Brunch is back in vogue. NPD’s research finds brunch sales up 8% through August versus last year. Not much else in foodservice is up 8% this year. Why the increase? Perhaps because brunch is a relatively cost-effective way to get the family together for a meal away from home. Or maybe it’s because burgers have been invited to brunch menus. There’s a limit to the number of wonderful ways chefs can rethink eggs Benedict. Burger possibilities are infinite.
Paula “Hey, y’all!” Deen may have the most famous brunch burger: The Lady’s Brunch Burger at her restaurant, The Lady & Sons, in Savannah, Ga. It calls for glazed doughnuts to take the place of bun halves (can you hear her laughing?), and yes, there’s a recipe.
Of course, if we’re talking over-the-top brunch sandwiches, an honorable mention goes to Wake & Bacon Animal Style at Matt Fish’s Melt Bar & Grilled in my hometown of Cleveland. It’s not a burger, but with fried eggs, bacon and American cheese sandwiched between waffles (with fries, of course), it’s one hell of a way to start Sunday.
But we’re not counting them. Here are 12 brilliant brunch burgers to enjoy (but not necessarily share) with the family.
۞ Top mention goes to Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro in our nation’s capital because the name tells you it’s just for brunch: The Bloody Mary Burger. The fixings are interesting and appropriate: fried egg, Bloody Mary mayo, Cheddar and Gouda cheeses, mixed greens and mustard vinaigrette. Wake me up for this.
۞ The Grayson Burger at 900 Grayson in Berkeley, Calif., makes me hungry (Creekstone Natural beef, Nueske’s Double Smoked Bacon, New York white Cheddar, crispy onions). But another item on its brunch menu made me laugh: the Time-Life Cookbook is a smoked-Gouda omelet “soufflé” with Idaho hash browns, Fuji apple salad and lemon-hazelnut vinaigrette. I want to dine with whoever created that name.
۞ I also chuckle (and drool) at the “French Onion Soup” Burger on the brunch menu at Salut Bar Americain in St. Paul, Minn. It’s topped with Swiss and caramelized onions and served on ciabatta with a cup of French onion broth on the side. Salut is a Parasole Restaurants sister concept to the new Burger Jones, which doesn’t have a separate brunch menu yet but does have the infamous White Trash Burger topped with chicken-fried bacon, fried cheese curds and Velveeta.
۞ Who would turn down brunch at a restaurant named Miss Pearl’s Jam House? It’s in Oakland, Calif., and its brunch burger starts with Niman Ranch natural beef. From there it goes grilled sweet onions and house-made island-spiced ketchup on a challah bun.
۞ I like restaurants that get creative with the meat as well as with toppings. Union Bar & Grille in Boston mixes beef and andouille sausage in its patty and finishes with Vermont Cheddar, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayo. Rare Bar & Grill in New York City (the Lexington Ave. location) makes a 50/50 blend of beef and chorizo sausage for its Brunch Burger and tops it with Cheddar, Canadian bacon and a fried egg. 1300 on Fillmore Restaurant in San Francisco doesn’t mess around. Its Rib-Eye Burger is indeed made from rib-eye, and the condiments include tomato marmalade, Romaine and-unusually-ricotta cheese. Across town, Slow Club‘s brunch burger carries greens, tomatoes, balsamic onions, Dijon mustard, aïoli and choice of Cheddar, Swiss, Jack or Gorgonzola. If that’s the slow-food movement, count me in.
۞ Butterfly in San Francisco I like because it proves there’s plenty of room for a burger on the brunch menu even at an Asian restaurant. The House Ground American Kobe Beef Burger is served with onion-and-bacon jam-which sounds good enough to eat on its own-and aged New York Cabot Cheddar.
۞ One Restaurant in Toronto gets credit for going non-beef with the brunch burger. Its Grilled Turkey Street Burger is slicked up with Gruyère cheese, heirloom tomato, lightly pickled cucumber and dill aïoli.
۞ And I’m a fan of Chef Cary Taylor at Chicago’s Chaise Lounge. He doesn’t serve brunch until 2 p.m. on Sundays but he knows his clientele likely is just getting up after a long Saturday night. So it may be mid-afternoon, but Taylor’s serving his Breakfast Burger. The build starts with ground Dietzler Farms beef chuck and adds a fried egg, smoked bacon and aged Cheddar. I’m up.
۞ Finally, consider the small but mighty Brunch Box, one of many great food carts that make Portland, Ore., such a fascinating place for anyone who loves food. If street food is the big trend of the future, it’s because of deals like Brunch Box’s OMG Burger with egg, ham, Spam, bacon and American cheese for $6. OMG!
I know of no eggs Benedict street kiosks.