Snob Burgers

by wjw on August 25, 2011


To get a good hamburger I seem to have to pay $10 these days.

I don’t eat a lot of our national dish, but every so often I get a craving, and then I go in search of that special taste.   But the average burger is pretty pathetic— the meat isn’t high quality, and for reasons having to do with liability it’s always cooked well-done, which means it’s largely flavorless and often dry.  Plus here in New Mexico the fries are pathetic— pale, usually, and limp, and tasteless.

(I’m not sure why that is.  Can’t they get the grease hot enough at New Mexico altitudes to do them properly?  But then there are at least two restaurants that produce good, crispy fries— and they’re at the same altitude as everyone else.)

I like my burger medium rare for the simple reason that it tastes better, and apparently that means I have to go to a classier restaurant where they’ll cook my burgers to order, and then I pay $10 or more for a $3 burger.

Now the problem with classy restaurants is they can’t leave the burger alone.  They have to justify their $10 price by making their burgers special.  They can’t just serve you a burger, they have to put it on some kind of special roll (which falls apart) or add some special cheese (which overwhelms the flavor of everything else) or slobber on some special sauce (which tastes like tamarind or lingonberries or some damn thing).  Just give me a freakin’ burger! I want to cry.  How hard can it be?

I suppose it should come at no surprise that my favorite local burger joint is, in fact, a French restaurant.  They cook the patty to order, and they put on Gruyere cheese, which it turns out should have been on burgers all along.   Plus, being French, they know how to make French fries.  And you can get truffle fries if you want, which by the way you do.  (I was disappointed to learn that the truffle oil that makes these fries special, and for which you are charged a lot if you purchase in gourmet stores, in fact has never been near a truffle, it’s just full of something called 2,4-Dithiapentane, which tastes truffly.  And this is all truffle oil, pretty much.)

But when I go to the French restaurant, I always feel weird ordering a burger.  I mean, it’s a French restaurant, I should be having a croque or snails or something.

So the answer is that restaurants that aren’t French should learn to make good burgers.  But the odds are against that happening, so I’ll just have to keep on heading to the French restaurant, singing my little song . . .

“You deserve the French today . . . “

Chris Krohn August 25, 2011 at 3:20 am

I’ll bet I know: Chef Claus at Paternoster’s Brasserie La Provence.

John Appel August 25, 2011 at 4:46 am

I’m currently on hiatus from burgers as I work my way down to something resembling an appropriate weight for someone my size. But I can still heartily recommend Five Guys burgers. According to their website, you’re soon going to get one in Santa Fe (and there’s one in Albuquerque already.)

The only things on their menu are burgers, hotdogs (my son rates them decently) and fries. Get the regular fries and split them with a friend. And start with one of the “junior” burgers, unless you’re really hungry.

Regarding Gruyere on a burger – a neighborhood restaurant near me occasionally offers a Gruyere burger with a dash of some sort of black peppercorn sauce which is flat-out amazing. At least, I hope they still do.

Ted August 25, 2011 at 9:32 am

Regarding French fries, check out this article:

How to Make Perfect Thin and Crisp French Fries

I don’t think most restaurants follow this procedure, which could explain why some restaurants’ fries are significantly better than others’.

Ted August 25, 2011 at 9:34 am
DensityDuck August 25, 2011 at 5:16 pm

I’m a bit confused. Are you complaining about “fancy stuff to justify the price tag”? Because I gotta say, Gruyere cheese and truffle-oil fries are…kinda fancy stuff, compared to the mainstream definition of “cheeseburger and fries”.

wjw August 25, 2011 at 7:53 pm

I think I’m complaining about overpriced burgers full of stuff that doesn’t make them taste better. (“Take off the blue cheese sauce, please. You can’t taste the beef when it’s covered in blue cheese.”)

Gruyere and truffle oil? Guess you hadda be there.

Shash August 25, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Gruyere is lovely with a whole lotta things. I agree about the fancy additions and the overcooked burgers. A burger should taste like beef, otherwise why bother with it?

Steve Stirling August 26, 2011 at 7:36 am

There’s “Bobcat Bites”. They make an excellent burger with beef -they raise themselves-.

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