Officially, Lent begins next Wednesday. But for burger-chain menus, observance already is gearing up. Culver’s tomorrow brings back its Hand-Battered Northwoods Walleye sandwich. McDonald’s has a Double Fillet-O-Fish ready to go, Burger King will revive its Big Fish sandwich and Wendy’s has its Premium Fish Fillet and Sea-Salt Fries duo. Checkers has a 2-for-$3 deal on its Crispy Fish Sandwich.
In short, burger R&D takes a breather for the next few weeks and fish rules. But that’s OK because there are burgers from lakes, streams and seas that are worth trying even if you’re not altering your dining habits for religious reasons.
Normally, my definition of a burger specifies ground meat, but I’m giving up that stipulation for Lent and for this post. However, I am insisting that sandwiches at least be labeled as “burgers” on the menu. With the rules in place, here are a dozen fish and/or seafood burgers (plus two stowaways) worth borrowing temporarily for your menu.
« Burger Bar, Las Vegas
Atlantic Salmon Steak Burger, $8.50
Why not start with the fairest of them all (see right)? Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar was a pioneer of the haute burger boom, and from the start he offered a salmon burger that’s as good as it looks.
« 8 Oz. Burger, Bossier City, La.
Red River Burger, $8
Another casino-based restaurant but a very different burger. Chef-owner Govind Armstrong’s builds on a catfish fillet dipped in buttermilk and breaded in cornmeal breading. It’s topped with leaf lettuce, thinly sliced white onion, sliced pickles and fried-caper tartar sauce on a house-made bun.
« Twisted Fish Company, Juneau, Alaska
Twisted Fish Burger, $11.95
Not one but two great fish burgers from the 49th state. The signature burger is a halibut fillet with a Parmesan crust, served crisp on a toasted bun with dill sauce. Spend a bit more ($14.95) for the healthy Wild Berry Halibut Burger, a grilled halibut fillet with wildberry mango chutney on a grilled bun.
« Twisted Cork Bistro, Omaha, Neb.
Salmon Slider & Bistro Corn Chowder, $11
Another twist, and one that Food Network called the best burger joint in Nebraska. Maybe it’s because it offers seared wild Sockeye salmon fillet with basil, lemon and sun-dried-tomato mayo on herb ciabatta with Apple-Bleu Slaw.
« Burgers and More by Emeril, Bethlehem, Pa.
Blue Crab Cake Burger, $14
Still one more casino stop: Emeril Lagasse’s burger place in the Sands Casino Resort. Think blue-crab cake topped with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and Creole tartar sauce. But hey, this is Emeril! There’s more! A Grilled Atlantic Salmon Burger with Kicked-Up Slaw and Red Rémoulade Sauce ($12)!
« Flip Burger Boutique, Atlanta
Tuna Tartare Burger, $10
Staying with celebrity chefs, Top Chef star Richard Blais builds a burger tuna, sambal, pine nuts, garlic, wasabi mayo, avocado,carrots, togarashi, cucumber & mango yolk.
« Salmon River Restaurant and Bar, New York City
Homemade Salmon Burger, $14.95
No, you don’t find salmon swimming off New York City, but like third basemen you can just ship ‘em in from elsewhere. This restaurant combines salmon with wasabi aïoli and Asian slaw on a brioche roll.
« 5 Napkin Burger, New York City
Ahi Tuna Burger
The chain that’s about to open its fourth location and first in Boston marinates the ahi tuna in ginger, scallions and soy and combines it with wasabi mayo and tempura-fried onions and a sesame egg roll. Nice touch.
« BGR the burger joint, Washington, D.C.
Ahi Tuna Burger
“Indeed, this one really works!” proclaims the menu. Indeed. The build is fresh sushi-grade tuna topped with grilled pineapple, pickled ginger, a touch of teriyaki sauce, and house-made mojo sauce, all on toasted brioche bun.
« Finn & Porter, Alexandria
Asian Salmon Burger, $13
One more take on how to make salmon into a burger. F&P uses a hoisin BBQ glaze and brings in pickled napa cabbage slaw, tempura green beans and sweet chile dip.
« BLT Steak, The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, N.C.
Grilled Atlantic Swordfish Burger, $12
Swordfish is back on menus, and leave it to BLT Steak to dress it as a burger. As served here, it has avocado, red onion, watercress and cayenne tartar sauce.
« Boston Burger Co., Boston
Bahama Mama, $8.95
Let’s close out the list with a conch burger topped with mango salsa and jerk mayo.