I've been meaning to write a post like this for ages, but I didn't really know how best to format it because the thing with burgers is that quite often the dirtiest ones are the best ones. There are so many superb places to get a burger in London now that just writing a list of my favourites would seem a bit redundant, so instead I thought I'd just write a few of my thoughts on some of the ones I have ended up visiting the most.
When I'm asked to recommend somewhere for a burger my first thought is always MEATliquor. I think it will always remain my favourite because it was probably one of the first dirty burgers I had, before the world exploded in a big burgery cheesy mess. The issue, though, is that the queue situation can sometimes border on ridiculous, so it's definitely one to visit at 3.30pm rather than 7pm. However! MEATmission, in Hoxton Square, takes bookings so if you don't mind getting the bus (or if you're infinitely cooler than me and live near there) then this is the perfect option as their menus mirror one another. You should make it a bucket list point to order the Dead Hippie burger, and I'm also particularly fond of the chilli cheese fries. People also rave about the monkey fingers, but I'm not so bothered. Both venues are dark and noisy, but MEATliquor is definitely the darker and noisier one of the two so I'm not sure I would take a first date there! It's also messy (obviously) so if that's the sort of thing you don't like a date to witness you navigating then, again, maybe not best for a first date. Totally delicious though.
Honest Burger is the next one on your burger to-do list. There are a few branches now, but they're all ridiculously small and so if you're going at dinner time then expect a wait of at least an hour. At least! The good thing though is that you can give them your number and then fanny around doing your own thing waiting for their call, so you don't have to stand in a queue watching the lucky ones inside stuffing their faces. The other thing to note about Honest is that the burgers come with fries, and these rosemary-salted ones are roughly 3423 times better than the average fry.
Another good option is Patty & Bun but, unlike the queue situation at Honest, for these burgers you do have to stand in the cold salivating. It's another small place so the wait can be super-long but! I have a super tip for those people like me who don't really care about how they look in public situations - you can get takeaway here, so the best (maybe not everyone's idea of best) thing to do is place your order when you arrive, have them placed in your hand about 15 minutes later and then you can run away and scoff your delicious burger on any street of your choosing. For a first-timer I would recommend the Ari Gold cheeseburger, but make sure you also swipe as many napkins as you can carry as it's a bit of a messy one.
Shake Shack and Five Guys opened in London about the same time and at first were both, for obvious reasons, ridiculously popular. I ate at both in their first couple of months of opening, and while I didn't really care for Five Guys I still have a soft spot for Shake Shack. Now the hype has lessened somewhat, and the winter nights are drawing in (i.e., it's too cold and full of tourists to hang around in Covent Garden) the queue situation for SS is really no big deal, although finding somewhere to sit can be. SS is perfect for a quick-stop bite to eat, they do serve alcohol but I wouldn't bother - get a milkshake or lemonade and then once you've wolfed down your burger you can just take your drink with you so you have something to concentrate on whilst getting the hell out of there. I am also partial to a portion of cheese fries, but I wouldn't say they're as healthy [ahem] as everything else on the list [double ahem].
Some of the best burgers I've had are unfortunately no longer with us, such as the ones at the Brioche pop-up at Pip's Dish and Slider Bar at The Player, or are potentially only in a temporary home such as Burger Shack at The Royal Oak. For a safe no-queue option there's always Byron - with their current count of 5474280 outlets if one is busy you can always find another one less-so.
Any ones I've missed??