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Year of the Bun: A Retrospective

Keizo.RamenMcD_France_Breads2A year ago, BurgerBusiness forecast that 2013 would be the “Year of the Bun.” As explained then, focusing on the bun would be “an opportunity to expand customer customization choices for a burger menu (always good), add gluten-free alternatives (responsible) and direct attention to the better bun if that better burger needs to shrink a mite due to higher meat prices.” As Forbes wrote this August, the prediction was “right on the money.” Everyone, it seemed, has had his or her own out-there idea for a wild burger carrier, epitomized by Keizo Shimamoto’s Ramen Burger (at left).

Our fascination with burger buns has been such that McDonald’s in France has just begun a “Breads of America” promotion (r.) spotlighting American burger carriers. The promotion includes three burgers: a Double Cornbread Barbecue (on a cornbread bun); Grand Bagel Cheese (bagel); and Double Shiny Bacon (on a shiny sesame-seed bun).

The BurgerBusiness.com trend forecast for 2014 will be published soon but first I thought I’d review some of the many funny, crazy or brilliant ideas that have appeared during the past Year of the Bun.

JolleyBros.Sconeburger_RichfieldUtah PhilsIcehouse_JollyvilleBurger_FrToast Saltair Burger Company opened this spring in Richfield, Utah. By summer it had changed its name to Jolley Bros. Scone Burgers after a trademark ruckus.  By fall it had closed for the winter. But it was open long enough to introduce Utah and the world to the idea of putting a burger on a freshly baked scone.

At Phil’s Icehouse in Austin, Texas, the Jolleyville invited patrons to enjoy a burger nestled between slices of French toast.

Slaters_Breakfast Sandwich2Waffle Bus_Houston2 In addition to predicting bun madness, BurgerBusiness also forecast that many burger bars would add brunch this year. One of the many that did is the endlessly creative Slater’s 50/50. There’s a Donut Burger but the star is the Breakfast Sandwich: a 50/50 patty of chorizo and ground bacon topped with Cheddar, two sunny-side-up eggs and thick bacon between two deep-fried Eggo waffles. Maple syrup on top, of course.

For those on the go, the Waffle Bus in Houston has a Waffle Burger that’s a little less drippy but still deluxe.

diablos_MTL_CheesebunReefRestaurant_TNT Burger-doughfilled Slices of Halloumi cheese served as the bun for the Cheesus Burger, Diablos BBQ’s entry in this year’s Montreal Burger Week competition. Between the cheese “buns” are a chicken-fried beef patty with a white-wine-cream drizzle, smoked ketchup, bacon and cream-cheese-sour-cream-coriander sauce.

For Vancouver’s Burger Week, The Reef offered The TNT Burger, a double-dough bun with a curried beef patty, Cheddar, crispy onion and a tamarind, onion, mango and habanero relish.

 

RockitBurgerBar_MacAttack2BuzzBar_DoughnutBurger Rockit Burger Bar in Chicago was among those who decided that a bun need not be bread at all. For its signature Mac Attack the burger is parked between slabs of fried macaroni & cheese.

 

Across town, Chicago’s new Buzz Bar was one of many joints that served up a burger on a glazed doughnut. And people loved ‘em.

Trenchermen_Biscuit BurgerJukebox_CronutBurger No discussion of buns and fads is complete without the Cronut Burger. Originally all the rage in New York City it soon went global and quickly became a bun. Jukebox Burgers in Dollar-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, created this Cronut Burger for Montreal Burger Week.

 

For $10 on Wednesdays at Chicago’s Trenchermen you can get a Biscuit Burger, a beer and popcorn. The burger is beef, spicy pimento cheese, green tomato and pickled okra in a biscuit.

Wendys_PretzelBaconCheeseburger2Sonic_OklahomaState2 The most talked-about burger bun of the year was the pretzel bun and Wendy’s led that bandwagon with its Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. Sure, there were pretzel-bun burgers before it (including Red Robin’s Oktoberfest) but the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger made the most splash. It was so popular that a Pretzel Pub Chicken version followed.

Several burger chains—including BurgerFi—brand their buns with their name, but Sonic Drive-in this year offered burgers on buns printed with the (edible) logos of selected football-power universities (Oklahoma State shown).

A&G_Thanksgiving cornbread2Bostons_PizzaBurger2 A&G Burger Joint in Miami celebrates the season with its thanksgiving Burger: A house-made turkey patty topped with applewood-smoked bacon, Muenster cheese and skin-on red mashed potato; served on a corn bread bun with kalamata garlic aïoli.

 

 

The Boston’s Gourmet Pizza chain decided to get into the burger game this year. Not surprisingly, their first effort is The Pizzaburger, wrapped in pizza dough.

 

LoughmillersPub_SkilletBurgerSourdoughBreadGoBurgerIf you do opt for a bread bun, make it a nontraditional bread. That was the thinking at Loughmiller’s Pub in Indianapolis. The Skillet Burger is served on grilled sourdough bread.

 

Why stop there? Go all the way to grilled cheese! That’s where Go Burger in New York City went with its “Ultimelt” burger, loving flanked by two grilled-cheese sandwiches.

3 comments to Year of the Bun: A Retrospective

  • michael whiteman

    Great fun!
    Cheers,
    Michael

  • jerry

    How could you put a burger on a scone? A scone is a somewhat crumbly biscuit. Oh, a Utah Scone, which is only a scone in Utah. Others might call it a sopapilla or fry bread.
    Same thought about cornbread. I guess one is now supposed to eat burgers with a knife & fork. Same goes for the waffle with syrup. These crazy things Are Not Hamburgers!

  • Howard

    With your reviews of breads/buns, I wonder what your take is on the addition of azodicarbonamide to breads made by major grocery chains as well as the Subway sandwich chain. Banned in many countries around the world, it supposedly bakes bread more quickly and more lightly. Do you know if any major sandwich/burger chains in the USA do NOT use it?

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