Kids love them. Adults spend lifetimes perfecting recipes for them. Even vegetarians have developed their own special patties so as not to give them up. Let’s face it: People love burgers.
But that doesn’t mean a plain patty with the same old sauce — no matter how “special” it may be — can’t sometimes feel a little bland. Here, we offer you some pro restaurant tips for how to think outside the bun — and seriously beef up your burger game.
1. Make it metal.
There are big burgers everywhere. But no one pumps up the volume quite like Kuma’s Corner in Chicago with their ultra-massive — and ultra-metal — Slayer burger. This behemoth starts with a 10 oz. beef patty on a bed of fries and is topped with chili, cherry peppers, caramelized onion, Andouille sausage, shredded Monterey jack cheese, green onion, and, according to Kuma’s, a healthy dose of anger. If your burger game is feeling a little too low-key, take a page from Kuma’s book and amp up the size — and the flavor — for a meal that truly rocks. (We assume the anger is optional.)
2. Go au naturale.
As far as culinary truthisms go, there are few more popular than the time-honored phrase, “You are what you eat.” That’s why Burger Lounge, with locations throughout California, provides their hungry guests a burger that feeds both body and soul. Made with grass-fed beef or free-range turkey and offering a host of organic veggies and cheeses to choose from, these burgers prove that sometimes, to make a meal even more drool worthy, it’s best to just go back to the basics.
3. Rethink your meat.
It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes, the best way to beef up a burger is to take the beef out altogether. Not convinced? Then you clearly haven’t been to Big Chef Tom’s Belly Burgers in San Francisco, where they’re serving up burgers made with 100% fresh ground pork belly patties topped with ingredients inspired by cuisines from across the globe. Hey, if you can make a burger out of turkey or tofu, then why not create an extra-special patty out of what is probably the most piquant part of the pig?
4. Appeal to the kid in everyone.
For many of us, biting into a juicy burger brings back warm memories of summertime BBQs in the backyard. So when it comes to bettering your beef, why not double down on those happy feelings by co-opting another childhood favorite? Rehab Burger Therapy in Scottsdale, Ariz., is doing just that with their PBJ & Bacon burger. Complete with peanut butter and grape jelly, this delectable dish also includes a hearty serving of bacon and a splash of spicy Sriracha — making this sandwich much more than just kid’s stuff.
5. Elevate your ingredients.
Sure, folks don’t often consider burgers elite foodie fare. But that’s what makes the Triple Truffle burger at Grind Burger in Highland Heights, Ohio, all the more special. This high-end take on the hamburger starts with truffle salt seasoned patty and tops it with petite pecorino cheese, sautéed mushrooms, truffle aioli, and, last but not least, a truffle butter bun. And that’s not the only culinary curveball they’re throwing at Grind: You can also get a premium Wagyu beef burger. Or, if you’re more into the extras, top your sandwich with manchego and zinfandel-braised onions. Suddenly the humble hamburger isn’t looking quite so hum-drum.
6. When in doubt, add grilled cheese.
Is there anything more universally delicious than grilled cheese? If you said a burger AND grilled cheese, then congratulations, savvy sandwich-maker, we have no more to teach you. That, or you’ve already visited Buckeye Beer Engine in Lakewood, Ohio, home of the Fatty Melt. This meaty mash-up consists of a half-pound burger patty lovingly placed between two full-on grilled cheese sandwiches — and is topped with bacon and tomatoes, of course! Crazy? Maybe. Delicious? Absolutely. It just goes to show that sometimes innovation is as simple as combining two things that already seem perfect on their own.
7. Handle it with more maturity.
Cheese, wine, whiskey: There are some things in life that just plain get better with age. And although we often think of a fresh burger patty as the height of hamburger excellence, when it comes to creating a truly unique dish, the rules of aging still apply. That’s why The Grange in New York offers their guests a 35-day dry-aged beef burger topped with foie gras buttered onions and arugula, for even more refinement. Now, we’re not saying you should keep famished foodies on the hook for the full 35 days — but when it comes to updating a classic course, good things definitely come to those who wait.