Fast Food Patty Melts Ranked Worst To Best

When you pull apart the patty melt, it's actually just an ultra-savory cheeseburger. Or a creamy grilled cheese dressed to the nines. In other words, the ideal fast food bite. There's just no classifying this toasted pocket of broiled deliciousness that gives you the best of both sandwich worlds — the beef patty, the Swiss cheese, the seared onion shavings, and a mayo spread coalescing on Rye bread are grilled to a browned complexion. You might order one in a diner with a pickle on the side, but its emergence out of a (now shuttered) Los Angeles joint called Tiny Naylor's asserts that the drive-thru has always been home. 

Today, franchises have adopted the comforting staple with an array of unique flourishes. It's common to spot sourdough or hamburger buns replacing nutty sliced Rye, as are the cheeses and toppings swapped in for strategic bursts of piquancy or depth. There's also a wide berth in the quality you can expect when placing your order. Assuming you're tired of throwing your money away on milquetoast lunches, you'd probably like to know where patty melts from all corners of the drive-thru stack up. With beloved household names and up-and-comers alike, let's hash out the best and worst options for this throwback fave. It's ranking time!

Farmer Boys

Originating out of Perris, California, Farmer Boys is a franchise dishing up American favorites morning, noon, and night. Where anybody's hard-earned dollars are concerned, the patty melt is numero uno for putting out to pasture. The beef, although grilled to order, is pounded out to a dry flatness, and the sourdough is so flimsy it sponges up all the butter before it can make it to your mouth. Additionally, reviewers weren't too pleased with the size of the patties. The puny sliver of meat stuffed in there resembles a hamburger fit for a Happy Meal rather than an adult-sized portion. Sauteed onions are listed as one of the toppings, but there's so little that you don't get the smoky tang that's supposed to imbue the sandwich. 

On the authenticity front, using sourdough instead of rye, at least to some diners, was the ultimate strike against Farmer Boys' version. Yet it was the sub-par preparation, even more than the choice of bread, that earned this a failing grade. Disappointing, given the restaurant operates like a short-order kitchen that actually cranks out orders from scratch, than drive-thrus that worship at the altar of the heat lamp. Sorry, Farmer Boys: Two spatulas firmly down.

Sonic Drive-In

Contrary to Sonic's retro carhop image, the patty melt is not a permanent mainstay on the menu. Maybe there's a reason for that. You get a quarter pound of dreary-looking beef, on planks of brittlely mushy Texas toast, with globs of mayonnaise and mustard bleeding through. Although the limited-run sandwich appeals to our gastronomical impulses (the grilled onions! the neon yellow cheese!) altogether, the mediocrity overrides the initial rush of excitement from seeing it all packed together. 

Having just mentioned the issues on the condiment front, our particular problem falls down to what's, in our view, the trickiest of all toppings: the mayo. Normally this creamy dressing has our mouths watering, but naysayers claim Sonic heaps it on to a repulsive degree. It dampens the bread, making the entire hand-held meal fall apart as you eat it. For more balance, we would have preferred a special sauce spiked with some relish or pepper as opposed to the spreads being left to their own devices. And a lighter layer. 

Hearty patty melts are both crispy and sumptuously gooey. On the other hand, Sonic's range from dry to watery, all in a single mouthful. A disappointing misfire in the battleground of uniquely-built burgers. Avoid this one, too. 

Jack in the Box

The Sourdough Patty Melt, a staple specialty rolled out at Jack in the Box, layers Swiss and American cheese, a scattering of charred onions, and, when you double the meat, some bacon strips. Of course, everything's wedged together on two discs of sourdough. A slim majority of the variations we judged would constitute as outright bombs, and Jack in the Box's isn't totally inedible. That being said, we wouldn't go out of our way to the drive-thru for one, menu exclusive or not. 

One could say it's an okay cheeseburger that dabbles beyond the usual backyard barbecue fixings. But Jack in the Box does a bad job convincing us that it's a good, even great, twist on the griddled classic. Once again, the buns leave a lot to be desired. They're squishy and fall apart easily like sliced bread from the supermarket — a bad sign for melts of any kind. Even worse, the fermented essence that defines sourdough bread in all of its savoriness is missing from the picture, so you're also left with a plain-tasting roll to boot. It would help if the caramelized onions had a smokier taste, too — Jack in the Box commits the error of undercooking them, never achieving that chargrilled feel. 

Burger King

The patty melt can confidently fall under the umbrella of hamburgers, but what about an iconic bun like the Whopper? Burger King's Classic Whopper Melt fuses them together and somehow lets down both. For starters, the proportions are totally off. The beef patties, at ¼ pound as seen on the Whopper Jr., are too small for the number of toppings on every sandwich — the heavy coating of American cheese and the piled-on onions end up overwhelming the smaller proportions. The "Whopper" moniker implies a mighty, weighty burger is within reach, but it's common to devour one of these in a couple of swallows. 

We also have to be honest about the Stacker Sauce: it has an odd taste that's hard to pinpoint. Some enjoy the hint of sweetness tucked into the relish-y base (it's probably ketchup), but Burger King's penchant for slathering it on is stomachache-inducing. In the case of how overly oily the sandwich is on its own, however, the indulgence of the sauce is definitely overkill. Food Rankers thought the sandwich could be larger and less of a grease fest to truly win them over, and we agree! This more than covers the main issues with the Classic Whopper Melt from Burger King. 


Hardee's launched the Frisco Burger in 1992, which Gen-Xers will remember for its use of sourdough rounds rather than a regular hamburger bun. When the chain resurrected the San Francisco-inspired bite in 2022, it returned as the Frisco Angus Burger. If you haven't tried it, it basically features a smoke-licked patty bursting with Swiss, tomatoes, bacon, and mayo for a running price of $6.09. 

"Charbroiled" is a phrase you'll often spot at Hardee's, so it's easy to assume you're in for a mouthwatering surprise. Most of the patties we've looked at have been quarter-pounders, and it's not lost on us that this beast of a burger weighs a ⅓ pound. The cold toppings offer a cooling boost, something that's not always present on a pressed sandwich. Be that as it may, our hunt for the best fast food patty melt will have to continue. The beef has an artificial taste, the bacon strips are skimpy, and despite the "toasted sourdough" Hardee's boasts on its website, anybody with tastebuds can tell that it's not actually sourdough. There are also no grilled onions embedded to play up the savoriness. 

Certainly, we've seen how low-quality ingredients pave the way for a poor product. Hardee's is okay for a quick option, but we also think the price is too high for what it is.


Stepping into the fast-casual realm for a moment, Burgerfi ekes out a decent middle-grounder with the Texas Toast Patty Melt. American cheese, as any foodie knows, is the liquid gold of burger toppings, and it glides over "100% American Angus Beef" and blackened curls of sliced onion. A house spread (referred to as "Fi sauce") does a decent job balancing out the sweet and savory flavors, much like any of the charbroiled concoctions over 100 locations crank out across the country as we speak. 

Admittedly, receiving a patty melt prepared the moment you order it is rare among chain restaurants. We're not afraid of preaching to the choir about the superiority of just-grilled sandwiches, so Burgerfi's understandably promising. Regardless, the craving wanes when the time comes to actually sink your teeth into it. The beef is undoubtedly tender and nicely broiled, but here's where it loses us — the slider itself is actually quite plain-tasting. As much as we favor quality speaking for itself, dabbing on a zesty-ish sauce doesn't replace seasoning the meat. It just doesn't! 

Pickings can be slim at the drive-thru — or, in this case, the front counter — but Burgerfi's could be better. Stick it out towards the end for some exemplary sandwiches worth the drive to buy.  


Most chains stop at one patty melt to bask in a little nostalgia. Culver's, however, advertises two different versions that play up its Wisconsin pride and mouthwatering beef all in one go. Stacked with one burger or double patties, the Sourdough Melt is the chain's mainline style that doesn't stray from the traditional flavors — in this instance, though, aged Cheddar and seared red onions take the place of American cheese and yellow onions found at prior eateries. It's slim and shaped like a grilled cheese, with a buttered surface that's decently toasted. 

While Culver's boasts meat that's certainly "fresh, never frozen," we've already witnessed enough burger flippers churning out their share of wishy-washy melts. So where, in our toe-to-toe lineup, does that put the Sourdough Melt? Like one of the chain's rotating custard flavors, opinions are very mixed. While the burger (or burgers) do taste moist, the plainness makes them disappear into the melted mess of cheese. Culver's also doesn't add any sauce, and a zingy spread could do wonders in tapping into the patty's potential. "Honestly, it needed a little ketchup or something just to add another dimension to it," a blog called Indianapolis Restaurant Scene wrote, who was a tad underwhelmed despite appreciating the sourdough's earsplitting crunch. 

Steak 'n Shake

We're not sure when the patty melt became synonymous with San Francisco, but that's a discussion for another day. In the meantime, let's check out this cult favorite from a Midwestern burger legend. For $6.20, Steak 'n Shake piles its signature steakburgers (plural) atop sourdough bread to craft the Frisco Melt, a hand-held bite pocketing Swiss, American, sauteed onions. A blistering orange "Frisco" spread resembles a savory Russian dressing, 

When pressed properly, the Frisco Melt is a revelatory experience customers remember long after the crumbs have settled. Slimmer patties are convenient for eating's sake, and the pairing of cheeses adds a flavorful dimension beyond creaminess. Think of a really good panini you've had, and this is probably close. These burgers are razor-thin and charred to the perimeters of the patty. But with the overflow of sauce and cheese, a thicker slab of beef would better anchor the extras. There's also the extreme oiliness from the butter coating the bread.  

We won't downplay Steak n' Shake's likely part in popularizing patty melts as a fast food option, but if the Frisco Melt is consistent at anything, it's inconsistency. You'll get the popularity, so long as you order it from a solid location. 

Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

Whether it's chargrilled cheeseburgers or swirly concretes, chains like Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers update retro American dishes for the modern-day foodie. Still, there's a good chance that old-school tastes will be drawn in by the Original Double Patty Melt. It's no-frills, and while that term might provoke long yawns in some circles, the deliciously simple execution makes it worthwhile. 

Here's what makes us pine for a Freddy's patty melt in particular, should you be a little skeptical of its supposed wonder: The beef patties are smashed and seared to order, so the freshness is already head and shoulders above the fray. The Swiss, meanwhile, oozes deliciously from the meat and compliments the glossy, griddled onions. Freddy's also made the right call by using rye bread — although the bread (and toppings) can be customized, the hint of nuttiness mixed with that sturdy crunch is too good to resist, frankly. 

Sure, the burgers aren't the thickest of sliders out there, nor is it the flashiest on the condiment front (no dressing, for example), But isn't that the beauty of this throwback bite? It's cheesy, crispy, and filled with flavor. Within two slices of bread, every topping manages to shine through. 


Does a patty melt require Monterey Jack and "creamy pepper sauce" oozing down the edges to capture our interest? Not usually, but that's because this isn't your average convenience joint — this is Whataburger. As one of the chain's "All Time Favorites" making customers drool since 2008, we can see why there's heaps of love thrown its way. Look to the gargantuan slabs of (what else?) Texas toast hugging the chargrilled patties in place. Admire the folds of mild, melty cheese nestled between the beef. Patty melts are simple enough to invite culinary exploration, and Whataburger's condiments choice is on point. An excellent ode to the patty melt, vis a vis the Southwest. 

Should there be a single thing to nit-pick about this Lone Star signature, it's that there's no way to eat one neatly. Truth be told, your hands will get grubby since the beef is pretty tender, and the onions, bless their hearts, are prone to escaping from the sides of the sandwich. If anything, it's a testament to the steaming-hot freshness that will pull your tastebuds in each and every time. There are plenty of twists to excite the palate, and Whataburger never wears out its welcome. It's a drive-thru staple — and among the top patty melts in fast food-dom. 

Wayback Burgers

Transporting diners to the '50s is what Wayback Burgers' soda fountain fare does best. Regardless, we don't think any time machine could ever capture anything as spectacularly gluttonous as The Cheeeesy Burger (yes, that's four e's). As the chain's menu description reveals, each of the drawn-out vowels represents one slice of American cheese, stuffing each bite with quadruple the creaminess and two juicy patties. Between golden-brown burger buns that are smashed upside down, the tasty mass before you clocks in at 830 calories, and the cheese will glue your mouth shut if the giant bites you'll gladly take don't first. 

Truth be told, patty melt purists may argue that this is nothing more than a glorified double cheeseburger — there's no sauteed onions or sauce, for starters. But in 2023, experimenting with old favorites means taking a few risks along the way, and reviewers feel this indulgent twist takes it to the extremes — very delicious extremes. According to one Yelp reviewer, Wayback Burgers' version excels at fusing two irresistible sandwiches into one, claiming, "It tastes like an awesome grilled cheese and great diner burger combined." Truly, that's all a patty melt needs to achieve to win our appetites over, and Wayback Burgers does it to dazzling effect.

Five Guys

The secret's out: Five Guys' Patty Melt isn't an official offering technically, but the hamburger chain nevertheless has a hidden hit on its hands. In fact, the sandwich is borne out of an ingenious hack that's swept social media by storm. Essentially, you order a grilled cheese off of the regular menu. Are you sticking with us? Then, you tack on a plump burger patty and the various toppers (think grilled onions and mayo) available to pile on until your heart says so. 

Following this formula, the recipe is relatively easy to recreate as Five Guys has all the ingredients covered, but there's no doubt that the finished product delivers. Five Guys' beef is on a whole other level of freshness, and that mouthwatering moistness is present and accounted for. American cheese slathers the patties, and because there are double the slices, you're getting an explosion of creaminess from every corner of the sandwich. As much as homey bread slices stay true to the melt's form, we welcome the pillowy sesame bun that crisps up nice and compactly on the grill top. 

If you like Five Guys, obviously, give this one a try. And if you're like patty melts, well, prepared to be blown away. 

The Habit Burger Grill

At the end of the day, The Habit Burger Grill remains top dog — or really, the sacred cow — of patty melt perfection. The reason this diner sandwich leads the pack can be seen in the excellent ingredients. Flavorful corn rye is toasted to a snappy finish, remaining an excellent foundation for the (two) mouthwatering burger patties stuffed together. The cheese, like always, packs a creamy tang when nestled between the meat, and you can bet there are sauteed onions to unleash some umami goodness. For some bite, it's doused in an old-fashioned Thousand Island dressing. 

If The Habit Burger Grill took Whataburger's lead by selling it permanently, we don't think there'd be a score suitably high enough. But since it's only served occasionally, that's when you know it's meant to be savored. It's a patty melt that lives up to the promises. In our opinion, as well as fans of this particular sandwich off the menu, The Habit makes the platonic ideal of bread and beef. It's a true representation of a sammie you'd see on a carhop menu back in the day — assembled on the spot, piping hot, and only improved by a salty basket of fries.