A 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.
← 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.
← 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.
← 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.
→ 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.
← 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.
← 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 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.
→ 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.