Burgers on the Brain

It all started with last week’s episode of Splendid Table, host Lynne Rosetto Kasper and her guest David Rosengarten waxing deliciously poetic about the perfect burger (you can listen here, this spot’s about halfway through the program). The Splendid Table is golden in the world of food media, but sometime the show’s just mean. I mean, it gets us all riled up  and excited about a delicious subject like burgers or strawberry shortcake or braised lamb shanks. Then the show’s over and we’re just sitting there in our car or standing in the kitchen with something completely different (and now not nearly so enticing) on the menu for dinner that night.

I lucked out last Sunday, though. Just hours after having heard that episode, my husband and I were at Spring Hill restaurant for the first time. (This is a long-anticipated opening in West Seattle. Chef/owner Mark Fuller, then exec chef at Dahlia Lounge, orchestrated our 10th anniversary dinner party held there a few years back. So I was particularly looking forward to the opening.)

The burger jumped off the menu at me at Spring Hill. One key theme from the show had been that burgers out in good restaurants are almost always sure winners. Chefs have access to premium meats we mortals find harder to come by. They may even grind their own, blending different cuts for ideal flavor-to-fat ratios. And then there’s all the accoutrements, homemade pickles, freshly baked buns. Far more effort than I’ll ever go to at home to make the perfect burger. I had an unobstructed view of the grill from my seat and had seen a number of really thick burgers being carefully tended. My name all over it. And t’was delicious. Had a texture that Rosengarten had been extolling, one that’s a little crumbly rather than solid and dense, meaning the meat wasn’t overly manhandled and its basic integrity is intact. Secret sauce. Oozy cheese, rich bacon, shreds of iceburg lettuce, great simple (but not spongy) bun. With homemade catsup alongside, plus fries cooked in BEEF FAT! Ooooh-eee, baby.

I’ll have that burger again. And again.

Also had one last night just down the block at JaK’s Grill, a favorite neighborhood destination. Their burger even got a national nod as one of the best in the country in Men’s Fitness magazine. Very simple: well-seasoned meat, bun, onion, tomato, lettuce, touch of secret (Thousand Island) sauce. I always feel compelled to add A-1, maybe because it’s a steakhouse. Totally hits the burger spot. A hair less gourmet than Spring Hill but neither is a slacker.

More research and notes to come!

And maybe I’ll muster up enough enthusiasm to actually try to tackle that perfect burger at home after all. Any tips from amazing homemade burger experiences you care to share, happy to get any input.

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