The Quintessential Guide To The Burger Species
The good, the bad, and the over-hyped.
August 22, 2017
By Richie Nakano | Illustration bobmadbob via iStock
Look, there is no one “right” way to make a burger. But not all burgers are equal.
Every variety comes with its own bloodthirsty fan base, which is why you get the inevitable tell-alls like, “Brioche Hamburger Buns Ruined My Marriage” and “This $700 Burger Is Actually Worth Every Penny” dropping every day.
Burger styles! They are vast and awesome and they (mostly) all have their place. Here's a primer.
The trash burger is, in a lot of ways, the best burger. It’s widely available in diners, fast food restaurants, and roadside burger joints. It's a crappy potato bun, a thin patty cooked medium-well, American cheese, and may or may not have some kind of mustard or Thousand Island dressing on it. It’s perfect in how simple and comforting it is. This will be the first burger you eat in your life. (And if you have a regular McDonald's habit, it will probably be the last burger you eat. Because you know, heart disease and stuff.)
“Best Burger In Town” Burger
There’s always that place that boldly proclaims that it has the best burger in town, and plasters their walls with the “Best Burger” award they won in ‘94 from the local weekly. This place is fine. The fries are always fucked and it's basically a bigger version of the trash burger, but it costs like $9 and is usually served by a surly waitress that calls you Hon.
Would you like to pay $60 in order to cook four burgers? Then the Home Burger may be for you! Cooking a burger at home is work — you’ve got to toast buns, clean lettuce, slice tomato, cut up onions, crisp bacon, form patties, light coals…but it almost never disappoints. There’s something very satisfying about sitting down and piling your burger high with way too much and realizing your mouth isn't big enough to fit it all. (The only downside here is cooking fries at home is always a drag, unless you have a deep fryer.)
Home Burger Made By Your Friend That Reads Esquire
This is the dark side of the home burger. Your friend Chad who has an Esquire subscription just read an article about “The Ultimate Burger to Impress Your Tinder Date” and he wants to test it out on you. This is terrifying because Chad mostly sustains himself on a steady diet of protein shakes and light beer. The ingredients seem simple enough, but then Chad tells you the patty contains Worcestershire, diced red onions, egg yolk, garlic powder, and breadcrumbs soaked in milk. He plans to make a divot in the center, and when it fills with juices, they will be perfectly medium rare. This burger will give you mild food poisoning and will put you off burgers for about six months.
Wanna get in an Internet fight? Go on Facebook and post something like, “Restaurant Burgers: Are They Worth It?” Pretty soon your JV track coach will be cussing out your sister’s boyfriend over value, and the cascade of “NO BURGER IS WORTH $18” comments will blind you faster than Trump staring directly at the eclipse. Like the trash burger, restaurant styles cast a wide net: patties ground in-house tend to be the best, but there's been a rash of trends as of late that are just bad. Housemade ketchup, fancy aioli, inexplicable cauliflower pickles, and giants globs of raclette dumped on top tableside are all things that need to go. Just give us a delicious patty, bread and butter pickles, some nice lettuce, an embarrassment of sauces, and a pile of fries that make you utter “holy shit” when the burger hits the table, and we’ll gladly shell out all of the dollars.
Fine Dining Restaurant Burger
If you want to fill yourself with the kind of disappointment and despair you haven't felt since the first time someone told you, “I just like you as a friend,” then you should absolutely go to a fine dining restaurant and order their tiny, pricey, bougie burger. This burger is picked up in a copper pan by a dude who’s been picking up sous vide steaks on a Polyscience Control Freak cooktop all night and it comes with optional white truffle, foie gras, uni, caviar and gold leaf supplements. There are six chickpea panisse fritters stacked up like a house in place of fries. The sauce is just veal jus. The whole thing is so out of balance and lacking any kind of actual personality that you almost feel bad for it. Sometimes the restaurant tries to get cute and offer a burger, shot and a beer combo — only the beer is house-made ginger beer, and the shot is a barrel-aged Manhattan that costs $22.