The Best Tasting Expensive (!) Fast Food Cheeseburgers, Ranked

Fast food is getting expensive. So much so that we’ve been talking about it all year. The brands know it too, which is why so many of them are scrambling right now trying to figure out how to get customers back to the drive-thru.

One way to win us back is by expanding value menus. Taco Bell is doing it well, but the big cheeseburger brands can’t seem to figure out how to make it work. Luckily, there are a few affordable burgers out there that manage to be cheap and delicious. But what about flipping the conversation to talk about expensive cheeseburgers. Are they better? Are they really worth it?

The short answer is “not always.” Sure, some burgers are, but for every expensive burger that tastes so good the price is justified, there are at least two lesser burgers from other brands that have us scratching our heads as to why they’re so expensive. So to help guide you to the best burgers in fast food, we’re ranking all of our favorite expensive burgers.

What does expensive mean in this case? Over $10. I think once you get into double digits, you’re getting prohibitively expensive for a lot of people, so that’s our threshold. If a burger is less than $10 — it didn’t make this list.

6. Umami Burger — The Double Umami Burger

Umami Burger

Price: $11.95

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. More than a decade ago, Umami Burger was in the running for the best fast casual cheeseburger on the market. It tasted elevated and unique, savory to the point of being decadent. And then in 2016, Umami Burger was acquired by a holdings company that owns a bunch of other food brands, and the quality immediately dropped.

These days, the burger tastes like it was made in a ghost kitchen (because it is), it lacks character, and tastes shockingly bland. All the fixing are still here, the burger is made from two smashed patties, with dashi onions, American cheese, pickle chips, and the brand’s umami sauce. But when you bite into it, all the magic is gone. It tastes like a shell of what it once tasted like.

It’s bland, under-seasoned, and way too expensive for what you get.

The Bottom Line:

The only burger on this list that isn’t worth the money.

5. Wendy’s — Baconator


Price: $12.31

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

This one hurts. I love Wendy’s, it has one of the most consistent menus in fast food. Almost everything on it is great. But compared to the fast casual chains that make up this list? It’s struggling to compete.

Here is what I love about the Baconator — it’s super juicy and meaty with a strong smokey bacon flavor that tastes wonderfully savory. The way the fatty, smokey, and slightly sweet bacon mixes with the rich beef and savory ketchup and mayo creates a delicious umami finish (take that Umami Burger) that penetrates your tastebuds in the best way.

But if I’m being picky — which for this list, I need to be — it’s way too f*cking salty. Eating this burger feels like a health risk, and that’s not always something you want, especially when you’re paying a premium price.

The Bottom Line:

Delicious, but way too salty.

4. Smashburger — Double Classic Smash Burger


Price: $10.09

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

Smashburger just made this list by 9 cents, and the price point of $10.09 is what you’ll find in Southern California, where I imagine fast food is a bit more expensive. So if you can get this burger for less than $10, it’s a no-brainer.

But even at $10.09, what you get is great — two Angus beef smash patties, two layers of American cheese, a single leaf of green leaf lettuce, juicy tomatoes, sweet red onions, pickles, Smash sauce, and ketchup, on a toasted bun.

The patties are thin, so thin there is an audible crunch to every bite. While thin, they still provide some great beefy flavor but not quite as much as I want. Smashburger would rank highly for me if it were just a bit beefier.

The Bottom Line:

If you love smash burgers, you’re going to love Smashburger. They do the style right, though the patties are on the thin side. So if you want a beefy burger, maybe look elsewhere (or add another patty).

3. Fatburger — King Burger


Price: $11.99

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

You always hear about In-N-Out, over and over and over. I admit, I’m part of the problem. In-N-Out is amazing, but so is Fatburger, and the latter is massively underrated. The Kingburger is my go-to when I want a giant cheeseburger made from fresh beef.
This burger is topped with a thick grip-full of shredded lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, mustard, pickles, American cheese and relish, plus one giant 1/2 pound patty. A fat patty if you will.

The burger is juicy, nicely charred, and beefy, but the secret weapon here is the relish, which is bright, zesty, and shockingly spicy. While it doesn’t come stock on the build, I like to add some chili and bacon into the mix to really take this burger to the next level.

The Bottom Line:

It doesn’t enjoy the hype that In-N-Out has, but it’s just as good.

2. Five Guys — Patty Melt

Five Guys Patty Melt
Zach Johnston

Price: $15.47

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

Five Guys gets a lot of criticism for being overpriced, and I think that’s pretty warranted. The standard double cheeseburger (which to confuse people, is just listed as “Cheeseburger” on the Five Guys menu), will run you over $15. For a burger that’s wrapped in foil and thrown in a greasy brown bag, that’s too much money. But… it’s delicious. And some days, totally worth it.

The key to ordering from Five Guys is to take advantage of its customizable menu. If you want to roll into Five Guys and get a cheeseburger with all the ordinary fixings, it’s a rip-off, but if you’re willing to get creative, it’s absolutely worth the money. Our favorite is the secret menu patty melt. Simply order a grilled cheese and add grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, and two beef patties. The bun will be flipped inside out, allowing the bottom portion to be buttered and grilled, giving a crispy bite that pairs excellently with the umami-rich earthy mushrooms, sweet caramelized onions, and layers of perfectly melted American cheese.

This combination of ingredients is so wonderful, savory and juicy that you don’t even need burger sauce for this one. My suggestion is to order a side of BBQ and dip when necessary to add a bit more smoke and emphasize the sweet character. Another add-on I like is adding grilled green and jalapeño peppers for some peppery vegetal heat.

The Bottom Line:

Yes, it’s expensive, but if you take advantage of the customization options, it starts to make sense why you’re paying a premium.

1. Shake Shack — Double Shack Burger

Shake Shack

Price: $12.69

Thoughts & Tasting Notes:

Shake Shack’s Double Shack Burger sits in a perfect price point in my mind. Yes, it’s pricier than all of the big chains, but the quality of the ingredients justifies it. Would I like it more if it was $2 cheaper? Absolutely, but it’s not so prohibitively expensive that I feel like I’m getting ripped off.

The ingredients are exceptional, the produce is crispy and ripe, the tomatoes add an umami-rich juiciness, and the lettuce balances the brightness with a hint of bitterness. The Shake sauce is tangy, rich, and adds an extra level of savoriness to the burger. The potato bun is soft and spongey and soaks up the burger juices nicely. But the real star of the show is the meat patty.

No other burger melts in your mouth like Shake Shack. Once you bite through the sweet caramelized Maillard crust, you’re met with a depth of flavor that somehow tastes meatier and juicier than every other burger in fast food. While the less than $10 single version of this burger is tempting, price-wise, stick with the double — the ratio of meat to bread is much better here, allowing you to enjoy the flavor all the more.

The Bottom Line:

Not just the best cheeseburger over $10, it’s the best cheeseburger in all of fast food.