Burger Roundup

According to locals, travelers, and our own taste buds, these joints are a must for burger lovers.

By Michael C. Upton

While eateries throughout the U.S. may lay claim to the invention of America’s mealtime classic, the burger meets perfection in the Old Dominion. The hamburger, once a ubiquitous and lonely menu item, has established itself as a roadside necessity for travelers, with the highways, back roads, and city streets of Virginia offering a variety of options—from simple classics reminiscent of yesteryear to new and decadent creations piled high with all manner of toppings. After spending several years traveling the state, I have my favorites, but I also posed the question to readers, friends, and the culinary curious: Where is the best burger in Virginia? In Virginia Living’s five regions, these are the results.

Illustration by Victoria Borges

Southwest Virginia

TOPS: Burger Bar, Bristol

Nostalgia and lore are served as sides at the Burger Bar in Bristol. Remaining retro to this day, the diner first started serving juicy burgers in 1942 as the Snack King. The location is said to be the last place where country music legend Hank Williams, Sr. was seen alive. Current owners Joe and Kayla Deel keep the burger joint hopping by serving burgers in red baskets lined with black-and-white checkered deli paper. Several burgers on the menu are named after Williams’ songs like Half as Much, a half-pound version with choice of cheese, and Your Cheatin’ Heart with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and green chilies.

SERIOUSLY GOOD: 

Fenderz Drive-In, Collinsville: A retro diner with hot burgers and old TV programs on rerun.

FarmBurguesa, Roanoke: The open kitchen in hip Grandin Village is a must-stop in Roanoke. 

Hanks, Radford: Simple and delicious curbside service at another drive-in from yesteryear.

Shenandoah Valley

TOPS:  Spelunker’s Frozen Custard & Cavern Burgers, Front Royal

For hungry travelers coming off the 105-mile Skyline Drive, a good burger fills both belly and soul at this family-run fast food one-off in Front Royal. In 2002, husband and wife Steve and April Antonelli converted a former Long John Silver’s restaurant from fried fish to freshly ground chuck and brisket blend burgers (and frozen custard). The Cavern Burger comes single or double, with cheese or without, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle, onion, ketchup, mustard, and mayo. Fries are fresh cut; custard is vanilla, chocolate, or a special flavor of the day, like Cap’n Crunch and Lemon Poppyseed Cake. 

SERIOUSLY GOOD: 

Heritage on Main, Waynesboro: Date night starts with the Basic City Burger and moves up to John Wayne.

Jack Brown’s, Harrisonburg: The original location, backed by popular demand, has creative staples and daily specials.

Region’s 117, Winchester: Home of the Millionaire Burger and a weekly Wagyu special.

Northern Virginia

TOPS: Salt Line, Arlington:

Conventional wisdom says never order a steak in a seafood restaurant (and vice versa), but the Salt Line produces one of the messiest burger delicacies in the state. And in this case, messy is a good thing. Dubbed a New England SmashBurger, the Salt Line’s handheld is two ground chuck patties with the usual fixins—American cheese topped with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and mayo. But it’s the potato bun that sets this burger off—they are light, fluffy, and sturdy, providing a tasty and perfect burger platform. 

SERIOUSLY GOOD:

Big Buns, 8 NoVa locations: This local chain all started with a nationwide burger pilgrimage. 

Char’d, Springfield: Burger-focused food truck that showcases single and double burgers and announces locations and events on social media. 

MELT, Leesburg: Any place with “gourmet cheeseburgers” under trademark gets proper recognition.

Central Virginia

TOPS: 313 Franklin-Cocktails and Kitchen, South Hill

What happens when a restaurant inside a former elementary school shares a burger special on Facebook? The post blows up! Last November this South Hill eatery posted a photo of their fork-necessary, gravy-smothered Hamburger Steak Burger, and customers demanded it become part of the regular menu. Some burger specials nod to the now defunct Horseshoe Restaurant, whose select recipes followed as its staff migrated to 313 Franklin. The regular lunch menu includes a Cheddar-Bacon Bison Burger sourced from Melrose Bison Farm in Gladys, a six-ounce Classic Burger with all the regular fixins, and a Black & Bleu Burger, tricked up with blue cheese and rosemary aioli.

SERIOUSLY GOOD: 

Cobra Burger, Richmond: This national burger cook-off winner offers delectably delicious loaded smash-style burgers.

Citizen Burger, Charlottesville: Everything on a “burger for the people” is farmed or sourced locally.

Brauburgers Craft Burgers & Beer, Forest: The myth is the Ernst Von Bräuburger, the Von Bräuburger family’s talking and scholarly dachshund. The reality is the burger.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Cavalier Store, Lynchburg: If world-famous burger expert George Motz eats here, who are we to argue?

Eastern Virginia

TOPS: LeGrand Kitchen, Norfolk

Self-described as Norfolk’s finer diner, LeGrand Kitchen started out on Colley Avenue, where the small spot garnered a huge following over eight and a half years. After a successful crowdsourcing campaign, chef and owner Stephen Marsh moved into new digs on Granby Street in Riverview Village. Less than two miles from its original location, LeGrand hosts old and new regulars. Fans clamored for this restaurant’s inclusion in this list of best burgers. The LeGrand Burger is a double beef patty with griddled onion, pickled lettuce, jalapeños, American cheese, and roasted shallot mayo on a seeded Big Marty bun.

SERIOUSLY GOOD: 

Farmer’s Table, Newport News & Smithfield: The beef is born, raised, processed, and served in Virginia.

NN Burger, Tappahannock & Kilmarnock: A consummate “best of” serving gourmet burgers with a special seasoning blend.

Shark & Mander’s, Chincoteague: A newbie on the island food scene backed by local love.


This article originally appeared in the August 2024 issue. 

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