The hamburger, that iconic and unpretentious American sandwich, is going a little bit crazy these days. From the $2,314 masterpiece created by Dutch chef Diego Buik (with a 24-karat gold leaf coating on the bun), to the coast-to-coast craze for U.S. burger innovation, it’s hard to imagine what you won’t see between the buns.
What’s happening, burger-wise?
“Hamburgers are an American staple, and everybody not only loves them, but has already eaten a lot of them. At some point, you want something a little different,” says Lorraine Frias, head of marketing for Peppers & Fries, a family-friendly sports bar in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis.
As a frequent top finisher in the Twin Cities’ Burger Battle, the restaurant does its best to keep its burger game fresh and innovative. “People like to try ‘extreme’ new things, and having a crazy burger topping is a low-risk way to do that,” Frias says. “It’s not like you’re ruining a lobster dinner. If you don’t like the topping, you can just scrape it off and reach for the ketchup and mustard.”
Some of the offerings at Peppers & Fries may seem a little “out there,” but Frias insists they’re not only delicious, they’re brisk sellers. One of their most-ordered burger offerings is the Pepper’s PB&J, which is a hamburger on a toasted butter bun with cheddar cheese, bacon, peanut butter and house made jalapeno pepper jelly. “At least once a week, someone says to me: ‘I wish I had thought of this, because it’s delicious,’” Frias says.
The Bangkok Burger began with front-of-house manager (and daughter) Marie’s love of Siracha sauce. “She mixed some of the hot sauce into her coleslaw and really liked the flavor, so she started wondering how that might work as a burger,” Frias says. Along the way, cream cheese was added as a schmear to the bottom bun. “It balanced it out and cooled it down” she notes.
Many of Peppers & Fries’ burgers start as a Burger of the Month special, which was the case for the Chip and Dipper. Marie and her father, Steve (he runs back of house) were thinking about a monthly special tied to Cinco de Mayo. “They began with the idea of guacamole and then added pico de gallo,” Frias says. “Since they had two dips, they decided chips were the perfect accent, so crisp corn tortilla chips became the topping.”
“What works well for us is starting with one ingredient–like the spicy coleslaw or the guacamole – and then seeing what else might work with that,” Frias says. “When we’re developing a new burger topping, we usually start by sharing it with staff, taking notes, then offering it to a few regulars, making some adjustments, and then featuring it as a Burger of the Month special. A number of our menu best-sellers started that way.”