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The Robert Sietsema Oddball-Burger Heatmap

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112355134111232008_10_hasmaps%20%283%29%20%281%29%20%281%29.jpgBurgers may have reached the apotheosis of their popularity, and a good one can be found on nearly every bistro menu in town. You pretty much know what it will be like: freshly ground meat – in a mixture which may or may not have been concocted by Pat LaFrieda – cooked only slightly more than steak tartare and plopped on a pleasing bun – and brioche has been trending for quite a while.

Well, here are some unexpected burgers that delighted me for one reason or another over the last year, made by folks who clearly want to push the burger envelope.


— Robert Sietsema
· Previous Posts by Robert Sietsema [~ENY~]

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Chinger

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This new Elmhurst Taiwanese spot specializes in so-called “Chinese Bergers.” The baked bao these burgers are deposited on has been modified to be like a hamburger bun, or maybe an English muffin. Instead of a meat patty, the one shown here features sautéed and gravy-gobbed gluten strips that do a convincing imitation of cow flesh, making one of the most interesting veggie burgers I’ve had lately. What’s that green stuff sticking out? Kelp!

Hi-Life

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This Upper West Side pick-up spot probably has a more ambitious menu than is good for it, but occasionally the strange notions score, as in this baconburger patty in which the bacon lies, not across the top, but coarsely crushed and entombed within the ground meat wad. And finding the bacon inside as you bite into this lush burger is like a being a miner and striking a rich vein of ore.

Daddy-O

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Daddy-O is something of a home-away-from-home for Rochester ex-pats, especially those who attended the University of Rochester or RIT, who give the place a frat clubhouse feel late into the evenings. The restaurant menu recreates such Rochester bar-food staples as the so-called Garbage Plate, which originated in 1918 at a bar called Nick Tahou’s. In this case, the dish features a pair of cheeseburger patties (hence its inclusion here) smothered in chili sauce and mustard. And I do mean smothered.

Café Opcao

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Located a short ride from New York on the PATH, Café Opcao (“Mixture”) offers both Portuguese and Brazilian food, and in the Brazilian half of the menu grills up a pretty good (and pretty strange) burger, topped with bacon, tomato, lettuce, American cheese, a fried egg, and corn. Corn?

El Jalapeno

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On paper at least, El Jalapeno’s Texana hamburger promises to be the spitting image of a real Texas What-A-Burger, featuring mustard, raw onions, and American cheese. In practice, however, they make this burger with whatever they have on hand, so you may end up with queso fresco instead of bonafide American cheese. Still, a very tasty and strange hamburger in an unexpected place.

Who has the balls to put Velveeta on their double-decker hamburger? – Ft. Greene’s No. 7, that’s who! It may transport you back to childhood as it hardens your arteries. There’s a runny, mayo-based sauce about the same color. Note: this burger has since been replaced by a “meatball” burger topped with kaffir marinara.

Bosna Express

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Technically, this hubcap-size burger patty is known as a pljeskavica (“pless-kah-veecha,”) and in Bosnia it’s made with lamb, beef, and onions, with egg-white added to hold the thing together and give it a rubbery bounce. Topped with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, ajvar (red-pepper paste), and kajmak (pronounced “kie-mack,” a sort of homemade clabbered milk), this burger is one hell of a gutbomb.

Smokey Burger Organic

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What a weird catalog of ingredients goes on top of SBO’s Big Boss Burger: fried egg, turkey bacon, fried onion rings, and various vegetable matter, with some shredded stuff flying on top like pennants at a medieval jousting tournament. In such a lush context, does it matter that the burger patty is made of farm-raised elk? Probably not.

Mile End Sandwich

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You’d think that a smoked meat burger would be a patty topped with a plank of Canadian pastrami-like meat, but this is not the case at Mile End Sandwich. There, the smoked meat is actually ground up in the patty with the beef, and you get glimpses of its flavor in every bite. For those who hesitate to go all the way with a smoked meat sandwich, here’s your ticket.

Sunrise Mart

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Of course, a rice burger suggests that the patty is going to be made of rice, or some amalgam containing the swamp-borne grain. But at the uptown branch of Sunrise Mart, where a bewildering array of Japanese fusion fast food is offered, the rice goes into the “bun,” and not the patty. The “bun” is fried, too, which renders it crisp and more than a little bit tough, and your filling choices run to things like teriyaki salmon, kinpira (burdock root), and kimchee pork (shown here), in addition to a plain old beef patty.

Korzo Haus

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One of the most successful of the oddball burgers is certainly that of Korzo Haus, a rare Slovakian restaurant hidden in plain sight on the southeast corner of Tompkins Square. The patty is first cooked to a nice rare or medium rare, then deposited in a ball of dough and deep fried. The meat doesn’t get any more cooked, but the dough puffs up to an all-encompassing bun. Served with fried squiggly dumplings in lieu of French fries.

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Chinger

This new Elmhurst Taiwanese spot specializes in so-called “Chinese Bergers.” The baked bao these burgers are deposited on has been modified to be like a hamburger bun, or maybe an English muffin. Instead of a meat patty, the one shown here features sautéed and gravy-gobbed gluten strips that do a convincing imitation of cow flesh, making one of the most interesting veggie burgers I’ve had lately. What’s that green stuff sticking out? Kelp!

Hi-Life

This Upper West Side pick-up spot probably has a more ambitious menu than is good for it, but occasionally the strange notions score, as in this baconburger patty in which the bacon lies, not across the top, but coarsely crushed and entombed within the ground meat wad. And finding the bacon inside as you bite into this lush burger is like a being a miner and striking a rich vein of ore.

Daddy-O

Daddy-O is something of a home-away-from-home for Rochester ex-pats, especially those who attended the University of Rochester or RIT, who give the place a frat clubhouse feel late into the evenings. The restaurant menu recreates such Rochester bar-food staples as the so-called Garbage Plate, which originated in 1918 at a bar called Nick Tahou’s. In this case, the dish features a pair of cheeseburger patties (hence its inclusion here) smothered in chili sauce and mustard. And I do mean smothered.

Café Opcao

Located a short ride from New York on the PATH, Café Opcao (“Mixture”) offers both Portuguese and Brazilian food, and in the Brazilian half of the menu grills up a pretty good (and pretty strange) burger, topped with bacon, tomato, lettuce, American cheese, a fried egg, and corn. Corn?

El Jalapeno

On paper at least, El Jalapeno’s Texana hamburger promises to be the spitting image of a real Texas What-A-Burger, featuring mustard, raw onions, and American cheese. In practice, however, they make this burger with whatever they have on hand, so you may end up with queso fresco instead of bonafide American cheese. Still, a very tasty and strange hamburger in an unexpected place.

No. 7

Who has the balls to put Velveeta on their double-decker hamburger? – Ft. Greene’s No. 7, that’s who! It may transport you back to childhood as it hardens your arteries. There’s a runny, mayo-based sauce about the same color. Note: this burger has since been replaced by a “meatball” burger topped with kaffir marinara.

Bosna Express

Technically, this hubcap-size burger patty is known as a pljeskavica (“pless-kah-veecha,”) and in Bosnia it’s made with lamb, beef, and onions, with egg-white added to hold the thing together and give it a rubbery bounce. Topped with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, ajvar (red-pepper paste), and kajmak (pronounced “kie-mack,” a sort of homemade clabbered milk), this burger is one hell of a gutbomb.

Smokey Burger Organic

What a weird catalog of ingredients goes on top of SBO’s Big Boss Burger: fried egg, turkey bacon, fried onion rings, and various vegetable matter, with some shredded stuff flying on top like pennants at a medieval jousting tournament. In such a lush context, does it matter that the burger patty is made of farm-raised elk? Probably not.

Mile End Sandwich

You’d think that a smoked meat burger would be a patty topped with a plank of Canadian pastrami-like meat, but this is not the case at Mile End Sandwich. There, the smoked meat is actually ground up in the patty with the beef, and you get glimpses of its flavor in every bite. For those who hesitate to go all the way with a smoked meat sandwich, here’s your ticket.

Sunrise Mart

Of course, a rice burger suggests that the patty is going to be made of rice, or some amalgam containing the swamp-borne grain. But at the uptown branch of Sunrise Mart, where a bewildering array of Japanese fusion fast food is offered, the rice goes into the “bun,” and not the patty. The “bun” is fried, too, which renders it crisp and more than a little bit tough, and your filling choices run to things like teriyaki salmon, kinpira (burdock root), and kimchee pork (shown here), in addition to a plain old beef patty.

Korzo Haus

One of the most successful of the oddball burgers is certainly that of Korzo Haus, a rare Slovakian restaurant hidden in plain sight on the southeast corner of Tompkins Square. The patty is first cooked to a nice rare or medium rare, then deposited in a ball of dough and deep fried. The meat doesn’t get any more cooked, but the dough puffs up to an all-encompassing bun. Served with fried squiggly dumplings in lieu of French fries.

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