McDonald's and Shake Shack are usually the only things that come to mind when I want a burger, but what else is there? 

Spoon photographer Cynthia Lee and I decided to check out the burger scene in the East Village and on the Lower East Side, hunting for awesome patties that wouldn't break the bank. To make the list, these places didn't just need to have great burgers, but great vibes too!

Grab a few friends and head over to these delicious spots.

1. Trademark Burger 

avocado, cheese, sandwich
Cynthia Lee

What's the Deal: A small, cozy burger joint just below Houston Street near campus. 

About the Restaurant: "Sebastien, after doing a fine dining restaurant Cocotte, wanted to use his 'savoir faire' to open a fast and casual burger joint based on two pillars: high quality and affordability for everyone.” - Sofie Roelens, 29, General Manager, speaking about her husband Chef-Owner Sebastien Pourrat. 

Price Range: $7.00 - $11.50

Decor: Artsy, hipster, young-people vibes, warm/cozy ambiance. Cynthia appreciated the window art, which she felt made the restaurant less corporate-like and more down-to-earth.

tea, beer
Cynthia Lee

Burgers: Cynthia and I each had half of a Trademark Burger ($8) and Trademark Veggie Burger ($8). The burgers had great buns and a terrific secret Trademark sauce—we were both partial to the incredibly flavorful Trademark Burger.

cheddar, cheese
Cynthia Lee

Overall: Be sure and check out this chill joint for a quick, peaceful lunch.

Fun Fact: Roelens and Pourrat also own and run Cocotte NYC, a French restaurant next door... in the same building. 

110 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012.

2. Paul's Da Burger Joint

hamburger, bacon
Photo courtesy of Paul's Da Burger Joint

What's the Deal: A family-owned 1950s-style burger joint that serves traditional diner fare.

About the Restaurant: "It’s fresh-chopped meat that comes in everyday from our butcher that is ground specifically for us," Our waitress told us. "And that's probably what makes them so good.”

Price Range: $7.00 - $13.00

Decor: "Cute, retro kind of diner." - Cynthia 

meat, beer
Photo courtesy of Paul's Da Burger Joint

Burgers: I had the bacon cheeseburger deluxe ($12) and Cynthia had the mushroom burger deluxe ($12). These burgers were definitely the heftiest ones we encountered—the patties were thick, but melted in our mouths.

Photo courtesy of Paul's Da Burger Joint

Other: Solid fries, Great Black-White (Chocolate-Vanilla) milkshakes. 

Overall: Come through for if you feel like stuffing yourself. We could barely finish our respective burgers, shakes, and a shared plate of fries.

Fun Fact: Our waitress, Robin Kovalevich has been working at Paul's since it first opened in 1989. 

131 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003.

3. Mikey's Burger

Allen Peng

What's the Deal: Burgers, shakes, and bar food paired with familiar rock tunes for a relaxing atmosphere amidst the happening Lower East Side bar scene. 

About the Restaurant: "It's a burger joint with a rock 'n roll vibe. It's a good pre-game or post-game spot," said Justin Ahearn, 36, who co-owns the restaurant with his father. "You're in, you're out, you're hanging out."

Price Range: $6.50 - $9.00

Decor: An intimate setting with a narrow bar right in front of the grill leading to a small back area with seats. Rock 'n roll memorabilia posters and concert tickets adorn the walls, it's like like walking into Ahearn's home.  

Allen Peng

Burgers: They're most famous for their Mikey's Burger, but also have a host of other meats and flavors such as lamb, turkey, and veggie. The Mikey's Burger comes with a beef patty topped with grilled onions and corned beef.

Allen Peng

Other: The sesame milkshake is a must-order.

Overall: Come through for a relaxing time before or after a night out (it's open much later than the rest of the local spots). A burger and shake should be enough, or maybe share an order of fries with a friend.

Fun Fact: The bars right next to the restaurant are owned by Ahearn's family friends. 

134 Ludlow St, New York, NY 10002.


meat, beef, pork
Cynthia Lee

What's the Deal: Sliders on sliders on sliders, with a variety of milkshakes and music bumping all night long.

About the Restaurant: "The music is always loud and we're always happy and in a good mood," said Dustin Mackay, 27, who is a server and bartender at MARK. "The cooks are right in front of you, they're dancing and having a good time. It's just a very stress-free kinda place."

Price Range: $2.75 - $5.75 

Decor: Warm lights and tight tables in the back with a bit more space upfront. You can feel the friendliness in the air. 

Burgers: MARK only serves sliders, AKA mini-burgers. Cynthia and I each got a pulled pork slider and a bacon slider plus dumpster fries. 

bun, beef, slaw, sandwich, pork
Cynthia Lee

Other: Dumpster fries were massive and should be shared among multiple friends. Looking back, I wish I had tried their milkshakes, especially the candied bacon shake. 

Overall: Just skip the bar and come here instead. Better vibes and that $8 beer can get you two sliders! Plus, they have a Guinness milkshake - double win!

Fun Fact: "There was a girl who worked here who used to ask if she could have pulled pork and grilled onions and cheese sauce on top of her fries. She had it as a little snack and it was good, so we put it on the menu and people liked it, so now it's a full-time menu item." - Mackay on the Dumpster Fries

beef, poutine, chicken, chili, vegetable, sauce, meat, pork, pasta
Cynthia Lee

33 St. Mark's Place, New York, NY 10003.