The Best College Town Burgers In America Ranked

College towns have a life of their own, one that can put even the smallest and most obscure of towns in the national spotlight. With college sports fueling the majority of foot traffic in university cities, it's no surprise that they have become food hubs for great bar food and restaurants. From big-ticket schools like Ole Miss, Loyola, Texas A&M, and The Ohio State University, there is more attracting students and locals to these college towns than just sports.

A good burger is a dime-a-dozen, but a sensational burger is something you may have to make a pilgrimage for. You could travel to every state's best burger joint, or you could reminisce about your college days and pair a football or basketball game with a great local burger. You don't have to try every college town's burger using trial-and-error for fear of over-clogging your arteries. We found America's best college town burgers in karaoke bars, barbecue joints, dive bars, shacks, and everywhere in between –– just bring your best sports jersey and stretchy pants.

13. The Double Cheeseburger at Handy Andy BBQ –– Oxford, Mississippi

You know a restaurant is good when it resides inside a grocery store and doesn't have a website. Catering to locals and Ole Miss students, Handy Andy BBQ is primarily a barbecue joint and a grocery store –– not what you would expect to see on a "best burgers" list. However, its nostalgic and "welcome home" ambiance gives off "Cheers" vibes, where everyone knows your name and everything is frozen in time. It's the kind of place where alumni visit 20 years later alongside new students to an unchanged menu, and life-long friends meet weekly over the span of 30-plus years to talk about football in between bites of food.

Handy Andy BBQ's menu remains relatively unchanged since it opened in the early 1970s –– barbecue, of course, smoked meats, fried hot dogs, fries, and tots fried to perfection, fixings like baked beans and coleslaw, and its regionally-famous banana pudding. Their double cheeseburger is a sleeper item on the menu topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, mass quantities of fluorescent yellow cheese, and grilled to perfection while still maintaining its juicy interior.

12. The One-Eyed Jack from Bruno's Tavern –– New Orleans

Every college town has a bar that is essential to a student's college experience, filled with fond and not-so-memorable memories. With Tulane and Loyola University just a few blocks away, Bruno's Tavern has been a staple in New Orleans since 1934 just after prohibition was repealed, according to Nola. It has moved locations, seen new management, and was the home to the owner's carnival organization, but hasn't changed its traditions, including the clock that is always at 5 o'clock.

Bruno's Tavern's menu is full of delicious bar food with a twist on traditional Creole flavors, like their New Orleans-style red beans and rice, their Cochon de Lait Nachos — made with pulled pork, house queso, and jalapeños served on Hola Nola chips –– and their Debris Fries that top waffle fries with creole seasoning, house roast beef, melted cheese, and horseradish cream sauce. If you aren't in the mood for their signature shrimp or roast beef po-boy, their One-Eyed Jack burger –– topped with bacon, onion rings, pepper jack cheese, and a fried egg –– is the next best thing.

11. The famous Crunchy Burger at Crunchy's –– East Lansing, Michigan

Minutes away from Michigan State University's football stadium, Crunchy's is the sports bar dedicated to everything Spartans football-related. Opening in 1982, Crunchy's was originally Gino's restaurant and was renamed "Crunchy's" after the owner's college nickname. The watering hole for university students, sports coaches, and locals is considered the Lansing area's "best burger in town" for its famous Crunchy Burger invented by Crunchy himself –– a fresh-never-frozen, half-pound burger served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and American cheese. 

However you like it, Crunchy's offers a wide and a unique variety of toppings for their burgers including their Black & Bleu Burger with Cajun seasoning, bleu cheese, and bacon on a pretzel bun, as well as their breakfast burger topped with maple syrup aioli, bacon, and an over-medium egg. Their buckets (yes, actual buckets) of tots, pretzels, pizza nugs, beer, and other munchy bar foods offer pure energy and liquid courage for their high-stakes games and competitive karaoke nights.

10. The Lockhart Legend at Grub Burger Bar –– College Station, Texas

Creator of Grub Burger Bar, Jimmy Loup, found his passion for the hospitality industry when he worked as a cook while attending Texas A&M University. Loup wanted to create a dining experience that was fast-casual and delicious and put the community and employees first. Now owned by the Texas burger chain, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Grub Burger Bar continues to maintain its urban, casual aesthetic while serving fresh burgers, buns baked on the hour, and homemade sauces.

Their signature Cheese Fries look irresistible but make sure you save room for their super-star burgers. Grub Burger Bar offers traditional burgers like their Front Porch Burger with just lettuce, tomato, mayo, and mustard, or something more adventurous like their Scorpion Burger with pepper jack cheese, Trinidad Moruga scorpion sauce, grilled jalapeños, and an ice cream chaser to cool everything down. 

Their homemade sauces shine on signature burgers like their Lockhart Legend Burger with onion rings, bacon, cheese, and their house-made Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce. In addition to plant-based and mushroom burgers, you can wash everything down with optional classic or unique milkshakes –– make sure you try the boozy ones, like their E.T. Drunk Dial spiked milkshake with Screwball peanut butter whiskey, Reese's Pieces, and topped with a peanut butter cookie.

9. The Greg Brady at Jack Brown's –– Harrisonburg, Virginia

Jack Brown's Beer and Burger Joint screams well-loved college dive bar, from the craft beer paraphernalia lining the walls, to the disco ball chandelier covered in forgotten brassieres. It originally began as a college hang-out outside of James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and quickly grew to be an East Coast chain near colleges like the University of Richmond and the University of Virginia.

The establishment pride itself on being a "burger joint with a passion for craft beer" with dozens of regional and craft beers on tap –– they even have a beer club called the Notch Club, and drinking 100 beers is the only way to join. The other half of the business –– the burgers –– are made from American Wagyu Beef sourced from a family-run farm in Boise, Idaho, with a similar rich flavor commonly found in Kobe beef. 

Jack Brown's menu is simple and to the point, with less than 10 burger options and daily specials, like their El Chonco with black bean queso, cheese, and Fritos. Their burgers are a mix of classic and experimental –– just don't expect them to come with lettuce and tomato –– like their Elvis burger with peanut butter, mayo, and Martin's BBQ potato chips –– and the Greg Brady, a personal favorite, topped with mac and cheese, more cheese, and Martin's BBQ potato chips. More importantly, save room for a carnival-style fried Oreo.

8. The Tijuana Torpedo at The Chuckbox –– Tempe, Arizona

The Chuckbox, conveniently named after the storage container used for organizing outdoor kitchen equipment, is a small town charmer located near Arizona State University. Unofficially considered the best burger in Arizona by the locals and regulars, the Chuckbox is rated as the number one most popular and highly rated restaurant in Tempe out of over 500 on TripAdvisor. According to the website Arizona's Family, The Chuckbox makes sure that the aesthetic inside and the menu stay unchanged to the point where different generations of regulars can reflect back on the same, untouched memories and decor.

For over 40 years, The Chuckbox has been cooking up delicious burgers over a mesquite grill in front of hungry eyes. Each burger is sprinkled with mysterious "magic dust" that leads to salivation like no other. Their classic Great Big One burger comes with a half-pound beef patty and any combination of toppings from their self-serve open condiment table. The Tijuana Torpedo is the real masterpiece stuffed with jalapeño jack cheese and topped with whole green chili peppers. Add some of their signature jalapeño poppers on top, and this western-styled shack will have Shake Shack running for its money.

7. The Holy Smokers Burger at Ale 'n' Angus –– Syracuse, New York

Ale 'n' Angus isn't just a good burger –– it's a college standout at Syracuse University and within the college football community. ESPN college basketball broadcaster, Jay Bilas, doesn't usually praise Syracuse, but when he does, it involves their hometown burgers. He named Ale 'n' Angus one of the top 10 Bilastrator's Best College Town Burgers in 2021-2022, but he isn't the only one that would make the trek for their all-American burger.

Their selection of classic burger combinations, like their Power Play Burger with shaved prime rib, American cheese, lettuce, and tomato, are the reason why they were voted the best burger in New York state in 2012, 2013, 2018, 2019, and 2021. Ale 'n' Angus' burger reign didn't end there –– they won the Beef Council best burger in New York for the sixth time in 2022 with their specialty "burger of the week," the Holy Smokers Burger. The half-pound Angus beef burger is smothered with smoked brisket, pepper jack cheese, homemade onion straws, and brown sugar barbecue sauce. 

6. The 1809 Burger at Honest Abe's Burgers & Freedom –– Lincoln, Nebraska

Honest Abe's delivers culinary deliciousness of epic proportions, one bite of freedom at a time. Settled in the town of Lincoln outside of the University of Nebraska, this patriotic restaurant serves historically-named burgers, like The United States of America –– a classic American-style burger with all the traditional fixins', and a side of freedom fries, cooked extra crispy.

However, their burger reputation extends past their cleverly-named food. They are one of the highest-rated and reviewed restaurants in Lincoln, Nebraska, and were named one of the top 10 best burgers in the country by Tripadvisor in 2018 (via 1011 Now). Their burgers live up to their name and reputation, with inventive creations like their Hammer of Thor! –– topped with chipotle cream cheese, bacon mayo, and Brussels sprouts, and their rotating burgers like their Wok This Way Burger with fried rice, Rangoon cream cheese, veggies, and teriyaki sauce. Skipping out on the parmesan truffle tots would be unpatriotic, and trying their iconic 1809 Burger with pickled apples, smoked honey mayo, gouda cheese, and bacon is essential.

5. The Triple D Burger at Mr. Bartley's –– Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard is known for a lot of things, like the classic New England pronunciation of Hah-vud, producing generally smart-seeming people, and apparently, one of Massachusetts' most prized burgers. Mr. Bartley's, owned and operated by three generations of the Bartley family, opened in 1960 and set out to create the perfect burger in a sea of frozen, fast food concoctions. Now, it could be considered an honorary Harvard campus building, where locals and students alike partake in their creatively topped burgers and frappes –– or milkshakes in New Englander.

Mr. Bartley's celebrity guest list is as extensive as the decorations lining the frat-like walls, with fans including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Al Pacino, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck –– some even get an honorary sandwich named after them (the Matt Damon wrap looks delicious). The restaurant was even featured on Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives," and was voted one of the best "DDD" burgers of all time. Mr. Bartley's menu is as extensive as their reputation, with quippy-named burgers that keep up with current times and internet memes, like The Influencer, The Crypto, and The Variant Burger. Their Triple "D" burger is a masterpiece created by Guy Fieri himself –– a double cheeseburger with BBQ, bacon, grilled onions, and famous, house-made onion rings.

4. The Thurmanator at Thurman Café –– Columbus, Ohio

Right outside the powerhouse that is Ohio State University is another big-named competitor with a burger made for an unbeatable appetite. Thurman Café has been a mainstay in Columbus' German Village since 1942, serving larger-than-life burgers, fries, and Coney Island-style hot dogs. However, it's not just a small, local tavern, for it serves something larger and more daunting inside.

The Thurmanator, aptly inspired by the bodybuilders who ordered it after competing in the Arnold Classic, is a master class in glorious gluttony. It boasts two 12-ounce hamburger patties all layered with lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickles, banana peppers, onions, mushrooms, ham, bacon, three types of cheese, and of course, a massive bun. The thing was even big enough to be featured on the travel food show, "Man v. Food." Host, Adam Richman, appears both confused and excited when faced with the Thurmanator, and even though it doesn't show him finishing it, it's worth taking the journey and the leftovers.

3. The Chorizo Queso Burger at Short's Burger and Shine –– Iowa City

"Power 5" school, University of Iowa, is serving more than just college sports championships. Short's Burger and Shine originally opened in 2012, thanks to University of Iowa football alum and NFL veteran Nate Kaeding. It was originally opened as a counter service Mexican restaurant, and after six days, decided to rebrand as the burger awesomeness locals know and love. It quickly rose to the burger hall-of-fame as the best burger in Iowa by TripAdvisor in 2018, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen, and has since been a watering hole for Iowa college football fans.

Short's Burger and Shine's burgers are all named after and inspired by small towns in Iowa, like their Germantown Burger with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and 1000 island dressing on rye bread, and the Arion with cucumber, feta, and tzatziki sauce. Their focus is on promoting local Iowa producers by using only the freshest local beef and potatoes, as well as featuring local beer from Iowa breweries. With over 20 stand-out and rotating burgers, like their Chorizo Queso Burger with salsa, guacamole, chorizo, and queso, a bite of Iowa never looked better.

2. The Bobo Chili Cheeseburger at Al's Burger Shack –– Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Don't let the name fool you –– this University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill dining shack is no ordinary dive or dining experience. Like most of the other small-town staples on this list, Al's Burger Shack is a right of passage, a foundation for good memories, and a local legend in the community. Its mission is centered around local sourcing and sustainability, with a spotlight on North Carolina brewers and a reclaimed and repurposed building that highlights the area's historical charm.

Al's Burger Shack's menu is not complicated like the restaurant, but its simplicity is what makes it one of the best burgers in the country. Alongside breakfast sandwiches, a killer veggie burger, and a traditional all-American hot dog, their burgers are the silent, but mighty star, with their most popular items being the Classic with LTO, pickle, and signature Al sauce, and their Sean's Bacon Cheeseburger, named after Al's brother. The Bobo Chili Cheeseburger is enough to be worth the trip by plane, train, or automobile –– smothered in chili sauce, chopped onion, mustard, and cheese –– it's a chili cheese dog hamburger love child.

1. The Texas Onion Straw Burger at The Sink –– Boulder, Colorado

Boulder's oldest restaurant, The Sink isn't just a restaurant –– it is intertwined with the history and story of Boulder and the University of Colorado. Opened in 1923, The Sink has been a favorite for celebrities as much as students, with famous guests including President Barack Obama, Anthony Bourdain, and Guy Fieri from "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives," in addition to a collaboration with the Colorado Buffaloes quarterback, Brendon Lewis.

The personality of The Sink is as large as the menu, with their pizzas, mac and cheese, and burgers customizable with everything imaginable and the kitchen sink. Their P.O.T.U.S Pizza, enjoyed by Obama, features classic toppings like black olives, pepperoni, onions, and sausage. 

Their mac and cheese is not your mother's Kraft creations but built to withstand mass toppings like their buff mac, featured on "Man v. Food," with Buffalo chicken tenders and bleu cheese crumbles. The Texas Onion Straw Burger, devoured by both Fieri and Bourdain, is truly perfect bite after bite, with two types of cheese, jalapeños, chipotle aioli, and onion straws. Proving that everything isn't always bigger or better in Texas.