Yes, there’s another major player in the city’s burger biz that I’ve never told you about. That’s the fairly nondescript streetside storefront that’s home to what CNN and Alton Brown have each called the Best Burger in America… and I think it’s safe to say that both sources know a thing or two about a thing or two. It is perhaps the most hyped burger ever… and I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the deafening buzz. Ladies and gents, welcome to Holeman & Finch Public House and their legendary double-stack.
There is more than a great deal of mystique that surrounds this burger. And a lot of that aura is manufactured. For starters, it’s not even printed on the menu. You have to ask for it, but you can’t ask just any old time. Holeman & Finch serves their burger precisely at 10pm each night, never before. But don’t think you can just stroll in after a late night on the town for one of these beauties. The kitchen makes just 24 of them each night. Twenty-four. No more until 10pm the next night.* Some nights, they sell out in under a minute. But they never don’t sell out. It’s a secret, ultra-exclusive item, sold in very limited quantities, and with exceptionally narrow availability. The burger at Holeman & Finch is an event. And of course, that makes the average carnivore want it even more.
So here’s how it works. You need to arrive at the restaurant well before 10pm. Working your way past the valet stand and the $95,000 SUVs parked out front, you’ll realize that Holeman & Finch is NOT a burger joint. Once inside the swanky confines and seated at an uber-trendy too-small table, order something to tide you over if you’re feeling peckish, but give your server a clear heads-up that you’re here for the burger. Since it’s not listed on the menu amidst cheffy offerings like pan-fried rabbit livers, veal brains, and head cheese, here’s the rundown. It’s a double cheeseburger, both freshly-ground chuck-and-brisket patties topped with Kraft American. Tucked between the patties is a smattering of red onion, and atop it all are house-made b&b pickles. It’s nestled in between buns baked by their own next-door bakery (who also happens to supply a who’s who of Atlanta restaurants with buns and breads) and served up with a handful of fries and servings of house-made ketchup and mustard.
At 10pm on the nose, a bullhorn sounds from somewhere in the restaurant that I couldn’t see. The wait staff repeats the call in each of the establishment’s smaller rooms. “What time is it?” she yells. Knowing patrons shout back in answer, “Burger Time!!!” And then it’s like the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, with diners calling out to their servers, vying to get their attention from across the room, holding outstretched fingers to claim their portion of the night’s burger bounty. If you’ve properly warned your server, she’ll be watching out for you at Burger Time and give you a knowing nod. A few minutes later, 24 burgers all come out of the kitchen at once and are delivered to the lucky tables.
Drop. Dead. Freaking. Gorgeous. It’s not a huge burger by any means, and in fact, feels smallish in your hands. But there is heft to it, and you find yourself practically cradling it as you bring it to your lips, pressing the squishy buns into the warm, juicy meat. By this point in the transaction, you’ve already endured a good bit of anticipation, and there is now that small glimmer of skepticism- fear that the burger will not live up to the hype. But the first bite is spectacular, even revelatory. It is nearly impossible to not make an audible noise as your work that initial mouthful around your taste buds. The onion and pickles provide a healthy crunch and slightly sweet tang, while the beef and cheese are in perfect proportion to one another. The thin patties dictate an internal temp that’s closer to well done than anything, but it’s not lacking for juiciness, and is further lubricated by the melting cheese and buttery bun. If this isn’t burger perfection, it’s awfully damn close.
Yes, the whole 24-per-night-and-only-at-10pm-after-we-announce-it-with-a-bullhorn thing is shtick, despite Holeman & Finch’s best attempts to spin it otherwise. “The thought behind the minimal number and the 10:00 serving is not a gimmick; it’s just the opposite,” reads the company website’s page devoted to the burger, “A handcrafted burger takes a lot of time to prepare correctly.” According to my server, the limited number is a function of the tiny kitchen. With a vast menu of overly fancypants items, there’s room on the trays for just 24 of the buns at once. Let me be clear on this: The number of buns that the kitchen can handle dictates the number of “the best burgers in America” that can be served. More buns would mean cutting the menu down and becoming something more akin to a run-of-the-mill burger joint… or maybe even worse, an average restaurant with half a dozen awesome dishes that no one orders because they’re too busy with burgers. It IS a gimmick to elevate the burger to this kind of exalted status; it works at Holeman & Finch only because the burger is totally worthy of this kind of exultation.
When the subject of my job comes up, I’m invariably asked, “So who has the best burger?” My standard response has always been, “Either The Vortex or Ann’s, depending on your mood.” But truthfully, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Holeman & Finch in that answer. Gimmicky hype notwithstanding, it’s a strong contender for Best Burger Anywhere. I may be no closer to finding my true B.C.O.M.L. now than when I started this thing two and a half years ago. In fact, I’m further away, ‘cos I keep adding nominees. But at least I’m in the right city to continue the quest.
Burger on, my brothers and sisters.
*Can’t make it for that 10pm nightly seating? The burgers are also available at Holeman & Finch’s Sunday brunch, where fewer menu items means unlimited burger quantities!]]>
Atlanta’s first outpost opened in July, but I refrained from going too soon. It’s easy to get everything right when the company founder is overseeing the details at a staged media tour on ribbon-cutting weekend. A more telling test is whether an unannounced lunchtime visit on a random Thursday four months later produces a raveworthy burger.
Insert your favorite superlative gushy adjectives here; Smashburger rocked, as fast casual burgs go. The chain’s gimmick is the way their third- and half-pound meatballs are “smashed” into a hot griddle, supposedly resulting in that crust of a truly great diner-style burger. (Photo by Darin Mcgregor, The Rocky Mountain News)
Your results may vary. Look closely; mine was missing the crispy coating of char I had hoped for.
Thankfully, though, there was plenty to get jazzed about. Like the size. Check out how much of this patty was hanging over the edges of the bun.
In Smashburger parlance, that’s a “Big Smash,” a half-pound patty. (A regular “Smash” is a third-pounder. You can double either for an upcharge. There’s also a “Small Smash” that no self-respecting carnivore would bother with.) While Smashburger prides itself on the geographically-appropriate burger on each store’s menu, I wasn’t here for the Atlanta. (It’s topped with peach BBQ sauce- never works on a burger- plus grilled jalapenos, a locally-produced pimento cheese, and coleslaw- which I don’t like at all.) Instead, I went basic: American cheese, LTO, and a slathering of the chain’s “Smash sauce,” a yellow-tinged spread which seems to be a mayo-mustard mashup. Put it all together on an egg bun, and you’ve got a damn sexy lunch date.
The total package wasn’t without its flaws. The smashed patty certainly offered a lot of beef surface area, but it made that single slice of American look positively puny, leaving much of the burger naked. Also, I got A LOT of onion. Bonus points for red, but my God, who needs an entire cross-section slice???
The fries disappointed. I tried the signature Smashfries, “tossed with rosemary, olive oil, and garlic.” Sound almost high-end, don’t they??? Despite being beautifully fried, I found them to be boring and bland. (Go back to that topmost burger shot and count how many flecks of rosemary you spot.) Next visit, I’ll try the shoestring fries or the sweet potato Smashfries.
Those are fairly minor complaints, though, ‘cos this thing worked on every other level. The bun is especially noteworthy. Spongy, rich, and slightly sweet, it was the perfect complement to this big beefy burger. It did start to fall apart as I neared the end, but then again, so did the patty itself. My guess is that the smashing technique makes the thin meat somewhat delicate and prone to crumbling after 10-15 minutes of manhandling.
In all, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my debut Smashburger experience, with plenty on the menu to lure me back. (Haagen-Dazs-and-Nutter-Butter milkshakes!) I’d choose it over most any fast-food burger, and I’d probably rank Smashburger better than fast casual faves Fuddruckers and even Five Guys. It did strike me as being a bit expensive, one of those places where they manage to a la carte you into a fifteen-dollar lunch in a blink. But the uber-friendly customer service is exceptional, the atmosphere pleasant, and the burgers undeniably tasty. Welcome to the bigs, Smashburger.]]>
Or for the Thanksgiving Day host looking to augment the traditional menu with a big fat side of WTF?!?…
The burger braniacs at White Castle have come to your rescue with a slider stuffing for your holiday turkey. Yes, turkey stuffing. Made from genuine White Castle sliders. Actually, the recipe submitted by a Columbus, Ohio family was the winner of the 1991 White Castle Cook-Off and has appeared on the White Castle website for years. But understandably, it gets resurrected each year about this time by holiday feasters looking to tweak their turkey with a dash of outrageousness.
Really, though, it’s not that gastronomically radical if you break it down by ingredient. Sausage and bread is a pretty common stuffing base, so a sack of White Castle sliders is more than halfway there. Add a few basic seasonings and some liquid for moisture, and this recipe is more about the secret-ingredient shock value than an overly exotic taste. In fact, if you didn’t tell your guests how the stuffing was made, there’s a good chance they’d never know. But what would be the fun of that?
For this recipe, it’s probably best to 86 the cheese from your order, and you’ll want to remove the pickles before you get started. A sackful of 10 sliders will make about 9 cups of stuffing, enough for a 10- to 12-pound bird. For a larger turkey, add one more mini-burger for each pound. In the South, could you get away with subbing a case of Krystals? Probably. Hell, for that matter, there’s no reason you couldn’t place an appropriately-scaled to-go order from your favorite full-size burger joint. But there’s something about “slider stuffing” that just rolls off the tongue.
It’s not exactly like the Pilgrims did it back in 1621, and it’ll likely never gain a permanent place on the Turkey Day table alongside the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, but this is one side dish that’ll give you something a little off the wall to be thankful for as you fall asleep in front of a football game this Thanksgiving.
White Castle Turkey Stuffing
10 White Castle hamburgers, pickles removed
1-1/2 cups celery, diced
1-1/4 tsp. ground thyme
1-1/2 tsp. ground sage
3/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
In a large mixing bowl, tear the burgers into pieces and add diced celery and seasonings. Toss and add chicken broth. Toss well. Stuff cavity of turkey just before roasting as you would normally.]]>
You take the time to pick out the best meat, selecting just the right fat blend for your cooking method du jour. You weigh your cheeses carefully, factoring in meltiness, creaminess, and taste. You go crazy with toppings, frying the artisan bacon, sauteeing the mushrooms and onions, slicing the ripest tomatoes. You watch that grill like a hawk, monitoring your temperature and pulling the burg from the fire just a few degrees before your target doneness. And then you just slap the whole thing between whatever bread product you happen to have handy?!? Say it ain’t so, dough.
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do. You wouldn’t write The Great American Novel and then wrap it in a brown-bag dust jacket, would you? In this installment of our Build a Better Burger series, we’ll help you navigate your numerous options and select the perfect baked-goods bookends for your burger.
The fact is, most of us are stuck with whatever’s at the grocery store for our own burger adventures. This usually means a plastic bag filled with 8 or 12 uniformly-shaped, factory-cut hamburger handles from whichever big-business bakery your grocery store chain has a supply deal with. You want to customize? If you’re lucky, you get to decide between sesame seeds or sans seeds.
Personally, sesame seeds don’t do a thing for me. Sure, they’re a fast-food staple and get special lyrical billing in the famous jingle, but I’ve never bit into a bare bun and thought, “That’s not bad, but it could really use some tasteless seeds that end up all over everything with each bite.” But they’re fairly inoffensive and do render a pretty, photogenic burger. Sesame seed buns are classic, and sometimes, that’s exactly what you want out of a burger. (Poppy seeds, on the other hand, are seldom seen on burger buns and immediately elevate the burger closer to fancypants territory.)
A kaiser (or Kaiser) roll is recognizable by its segmented top design. Usually scored five times in gentle curves emanating from the center, the kaiser roll (or at least the topmost crust layer) is typically a little harder and crustier than a standard bun.
A wheat bun often signifies a “healthy” burger, one that may or may not be topped with things like alfalfa sprouts and avocado slices. But even if whole grains, fewer calories, and less sugar don’t matter to you, wheat buns often add another layer to a burger’s flavor profile.
Potato rolls, as the name suggests, replace a bit of the regular flour with spuds. Not found on many restaurant menus (likely because it doesn’t sound trendy enough), potato rolls tend to be very squishy and pillowy with a superb texture and hearty taste.
Brioche is one of the hottest words in restaurant-speak over the past few years. Gourmet burger joints love to tout their brioche buns, which are generally ID’d by high egg and butter content, a puffy and fluffy look, and a dark golden crust, which is frequently given an egg wash to add browning and flakiness. But brioche isn’t just for linen-napkin joints anymore; even Bob Evans is slipping their farmstyle burgs into these French-inspired buns.
Martin’s rolls deserve a special shout-out. The buttery buns cranked out from this smalltown Pennsylvania bakery are often considered by burger geeks to be the best in the world, with a sweet taste and squishy texture that’s thought to be the benchmark by which all other burger buns should be measured. While they offer full-size buns, their mini-buns are the gold standard for sliders everywhere.
Want a hearty quality to your burger? Pretzel buns are often used on hefty tavern burgers, with their dense, slightly sweet dough. English muffins also make the occasional appearance, usually when someone’s going for an authentic pub-style burg. Or sometimes if your end goal is a breakfast-themed burger. Their craggy nooks and chewy crannies often distract from the burger-ness of the finished dish, though, and end up being more about style than substance.
While you can toast any bun variety with nice results, using actual toast can add an interesting element. You run the risk of turning your classic burger into more of a patty melt by introducing toast, but in the right down-home setting, it’s the perfect crowning touch. Using toast (often Texas or sourdough) is also a favorite trick of fast-food chains in pushing new burger types that they hope will appeal to fans of classic diner chow.
You can bake cheese directly into bread, so why don’t more buns have cheese embedded inside? Well, that’s the point of putting cheese on the burger, isn’t it? A cheesed bun may add a subtle flair to the burger’s overall taste and looks really cool on the menu, but it often contributes to a bun that’s prone to breaking and falling apart.
If you’re willing to consider using toast as burger buns and are intrigued by the idea of putting cheese into the bun itself, it’s just a short journey from there to employing entire grilled cheese sandwiches as buns. Usually found on extreme burgers with names like the Double Coronary, the Cardiologist’s Special, or the Heart Attack on a Plate, these are guaranteed to get the table talking… and make you all kinds of full, given that it’s essentially three sandwiches in one. But for sheer shock value, nothing beats it… almost.
Of course, there’s always the ultimate in burger insanity… at least according to most rational folks. A now-defunct bar in Decatur, Georgia lays claim to being the first place to serve a burger between glazed Krispy Kreme donuts, but now it’s a practice that belongs to the world, with everybody from minor league ballparks to hipster restaurants to state fairs offering their take on the donut burger. Two donuts is how the trend was born, but many eateries that do a donut burger use one donut cut in half lengthwise (yeah, ‘cos if I’m eating a cheeseburger between donuts, I don’t want to overdo it) and assemble the burg with the cut sides out to lessen the messiness (yeah, ‘cos at that point, I sure don’t want to look like a fat slob).
Or if you’re really feeling adventurous, you can, in fact, bake your own burger buns. At that point, the sky’s the limit, and you can customize your buns in any way imaginable to take your burgermaking to the next level. But that’s pushing the limits of what most carnivores are willing to do for a weekend cookout. Good to know that there are plenty of other options that go above and beyond that same old twist-tie bag of Sunbeam, Arnold, or Pepperidge Farm from the bread aisle.]]>
(photo from Umami Burger)
That, my burgerloving brothers and sisters, is a $100 burger that’s been unveiled by uber-It-joint Umami Burger. And just to rub that excessive price tag in your face, it’s called the MNO Burger, which stands for “Money is No Object.”
Suck it, 99%.
Start with dry-aged beef from a single Wagyu cow. But not just any Wagyu cow, mind you; this one was grassfed as opposed to the more common diet of grain. The beef is hand-ground and -formed. Now top it with Grade-A Hudson Valley foie gras, caramelized onion marmalade, and a 1977 Croft Vintage Port reduction. Not gratuitous enough for you? Splendid. On its way out of the kitchen, it’s hit with a quarter-inch layer of freshly-shaved Italian white truffles, which retail for upwards of $1,000 PER POUND.
The MNO is available only during truffle season, which is only September through November (as I’m sure you already knew). But don’t run to the ATM quite yet, thinking that a lowly peon like you can just shuffle in to Umami Burger and try this C-note special as a one-time splurge. You can’t even order the MNO on a solo lunch run. Nope, this burger is so exclusive that you have to book a special event party thru the restaurant to get it: 25-person minimum in-store, 50-person minimum at your place.
So… would you???]]>
In a somewhat eyebrow-raising move, burger giant McDonald’s has announced the rollout of “McTV.” A digital in-store network featuring content produced specifically for Mickey D’s, the McDonald’s Channel will soon be up and on the air in 800 restaurants in Southern and Central California after successful testing in LA, Las Vegas, and San Diego. But lest you think this is a small-potatoes closed circuit venture, consider this: the California market alone will reach up to 20 million sets of eyeballs per month. That makes it a truly formidable force that could compete with (and beat) many more established networks on basic cable. If the network performs well in Cali, expect the channel to go nationwide.
(photo by Liz O. Baylen, LA Times)
Allen Adamson from brand-building firm Landor Associates talked to the LA Times about the strategic move to reach customers. “While they’re in line getting their hamburger there is no escape… [It's] “one of the last bastions where you have a captive audience,” he said. “The podiums where companies can tell their stories have eroded… after the Super Bowl, the list gets very short very fast.”
But the McDonald’s channel won’t air a never-ending rotation of current and classic Golden Arches ads. Instead, they’ve arranged for original programming from the likes of BBC America, LA news affiliate KABC, and Survivor creator Mark Burnett. The lineup will reportedly include heartwarming human interest features like “The McDonald’s Achievers,” which profiles local high school and college athletes; “Mighty Moms,” spotlighting local mothers juggling home life with careers; reports on musical acts, tours, and new releases; segments covering fashion, art, nightlife, lifestyle, and culture news; along with interactive elements on Web- and mobile-based platforms.
Only eight minutes per hour will be dedicated to ads, and McDonald’s-themed spots will occupy just 90 seconds of that, according to Leland Edmondson, founder of ChannelPort, the company tapped to spearhead the new network. “This network is not intended to be all about McDonald’s. It is all about the consumer.” But Edmondson allows that there may be some occasional segments on aspects of McDonald’s food operation or the chain’s philanthropy efforts by Ronald McDonald House Charities.
It’s all part of the clown’s efforts to stay relevant in the crowded fast-food/quick-service restaurant landscape. With many locations offering free Wi-Fi and upscale decor, McDonald’s is clearly aiming to compete with your favorite local coffee shop or cafe, a place where you might meet with someone or go just to hang for a while. “People today are using our restaurants differently than they have in the past,” said Danya Proud, a McDonald’s USA spokesperson, “they’ve become more of a destination.” And they’re convinced that two 42- to 46-inch hi-def screens will help. (The screens will be visible and audible from 70% of the restaurant, with designated “quiet zones” for those who wish to inhale their Quarter Pounders in peace.)]]>
Iowa is pig country, and few things stir up that autumnal Hawkeye pride like the smoky smell of pork on the tailgate grill. For this installment of our Build a Better Burger series, we’ll tackle pork burgers.
Out of the shrinkwrap, it looks pretty similar to ground beef, if perhaps a rosier shade of pink. The stuff at my grocer’s was listed as 80/20, the exact same fat blend as ground chuck (and cheaper by over a dollar per pound), but dryness can be an issue with pork. That’s why most pork burger recipes call for some type of binder to help keep the patties intact as they cook.
Mine used soft bread crumbs and an egg. And to help season the meat, I added grated Parmesan cheese, dried parsley flakes, dried basil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Once it was all combined together, I was left with a mixture reminiscent of meat loaf, but not as moist (since no ketchup or Worcestershire sauce was added to the mix).
I shaped the meat mixture into burgers (0.4-pound patties, my personal preference for backyard grillers) and popped them in the fridge to chill while my charcoal got hot.
It was pretty much burger business as usual up until spatula time. Once the burgers were flipped, the differences between beef and pork were really starting to become noticeable. I had some decent griddle marks, but in between were stripes of a color I’m not used to seeing on Burger Night. The other white meat, indeed. The paleness of the meat was somewhat startling and had me scrambling for some technological backup.
I’ve grilled enough burgs that generally I know what to look for, color-wise. And while I always check my work with a meat thermometer, it’s critical when you’re flying blind, cooking a meat you’re not used to. By-the-book rules say that ground pork should hit 160 degrees, but porcine pros know that 140 results in much tastier swine. And thanks to carryover cooking- whereby the internal temp will continue to rise 5-10 degrees even after you pull the meat off the grill- I knew that 136 was close enough.
The binders in my meat mixture worked- all five patties stayed intact on the grill, with only minor cracking. I dressed my burger simply- just lettuce, tomato, and mayo- to really let the pork flavor come through.
While they certainly weren’t as run-down-my-arm juicy as beef burgers, these were not like eating a giant breakfast sausage, as my wife had feared. They were a really nice change of pace and fit the cooler weather of fall to a T. Some pork burger recipes call for other seasonings in the meat mixture: ground caraway seed, fennel, green onion, paprika, etc. I found myself wishing my pork burgers had a bit more bite to them; I’ll double up the pepper and maybe add some sage next time. If you’re looking to “beef” up your tailgate spread with a little razzle-dazzle this football season, try pork burgers with your home team. Pork: it isn’t just for Iowans anymore.]]>
(Food Network photo)
The ubiquitous celebrichef has announced a partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines in which he’ll lend his name and culinary kick-assitude to a chain of gourmet burger restaurants onboard the company’s ships. As part of a $500 million upgrade initiative, the Carnival vessels Liberty, Breeze, Conquest, and Glory will soon be the floating home of Guy’s Burger Joint.
“If in a million years you would have told me that I was going to be involved with a cruise line and doing burgers, I would have told you I would have gone to the moon first,” Fieri told reporters at an event trumpeting the deal. Fieri has reportedly already developed a host of custom burger recipes for the venture and put his pinkie-ringed fingerprint on touches like self-serve condiment stations which will offer seafaring carnivores spreads like chipotle mayo, special BBQ sauce, garlic aioli, and three different hot sauces. Want to dust your burg with garlic and herb seasonings? Sea salt? Hot chili? Guy’s got you covered, also offering high-end toppings such as sauteed mushrooms, grilled onions, blue cheese crumbles, and vine-ripened tomatoes. “The burger that we’re making is legit,” he says. “It’s a straightforward, real deal, quality burger. That’s what it has to be.” Meals at Guy’s Burger Joint will be free to cruisers, included as part of their vacation package.
The look of Guy’s Burger Joint, located on the ships’ pool decks, will be muscle-car garage chic, meant to evoke the feel of a California roadside burger shack. Life-size surfboards will mix with chrome pipes and car hoods… ‘cos apparently nothing embodies that oceangoing spirit like servers in mechanics’ coveralls with their personalized nicknames embroidered on the front.
Clearly, it’s an awesome opportunity for Mr. Fieri, although I personally find his in-your-face cooler-than-thou schtick annoying and hope that his fifteen minutes of fame are just about up. (The irony is, I’d probably get along great with him if he were my next-door neighbor. Seriously, though, tone it down…) But I’m unsure what to make of this. Carnival has obviously thrown a shipload of money at him so that they can pirate his name for their boatburger boutiques.
I don’t, however, understand the business side of it enough to figure out what Carnival gets out of the deal. The burgers are free if you’re onboard the ship, so there’s no more money to be made. Surely they don’t believe that Guy’s Burger Joint is the thing that’s going to lure customers into buying a four-figure cruise package… do they?!? “Gee, honey, I didn’t think I’d be interested in spending a week at sea, but you say that the spiky-haired fat dude from TV with the sweatbands on his forearms and sunglasses on the back of his head has a burger restaurant on the boat? Well, pack my Dramamine, I’ll meet you on the lido deck.”
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines features a Johnny Rockets onboard a handful of their ships… supposedly charging $4.95 for all you can eat. I’m afraid, though, that no shipboard burger joint- no matter whose name is on it- would be the deciding factor in my vacation plans, but hey… whatever floats your boat.]]>
Tom Monaghan is hoping so. The 74-year-old founder of Domino’s Pizza is getting into the burger business, according to reports out of Naples, Florida… and he’s bringing with him the revolutionary right-to-your-door delivery model that changed the world of ‘za.
That’s Monaghan on the right in that photo from Lexey Small and the Naples Daily News. On the left is Adrian Martinez, who’s been tapped to manage the new venture, reportedly to be called Gyrene Hamburger. (More on the name in a moment.) “Hamburgers are more popular than pizza,” Monaghan has said. “My bag is delivery. So I thought I had something there… But there’s no guarantee it’s going to work.”
The Gyrene menu will be astonishingly stripped-down: a classic double bacon Angus cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, and pickle… or a deluxe which adds lettuce, tomato, and mayo. That’s it. Really. Just two $6 burgers. No substitutes, no sides, not even beverages will be offered. The stores will have no seating and no drive-thru window. That’s because all orders (two-burg minimum, please) will be delivered to within 1.5 miles of the store… within 15 minutes or less. “The speed will be in the store, not on the road,” Monaghan gushes. “It’s going to be a real gung-ho atmosphere.”
That’s where the name comes in. “Gyrene” is military jargon for a Marine, thought to be a compounding of the term “G.I.” and the title “Marine.” (Monaghan spent a few years in the Corps back in the ’50s. It made quite an impression on him; he started a private Catholic college- and an entire town surrounding it- near Naples called Ave Maria University whose athletic teams are called the Gyrenes.)
And Monaghan plans to run with that “Semper Fi” theme throughout his new burger biz. Each prospective Gyrene employee will undergo “burger boot camp” before being issued their official camouflage uniform. Monaghan promises the stores will be “as clean as barracks,” customers will be saluted and addressed as “sir” or “ma’am,” and drivers will jog your order the last few steps to your door.
Gyrene Hamburger is set to open its first 800-square-foot location within the next two months, and may expand nationwide or even internationally beyond that, with Monaghan predicting that the concept could eventually become bigger than the 6,000-store pizza empire he made so famous (and then sold in 1998).
For more on Gyrene Hamburger and Tom Monaghan, check out Laura Layden’s in-depth article on the Naples Daily News website.]]>
Yeah, those shrinkwrapped burgers at the meat counter. I grabbed the three varieties offered: the bacon-and-cheddar stuffed burgers pictured, plus some blue cheese burgers, and “steakhouse seasoned ground round” patties. Quick and convenient? You bet. Worth eating? I’d soon find out.
Things looked promising as they hit the grates with a satisfying sizzle. The bacon-and-cheddars, at top and bottom left, weren’t so much “stuffed” Jucy-Lucy-style as they were “studded,” but that’s semantics. I certainly liked the grated cheese mixed throughout the patties, a method I’ve had great success with in my own experiments. The blue cheese burgs at middle top and bottom also used the “studded” approach. All four of these burgers were half-pounders and made from ground chuck, with its ideal 80/20 fat blend. The “steakhouse seasoned” burgers at top and bottom right were only third-pounders, and made from ground round. (I’m assuming that the smaller size was to balance out the slightly-more expensive 85/15 meat, allowing this shrinkwrapped package to be in the same pricing ballpark as the others.)
Once flipped, the burgers displayed fairly nice griddle marks, my hopes still riding high as my team engineered a 4th-quarter comeback. It was at this point that I also started to appreciate just how spoiled I have become with the grill in my own backyard. I know its hotspots, I know how to tweak and adjust everything on that grill to maximize airflow and keep a bed of charcoal glowing hot. On this unfamiliar grill, I was losing the fire fast and had to lower the cooking grate to its bottom position to eke out every last bit of heat from the dying coals.
I wish I could say that the taste of these burgers was on par with their convenience factor. Or even close. It wasn’t. All three varieties were bland and boring. The strands of meat were much more tightly-packed than I would have ended up with had I formed the patties personally and resulted in dense, dry beef. None of the promised flavors shone through. In fact, if I hadn’t known which was which, I couldn’t have told the difference. No bacon flavor whatsoever in the bacon-and-cheddar, and not nearly enough cheddar. Zero discernible blue cheese taste. And the steakhouse burgs were unevenly seasoned at best. (Go back at look at that photo of when they first hit the grill. One half of that patty at top right is completely devoid of seasonings.)
Yes, if you’re on your way to the campground or the stadium, picking up these pre-made patties from your grocer’s butcher case is easy. But don’t expect them to score any touchdowns on taste. These are a Hail Mary play at best, so be ready to add some much-needed razzle-dazzle with extra toppings and fixins.]]>