Opened in 2008, Blanc Burgers + Bottles was one of the early adopters of the modern burger-bar concept and was the inaugural winner of the BurgerBusiness.com Burger Brackets competition in 2010 (it repeated in 2011; the 2013 winner will be crowned on Monday). That longevity means it has seen the number of upscale burger competitors explode, which requires that it keep current and new to maintain the popularity its Brackets wins showed it has established.
That’s the impetus for the concept’s most recent annual menu revision, says Ernesto Peralta Jr., whose Circle Restaurants operates Blanc’s locations in Kansas City, Mo., and Leawood, Kan. “We’re in our sixth year now. People’s tastes and attitudes about food change all the time, so you have to stay fresh,” he says. “And your clientele changes in that time, too. So we’re always asking and listening to find out what people like and want.”
Blanc’s burger-of-the-day special, called the Daily Grind, serves as a way to always offer something new and to gauge the flavor combinations to which customers respond most strongly. Corporate Chef Jayson Eggers in the Kansas City unit and Executive Chef Aaron Mulder in Leawood create the Daily Grind specials for their respective locations. “No, it’s not easy to create a new burger every day but it’s an outlet for them to be creative,” says Peralta. “Those customers who’ve been with us for a long time may have tried every burger on the menu, so the Daily Grind means there’s always something new.”
Each of the new menu items began as a Daily Grind special. This year’s most successful specials are likely to become next year’s permanent items. Blanc’s commitment to using local ingredients is evident in three of the new burger builds. The Dark Truth BBQ Burger ($11.95) has smoked Gouda cheese, applewood-smoked bacon, on onion ring, red onion, mayo and a barbecue sauce made with local Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Dark Truth Stout. It’s served on an onion brioche bun
The new Benny Burger ($10.45) is a play on eggs Benedict. The beef patty is encrusted with ground coffee from local roaster The Roasterie and is topped with shaved ham, a fried egg, red onion and hollandaise aïoli, served on a potato bun. Unlike Blanc’s popular but weekend-only Brunch Burger, this new breakfast burger is available daily.
Blanc’s Kobe beef burger remains but with new flavors, also locally sourced. The new All American Kobe ($12.45) is topped with an apple-bacon IPA jam made a craft brew from Mother’s Brewing in Springfield, Mo. Also on top are roasted-garlic aïoli and watercress, served on a salt-and-pepper brioche bun. The previous build had port-wine onions, truffle butter and mustard aïoli. Another Kobe beef burger—the $17.95 Oscar Burger with Kobe, blue crab, asparagus and béarnaise aïoli—was among the burgers retired from the menu to make room for the new builds.
Also new is the indulgent Crab Mac + Cheese Burger. Priced at $13.45, it has blue lump crab meat and smoked Gouda mac & cheese stuffed inside a beef patty. Toppings are truffle aïoli and green leaf lettuce and it’s served on the salt-and-pepper brioche bun. The new Tuscan Chicken ($8.95) tops a grilled chicken breast with Parmesan cheese, pepperoncini aïoli and balsamic-vinaigrette-tossed spinach and red-onion salad on rosemary focaccia.
For non-meat eaters, Blanc has replaced its Black Bean Burger (made with mushrooms and grilled corn) with the Grilled Polenta Burger. It has fire-roasted-red-pepper polenta, tomato bruschetta, spinach and roasted-garlic aïoli on rosemary focaccia. The price remains $8.95. A meatless Spiced Lentil Burger remains on the menu as well.