Sunday, July 27, 2008

Reading at Half King

If you are near Chelsea tomorrow night (Monday) I'll be reading from the book of burgers at Half King on 23rd Street. The bar has a projector so I'll be running the 'Endless Burger Slideshow' before and after the reading. The slideshow is made up of just about every shot I took during the research phase of Hamburger America the book.

The readings at Half King are usually done by well-respected authors, not goof balls like me. I apologize in advance if the evening is not as 'academic' as you had hoped for. On the other hand, if you don't know a thing about burgers in America this may just be the event for you. I hear the burgers at Half-King are pretty good too.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Five Guys Park Slope Now Open

We arrived at my neighborhood Five Guys (the whole family) on opening day only 20 minutes after opening and were greeted immediately by owner Craig offering us a high chair for our 1 year-old...WOW.  Now that's the way to open a restaurant in Park Slope, home to the largest stroller mafia on the planet.

Business was brisk and the burgers were great. The physical space is larger than Craig's Montague St. location and he told me construction has already begun on his next location in Bay Ridge. I had a cheeseburger with grilled onions that was cooked through (standard practice) but was still a very moist grease bomb. The vegetarian wife loves the Five Guys veggie, which is basically a grilled cheese on a burger bun with all of the condiments. The clientele were mostly from across the street at Methodist Hospital standing in line, smiling, with scrubs and stethoscopes. It's always comforting to see an army of med-schooled doctors scarfing down burgers. The family was joined at lunch by omnipresent burger blogger Adam Kuban. I would recommend visiting his blog entry here for more details on opening day.

The comment corkboard had only been up for an hour and it already had two comments posted. Adam and I got a kick out of this one (pictured) but realized that what it lacks in grammar it makes up for in passion. We all know what this dude was trying to say (and MAN was he tryin' hard!).  I'm glad I'm not the only one out there as nutz for Five Guys.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hamburger America Test Kitchen - The Squealer

Tonight I attempted to re-create one of my favorite burgers in America, the Squealer from Tookie's in Seabrook, Texas. Tookie's has guarded secrets so I was on my own with this one. From what I can tell, bacon is ground with the beef to create a one-of-a-kind experience, a burger with the unmistakable essence of bacon mixed right in.

You have to use a grinder to blend the bacon with the beef properly, so naturally start with a good chuck steak from your butcher. I cooked 3 slices of Boar's Head bacon until browned, not crispy. I then cubed a 1 pound chuck steak and sent it all through the grinder. The bacon strips went in whole, which was a mistake because some of the undercooked bacon fat gummed up the grinder.

I scooped balls of the mixture, placed them in a hot skillet, and pressed them to the shape of the patty. The chuck I used was too lean though and the burgers came out a bit dry. I'm guessing that the bacon may have also dried out the burger as well. The result was pretty damn good for a first try. It tasted close to Tookie's Squealer, the taste of bacon very present, but needs more work. Next time, more bacon, and more beef fat.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dram Shop in NY Magazine

If you've seen NY Magazine's 'Eat Cheap' issue already, you've seen the incredible shot of the burger at Dram Shop, a new bar in my neighborhood that didn't even register on my burgerometer. The Dram Shop recently replaced the long-time supplier of aquatic fish and aquariums to Park Slope and I didn't even know they served food. Josh 'Mr. Cutlets' Ozersky has already made plans to visit and wants me along. Wow, what a burger renaissance Park Slope is having!

The NY Magazine article tried to pin the trend of low-brow burger joint openings around NYC on the demise of the gourmet burger due to a crappy economy. They call it the 'Burger Correction'. Unfortunately, the commentary doesn't really hold up. It seems like I hear about a new gourmet burger everyday. Even a burger joint the magazine puts on their cheap eats list Wall Street Burger Shoppe has an absurd burger on the menu that has GOLD FLAKES on it! That's right, flecks of 'edible' gold (see photo) and the burger costs $150. The only sign that a weak economy may be affecting burgers is the price reduction from $175.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Five Guys Park Slope Brooklyn Opens This Friday

I have it on good authority that the Five Guys on 7th Ave in Park Slope will open at 11AM this Friday, July 25th. Last summer a Five Guys opened in Brooklyn Heights (burger pictured) and the franchise owner told me he had plans to expand to my neighborhood. I'm very much looking forward to a double cheeseburger this Friday, the first decent burger in the 'hood since I've moved here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Three New Park Slope Burger Joints

That's right, all in one week, 3 new burger spots have risen all within a few blocks of my house. What's up with that? The Brooklyn Burger Bar (a failure by all accounts) on 9th St. and 7th Ave. closed yesterday (?) and Flipster's has opened in its place. It's under new ownership we think so let's hope this group knows what they are doing.

I was on my way to meet blogger Adam Kuban at the week-old Corner Burger and passed the soon-to-be-open Five Guys on 7th Ave at 6th St. Now there's a burger we can count on. From the looks of the interior progress, they should be opening in a week. A call to Five Guys corporate resulted in voice mail. I also sent them my book a month ago and have received zero response.

Adam wanted to check out the spanking-new Corner Burger on 5th Ave at 6th St. and we had high hopes. I heard two guys walking down the street talking about it the other day and they both agreed it would fail because every other restaurant in that space has. The burger looked good (see photo) but was embarrassingly overcooked. Worse was Adam's burger that he asked for medium-rare. It too was over-cooked and pressed dry. Yikes. The bun was also clearly too big for its beefy partner.

Oh well, let's hope that Five Guys wows 'em because if this neighborhood doesn't produce a good burger joint soon I may have to open one myself.

Hamburger America Available in Japan

I just discovered that Hamburger America is now available in Japan on the ubiquitous of course ( Strangely, one of the only english words on the page is 'SEXY' and if you click on the link next to it you are taken to a page that sells dog and cat calendars. Very weird. Hamburger America is also for sale now, interestingly, at, the made-in-China outpost for all hip things made of plastic for teens (shades, cool tees, Lomo cameras - think Urban Outfitters without the expensive clothes). I find it kinda strange though that it's filed under the 'Men's Home' section...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stand on East 12th Rocks

The place is pretty pretentious but the burger is sublime. I visited Stand for lunch today with expert burger taster Kris and was pleased to find that the burger was as good as it was the last time I visited (a year ago). I'm not a fan of the flame-grilled burger but Stand knows what they are doing. The 7 ounce patty was cooked to perfection and topped simply with carmelized onions and a 'house sauce'. The menu options are totally confusing and I'm glad I ordered correctly (I got the 'House' burger). A waiter told me the house sauce had 'like 40 ingredients' (doubtful) but that the Kewpie mayo-based sauce had some paprika in it. It was basically Kewpie mayo mixed with paprika and it was amazing. Sorry for the out-of-focus cell phone burger shot. It kinda looks like 99% of the burger porn fans send me from their phones on a daily basis (and I love it).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Crazy Media Day - Dutch TV and NPR

It was a packed day of media for me today. I started the day at P.J. Clarke's being interviewed by a Dutch TV crew for an upcoming segment on hamburgers in The Netherlands. After the interview, I raced over to WNYC to be on the Leonard Lopate Show. Leonard is on vacation and his replacement was Jeffery Toobin, one of CNN's regular pundits and all around good guy. The subject was hamburgers (duh) and I was joined in the studio by the nation's other hamburger expert Josh 'Mr. Cutlets' Ozersky. The 4o minute high-profile Q&A went well and Josh and I had fun taking turns fielding questions. To hear the podcast click here: 
After the radio show I headed home where the Dutch TV crew was meeting me to shoot another segment for the show in my kitchen, or as some have come to know, the Hamburger America Test Kitchen. The crew surprised me by 
presenting me with a Dutch 'hamburger', a highly processed beef patty that was sealed in a ridiculous bag. We opened the bag and were almost immediately knocked over by the putrid stench. These things smelled like rotting cat food and had the consistency of petrified pate. They tried to get me to taste one (which I did out of curiosity) and it was disgusting. I checked the expiration date on the bag and was not shocked to find that these 'beefburgers' would last through 2010. Afterwards, I rewarded the crew with a few of my excellent Oklahoma Onion-Fried burgers made of fresh ground beef from the butcher across the street.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

7 Burgers In 7 Hours

Local news and reviews of Hamburger America are starting to surface. Here's a good one from one of my favorite states, Oklahoma, home to 7 of the burgers in the book. A nutty reporter from News 9 in Oklahoma City attempted to eat at all 7 burger joints in 7 hours but didn't quite make it (It took he and the crew over 8 hours, impressive nonetheless). Click here to see the 5 minute segment. I love the graphic on the screen behind the anchors - that thing does not look edible.

When I was doing research for the book I could put away more than 7 burgers in a few hours pretty easily. It just takes practice. Sometimes I'd have to eat over 20 in a 4 day trip. But thanks to the book you only have to eat the good ones! Don't forget that I had to suffer through the bad ones too.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The In-N-Out Truck

I almost had an accident when I saw it. I was driving down Santa Monica Blvd last week when I spotted, for the first time ever, one of the fabled In-N-Out Cookout Trailers operating outside of a bank. I pulled up to the private party being thrown for 700 at Mellon Bank in Century City and started asking questions. The truck was filled with around 15 employees and was essentially a rolling In-N-Out kitchen. I asked an employee on break how many of these trucks existed and he told me there are 3 this size (see photo) and 4 others that are the taco truck size for smaller events. ALL are booked solid "forvever" he told me. The only down side is that no shakes or fries come out of these things. Damn.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Hamburger America on TOP

Two weekends ago my book ended up in the centerfold of USA Today's USA Weekend, a free magazine that gets shoved into 23 million newspapers nationwide every sunday. Click here to see the full article. What's amazing is that they chose 5 food travel books and in the photo put mine on top of the heap! Sorry Alton Brown (his Feasting on Asphalt is great by the way).