Chefs go beyond beef to feature bison, turkey, seafood, pork and more.
By Scott Hume, Special to R&I
It seems as if almost every operator has a stake in the burger business these days. To stand out from an ever-widening array of contenders, chefs are getting creative with non-beef-based builds. Here, a collection of more than 50 burgers featuring bison, seafood, grains, wild boar, pork, and more:
When the National Museum of the American Indian opened in 2004 on Washington, D.C.'s National Mall, New York City-based foodservice contractor Restaurant Associates (a division of Compass Group) was mandated to develop authentic choices for the Mitsitam Native Foods Cafe. Turtle Chowder with Pickled Ramps is there, as is Wild Nettle and Corn Bread Soup. But a more-familiar (and ahead of its time) favorite is the Campfire Buffalo Burger, served with green chiles.
- Ruby Tuesday, multiple locations Bison Bacon Cheeseburger: Grilled range-fed bison with applewood-smoked bacon and American cheese ($9.99)
- Burger Jones, Minneapolis Bison Burger: Seared bison with Gruyère cheese and red-onion marmalade ($9.99)
- Blanc Burgers + Bottles, Kansas City, Mo. Bison Burger: With pepper-Jack cheese, chile-pepper jam, butter lettuce, onion, mayonnaise and four-seed brioche bun ($10)
- The Good Earth, Edina, Minn.
The Good Earth Burger: All-natural bison, caramelized onions, portobello mushrooms, avocado, Gruyère cheese, sunflower sprouts and red-pepper aïoli ($11.95)
- Varsity Grill, Tacoma, Wash.
California Buffalo Burger: Half-pound buffalo patty topped with guacamole, Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and onions ($11.99)
- Thunder Grill, Washington, D.C.
Grilled Bison Burger: With lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, fries, coleslaw and ancho mayonnaise ($12.25)
- Gourmet Burger Grill, San Antonio Bison Burger: Lean 8-ounce North American bison on a rustic sourdough roll with a side of bourbon-barbecue sauce ($12.95)
- Ted's Montana Grill, multiple locations
Green & Hot Burger: Bison patty, guacamole, jalapeños and Monterey Jack on a Kaiser roll ($13)
- Spur Gastropub, Seattle
Bison Burger: With beefsteak tomato, Tasmanian peppercorns and shoestring potatoes ($15)
Executive Chef Paul Kahan and Chef de Cuisine Mike Sheerin keep the menu fresh, interesting and seasonal at Chicago's Blackbird. One recent addition is a house-made lamb burger topped with Taleggio cheese and black-pepper jam; tomatillo panzanella is served on the side. "We started doing the lamb burger as a staff meal when we had baby lamb on the menu last spring," says Sheerin. "It was so delicious that I said to myself I would eat it regularly. So as a way to generate more profits from baby lamb, we started selling the burger at lunch. It has been pretty successful. We change the garnish with the seasons."
- The Cove, San Antonio
Lamb Burger: Pasture-raised local lamb with Latin spices and cotija cheese ($9)
- BLT Burger, New York City
Lamb Merguez Burger: With mint-cilantro yogurt sauce, cucumber, olives, red onion and tomato ($10)
- Acme Burger Co., Salt Lake City Spicy Moroccan Lamb Burger: With carrot-raisin slaw on a sweet-potato bun ($12.50)
- Anthos, New York City
Lamb Burger: With feta and spicy pepper purée ($20)
- 25 Burgers, Bound Brook, N.J. Gyro Burger: Ground lamb blended with onions and chicken breast and served with lettuce, tomato, onion and tzatziki sauce on a brioche bun ($8)
Salmon Filet Burger at Burger Bar
Richard Blais grinds grouper for his Fish n Chips Burger at Flip Burger Boutique, but most chefs keep fish fillets whole so diners know what's between the buns.
- Breezeway Grill at Eastern University, St. Davids, Pa.
Honey Glazed Salmon Burger: A 4-ounce salmon fillet grilled and lightly drizzled with honey, served on a multigrain bun with fresh baby spinach ($5.95)
- Larkburger, multiple locations
Tuna Burger: With wasabi-ginger sauce and cilantro ($7.25)
- Pop's Black Pot, Lafayette, La.
Crawfish Burger: Fried crawfish patty served on a toasted bun with lettuce, tomato and tarter sauce ($8.75)
- Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, multiple locations Crispy Fish Burger: Cod fillets fried in tempura batter; topped with coleslaw, tomato, pickles and tarter sauce ($9.49)
- Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, multiple locations Salmon BLT Burger: Honey-barbecue-glazed salmon, bacon, lettuce, tomato and black-pepper aïoli ($10.95)
- Mason's Grill, Baton Rouge, La. Cajun Shrimp Burger: Shrimp burger stuffed with jalapeños and topped with sautéed shrimp, Jack cheese and more jalapeños ($10.95)
- Tavern on 13, Beverly Hills, Mich.
Whitefish Burger: Grilled local whitefish with teriyaki glaze served on a sesame-seed bun with wasabi mayonnaise ($10.95)
- Chef Geoff's, Washington, D.C. Tuscan Tuna Burger: With roasted-pepper-rosemary aïoli ($14.95)
- Gallagher's Burger Bar, Atlantic City, N.J.
Lobster Burger: With lettuce, tomato, onion and shoestring fries ($16.95)
- Burger Bar, Las Vegas
Salmon Fillet Burger: Pan-seared salmon topped with creamy cucumber salad, smoked-salmon slices and radish on a sesame-seed bun with tomato, red onion and watercress (Approx. $10)
Vancouver, Wash.-based Burgerville shows that it's possible for a burger chain to buy locally, menu seasonally and respect those who don't eat beef. A spicy-bean-patty burger with pepper-Jack cheese and chipotle mayonnaise is on the permanent menu. Last February, Burgerville's special for the month was a Yukon White Bean & Basil Burger with basil mayonnaise.
- Love Shack, Fort Worth, Texas
Boom Boom Burger: Grilled portobello mushroom with lettuce, tomato, pickles and Chef Tim Love's signature Love Sauce ($4.62)
- The Red Avocado, Iowa City, Iowa
Veggie Burger: House recipe of green lentils, brown rice and vegetables with proprietary blend of spices; served on toasted house-made bread with salad greens and vegan dressing ($6.50)
- Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee
Roasted Mushroom Kickstand Burger: Roasted portobello with red onion, roasted red pepper, spinach, smoked Gouda and sun-dried-tomato spread on a focaccia roll ($6.75)
- Good Stuff Eatery, Washington, D.C.
Vegetarians Are People Too ‘Shroom Burger: Organic portobello tops stuffed with Muenster and Cheddar, flash-fried with panko crumbs, topped with tomato, lettuce and Good Stuff Sauce ($6.89)
- Sage's Cafe, Salt Lake City Nut Burger: Grilled burger made from cashews, almonds and garbanzo beans; served with tahini sauce, lettuce, tomato and red onion ($7.75)
- O!Burger, Los Angeles
Classic O!Veggie: House-made patty with organic spinach, corn, carrots, peas and cucumber slices; organic bun ($7.99)
- Blue Bird Bistro, Kansas City, Mo.
Black Bean Burger: House-made patty made with mushrooms, onions, carrots, corn and jalapeño; served on a toasted organic, whole-wheat bun with mixed greens and onion ($8.50)
- Real Food Daily, Los Angeles
RFD Burger: Tempeh vegetable patty, sautéed onions, lettuce and tomato on a rustic roll ($9.75)
- The Farm Café, Portland, Ore.
Farmhouse Veggie Burger: Patty made of eggplant, breadcrumbs, cheese and spices; served with caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, Dijon mustard and lettuce on a rustic bun ($10)
- The Counter, multiple locations
Veggie Burger: Hand-formed patty of brown rice, spinach, mushrooms, corn, Panko breadcrumbs, zucchini, carrots, black beans and red bell peppers with choice of toppings (Approx. $8.25)
- Crabtree's Kittle House, Chappaqua, N.Y.
Spiced Chickpea Burger: Ground chickpeas, garlic, bulgur, onion and herbs; served with sweet pickled cucumber and spiced yogurt (Price not available)
Maria Hines of Tilth in Seattle is the 2009 winner of the James Beard Foundation's Best Chef Northwest award. One of her signature dishes combines Mini Duck Burgers with fingerling-potato chips and house-made ketchup and hot mustard. Perhaps her success will encourage others to consider duck as a burger base.
- Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Calif.
Chinatown Duck Burger: With house-made shiitake-mushroom ketchup and french fries ($13.50)
- Perilla, New York City Spicy Duck Burger: Served on a house-made flaxseed bun with Jack cheese, avocado and spiced fries ($16)
At Chef-owner Hilary Brown's Local Burger in Lawrence, Kan., all of the meat is locally raised (with farms named on the menu) and free of antibiotics and hormones. That's true not only of beef but also of bison, elk and turkey burgers. Meat for the Pork Burger, for example, comes from Glasco, Kan. Even the tofu patty is local and the buns are gluten-free.
- Tioli's Crazee Burger, San Diego Hamburger ala Hamburg: Half pork, half beef patty and sautéed onions ($6.49)
- Umami Burger, Los Angeles No. 5 Burger: Ground pork spiced with Chinese five-spice powder, aged manchego cheese and tomato marmalade ($9)
- Tonic, Washington, D.C. Chili Burger: Spicy pork, green chile and Cheddar-Jack ($11.50)
- Sub Zero Vodka Bar, St. Louis
Breakfast Burger: Ground-bacon-and-pork patty topped with American cheese, fried egg and Canadian bacon ($11.95)
- Chaise Lounge, Chicago
Chorizo Burger: Topped with cumin-scented black-bean spread, watercress and fried duck egg ($14)
- Marked5, Los Angeles
Katsu Pork Burger: Fried boneless pork with house-made Katsu sauce and cabbage on a rice bun (Price not available)
Already a successful Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee, Michael Ansley, president and CEO of Southfield, Mich.-based Diversified Restaurant Holdings (DRH) wanted a second concept to appeal to young diners. His Bagger Dave's Legendary Burgers & Fries operations, like his wings restaurants, feature a variety of bold signature sauces. One popular build is Bagger Dave's Santa Fe Chipotle burger, a patty of ground, locally sourced turkey topped with chipotle sauce, guacamole, romaine lettuce and tomato on a honey-wheat bun. Another, the Tuscan Burger, pairs turkey with balsamic vinaigrette, mozzarella, lettuce and tomato. "When people try a turkey burger, they like it," Ansley says. "Getting them to try it can be hard, but a lot don't go back [to beef]."
- Clyde's of Gallery Place, Washington, D.C.
Spicy Thai Turkey Burger: Sweet chile sauce, peanut sauce, cucumber-red-pepper salad and seasonal fruit ($9.95)
- Plaza Café at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Patina Restaurants), Los Angeles
Turkey Burger: Lettuce, red onions, pickles, Swiss and garlic aïoli on a caramelized-onion roll ($10)
- Stand, New York City
Turkey Burger: With onion marmalade, lettuce, tomato and pickled-shallot sauce on a poppy-seed bun ($10)
- Umami Burger, Los Angeles
Turkey Confit Burger: With apple relish and goat cheese ($10)
- Prairie Grass Cafe, Northbrook, Ill. PGC House-Made Turkey Burger: On a toasted bun with apple slaw and honey-mustard sauce ($11)
- 5Napkin Burger, New York City Italian Turkey Burger: Ground-turkey patty, melted mozzarella, spicy tomato sauce, vinegar and peppers on a sesame-egg roll ($11.95)
- Bourbon Steak, Detroit
Heritage Turkey Burger: Ground turkey mixed with onions and house spice blend; with Jack cheese, harissa aïoli, roasted peppers and mixed greens ($14)
- Sixteen, Chicago
Turkey Burger: With pear compote and tamarind glaze ($19)
- Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.
Aloha Turkey Burger: Ground turkey, teriyaki sauce, grilled pineapple, lettuce, onion, tomato and Swiss on a whole-wheat bun (Price not available)