Battle Royale Burger
Who Wins - The Customer of Course!
No restaurant worth its salt would ever risk running out of ground beef. When a famished customer has a hankering for a hamburger, the last thing they want to hear from the server is, “We’re all out of burgers.” This is not an acceptable response. This might cause a menu mutiny, a storming of the burger bastille, or at least some disgruntled mutterings and petulant palate adjustments.
Few menu items have proven to be as tried and true as the beloved hamburger. Where did this meaty phenomenon originate? Legend has it that the hamburger had its genesis in Hamburg, Germany. In the 19th Century, Hamburg was one of the major European gateways to the United States. Ground steak was popular in Germany, and New York restaurants eager to appeal to German sailors and immigrants began adding it to their menus. The moniker “hamburger” apparently referenced their city of origin to make them feel at home. Iconic Delmonico’s was one of the first to introduce the hamburger in NYC, and thus began the burger battle among America’s restaurants.
Speaking of burger battles, today’s ubiquitous fast-food chains owe their success to the hamburger. In fact, a few years back these battles were even chronicled in advertising jingles such as McDonald’s “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun,” and “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us” from Burger King. It’s anybody’s guess how many burgers have actually been served to date.
Most recently, fine dining restaurants across the country wanted to capitalize on the hamburger craze. Chefs created a vast array of gourmet burgers — using upscale cuts of beef, even ostrich and emu. To appeal to health conscious diners, ground turkey and chicken were added to the repertoire as well as “veggie” burgers for vegetarians. Distinctive artisanal cheese varieties were employed to tempt discerning tastes. Condiments were upgraded with flavored aioli and homemade mustards. Toppings became ever more sophisticated, such as caviar and poached quail eggs.
Enterprising operators have even used size to differentiate their burgers from the rest — one end of the spectrum pandering to hearty appetites with half-pound and larger burgers; the other with the slider — an itty bitty burger, usually sold in multiples.
Will the hamburger disappear from menus any time soon? Doubtful. The hamburger is one of those foods that is universally loved, and a marvelously versatile carrier for new foodservice trends. We do not know for certain from whence the hamburger came. We’re just glad it did.