By: Dave Fountinelle | firstname.lastname@example.org
Few things in life bring me more joy than a good burger. There’s just something about a juicy, well-seasoned beef patty (or 2 or 3) and gooey, melted cheese that just speaks to me on a spiritual level. Add to that a variety of additional toppings and condiments ranging from the standard crisp veggies and ketchup/mustard/mayo to everything from bacon, chili, mac n cheese, or even a fried egg, all on a soft, toasted bun. And then there are all the messy, drippy sauces… The possibilities are endless. And I’m here for ALL OF THEM!
Before I even accepted the challenge to find and rate the best burgers in Fresno, I knew there was no way I would be able to do this subject justice in a single article. Fresno has hundreds of burger places, and dozens of them are worthy of being included in any conversation about the best burger in the city. And I, your humble reporter, am but one man. Flesh and bone. I can only visit so many places and eat so many delicious burgers at one time.
So consider this merely the first course. A toe in the proverbial water of burger excellence. The tip of the iceberg lettuce! The single step that begins my journey of a thousand bites. For it is a journey that I will see to its end, no matter how long it takes. I owe you no less, loyal readers and fellow burger lovers.
Now, for consistency, my preferred order is the bacon double cheeseburger whenever it is offered. In my opinion, this is the perfect burger to gauge the quality of any burger establishment. Double patties allow one to taste the beef’s quality and how well it’s cooked. The cheese layers must be melty, gooey, and rich – walking the line between decadent and “I may need heart surgery after this.” As for the bacon, listen, if they can’t cook a couple strips of bacon, then they have no business making burgers. It’s really that simple. There’s a sweet science to putting bacon on a burger. Thick patties require thick-cut bacon, while thinner patties should have thinner, crispier strips of bacon. It’s all about getting that perfect balance of flavor, after all. Toppings and condiments vary by establishment, and all good burger places seem to have their own unique sauces and way of preparing their veggies. Some places shred their lettuce, and some use whole leaves. Some places get fancy with romaine, arugula, or mixed greens. Some places dice onions, some slice them, and some even grill them. Some fancy places even make their own pickles. As far as these “standard” burger toppings go, my only hard and fast rule is no tomatoes on my burger, please. Sorry, tomato Stans, I’m not an ally.
For sides, my go-to is french fries. If they offer a fancy take on basic fries, I will most likely give them a try – I can’t help it; your boy is mad extra about his side carbs. You wanna slap cheese, chili, some crazy sauce, deep-fried crickets, or weapons-grade plutonium on those taters? Get crazy. It’s 2022; birds aren’t even real.
That about covers my judging criteria. Onward to grill-halla!
Flame It Burgers
4145 N Chestnut Diagonal, Fresno
Flame It Burgers does what many drive-in-style burger places do around the valley. Namely, they offer a vast menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads, sides, and desserts. Everything from chicken sandwiches to fried burritos and sundaes to salads. But I’m here for the burgers, and Flame It plays the classic hits in that department. Their burger menu consists of their regular “Flame It” burger – a cheeseburger, and a bacon cheeseburger, in single and double-patty variations. However, customers can add as many extra patties and slices of cheese as they want, for an additional charge, of course. They also offer a veggie burger option, you know, for all the vegetarians out there who love going to flame-broiled burger places to get their vegetables. (Sarcasm: no additional charge).
My burger arrived in the standard red-checkered cardboard basket with red-checkered paper underneath. Burger neatly tucked into its diaper, resting on a pile of well-seasoned crinkle-cut fries. There’s a reason this is the standard presentation for drive-in burger places because this is what one expects when they come to a place like this. Everything about my order was drive-in standard, which is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I already know what it will taste like as soon as I see it. On the other hand, I already know what it will taste like as soon as I see it. All a place like Flame It has to do is make a burger and fries that taste just like one would expect drive-in burgers and fries in red checkered baskets to taste like, and they’ve done enough to be worth visiting if you happen to live nearby. However, they really have to be doing something pretty special if they want me to drive past other drive-in places that are closer to me and go to their place instead.
Flame It makes a tasty drive-in burger. I didn’t try the other items on their menu, but I would wager they are as good as you’d find in any other good-quality drive-in burger places around Fresno. If you live close to Flame It, and it’s not already in your regular burger rotation, then it should be. Is it worth making a special trip across town for? Probably not.
Final Score: 3.2/5
46 E. Herndon Ave, Fresno + 2 other locations
Full disclosure, your intrepid reporter has tried a few of the best burger places in Fresno over the years. And honestly, if you live in Fresno and consider yourself a burger lover, you likely already have Colorado Grill in your top 5. But was I going to turn down an opportunity to eat there again and give them an official rating? Absolutely not!
I had to make a slight adjustment to my standard order for Colorado Grill. While their double big burger with bacon is an absolutely worthy contender in its own right, it feels sacrilegious to order anything less than a bacon boulder with cheese for a competitive review. Where else will you find a burger almost as big as your head? There’s a double version as well, but I have to think about my cholesterol at my age. That double boulder is a young man’s game. Years ago, a buddy of mine ate a 4-patty quad boulder with cheese, bacon, and chili. He said he could communicate with cows telepathically for 6 months afterward. True story.
There’s a reason why Colorado Grill has won numerous “Best Burger in Fresno” awards over the years and why it’s been a local favorite since it opened in 1998. Everything about this burger screams quality. The 1/2lb patty is cooked to juicy perfection and wonderfully seasoned. The shredded lettuce and diced onions are fresh and not overserved. The dressings are the supporting cast, and the burger is the star. The bacon is cut thick enough to stand up to the hefty patty. Everyone plays so well together; it’s truly a next-level burger.
Colorado Grill also serves steak fries with their burgers, which in my opinion, are a hugely underrated cut of fry when they’re cooked just right. A proper steak fry should be crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, and seasoned liberally. Colorado Grill cooks a proper steak fry.
Colorado Grill isn’t just worth driving across town for – though with 3 locations, you won’t have to – it’s worth driving from out of town for. It’s also worth mentioning that besides having fantastic food, the staff at Colorado Grill are always friendly and welcoming. It’s one of those places that’s always filled with regular customers – enough said.
Final Score: 4.5/5
Triangle Drive In
1310 W. Belmont Ave, Fresno
I mentioned earlier that the traditional drive-in style burger place is popular in Fresno and all over the Central Valley. Apparently, a lot of other people can’t get enough of those little fried burritos, either! But you would be hard-pressed to find anyone doing retro-style drive-in burgers better than Triangle Drive In.
Named after the triangle-shaped diner on the triangle-shaped lot at its original Belmont Ave location, Triangle Drive In was voted “Best Hamburger in Fresno” in 2018 by the California Restaurant Association. Things have really taken off for the local favorite since then. From their humble Belmont Ave origins, Triangle Drive In has expanded to three more locations in Fresno, one in Clovis, and their newest in the city of Tulare.
Triangle Drive In’s bacon double cheeseburger is a master class on how drive-in burgers should be done. I could smell the char-grilling burgers cooking when I pulled up; they are smokey, juicy masterpieces. Every burger has just the right amount of cheese, expertly cooked bacon, fresh veggies, special sauce, and pickles on a soft, toasted bun. But what really makes Triangle Drive In stand out is that burger patty. No other drive-in place comes close to the flavor of a Triangle burger. They’re like the best backyard cookout burgers you ever had, without all the mosquitos.
Triangle’s sides are fantastic, but their crinkle-cut fries are my personal favorite. Crispy, salty, and perfectly fried, they’re great with ketchup or ranch, or you can do the pro move and let the sauce from your burger drip all over them.
Also, although milkshakes are not included in these ratings, it is worth mentioning that the hot fudge milkshake at Triangle might qualify as an emotional support dessert. It is absolutely transcendent.
Final Score: 4.7/5
4434 W. Shaw Ave, Fresno
The guys behind the popular Angry Chickz Nashville hot chicken chain have thrown their hat into the burger ring, answering a question that has probably crossed the minds of many Californians over the years: “What if we made a burger place like In n Out, only way better in every single way?”
Yeah, I know, that’s a bold statement. But, it’s not one I make lightly, either. The first thing you need to know about Flippin’ Daves is that they specialize in making smash burgers. For those unfamiliar with the term, smash burgers start off as balls of ground beef placed on a hot flat top and then smashed incredibly thin. The burgers are crushed either with a wide metal spatula or a weighted, flat-bottomed tool designed specifically for this purpose. Pressing the burger flat like this creates what’s known as the Maillard reaction – when sugars and the amino acids in protein react to extreme heat to create an intensely flavorful “crust” on the meat and an unmistakable aroma. In burger making, this results in a thin yet highly juicy and flavorful patty, with a crisp, delicious “lattice” of browned patty around the edge.
Flippin’ Daves tops each patty with a delicious layer of gooey, melted cheese. Then the burger is dressed with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles, and “Dave sauce” – their top-notch take on the traditional California burger spread popularized by places like McDonald’s and In n Out. All of this on a soft, buttery, brioche bun, toasted on both sides.
When I tell you that I bit into my bacon double cheeseburger and couldn’t speak intelligibly for a minute and 43 seconds…
Flippin’ Daves literally took the iconic In n Out menu and blew it out of the water. My burger was basically a double-double, only with BACON. (I don’t know what your problem is with bacon, In n Out, but it will forever be my biggest pet peeve with you dudes). The smash burger patties dripped with juiciness and an intensely savory beef flavor. With each bite, a different element of the burger stood out, from the patties to the cheese, the fresh veggies, the tangy pickles, and that outstanding thick-cut bacon. (Seriously, it’s almost criminal that you don’t have bacon as an option for your burgers, In n Out). By the time I reached my last bite, I was legitimately sad. Sure, I was absolutely stuffed, and one more bite probably would have had me needing to be rolled off to the juicing room like Violet Beauregarde, but it was just so good!
As for the fries, let me tell you, those suckers were fantastic. Coated in a crispy, well-seasoned batter, they’re delicious just as they are, with a side of Dave’s sauce to dip them in. But you already know I’m all about those super extra-loaded fry options, so when I saw “Flippin Fries” on the menu, I had to try them. These are the Flippin’ Daves version of animal-style fries, except their sauce is better, their cheese is meltier and gooier, and their fries are out of this world. Even the grilled onions tasted better. The seasoned breading on the fries with the grilled onions tasted like onion rings. I don’t know what kind of warlock magic these dudes are working with in that kitchen, but I was sure glad I got there just after they opened. When I left, the place was packed, and people were starting to line up outside. Definitely lives up to the hype.
Final Score: 4.7/5
So, there you have it. The first four stops in my search for Fresno’s Best Burger had some heavy hitters. So, what are your picks for the best burger in Fresno? If you’re the owner of a local burger place and want to show me what you’ve got, or if you’re a fellow burger connoisseur and would like to recommend a favorite spot to try, send me an email or message us on our socials. I won’t stop until I’ve tried every burger place in Fresno, given them a completely arbitrary rating, and crowned the one burger to rule them all!