Aside from a greasy burger, there’s one thing I can’t stand when you’re paying upwards of $8 or $10 for a gourmet burger: overcooking. The chain restaurants are notoriously bad about this. I’ve learned to order my burgers medium rare when what I really want is medium. Even worse are the chain restaurants that ask you “pink or no pink?” as if you are not intelligent enough to know what well, medium, or rare mean. As my husband joked one day, what they’re really asking is if you want it “cooked or overcooked?” Truth burn. And then they ignore your request anyway and send everything out the same funny shade of brown.
But with the sudden onset of gourmet burger joints around Pittsburgh and other parts of the country, promising specialty (e.g., local, or grass-fed, or even Kobe) beef or other interesting meat blends, you expect them to be able to cook a burger correctly. If a burger gets sent out from the kitchen with a little stake in it proclaiming the word “medium,” you expect to bite into a medium-cooked burger. Right?
I guess that’s asking too much sometimes.
When recently making the rounds at the three relatively new burger restaurants in Pittsburgh (Burgh’ers, Burgatory, and BRGR), I was disappointed that only one of the kitchens sent out my burger cooked perfectly. A second one was close, but not quite, and the third, well, remember that funny shade of brown?
Last week, during a brief visit to New York City, I had my first Shake Shack experience. For those unfamiliar, Shake Shack is kind of the In-and-Out Burger of the East Coast—a slightly higher-end, semi-fast food burger joint that foodies flock to in droves. Aside from the burger being utterly phenomenal (seared, juicy patty; toasty, buttery bun; and don’t even get me started talking about the shakes)—and just $4.50—it was also a carefully cooked medium. Which Shake Shack does without even asking—in fact, if you want it cooked any other way, you have to specify.
And with that I ask, if a semi-fast food chain can provide all that, why can’t a small, local restaurant whose sole focus is great burgers do the same?