Michael Symon’s Fat Doug
Brad Halsten’s Blackened Sabbath
Perhaps it’s the slaw. Or the signature ShaSha Sauce. Or that the patty is made with equal parts ground sirloin, brisket and short rib that’s grilled and topped with pastrami, Swiss, that Napa cabbage slaw and that vinegary sauce. All those elements make up the Fat Doug Burger that Michael Symon menus at his B Spot restaurants, and this year the burger was judged the best at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Burger Bash. It was Symon’s fourth win in five years: Fellow Food Network chef/personality Bobby Flay won the People’s Choice award last year, ending a three-year Symon reign. But this year it was Symon again.
Shake Shack’s BurgerMeister cheeseburger topped with crispy beer-marinated shallots and Shack Sauce won the Bash’s Judges’ Award. Judges were more Food Network personalities (Anne Burrell, Geoffrey Zakarian and Trisha Yearwood) plus Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern. No actual burger-joint operators were asked to judge.
The night’s dark-horse winner was Chef Brad Halsten of The Burger Dive in Billings, Mont. His Blackened Sabbath burger with blackened spice, bacon, beer-battered onion ring, garlic-basil mayo, goat cheese and arugula with Sriracha was named winner of the Best of the Bash award. That honor is given by the Red Robin chain, which pledged to use Chef Halsten’s burger—no doubt with a different name—as inspiration for a future burger in it premium Finest line (just as it did last year with Chef Laurent Tourondel’s winning Smash Smoke Burger). Halsten also took home a check for $10,000.
If you’re contemplating mounting a Burger Bash promotion at your joint, the list of Burger Bash contenders and the burgers they served follows. If you want the recipe for Michael Symon’s Fat Doug, go here. Enjoy.
4 Rivers Smokehouse, Winter Park, Fla.
Irish Brisket Burger
Brisket burger topped with corned beef, caramelized onions and special sauce
Side: Fried dill pickles
Good Stuff Eatery’s Coletti Smokehouse
5 Napkin Burger, New York City
The PTF Burger
Fresh ground beef topped with butter-roasted Portobello mushrooms, truffle mayo and fontina cheese
Side: Onion rings
The Blue Ox, Lynne, Mass.
Prime beef, applewood-smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, truffle aïoli, lettuce and tomato on brioche bun
B Spot, Cleveland
The Fat Doug Burger
Burger with coleslaw, pastrami, aged Havarti and stadium mustard
Side: Sweet and hot pickles
Biscayne Tavern, Miami
Lettuce, tomato, purple onion, bread & butter pickle chips, house-made rémoulade on a Martin’s potato roll
Side: Grilled Portobello caps Click here to continue reading Michael Symon’s Fat Doug Wins Burger Bash
The dining economy must be improving because many of the 30 semi-finalists for the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 “Best New Restaurant” honor are the sorts of high-end seafood or tasting-menu restaurants that struggled and often disappeared during the recession. Not surprisingly, there are more kimchee-inspired stews and tastefully grilled branzino on menus here than there are burgers, but burgers are not completely shut out.
The Cavalier, San Francisco
At San Francisco’s The Cavalier, for example, Executive Chef Jennifer Puccio spotlights such dishes as Ale-Brined Berkshire Pork Loin but she isn’t afraid to also include a Blue Bar Burger ($16) with English Cheddar, tomato chutney, mustard and “thrice-cooked chips.” Down the coast at stylish Connie and Ted’s in West Hollywood, the seafood-focused menu makes room for a Hook Burger and Bacon Hook Burger ($15), the latter with Neuske’s bacon.
I had little hope of finding a burger menued at a restaurant called Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves, but I was wrong. The Santa Fe restaurant’s $14 Nami Burger is a 6-oz. Wagyu beef patty with caramelized onion, shimeji mushrooms and mizo glaze. MilkWood in Louisville offers two organic burgers: A beef version with umami ketchup, aged Cheddar, bacon, comeback slaw ($12); and a pork burger with Napa kim-chi, cracklins, Havarti, rémoulade and cilantro ($11).
Like shimeji, pipikaula was an ingredient new to me. It’s a sort of Hawaiian beef jerky and it’s on the $15 Kulana Ranch Burger, along with avocado salsa, served at lunch at MW in Honolulu. There’s nothing mysterious about the $13 Grilled Cheeseburger American with American cheese, lettuce, onion, pickle, mayo and mustard offered at brunch, lunch and dinner at Pinewood Social in Nashville.
The remaining 24 semi-finalists for “Best New Restaurant”:
The 404 Kitchen, Nashville
Connie & Ted’s, West Hollywood, Calif.
Bar Sajor, Seattle
Betony, New York City
Carbone, New York City
Casa Rubia, Dallas
Chi Spacca, Los Angeles
Coqueta, San Francisco
The Elm, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Estela, New York City
Fish & Game, Hudson, N.Y.
Nico Osteria, Chicago
Pêche, New Orleans
Ribelle, Brookline, Mass.
Rose’s Luxury, Washington, D.C.
Tosca Cafe, San Francisco
Trois Mec, Los Angeles
Uncle Boons, New York City
Virtù, Scottsdale, Ariz.
British restaurateur Tom Reaney is seeking to raise £30,000 (roughly $50,117) through online-funding platform Kickstarter to transform his Burger Bear pop-up burger stand into one permanently housed in two stacked used cargo containers. The project will be funded if the total is raised by March 14, 2014.
The Black Forest Bear burger was a London Burger Bash winner.
According to the Kickstarter page, the restaurant—which will be located in the Shoreditch district in London’s East End—will be unlike any other burger joint in the city. “Expect panoramic views of Red Market and its street art from the glass-walled overhanging upper container. The vibe? Down and dirty street food, as ever. You can still take away like the good old days. And if you care to linger—downstairs or up—it’s a high-stalled, neon-lined, diner-style PARADISE! (the Burger Bear kind).” In addition to the disco vibe there will be craft beers and cocktails.
“The interior will be built largely from second-hand, reclaimed materials, by volunteers, so it’s as sustainable and cheap to do as feasibly possible,’ according to the Kickstarter page. A “gigantic spinning burger” is envisioned atop the containers.
The stand’s menu includes a namesake Burger Bear classic cheeseburger; Angry Bear with jalapeňo relish and hot sauce; and Grizzly Bear with bacon and the restaurant’s signature Bacon Jam (which it sells). A larger menu for the proposed container restaurant will have more burgers and Chicago all-beef hot dogs.
Burger Bear, opened in mid-2012, also is known for accepting payment in bitcoins digital currency, which it began doing last November. In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that one in five Burger Bear customers were using bitcoins to buy their burgers.
Although certainly not common, other restaurants have been fashioned from shipping containers. Among them are El Rey in Washington, D.C., and Red Fish Blue Fish in Victoria, British Columbia.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers’ results for Q4 and 2013 weren’t smoke and mirrors; they were Smoke & Pepper. The chain said the success of the premium-price Smoke & Pepper Signature Burger—the first of a planned Finest burger line—contributed significantly to the Q4 results. Comp sales were up 3.7% for Q4 and up 4% for the year. Guest counts were off 1.4% in the quarter but average check was up 5.1%.
CEO Steve Carley said Smoke & Pepper contributed about half the positive shift in menu mix the chain saw in Q4. An increase in alcohol sales share to 8% and better appetizer sales accounted for the other half.
Introduced in November, the half-pound Black Angus Smoke & Pepper burger is priced at $13.49, about 30% above its main Gourmet tier and nearly double the $6.99 for the value-tier Tavern Double burger. Smoke & Pepper already accounts for 5% of sales, said CMO Denny Post. “Trial has been so strong and guest response has been so strong” that the Finest category will do well with or without ad support, she said.
Post said three potential new Finest burgers are in test. As reported earlier, the burger that wins Red Robin’s Best of the Bash award at this month’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival likely will be adapted as a Finest. The Smoke & Pepper burger was inspired by Chef Laurent Tourondel’s award winner at last year’s festival.
The chain said it is adjusting its Burger Works fast-casual concept, introducing a “2.0” version in Fort Collins, Colo. This includes changes in menu, kitchen and interior design that make Burger Works “more closely aligned with the Red Robin brand.”
Red Robin expects to open five Burger Works this year including units in Chicago and the District of Columbia. The company expects to open 20 Red Robin locations as well.
CFO Stuart Brown said that despite the current spike in beef prices Red Robin intends to take only a 1% price increase this year. Red Robin is willing to sacrifice some margin to increase value for guests, he said.