10 of the Best Retro Burger Joints in America
There’s nothing that a good, old-fashioned burger served in a vintage restaurant can’t fix.
Louis’ Lunch – New Haven, Connecticut
This rustic spot claims to have made the world’s first hamburger in 1900 when one hurried customer asked for something he could eat on the run. But you definitely shouldn’t rush through these burgers, and not only because eating too fast messes with your brain. Named “The Tastiest Burger” by The Travel Channel, Louis’ Lunch hasn’t changed much since inventing the burger, including the antique vertical broilers in its kitchen. Even the “buns” have stayed the same—two pieces of white toast.
Billy Bob’s Dairyland – Branson, Missouri
There are lots of things from the 1950s that we need more of today—marriage advice, dating rules—and that definitely includes burgers. A true retro diner, Billy Bob’s Dairyland transports you back to the 1950s with memorabilia and a classic diner menu. While you chow down on a half-pound beef patty, you can talk to its owner, Billy Bob himself. Be wary of the double hamburger, though. It’s literally one pound of meat.
White Manna – Hackensack, New Jersey
Not to be confused with White Mana in Jersey City, White Manna lives in a building constructed by Paramount in the 1940s. It looks like a classic burger stand, especially with its neon-lit sign. The burgers themselves may be smaller than expected, but they’re bursting with flavor once you take a bite.
Andy’s Igloo – Winter Haven, Florida
Bet you never thought you’d see an igloo in Florida, did you? Well, here’s your chance to see one and get a stellar burger. The fan-favorite menu item is the Steakette, one-third pound charbroiled beef with relish, onion, pickles, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and coleslaw. We don’t know why you’d want to sit anywhere other than the vintage booths, but if you do, you can grab your food from its takeout window.
Red Rooster – Brewster, New York
You know you’ve found a true vintage location when it has candy cane stripes, but the architecture isn’t the only thing that makes Red Rooster stand out. It also has an outdoor mini golf course featuring statues of classic cartoon characters, so you can burn a few of those burger calories after your meal. (Here are other simple ways to lose weight on vacation.)
Theo’s Drive-In – Grand Prairie, Texas
Always count on a drive-in for authentic 1950s food and atmosphere. For the best experience, check it out at night when the signs and building are lit up in all of their neon glory. The only way to get a real car-hop experience is to get served and eat in your car, but the indoor seating area has vintage Texas décor.
The Apple Pan – Los Angeles, California
The only place to sit in this burger stand is one of 26 red leather stools around an old-school U-shaped counter. If that doesn’t give you an idea of how vintage this place is, two of its most popular burgers—the Hickory and the Steakburger—are made from family recipes passed down since 1881. Drinks are served in paper cups with antique metal holders. (The world’s most adorable grandmas share the best recipes they’ve passed on to their families.)
Franks Diner – Kenosha, Wisconsin
A perfect place to use classic diner talk, Franks Diner is actually a dining train car from the 1920s. The same family owned it from the time it opened in 1926 to 2001, but the original atmosphere hasn’t changed. Though it does serve “gigantic” burgers, Franks is best known for its Garbage Plate: five eggs, hash browns, peppers, onions, and up to three different kinds of meat. Plus toast. Plus a food coma. (Here’s how to recover after a eating way too much.)
Hayes Hamburgers and Chili – Kansas City, Missouri
This 24-hour diner opened in 1955, and not much has changed since. It serves hamburger meat ground fresh every day, and uses a chili recipe that’s been around since 1906. And if you sit at the counter, plan on bumping elbows with the people next to you—the whole place is only 600 sq. ft.
Dyer’s Burgers – Memphis, Tennessee
The location isn’t the only retro thing about this burger joint. Dyer’s serves deep-fried burgers that are fried in 100-year-old grease. Kind of. The grease does get strained and topped off with fresh oil every day, but the cooks never throw it out. So some of the grease in your burger has been around since the place opened in 1912—which is worth trying for the historical significance, if nothing else.