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Surveying this recipe’s ingredients, you’ll see why chef Alex Garcia pegged it as both a representation of Manhattan and Latin America. It’s got all of the things New Yorkers love about a burger: Cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and red onion, and a hint of Latin flair with guacamole.
Click here to see 50 Best Burger Recipes
For the AG sauce
- 4 Cups mayonnaise
- 6 roasted red peppers, small diced
- 1 Cup sweet relish
- 1/4 Cup pimentón
- Juice from 2 lemons
For the guacamole
- 2 Tablespoons diced jalapeños
- 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 4 Tablespoons diced white onion
- 1 avocado, diced
- 1 Teaspoon lime juice
- 2 Tablespoons diced plum tomato
- 1 Teaspoon salt
For the burger
- 1/2 Pound cooked burger patty
- 3 pieces crispy applewood-smoked bacon
- 1/4 Cup A.G. guacamole
- 2 slices sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 potato bun
- AG Sauce
- Lettuce, tomato slices, and red onion slices, for garnish
A Menu of Regional Burger Styles You Need To Know
The thing with Regional Burger Styles, they’re all around you, and you probably haven’t noticed.
Sure, knowing the joints that helped shape burger history is a small part of the journey. There is much to learn and try when it comes to the diversity in America’s favorite sandwich styles.
In this post, I’m going to focus on regional burger styles. Folks in different parts of the country have made the burger their own, sometimes by just adding a topping that’s popular in their neighborhoods.
One last thing, just cause it’s a Regional Burger Style doesn’t mean you won’t encounter one in your neck of the woods, so keep an eye out.
25 of the Craziest Burger Toppings in the U.S.
There are plenty of ways to dress a burger besides lettuce, cheese, and tomato. (Sushi? Um, okay.) In preparation for National Hamburger Day on May 28, we’re serving up the most unique burger-enhancing toppings in the U.S.
1. HOT FUDGE // MCGUIRE'S IRISH PUB // PENSACOLA, FLORIDA
Why wait for dessert? Patrons of the Irish saloon can mix sweet and savory by ordering a three-quarter-pounder Black Angus beef burger covered in a scoop of hot fudge-drizzled vanilla ice cream.
2. RAMEN // RAMEN BURGER // VARIOUS LOCATIONSJason Wong, Flickr // CC by NC-ND 2.0
Keizo Shimamoto's iconic Ramen Burgers can be found stateside at various flea markets and food courts across New York. This burger packs USDA prime beef patties between noodle-buns seasoned with scallions and shoyu glaze. At the height of the craze, hundreds of diners lined up to try this phenomenal burger creation.
3. CREAM CHEESE // GRILL 'EM ALL // ALHAMBRA, CALIFORNIA
Heavy metal-inspired Grill 'Em All's food truck and restaurant (Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider has eaten there!) has two cream cheese-topped offerings: Napalm Death, which also has pickled jalapeño, jalapeño poppers, and habanero aioli and the Witte with deep-fried bacon, Sriracha, grilled onion, and malt vinegar aioli. Cream cheese is a frequent addition to their rotating burgers of the week, and the joint has been featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate and won Season 1 of The Great Food Truck Race.
4. PEANUT MAYONNAISE // MATT'S PLACE // BUTTE, MONTANACraig L., Yelp
At The Treasure State’s oldest drive-in restaurant, the most popular menu choice is a surprising one. Those in the know opt for the Nutburger—a beef patty covered in a crushed peanut mayonnaise.
5. PULLED PORK // B SPOT // VARIOUS LOCATIONS
A carnivore’s delight! The menu at this casual eatery, with eight locations in the Midwest including Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit and Indianapolis, includes the award-winning Porky: a burger covered in pulled pork, coleslaw and Cleveland-style barbecue sauce (made with brown mustard).
6. MANGO, PEAR, AND PINE NUTS // FLIP BURGER BOUTIQUE // ATLANTA
At Top Chef All Stars winner Richard Blais’ upscale burger joint—where they claim to “take the American classic and flip it on its head”—you can order burgers comprised of steak tartare, shrimp, lamb, and bison. But perhaps the most unique offering is the raw tuna tartare patty that comes dressed with soy dressing and wasabi mayo, and topped with Asian pear, avocado puree, pine nuts, and a mango sphere.
7. BACON GRILLED CHEESE // VORTEX BAR & GRILL // ATLANTA
Atlanta’s Vortex Bar & Grill ups the ante with their Triple Coronary Bypass: two patty melts and a bacon grilled cheese serve as buns. The sandwich consists of two slices of white bread, four slices of thick, buttery Texas toast, 18 strips of bacon, 24 ounces of sirloin, 18 slices of American cheese, three fried eggs, and mayo. The 7000-plus calorie meal comes with cheese- and bacon bits-covered tots.
8. FRIED BANANA AND PEANUT BUTTER // BOSTON BURGER COMPANY // BOSTONChristina O., Yelp
Many burger joints offer tributes to Elvis Presley and his love for peanut butter and banana sandwiches. (Order up variations at The Vortex Bar & Grill in Atlanta and Grumpy’s Bar & Grill in Minneapolis.) At Boston Burger Company it’s The King, which is layered with peanut butter, bacon, and fried bananas, and dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Have mercy!
9. DOUGHNUTS // CYPRESS STREET PINT & PLATE // ATLANTA
The concept of doughnuts-as-buns isn’t exclusive to famed Minneapolis food truck Eli's Donut Burgers—The Original in Portland, Oregon offers a glazed buttermilk donut slider appetizer, and Chicago’s Buzz Bar was known to serve up a doughnut burger with truffle aioli and caramelized strawberries. Presently, at Cypress Street Pint & Plate, the Sublime Doughnut Burger is served with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and caramelized onions sandwiched between local bakery Sublime's freshly baked doughnuts. (Sublime has their own take on the burger, as well.)
10. CAESAR DRESSING // LITTLE MIKE'S HAMBURGERS // OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
The specialty at this Oklahoma City institution is the Caesar Burger, which is drenched in the creamy dressing. Bonus: You can tell yourself you basically ordered a salad.
11. STUFFING AND CRANBERRY SAUCE // WAHLBURGERS // VARIOUS LOCATIONSWahlburgers
Celebrate Thanksgiving all year at Wahlburgers, the famous burger chain backed by Mark Wahlberg and his brothers Paul and Donnie. (So far there are locations in Massachusetts, Florida, Nevada, New York, and Pennsylvania.) The famed siblings crafted the Thanksgiving Day Sandwich with seasoned turkey, stuffing, and roasted butternut squash, and slathered it with housemade orange cranberry sauce and mayo.
12. JAM // WEST EGG CAFÉ // ATLANTA
At West Egg Café, burgers are topped with tomato jam, pimento cheese, and bacon to create the “PB&J." At Boston Burger Company, "the Sophie" uses fig jam with prosciutto, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and arugula.
13. CAVIAR // SERENDIPITY 3 // NEW YORK CITY
Ordering the Le Burger Extravagant at this Manhattan tourist landmark will get you a Wagyu beef burger infused with 10-herb truffle butter, topped with 18-month-old cave-aged cheddar, shaved black truffles, fried quail egg, and Kaluga caviar. Of course, you’ll need to plan in advance (48 hours) and pony up a whopping $295 for this burger, which is held together with a solid gold, diamond-encrusted toothpick. (You can finish off the decadence with the $1000 Tahitian vanilla bean and edible gold leaf sundae.) If that’s too rich for your blood, they also offer a more modest caviar burger with sour cream and cucumber, a steal at $18.50.
14. FRIED ICE CREAM // FLORIDA STATE FAIR // TAMPA, FLORIDA
Among the fare for sale at the annual Florida State Fair in Tampa: a bacon cheeseburger covered in lettuce, onions, pickles, tomatoes … and one sizeable scoop of deep fried ice cream.
15. PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY // SLATER'S 50/50 // SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIAAselicia S., Yelp
The Southern California outpost (there are also shops in Anaheim Hills, Huntington Beach, Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, and San Marcos) has no shortage of creative dishes. See: the Sriracha Burger and the Hawaiian, which comes with spam. But the Peanut Butter & Jellousy may be the most out there, with peanut butter and strawberry jelly covering a slab of beef and bacon (plus, it gets major points for its name).
16. FRITOS // FIFTH THIRD BALLPARK // COMSTOCK PARK, MICHIGAN
Each year, just north of Grand Rapids, fans of the city’s minor league baseball team the West Michigan Whitecaps are given the chance to vote a new food item into the stadium’s concession stand. The 2009 offering stuck: a giant slab of five patties, American cheese, chili, salsa, nacho cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and Fritos. The burger can be cut into four pieces with a pizza cutter for sharing, but finishing the entire 5000 calorie sandwich by the end of the game earns you a T-shirt and your photo in the Fifth Third Burger Wall of Fame. Batter up!
17. FOIE GRAS AND TRUFFLES // BURGER BAR // LAS VEGAS
Indulge your late night cravings on the Las Vegas Strip with chef Hubert Keller's $60 Rossini burger. He tops Australian Wagyu beef with sautéed foie gras, shaved truffles, and black truffle sauce. Or feel free to add your own creation. The restaurant’s list of toppings includes coleslaw, macaroni salad, asparagus, pineapple, and large shrimp, among others.
18. KIMCHI // UMAMI BURGER // VARIOUS LOCATIONS
The popular chain—with locations in California, New York, and Chicago—offers a Korean barbecue-inspired dish that comes with Gochujang glaze, sesame aioli, Korean ketchup, and caramelized kimchi.
19. SHRIMP // BURGER & BEER JOINT // VARIOUS LOCATIONS
At this Sunshine State favorite, you can order burgers named after classic rock songs like the Paradise City, where the beef is thick (a half pound) and topped with poached and seared Cajun spiced shrimp.
20. MAC AND CHEESE // ZOMBIE BURGER + DRINK LAB // DES MOINES, IOWASanDee W., Yelp
At the quirky, undead-themed restaurant you can choose from cleverly named burgers such as the Dawn of the Dead, They’re Coming to Get You Barbara, and The Walking Ched. The last shoves a burger, cheddar cheese, and a scoop of macaroni and cheese between two pieces of deep-fried mac and cheese.
21. PIZZA // NOSH // PORTLAND, MAINE
This is no ordinary pizza burger. At Nosh, the Slab Burger uses two slices of pie to sandwich a beef patty, provolone cheese, red pepper, marinara, and pesto.
22. HOT DOG // MOTHER'S FEDERAL HILL GRILLE // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
No need to decide between two barbecue classics at this Maryland eatery. Order up The Dog [PDF] and have your Angus beef topped off with an all beef hot dog, chili, and cheese sauce.
23. SUSHI // 26 BEACH // VENICE, CALIFORNIAChristine T., Yelp
This oceanside spot claims to make the only California roll hamburger in the world. To make the one-of-a-kind burger, they take a beef patty then stack it with snow crab salad, avocado, sushi ginger, lettuce, tomato, nori, and wasabi shoyu mayonnaise.
24. BUTTER AND MAPLE SYRUP // BUTTERMILK KITCHEN // ATLANTA
Breakfast burger? Bring it on! Order the special Dad’s Waffle ($13 at this Southern eatery) and bite into a huge burger patty on a sourdough waffle, doused in butter and maple syrup.
25. COMMUNION WAFER // KUMA'S CORNER // CHICAGO
In 2013, the Chicago kitchen created a holy controversy with their "Ghost" burger. After local Catholics objected to the deity—a burger with ghost chile aioli, goat shoulder, a red wine reduction they dubbed the blood of Christ, and an unconsecrated communion wafer—the restaurant promised to donate $1500 to the Catholic Charities of the Chicago Archdiocese. Their offering was refused.
Courtesy of The Seasoned Mom
The lean sammich gets a nostalgic upgrade with sloppy Joe-style turkey. Begin by browning the meat in a skillet with onion and garlic, while simultaneously whipping up a simple sweet-and-sour sauce. Then, the meat and sauce are transferred to a slow cooker, where the flavors amalgamate before getting sandwiched between two sesame buns. We can't think of a tastier, more crowd-pleasing meal.
The Grand Burgerfest Hotel
When you order the burger at The NoMad Bar, and you definitely should, no one will ask you how you'd like it cooked. The cheeky buggers already know.
"We like to send it out rosé," says chef James Kent, which is why your burger arrives a gorgeous blushing pink, suspended in that sweet spot between mid-rare and medium otherwise known as just right ($17).
What else didn't you know you wanted? A veil of white cheddar over that patty, which is crowned with a thick slice of pickled red onion and a bit of creamy, slightly sharp "special" sauce. A soft, sweet bun that holds it all together.
This burger has the gloss and height and cartoonish roundness of a deluxe bistro type, but take a bite and you'll find some of the pleasing squish of a great fast-food version.
In all its glory, The NoMad Bar's burger
"At the end of the day, you eat a burger because of the meat," says Kent. The chef works with a dry-aged chuck blend that's a quarter fat&mdasha mix of suet (the firm, creamy white stuff from around the cow's kidneys) and bone marrow.
Though cooks have been grinding these two old-school meat butters into beef for ages, Kent was the first chef to ask Pat LaFrieda to do it, he says. The Jersey-based butcher, who currently grinds beef for some of the most fashionable burgers in the city, happily obliged.
The NoMad Bar isn't really a bar at all. Sure, it has a bar, which is long and wide and absolutely magnificent, ideal for nibbling cocktail snacks like Scotch olives ($11): sheep cheese-stuffed, lamb sausage-wrapped, deep-fried olives.
Fresa y Cerveza: Evil Twin's Nomader Weisse spiked with strawberry shrub and chartreuse
But this is also a pretty grand two-story restaurant with some dishes that may seem familiar, or pulled from The NoMad just next door and tweaked for the more casual dining room&mdashthe carrot tartare ($15) the foie gras and truffle-loaded roast chicken now turned into a totally over-the-top potpie ($36).
Lounging around on the creamy green leather banquettes, you could order a few rounds of the amber-colored Bamboo ($16) made with sherry and vermouth&mdashif you can find a seat.
The place is generally jammed with suits, tourists and those recently escaped from their Midtown cubes, here for a better-than-average happy hour that may involve one of those giant, celebratory Cocktail Explosions, the fruit-laden booze bombs that serve eight ($90).
Deconstructing the Perfect Burger
How to make a great hamburger is a question that has bedeviled the nation for generations, for as long as Americans have had griddles and broilers, for as long as summertime shorts-wearing cooks have gone into the yard to grill.
But the answer is simple, according to many of those who make and sell the nation’s best hamburgers: Cook on heavy, cast-iron pans and griddles. Cook outside if you like, heating the pan over the fire of a grill, but never on the grill itself. The point is to allow rendering beef fat to gather around the patties as they cook, like a primitive high-heat confit.
“That is the best way to do it,” said George Motz, the documentary filmmaker who released “Hamburger America” in 2005 and has since become a leading authority on hamburgers. The beef fat collected in a hot skillet, Mr. Motz said, acts both as a cooking and a flavoring agent. “Grease is a condiment that is as natural as the beef itself,” he said. “A great burger should be like a baked potato, or sashimi. It should taste completely of itself.”
Michael Symon, the ebullient television Iron Chef, a host of ABC’s “The Chew” and a proprietor of a small chain of Midwestern hamburger restaurants called B Spot, agreed. Mr. Symon’s restaurants each serve more than 1,000 hamburgers a night, he said, all of them finished on a flat-top griddle coated in beef fat.
“Use a skillet,” he said on a speakerphone, on the way to a flight to Detroit, where he is opening a B Spot. He was emphatic about the subject. “A grill is too difficult,” he said. “A hot skillet is what you want.”
We will return to the business of how to use that skillet, for — as Mr. Symon hastened to add — the surface on which you cook is only one component of hamburger excellence. There is also the size of the hamburger. There is the kind of meat used to create it. There is the bun. There is cheese or there is not. There are tomato debates, lettuce quarrels (on top or on the bottom?). There are questions of ketchup, of mustard, of pickles, of onions.
Some of these things are matters of personal taste, but for people who know burgers well, there is little disagreement about the best practices for making an exceptional one.
It is best to start at the beginning. Great hamburgers fall into two distinct categories. There is the traditional griddled hamburger of diners and takeaway spots, smashed thin and cooked crisp on its edges. And there is the pub- or tavern-style hamburger, plump and juicy, with a thick char that gives way to tender, often blood-red meat within.
The diner hamburger has a precooked weight of 3 to 4 ounces, roughly an ice-cream-scoop’s worth of meat. The pub-style one is heavier, but not a great deal heavier. Its precooked weight ought to fall, experts say, between 7 and 8 ounces.
“Most of the time, 7 ounces is more than enough,” said Geoffrey Zakarian, the chef and owner of the National Bar and Dining Rooms, in Manhattan, which serves a fine hamburger of roughly that size. Mr. Zakarian cautioned against hamburgers of more than a half-pound in weight. “You want to get some heat to the inside of the burger,” he said. “You don’t want some giant, underdone meatloaf.”
Whichever style you cook, pay close attention to the cuts of beef used in the grind. The traditional hamburger is made of ground chuck steak, rich in both fat and flavor, in a ratio that ideally runs about 80 percent meat, 20 percent fat. Less fat leads to a drier hamburger. Avoid, the experts say, supermarket blends advertised with words like “lean.”
Too much fat, on the other hand, can lead to equally troubling issues, and a mess in both fact and flavor. “You get up around 30 percent fat,” Mr. Symon said, and there are risks. “Things happen,” he said. “Bad things. Shrinkage.” Home cooks should experiment, he said, with blends that contain from 20 to 25 percent fat.
What to Cook This Week
Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the week. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.
- A salty-sweet garlic and scallion marinade enhances these Korean beef burgers with sesame-cucumber pickles from Kay Chun.
- If you can get your hands on good salmon at the market, try this fine recipe for roasted dill salmon.
- Consider these dan dan noodles from Café China in New York. Outrageous.
- How about crispy bean cakes with harissa, lemon and herbs? Try them with some yogurt and lemon wedges.
- Angela Dimayuga’s bistek is one of the great feeds, with rice on the side.
Restaurateurs, sometimes driven by the marketing efforts of celebrity butchers, tout hamburger blends of chuck and brisket, hanger and strip steak, short rib and clod. In New York, Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors has built a carriage-trade business on the back of whimsical blends of beef for hamburgers, in particular the custom Black Label blend put together for Keith McNally’s Minetta Tavern, in Manhattan. The specifics of that blend are kept secret by Mr. LaFrieda, but he has allowed that about 30 percent of it is dry-aged New York strip steak.
Tom Mylan, one of the owners of the Meat Hook butcher shop in Brooklyn, occasionally cuts bacon into his burger blends, and sometimes accompanies these with chunks of Cheddar and sour-cream-and-onion-flavored potato chips. In his recent cookbook, “The Meat Hook Meat Book,” he calls that particular mixture the “Fat Kid Blend, World of Warfare edition.”
“If you’re an antisocial stoner agoraphobe,” Mr. Mylan writes, “this is for you. Fire up the Xbox and dig in.”
But home cooks and those who speak for them most often advocate the use of chuck steak for hamburgers. Michael Ruhlman, the erudite Cleveland writer and cook, gives short shrift to fancy blends of meat. “I believe the only critical ratio is the meat to fat,” he said, adding that he generally buys a fatty cut of chuck steak and grinds it at home. “That gives me a great burger every time.”
There are pitfalls to buying preground supermarket chuck steak, experts say. In addition to concerns about the health risks associated with preground hamburger meat, there are culinary considerations as well. The grind most markets use is “fine,” which means the fat globules in it are small. That can lead to the dreaded mushy mouth feel of a substandard hamburger. Better (and safer) to have a butcher grind your meat, asking for a coarse grind so that the ratio of meat to fat is clear to the eye.
Whatever the blend, it is wise to keep the meat in the refrigerator, untouched, until you are ready to cook. “Hamburgers are one of the few meats you want to cook cold,” Mr. Symon said. “You want the fat solid when the patty goes onto the skillet. You don’t want any smearing.”
Forming the patties is a delicate art. For the thin, diner-style hamburger, Mr. Motz said, simply use a spoon or an ice-cream scoop to extract a loose golf ball of meat from the pile, and get it onto the skillet in one swift movement. “You don’t need to set the heat below it to stun,” he said. “A medium-hot pan will do it, accompanied for the first burger with a pat of melted butter to get the process started.”
Then, a heresy to many home cooks: the smash. Use a heavy spatula to press down on the meat, producing a thin patty about the size of a hamburger bun. “Everyone freaks out about that,” Mr. Motz said. “But it’s the only time you’re touching the meat, and you’re creating this great crust in doing it.” Roughly 90 seconds later, after seasoning the meat, you can slide your spatula under the patty, flip it over, add cheese if you’re using it, and cook the hamburger through.
The pub-style burger is in some ways even easier to make. The key, Mr. Symon said, is not to handle the meat too much. “A lot of people make the mistake of packing the burger really tightly,” he said. “But what you want is for it just to hold together, no more.” Simply grab a handful of beef and form it into a burger shape, then get it into the pan, season it and cook for about three minutes. Then turn it over and, if using, add cheese. The burger is done three to four minutes later for medium-rare.
“Most people don’t melt the cheese enough,” Mr. Zakarian said. He emphasized the need to dress the hamburger with cheese as soon as the patty is flipped. “You want a curtain of cheese to enrobe the meat,” he said. “The rennet in it really adds a lot of flavor.”
Which cheese you use is a matter of preference, but Mr. Motz does not sneeze at the highly processed slice that has covered the nation’s hamburgers since the early days of White Castle restaurants. “American cheese is designed to melt,” he said, “and it has 50 percent more sodium than Cheddar or Swiss, so it adds a lot of flavor while also helping to hold the smashed patty together.”
In choosing buns, restaurateurs may offer hamburgers on special brioche from Balthazar, or fancy English muffins from Bays. But home cooks can do very well indeed with more commercial options, in particular potato buns, which offer a soft and sturdy platform for the meat.
The most important factor is, again, ratio. “The bun-to-burger ratio is incredibly important,” Mr. Symon said. “You want a soft bun, like a challah or potato, but whichever you use it shouldn’t overwhelm the burger. They should be as one.”
Finally, there are condiments. You pull your burgers off the skillet, place them on the buns and then offer them to guests to dress. Ripe tomatoes and cold lettuce should be offered (“Only bibb lettuce,” Mr. Zakarian said, “for its crispness and ability to hold the juices of the meat”) along with ketchup, mustard and, for a hardy few, mayonnaise or mayonnaise mixtures. Onions excite some. Pickles, others.
“People really overcomplicate hamburgers,” Mr. Zakarian said. “They substitute complication for proper cooking technique.”
Try This Exclusive Burger Recipe From NYC’s Gramercy Tavern
Summer is quickly slipping through our collective fingers, but we say it ain’t over ‘til the grill cools on Labor Day. So, to make this weekend’s last hurrah worthy of a compelling entry in a “How I spent my summer vacation” essay, we’ve got the exclusive recipe for the much-loved, Tavern Burger from NYC’s Gramercy Tavern .
On the QT, Chef Michael Anthony tells Westchester Magazine that he uses a short rib and chuck blend from Piccinini Brothers , the nearly 100-year old NYC meat purveyor, that supplies top Manhattan restaurants like Daniel, Pastis, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns with grass-fed organic meat and poultry, and is now delivering to customers in Westchester and Connecticut.
“One of the great selling points is that they make the ground beef blends themselves, and are involved in every detail of the cuts that go into the blend,” explains Anthony. “With typical grocery store ground meat, there is no traceability or accountability for the ground beef they’re selling. Piccinini Brothers uses old-world specificity in the meat they grind, and use only prime cuts.”
Chef Michael Anthony. Photo by Evan Sung
So, without further ado, here is how to make the Tavern Burger on your backyard barbecue:
- Let the meat sit out of the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes before cooking
Now, for the smoked onion sauce:
- One-half quart red onions, sliced
- 2 Tablespoons ketchup
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 quarter quart of olive oil
- 1 quarter quart of grapeseed oil
- 1 Tablespoon honey
Toss red onions with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and grill for four minutes or until nicely charred. In a blender, place egg yolks, ketchup, cider vinegar, and honey add the charred onions and blend in the olive oil and grapeseed oil. Taste for seasoning the mixture should be thick.
To shine like a star in your own backyard, Chef Anthony offers: “Whenever you’re cooking meat on the grill, let it rest for about the same amount of time it cooks, and the results will be dramatically be improved. Meat continues to cook when it comes off grill, and by letting it rest, you’re allowing juices to flow and the temperature to penetrate the meat more evenly. It improves the quality of meat and makes it more tender and juicier. The bigger the cut, the more important this is.”
Manhattan: Joe Junior
Editor's note: Ladies and gents, meet Nick Solares, aka the Beef Aficionado. He's the newest contributor to AHT, so give him a warm welcome, whydoncha? He'll be joining us weekly with his adventures in burgery. This is the first of many posts to come. —The Mgmt.
It is no accident that I picked a decidedly downmarket and untrendy restaurant to review for my initial posting on A Hamburger Today. I think that it speaks to the way I feel about burgers they should be unpretentious and low-brow, a culinary delight for the everyman.
I have yet to be impressed by a chef-designed truffle, foie gras, and Kobe beef short rib–stuffed “gourmet” burger served on date nut bread with a 50-year-old balsamic vinegar reduction and caviar—at least not to the degree in which a simple $5 cheeseburger might stir me.
I have a basic rule or tenant when it comes to burgers: Individually the ingredients should not be as great as the sum of their parts. If they are, just make something else. I don’t think there is any great achievement in making a delicious sandwich out of ingredients that cost as much as a prime steak. But take some fresh ground chuck, American cheese, and a generic white bun—ingredients that in and of themselves are not that compelling—and combine them to make an extraordinary burger. That is something that impresses both my palate and my egalitarian sensibilities.
Joe Junior, a restaurant that typifies the term “greasy spoon,” located somewhat improbably on the corner of a historically landmarked block in Gramercy, impresses me thusly.
There is another Joe Junior, located on Sixth Avenue, and both were once owned by the same family but operated independently. I have never had the burgers at the Sixth Avenue location, but Josh “Mr. Cutlets” Ozersky recently named them among his top ten burgers in New York.
Joe Junior serves what is admittedly a generic burger. It does not have a custom meat blend from Pat LaFrieda, the bun does not come from a fancy bakery, and the bright-yellow American cheese is anything but artisanal, yet there is real magic here. The burgers are cooked on a well-seasoned flat top, which you can often smell from the street half a block in all directions from Joe Junior’s corner location, creating the enticing aroma of fresh burgers sizzling away, beckoning the steady stream of Con Ed employees, police cadets, college kids, and quirky locals who fill the place.
The beef is fresh chuck. I found that out when I asked the counterman if it was frozen. He looked at me in a perplexed way—not defensively as he might if the beef was indeed frozen, nor as if I had insulted him by suggesting that that it was frozen—but in a more mystified manner, as if he had never even considered the fact that beef could be frozen. Frankly, given the size of Joe Junior itself and the sheer number of burgers it sells (at least a hundred a day, according to the aforementioned counterman), I don’t know where they would keep the patties there is simply no room for a freezer in the cramped confines of the little restaurant.
My favorite burger at Joe Junior is the plain cheeseburger it has a Zen-like simplicity that far more renowned, expensive burgers cannot somehow attain. Composed simply from chuck with a generous amount of fat, two slices of American cheese, and a seeded white bun from Sabrett (the famed hot dog makers), the Joe Junior cheeseburger is as classic an example of the "diner-style" cheeseburger as you will find.
The cheese is set on both sides of the bun and melted under a broiler while the burger cooks on the flat top, the corners drooping down as if to embrace the bun. Once the patty is set on the bun, the juice from the patty drips off the little cheesy protrusions leaving pools in four corners around the burger. The beef to bun ratio is spot on—the patty’s circumference is slightly larger than that of the bun revealing the glistening cheese and charred flesh beneath, but once the bun is compressed it spreads out enough to insure that every bite is in perfect proportion. I do advise that you request the bun be well toasted as they can be a bit on the cold side.
A further word of advice when ordering the burger here, you should request that they leave the patty to cook without weighting it down with the “plancha” (the Spanish word for a slab of iron). The burgers cook a lot quicker with it in place, but the juice gets squeezed out, sputtering and depressingly evaporating away on the grill top. I can understand why one might use it as it literally cuts the cooking time in half, but it cuts down the juiciness by the same factor.
Cooked sans plancha, the burger at Joe Junior can be amazingly succulent when cooked rare to medium. The patty releases torrents of steaming juices that quickly overpower the bun's ability to absorb them, leaving a delicious dunking pool on the plate.
The beef has a very fresh flavor and is well seasoned the grill achieves a crisp crust even when cooked rare, which juxtaposes perfectly with the squishy white bun and gooey cheese.
Personally I don’t allow vegetables to interfere with such perfection, unless one considers, like Ronald Reagan, that ketchup is a vegetable, but you do have the option of having yours served deluxe—giving you a generous serving of lettuce and tomatoes along with some decent fries (order them well done). I don’t like bacon on my burgers, but if you do I think you’ll like the bacon cheeseburger here because the plancha, which has such a deleterious effect on the burger, makes for some wonderfully crisp bacon.
Is the Joe Junior burger the finest in New York? No. But it is certainly one of the most honest and unpretentious—a burger that only aspires to feed the belly but ends up feeding the soul, not fulfill some chef’s need to feed his ego.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium low.
- Season onion with salt and pepper.
- Mix in brown sugar with jalapenos.
- Cook and stir regularly to caramelize jalapenos.
- They should be tender after around 15 minutes.
- Let cool in a bowl.
- 3/4 lb Ground Chuck
- 3/4 lb Ground Sirloin
- 1 grated Yellow Onion
- 1/2 cup Breadcrumbs
- 1/2 lb raw Mexican Chorizo sausage crumbles
- 1 tbsp Adobo Seasoning
- 2 tbsp Canola Oil
15 ounces ground chicken
1 slice bread
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon majoram
1 teaspoon chives, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
4 hamburger buns
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
Soak the slice of bread in milk, squeeze out excess liquid and add bread to the meat. Mix in the egg, onion, garlic, seasonings and breadcrumbs combine thoroughly and form four burgers. Grill or broil as desired. Top with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and tartar sauce.
Watch the video: Sold out every day! The hamburger that won the 1st place in the US Best Burger Awards 3 times! (September 2022).