The immutability of the hamburger continues. While the death knell of the boutique burger has often been declared, the trend was going strong in 2014. The year saw more high-minded chefs than ever turning their attention to the humble hamburger. And it wasn't just meat-centric places like Cherche Midi and Bowery Meat Company that turned out quality hamburgers. They also appeared at less obvious places, like the lounge at Matt Lightner's fine dining hit, Atera, and on the lunch menu at critical darling All'Onda. Plus, an increasing number of chefs are "rolling their own" – custom grinding beef in-house.
Next read: Eater.com's America's 21 essential hamburgers.
Another big trend this year is the wide spread adoption of dry aged beef to steak up the flavor of the hamburger. While the trend is not new, it has never been as pervasive as this year: Six of the burgers listed below use dry aged beef. And of the burgers that don't contain dry aged beef short rib is also making a big step up in popularity, eclipsing brisket as the favored cut amongst chefs for their custom blends. Here, then, are the notable burgers of 2014.
Pan seared burger at GG's: Chef Bobby Helen serves the most classic burger featured here: nuthin' fancy, just an honest, skillet cooked, roadside style burger topped simply with a mild white Cheddar under a tangle of caramelized onions with a smear of "secreto" sauce nestled between the perfect white squishy bun. American zen. $16, comes with fries.
Bowery Meat Company
Cheeseburger at Bowery Meat Company: Of course Josh Capon, winner of many a Burger Bash, makes a strong showing at his newly minted meat emporium off of the Bowery. Structurally the burger is similar to his offerings at Lure and Burger and Barrel but this one amps up the flavor with dry aged beef. The rest of the burger is quite similar to the one at GG's, with onions and raclette cheese (mild like Helen's white American) on top. It only gets "cheffy" with the inclusion of a tomato aioli. $22, comes with fries.
The Nomad Bar
Burger at The Nomad Bar: Chef James Kent infuses his dry aged patty with bone marrow and suet, giving it what Eater critic Ryan Sutton describes as a "soft, pate-like texture and a gentle, dry-aged funk." It comes adorned with cheddar and a disk of sweet red onion, with tangy pickles on the side. $17 served al la carte, fries $8.
Prime Rib Burger at Cherche Midi: With the specter of the Minetta Tavern Black Label burger looming large. chefs Shane McBride and Daniel Parilla knew they had to deliver on the burger front. They went through dozens of blends and combinations before arriving at the dry aged prime rib burger, a commendable addition to the burger universe. The funky flavored eight ounce patty is served with a bacon marmalade and roasted mushrooms under a blanket of molten aged gruyere cheese, with a side of some of the best fries in the business. $23, comes with fries.
"The Burger" at Alder: This burger was originally conceived for the Burger Bloodbath that was hosted by Eater founder Ben Leventhal a few years back. Inspired by the ocean, Wiley Dufresne infused his patty with shio kombu to give it a "umami punch." Now the idea is back and Dufresne and chef Ryan Henderson are grinding brisket and chuck in house and blending in the seaweed themselves. It comes served on a beef fat brushed potato bun with beer infused American cheese, and it's only available at the bar, Monday through Wednesday and all day Sunday. $13 a la carte, $21 with onion soup rings and a beer.
All'Onda burger at All'Onda: Perhaps inevitably, a burger made it onto the lunch and brunch menu at All'Onda, Eater chef of the year Chris Jaeckle's acclaimed Union Square restaurant. While the cuisine at All'Onda is described as modern Venetian with Japanese influences the economics of operating in NYC sometimes dictate such menu items. Fortunately the burger is hardly an afterthought – a buxom short rib patty is grilled, then topped with an earthy truffled Sottocenere cheese, shredded treviso and caramelized onions on a Pain d'avignon sesame bun. $17, comes with parmesan potatoes.
Dry aged burger at The Gander: Chef Jesse Schenker serves up a loving homage to both Shake Shack and the classic California style of burger. The pan seared, dry aged patty has a deep beefiness and tang from the aging. It is topped with a large dose of molten cheddar and served on a buttered potato roll. It comes with a garden's worth of vegetables on the side, but only really needs the house made bread and butter pickles. Note that it's only available for lunch and brunch. $16 comes with fries.
The Lounge at Atera
The Atera burger: Chef Matthew Lightner blends dry aged short rib, strip loin, and top round with bone marrow and tendon to make a truly unique patty. Seared in a pan and topped cheese, it achieves what Ryan Sutton described as "a soft terrine-like creation where every bite tastes like the greasy, griddled exterior of a Shake Shack burger." The burger is only available Tuesday through Saturday, and reservations are recommended. $20 comes with fries.
Skillet burger at Narcissa: Chef John Fraser puts a heavily seared crust on a short rib heavy burger patty before dolloping on a healthy dose of guacamole, a flurry of shredded Manchego cheese and a watercress garnish. The evocation is certainly Southwestern but the burger, which is only available for lunch and brunch, feels right at home in the East Village. $18 comes with fries.
The 21 burger at 21 Club: While most of the hamburgers listed here are from new establishments, the venerable 21 Club also got in on the act, updating America's first gourmet burger for the modern era. Chef Sylvain Delpique has dropped the meatloaf-like patty that was infused with herbs and spices and opted for a dry aged blend that highlights the beef itself. Served on a challah bun, it comes topped lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle. It's a much simpler version of the burger than previously served, but also far better. $36, comes with fries.
Honorable Mention: Little Beet Table
LBT burger at Little Beet Table: If it was served on a traditional bread bun, chef Franklin Becker's short rib patty topped with a tangy cheddar cheese, special sauce, roasted tomatoes and thick planks of extra crisp bacon would be easy to recommend. The fact that it is served on a bun that is entirely gluten free makes it remarkable. You will of course be able to tell the difference, as gluten free bread lacks the springiness and "life" of traditional bread, but for those that can't (or won't) eat gluten, this burger is the best option. $16, comes with fingerling potatoes.