Burgers still are treated as sirloin’s poor relation at most upscale steakhouses. Burgers and steaks are members of the same family, but burgers are the crazy uncle, rarely invited to sit at the dinner table with the adult entrees. At many steakhouses, you’ll find a burger on the kids menu, sometimes on the lunch menu and occasionlly on bar menus. Invitations to move up to the dinner menu remain rare, however.
The snub is understandable on some levels. At Chef David Walzog’s SW Steakhouse in the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel, for example, the bone-in rib-eye steak is menu priced at $52; the Porterhouse for Two is $96. If that’s your pricing tier, you probably don’t want to (and can’t afford to) give diners a lowprice option that would undercut the rest of the menu.
There also has been an unstated culinary-culture clash at work here. Burgers are back-yard, shirt-untucked, blue-collar food. The thinking was that it’s tough to dress up a burger enough to keep company with New York strip steak.
But changing tastes and a suddenly changed economy are making burgers more welcome on upscale steakhouse menus. Many chefs no longer turn up their nose at the challenge of giving a burger a signature style and flavor. Daniel Boulud changed chefs’ minds when he added his $32 Original db Burger (sirloin stuffed with short rib and foie gras) at db Bistro Moderne in New York City. Rising availability of pricey Kobe and wagyu beef meant you could create an upscale burger such as Boulud’s that customers wouldn’t think was overpriced.
And then there was that economic collapse. Restaurateurs, needing to widen their appeal as broadly as possible now, are making menus more price-elastic by cozying up to the burgers they once shunned.
Some restaurateurs simply aren’t afraid to invite burgers to the dinner party. At his Stripsteak restaurant in Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Chef Michael Mina lists a $22 American Kobe Beef Burger on his dinner menu, accompanying it with fennel slaw, watercress and, believe it, fries cooked in duck fat (click here for the recipe). The burger rubs shoulders on the menu with $46 slow-poached prime rib and $41 Colorado lamb with rosemary jus and aged-balsamic tapenade and it all works.
That’s enough to give Stripsteak’s Beef Burger the No. 1 position on the BurgerBusiness.com list of the Top 25 Steakhouse Burgers. Restaurants that put great burgers on the dinner menu received extra credit when the list was created. A little bit of creative effort helped, too: Old-school restaurants such as Scotch N Sirloin in Syracuse, N.Y., which lists “Steak Burger” all alone at the bottom of the menu like a leper, after everything else has been paraded out, don’t make the list. Sorry. Click the jump to see which restaurants are on the list.
1. STRIPSTEAK, Las Vegas. Chef-owner Michael Mina does right by burgers at many of his restaurants. At Arcadia in San Diego, he offers an American Kobe Burger with Vermont white Cheddar and balsamic onions ($17).
2. JAK’S GRILL, Seattle. The dinner menu includes a Jak’s Burger for only $10.95. It includes a half-pound of “Nebraska ground beef served on a toasted bun with roasted-red-pepper mayo, topped with fresh lettuce, tomato and onion.” Add a buck for Tillamook Cheddar.
4. EMERIL’S DELMONICO STEAKHOUSE, Las Vegas. The “Bam” man’s Delmonico Prime Cheeseburger is topped with Cheddar cheese and bacon on a toasted potato roll, with shoestring potatoes on the side.
5.TAYLOR’S STEAKHOUSE, Los Angeles. The Taylor’s Prime Burger is “ground fresh daily from our steak trimmings” at this local favorite with locations downtown LA and in La Canada, Calif. The $14.95 burger is topped with lean smoked bacon or jumbo mushrooms and aged Cheddar.
7. N9NE STEAKHOUSE, Chicago (also Las Vegas). The $26 Kobe Burger (with applewood-smoked bacon, Herkimer Cheddar and grilled onions) fits in with pricey steaks on the dinner menu.
8. CUT, Las Vegas. Wolfgang Puck keep the burgers on the bar menu only, but they’re good ones: Mini Kobe “Sliders” on brioche buns.
9. AUSTIN LAND & CATTLE CO., Austin, Texas. The Redeye Burger on this steakhouse’s bar menu has a twist: a sunnyside-up egg sits on the half-pound patty, accompanied by crispy fried greens, chipotle sauce and “a couple of shots of Tabasco.”
10. EL GAUCHO, Portland, Ore. (also Bellevue, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.) Another bar-menu exclusive, The 319 Burger is ground Angus sirloin with Tillamook cheddar, bacon and caramelized onions with hand-cut fries on the side ($17).
11. THE METROPOLITAN GRILL, Seattle. The description alone is worth $13 for this lunch special: ”American wagyu sirloin burger crusted with cracked black peppercorns and grilled over mesquite. Topped with Oregon blue cheese and crispy bacon. Serve on a corn kaiser roll with crisp fries.”
12. THE CAUCUS ROOM, Washington, D.C. The bar menu at this steakhouse where legislators hobknob offers $12 Pub Burger Minis topped with five-year-old Grafton Cheddar, lettuce tomato and onion.
13. THE GRILLROOM CHOPHOUSE & WINEBAR, Chicago. The $18 Kobe Burger stands out on the dinner menu because of the generous toppings: Gorgonzola cheese, bacon, wild mushrooms, spinach, tomato and balsamic onions on a kaiser roll.
14. PRIME ONE TWELVE, Miami Beach. You have your choice of Kobe-beef appetizers: Kobe Beef Sliders for $25 or a one-pound Kobe burger for $30.
15. NICK & STEF’S STEAKHOUSE, New York City (also Los Angeles). Patina Restaurant Group’s classic steakhouse keeps burgers relegated to lunch, but does so with respect. “The Nick” has aged Cheddar and onion strings for $17; “The Stef” is a dollar more, but you get applewood-smoked bacon, Maytag blue-cheese crumbles and caramelized onions.
17. LARK CREEK STEAK, San Francisco. Did someone say truffles? Lark Creek Restaurant Group’s steakhouse goes over the top at lunch with the Perigord Black Truffle Steakburger topped with truffled Brie cheese, frisee, truffle vinaigrette and caramelized onion marmalade ($24.95).
18. DAVID BURKE’S PRIMEHOUSE, Chicago. The B.R. Guest Restaurants steakhouse has gained a following for its aged steaks and the 40-Day Dry-Aged Steak Burker on its lunch menu is creatively topped with garlic spinach, crispy shallots and bacon mayo.
19. DAVID BURKE, Las Vegas. At this partnership with E-Brands Restaurants, Burke’s bar menu offers a signature DB Burger topped with bibb lettuce, mustard aioli, Cheddar and bacon.
20. GALLAGHER’S STEAK HOUSE, New York City and other locations. The venerable urban steakhouse has a signature mustard sauce, too, which it slather’s on its 12-oz. Prime Beef Burger (lunch menu only). It’s served on a warm brioche bun with fresh-cut fries.
21. UNCLE JACK’S STEAKHOUSE, New York City. Another Big Apple favorite, Uncle Jack’s lunch menu features the USDA Prime Cheese Burger with organic greens and steak fries ($20).
22. ABE & LOUIE’S, Boston (also Boca Raton, Fla.). In Boston, Abe & Louie’s is the place for steaks. Don’t look for a burger at dinner, but at lunch there’s the 9-oz. Abe’s Cheeseburger topped with caramelized onions and aged Cheddar, Great Hill blue or Gruyere ($13).
23. DYLAN PRIME, New York City. Showing admirable local pride, this hip steakhouse’s Dylan Prime Burger is topped with New York State Cheddar and accompanied by crispy fries ($14).
24. THE CAPITAL GRILLE, multiple locations. Yes, it’s a chain, but give it credit for understanding the merits of Havarti cheese on a burger. That (along with smoked bacon and onion) is how it tops The Grille’s Signature Cheeseburger (lunch only).
25. CHARLIE PALMER STEAK, Washington, D.C. (also Reno and Las Vegas). We’ll give Charlie Palmer the final spot for having the class to accompany his $13 Grilled Angus Burger with house-made pickles. Beefsteak tomatoes, the ever-popular caramelized onions and a soft poppyseed bun complete the build.
That’s BurgerBusiness’s ranking of the top steakhouse burgers. But it’s just a starting point. For example, there are so many San Diego restaurants to choose from that deciding where to eat is sometimes a difficult thing to do, especially for someone who’s from out of town. Explore and find the best. And let us know where the best burgers are.