A collateral benefit of build-your-own-burger concepts’ popularity is that operators and diners more clearly understand that a good burger is the sum of its several parts. Beef quality counts, of course, but so do the bun, cheese and condiments.
Spreadable toppings are the language in which most signature burgers are written. The Umami Burger at the fledgling concept of the same name in Los Angeles is distinguished by house-made ketchup, mustard, spread, relish and roasted-garlic aïoli. You won’t find that combination of flavors anywhere else.
Boomerangs Gourmet Burger Joint in San Diego lets diners dictate the flavor layers. Sauce and spread options-at 50 cents each-include sun-dried-tomato spread, chile-pepper mayo, jalapeño mustard and two dozen more. At m:brgr in Montreal, the menu lists red-pepper aïoli; Dijon, chipotle and citrus mayos; and sambal chile ketchup as flavorful toppers.
In that spirit, we’ve divided the spreadable-toppings universe into five categories-mustards, ketchups, mayos/aïolis, relishes and sauces-and provided real-world examples of creative operations and recipes.
Jsix in San Diego, a Kimpton Hotels property, serves a house-made mustard with its signature Hand-Crafted Beef Burger. The horseradish mustard is just one of the house-made condiments at the famous Twisted Root Burger Co. locations in Texas.
Bradley Ogden’s Vidalia Onion, Bourbon and Horseradish Mustard
Cindy Pawlcyn’s Hot Sweet Mustard Sauce
House-made ketchup and mustard tops the Classic Burger at Blanc Burgers + Bottles (along with house-made pickles, aged New York Cheddar, lettuce, tomato and red onion) in Kansas City, Mo. Smoked-tomato ketchup gives a kick to the Wood-Grilled Burger at Rustico Restaurant & Bar in Alexandria, Va.
Hubert Keller’s Piquillo Pepper Ketchup
Emeril Lagasse’s Orange Habanero Ketchup
Horseradish aïoli and caramelized onions are what distinguish The Shoppe burger at Burger Shoppe in Toronto. Wasabi mayo gives some zing to the Ahi Tuna Burger at Five Napkin Burger in New York City.
Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant Ancho Honey Mayo
Emeril Lagasse’s Lemon Aïoli
How do you add flavor to a turkey burger. Square One Burgers in Tampa tops theirs with cranberry-apple compote, Canadian bacon, lettuce, provolone cheese and teriyaki-ginger sauce. Woo! Govind Armstrong’s red-onion marmalade is one of the toppings (with baby arugula and garlic-roasted tomatoes) on his Melrose Burger at 8 Oz. Burger Bar in Los Angeles.
Bobby Flay’s Green-Chile Pickle Relish
Guillermo Pernot’s Tomatillo-Corn Relish
At trendy GBK in London, the Cajun burger gets some of its zip from smoked-chile sauce, while the Jamaican Jerk Burger at Sub Zero Vodka Bar in St. Louis benefits from its house-made mango salsa.
Charlie Ayers Tzatziki Sauce (for his Lamb Burger)
Bobby Flay’s Chimichurri Sauce (for his Argentine Burger)