WITH BELLIES LODGED FIRMLY AGAINST THE BAR, brews in their hands and dinner on their minds, America’s bar customers are still searching for the ultimate burger–that big and juicy handful found on almost every casual dining restaurant menu. But tastes keep changing, and to continue satisfying that craving, operators should consider developing new flavor profiles and side dishes and marketing the burgers as the center of a creative contemporary plate.
Operators all over the country have found they can entice customers by employing funky menu descriptions and introducing contemporary burger enhancements. Take for example, the Holey Moley Guacamole Burger at Billy McHale’s in Lynwood, WA–topped with (holey) Swiss cheese, guacamole and bacon. Or the Magic Mushroom Burger, served with sautéed mushrooms and cheddar, at Moose McGillycuddy’s in Honolulu. And at the high end, there’s the Cibo Burger served at Cibo in New York City–a grilled patty topped with gorgonzola, pancetta and roasted tomatoes on brioche and served with a field greens salad and horseradish potato salad.
Regardless of what you call them or how you serve them, burgers are best sellers on many casual restaurant menus–and their popularity continues to grow. In fact, the National Restaurant Association reports that one-third of all Americans have eaten a hamburger or ground beef in some form in the past 24 hours.
NEW MEXICAN WAY
Garduno’s is a long-time Albuquerque-area favorite for such New Mexican specialties as chile con queso and table-made guacamole. There, burgers are considered an especialidades Americano, but the restaurant sells a lot of them, according to Dave Hanisch, general manager of the 300-seat Garduno’s, which is located at the Albuquerque airport.
Garduno’s Green Chile Cheeseburger ($6.95), made with a 1/3-pound grilled beef patty, features the regionally-famous Hatch green chiles, Swiss or cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a toasted bun. “Hatch is a little town in southern New Mexico,” Hanisch explains, “which is the chile capitol–they grow the best green and red hot chile peppers. We get them in raw and roast them ourselves.”
Another popular regional side are Charro beans, New Mexican-style barbecue baked beans made from scratch and highly spiced with jalape