food joint and the secret Nonla spread that takes its burgers to the next level.
There are three 100% beef burgers and a plant-based alternative always on the menu, as well as an imaginative daily burger special. Try the handcut fries or Nonla Way fries – topped with cheese, grilled onions, jalapenos, cilantro and Nonla spread – as a side.
One Twenty Three Tavern
123 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The One Twenty Three Burger is topped with bacon-onion marmalade, dill pickle aioli, white cheddar cheese and lettuce. The Smash Burger features two smash patties, American cheese, caramelized onion, dill pickles and “fancy sauce.” Both are served with kettle chips, but you can substitute French fries or California garlic fries for a small upcharge.
740 Broadway Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
The Broadway Bar is an old-school tavern on the city’s west side. It may be best loved for its over-the-top Christmas decorations – but there’s plenty of love to go around for its namesake burger, too.
The Broadway Burger consists of two huge patties piled high with lettuce, tomato, pickle, small onion bits and creamy mayo and sandwiched between two thick slices of Texas toast. It’s served with a heaping helping of golden French fries. If your appetite isn’t quite that big, you can opt for one of five simpler burgers on the menu.
These burger destinations didn’t quite crack the top tier, but they each made a strong showing and are well worth a visit:
Choose from five custom-beef blend burgers, including the T.H.B., topped with caramelized onions, American cheese, shredded lettuce and awesome T.H.B. sauce.
The Vivant Burger – a yummy blend of beef and bacon – pairs deliciously with the beers at this Uptown neighborhood brewery.
Shaved ribeye, smoked bacon, portabella mushrooms, fried eggs and BBQ pulled pork are just some of the creative burger toppings at this downtown pub.
One of the West Side’s best music venues serves up some of the area’s most enjoyed burgers: double smash patties on a brioche bun, served with a side of fries.
Most of these burgers are menu mainstays and should always be available – but you can check menu websites before you go just to make sure.