Americans have a passionate love affair with burgers. They are fast, easy, and next to baseball and apple pie, it is about as American as it gets. Whether you like your burger made of beef or turkey, single or double, cheese or onions, there is a burger for every taste. Believe it or not, Americans consume over thirteen billion burgers each year. With countless phenomenal burger joints throughout the U.S., it is no wonder why we love them so much.
When I sat down to write about burgers, I needed insight from some people who have had a life long passion for burgers – “The Burger Brothers”, Richard, Troy and Ilan – and get their take on what makes burgers, especially cheeseburgers, so special. Richard puts it like this, “Whenever times are tough, a cheeseburger always puts a smile and mustard, dijon only, of course, on my face!” Troy thinks of cheeseburgers as “the ultimate comfort food because it is tasty and nostalgic. While I enjoy a wide range of ethnic cuisine, my love for cheeseburgers has not wavered – from the simple ones I grew up with to the sophisticated burger selections available today.” Ilan’s view is that”cheeseburgers are a handheld meal made of a perfect blend of the food pyramid. How dare anyone call it fast food!” I think the Burger Brothers have it nailed!
So where can you find a great burger? I will tell you about a couple of my favorite joints – West Coast and East Coast. On the West Coast, there is no shortage of sophisticated burger places: Umami with the Umami Burger – house ground beef, roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, parmesan frico, sauteed shiitake mushrooms and house made ketchup – a real culinary experience; Father’s Office has a multitude of burgers with every type of topping imaginable; Barney’s Gourmet Burgers – man-sized burgers with the best curly fries ever.
However, my favorite go-to burger place on the West Coast is, believe it or not, Johnny Rockets. Okay, it is a chain, but the burgers are fresh and delicious. Johnny Rockets’ concept is a classic American diner-style restaurant, including counter seating, that became popular in the 1950s. There is something fun about the atmosphere there that just makes things taste better – right down to listening to the 50’s rock n’roll music while you eat. I am always impressed at the quality of the ingredients, which are pretty simple for a burger, but can either make it hot and delicious or a soggy mess. The lettuce is always cold and crisp, the tomato slices are just the right size and don’t make the burger soggy and the meat, whether it is beef or turkey, is piping hot. Each burger is wrapped in paper which helps to keep any drips of goodness down to a minimum. So, if you just looking for a good time and a burger that we all grew up with, Johnny Rockets is your place.
Finding a great burger in the Hamptons was a bit of a challenge. While there are many places that serve burgers, there wasn’t one place that I just had to go back to because the burger was so unforgetable – until I discovered LT Burger in Sag Harbor. LT’s opened in July 2010 and was the “burger child” of Manhattan chef and restauranteur, Laurent Tourondel (of BLT fame). The place has somewhat of a retro feel to it, but in a much more hip way, from the lighting fixtures to the giant ceiling fans.
The burgers at LT’s are awesome. Each burger is piled high with a selection of choice toppings like bacon, BBQ onion and avocado. However, the Mecox Cheddar Burger with local Mecox cheddar cheese, carmalized onions, mushrooms, red onion, lettuce and tomatoes can’t be beat. Another favorite is the Backyard Burger – a burger with bacon and pickles is a simple but tasty choice. There are other selections of burgers for those who don’t want beef, such as a Spicy Tuna Burger with zesty tarter sauce, avocado andarugula or a Veggie Falafel Burger with Tzatziki sauce. What makes any of the LT Burgers so good is they are served on a bun covered with toasted sesame seeds, which is not so large that it overpowers the wonderful goodies inside.
For sides, there are the crisp, golden-brown onion rings (my husband says are to die for) and fried dill pickles, technically a starter but also the most popular menu item beyond the burgers. When it comes to shakes, there are plenty of options, but for a little edge, there is a selection of “Rated R” shakes at LT, including the Daisy Duke, spiked with whiskey!
So, Sag Harbor may not be in your neighborhood, but if you are ever out in the Hamptons, LT Burger is a must! Who knows, there may be an LT Burger near you some day??