15 gut-bustingly good burgers in Shanghai

From classic cheeseburgers to creative plays and the gourmet restaurant offerings, here's where to sink your teeth into the city's beefiest burgers

Photograph: courtesy Cuivre
On the face of it, putting together the perfect burger seems pretty straightforward. After all, as long the bun's good and what's inside is even better, things are going to work out…right? While that's true to an extent, burgers are much more layered than they're given credit for. In Shanghai, these pillars of comfort can be stuffed with anything from foie gras to truffle and wagyu patties doused with blue cheese. The options are endless, so to make it easy for you, here are some of our favourites.
The Fried Cheese Cheeseburger, Bubba’s
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

The Fried Cheese Cheeseburger, Bubba’s

There’s no bad decision when it comes to choosing between the seven burgers on offer at Bubba’s. But one that we can’t take our eyes (and mouths) off is the fried cheese which, as the name implies, sees a slab of fried cheddar ooze out from above house-ground USDA chuck. There’s also an impressive supporting cast of homemade pickles, fire-roasted tomato and owner Ken Walker’s special Bubba-que sauce aioli to round things out. 78RMB.

Cow-rean, Fat Cow
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler

Cow-rean, Fat Cow

Your stomach will do a good sight more than laugh when it’s faced with the punnily named selection of burgers on show at Fat Cow. Here, names aside, the main attraction isn’t the cow – instead it’s the chicken and this one takes its inspiration from Korea (Cow-rean, geddit?) featuring a mound of juicy fried chicken with kimchi aioli, crispy bacon and guacamole for an excellent episode of indulgence. 70RMB.

Aged Beef Burger, Heritage by Madison
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Aged Beef Burger, Heritage by Madison

Lots of diners flock to Heritage by Madison for its refined menu of East-meets-West small plates and rightly so, but they always come back for the delightfully juicy burger that’s garnered a well-earned reputation as one of city’s best. Over-the-top creations can be great (see Diner below) however the key to this one is in its simplicity which it does ever so well through a compact combination of aged beef, smoked cheddar, house mustard, saffron and rocket. 128RMB.

Broadway Burger, UP
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Broadway Burger, UP

UP is usually a destination for dancing but when you need to soak up the booze, it slings some pretty slick street food too – like the Broadway Burger, which is as flashy as the street in New York it takes inspiration from. It teams a thick cut of beef with Italian-influenced ingredients like provolone cheese, rocket, truffle and oven-dried tomatoes and sandwiches it all between a lighter toasted English muffin to ensure a balanced ratio between patty and bread. 88RMB.

Double Cheeseburger, Charlie’s
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler

Double Cheeseburger, Charlie’s

Charlie’s has been around the burger block for a while now delivering on consistent quality at a cheap-for-Shanghai price point. Leaning towards fast-food style, here it's best to stick to the basics like the double cheese that piles four house-made smashed patties on top of one another separated by layers of melted cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and a sweetened burger sauce. If you’re looking for an even bigger hit of protein, swap out the milk buns for egg whites for an extra 5RMB. 64RMB.

BBQ Salmon Burger, The Cannery
Photograph: Cat Nelson

BBQ Salmon Burger, The Cannery

While you can’t go wrong with the cheeseburger at The Cannery (it could easily be on this list), the restaurant is best known for its freshly flown-in seafood, and for good reason when you consider the likes of the killer salmon burger. Trumping its meaty rivals, a seared salmon patty lies beneath a bed of grilled pineapple salsa, arugula and tangy barbecue sauce. The only downside? You can only devour it during the day as it's not on the dinner menu. 68RMB.(lunch), 198RMB (brunch with two other dishes).

Foie Gras Burger, Highline
Photograph: Yang Xiaozhe

Foie Gras Burger, Highline

If you’re on the hunt for a burger that’s unapologetically all about the finer things in life, look no further than this fancy fella at Highline. The sesame seed-speckled bun is really just a bystander to what’s inside, from the foie gras to black truffle to Bayonne ham. And then there's the patty itself, which at 200 grams and cooked to medium does a commendable job of holding its own against the wealth above. 188RMB.

High Collar Cheeseburger, Lucky Diner
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler

High Collar Cheeseburger, Lucky Diner

The folks at Lucky Diner are all about putting Japanese twists on classic American diner fare. They’re tasty twists at that, the highlight being the High Collar Cheeseburger. Served with fries sprinkled in togarashi (a Japanese red chilli), it’s a unique mashup of roasted eel, crispy nori and Suntory whisky glaze on a cheese-covered patty, which might not be a looker in the conventional sense but will have you swooning once you’ve discovered what’s inside. 88RMB.

Bleucy Lucy, Commune Reserve
photograph:courtesy Commune Reserve

Bleucy Lucy, Commune Reserve

It’s no surprise that Commune Reserve does a brilliant burger. After all, you can always rely on a taproom to do this beer-paired staple right. Try the Bleucy Lucy which injects a delicious dose of Gorgonzola blue cheese into a freshly ground 170-gram wagyu beef patty and finishes things up with rocket, red onion jam and a Dijon mustard spread. Opt for the beer-battered onion rings as the side – a solid dance partner to the party you're about to have in your mouth. 98RMB.

Beetroot Quinoa, Green Vege Café
Photograph: courtesy Green Vege Cafe

Beetroot Quinoa, Green Vege Café

Plant-based diets need not feel excluded when it comes to burgers, especially when there’s such great range of meat-free alternatives at Green Vege Café. This number consists of a beetroot quinoa patty that’s smeared with spicy vegan mayo and flanked by tomato, avocado, pickles and organic alfalfa sprouts. Watching the wallet? Eat it between 2-5pm when it’s half price every day. 52RMB.

Mike on the Beach, Cuivre
Photograph: courtesy Cuivre

Mike on the Beach, Cuivre

A restaurant that exudes French charm, Cuivre knows its way around a burger. The Mike on the Beach in particular takes its notes from the south of France with a large chunk of Australian beef supported by sundried tomato, basil and goats cheese which seeps out from all sides. On a Monday you’ll get this beauty with a cocktail and fries (which should always be upgraded to truffle for an extra 10RMB, because…truffle). 80RMB.

Cheeseburger, Nicolson’s Grill
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler

Cheeseburger, Nicolson’s Grill

You know you’re in safe hands when the first thing you see upon arriving at Nicolson’s Grill is a meat fridge behind the counter that houses dry-aged steaks. As you’d expect from a former butcher shop, the spotlight is on the beef and no burger gives it that extra shine better than the good ol’ cheese. Here, it’s cooked in a charcoal oven and placed within an extra soft bun alongside gooey cheddar, caramelised onions and thousand island sauce. 78RMB.

Gold Star Burger, Diner
Photograph: Rupert Hohwieler

Gold Star Burger, Diner

The Gold Star at Diner takes the beloved double bacon cheeseburger formula and dials it way up by adding the components of a Reuben sandwich to the holy trinity of meat, cheese and bacon. That is (deep breath)…pastrami, sauerkraut, onions, gruyere and spicy Russian dressing. Placed in front of you next to a customary side of fries, it glows with greasiness and we’d gladly sacrifice our stomachs for it again and again. 138RMB.

Char Burger, Char
Photograph: courtesy Char

Char Burger, Char

We know what you’re thinking: Burgers shouldn’t cost this much money. But at Char, where the kitchen minces three different cuts of Wagyu into a pristine patty that headlines a lineup of foie gras, bacon and avocado, they certainly can. This 280-gram gut-buster is extravagant, exclusive even – they’ll only prepare five of these a day. Just be aware that tackling it can be more messy than classy as it's nigh-on impossible to eat with two hands. 328RMB.

Black Pepper, Beef & Liberty
Photograph: courtesy Beef & Liberty

Black Pepper, Beef & Liberty

Hong Kong burger chain Beef & Liberty has built up a ton of cred over the years with its no-nonsense American-style patties. The secret doesn’t lie within the sauce, instead the focus is firmly on the beef – all high-quality and sourced from New Zealand. This sandwich gets a kick from a black pepper rub and is then taken up a notch with caramelised onions, cheddar and rocket making it a worthwhile excursion from any diet. 99RMB.

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