Seth Gross offers this tip on preparing Camel Sliders: Don’t overload them with toppings like guacamole, jalapeňo or onion. Adding too many flavors masks the taste of the camel. “I think when you eat a camel burger, you want to taste the camel. You want to be able to say what camel tastes like. And it’s delicious,” says Gross, owner of Bull City Burger & Brewery in Durham, N.C., where the 2nd annual Exotic Meat Month promotion is underway.
“Last year we didn’t know what to expect and the response was overwhelming. We weren’t ready for it,” says Gross. “We bought 20 lbs. of alligator meat and it was gone in hours. Caribou was gone in a day.”
That led to rationing and disappointment from customers who didn’t get to try the ostrich burger or whatever other exotic they craved. This year Gross is offering each meat at least three times during the month and has more than doubled the amount of each purchased. That is paying off because through the first half of March the 90-seat restaurant already has sold more than 1,000 nontraditional burgers, including iguana, venison, goat, llama, and ostrich, the last served with a chimichurri sauce. When Bull City menued a reindeer burger, Gross says one customer insisted that was impossible because reindeer aren’t real. “He was thinking of Rudolph,” Gross says.
Prices vary by meat type, but Gross says he tries to average exotic burger prices at about $13. “Camel is about $40 a pound so we probably lost a $1 on each Camel Slider, but we make it up on others,” he says.
Gross works with a variety of suppliers around the country to source the exotic meats. Python Sliders are new on the menu this year as are such toppings as scorpions, grasshoppers and larvae. The one meat that Gross has been seeking but unable to source is beaver. The toughest sell? Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull testicles).
The promotion isn’t a stunt, Gross says, since all the meats included are farm-raised and eaten somewhere in the world. No endangered species are involved and the meats are seriously prepared. “We try to serve them with flavors indigenous to the area of the world where the meat is eaten. People do raise llamas for meat. We try to keep preparations simple: maybe one sauce and lettuce so the flavor’s not lost.”
A few chains have ventured into nontraditional-meat burgers but never have been as adventurous as offering iguana or llama. The Fuddruckers chain has had Fudds Exotics burgers for several years and currently offers bison, wild boar and elk. The Burger Lounge chain has been doing a “Game Changer” menu for the past year. Elk burgers are on the menu now; bison and boar have been menued in the past and venison is planned for the future.