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An American favorite with built-in handles. Extra pickles, please….

June 5, 2020

All this craziness happening to our restaurant and retail community shouldn’t be an excuse to ignore one of our most cherished holidays, National Hamburger Day. The big-box stores did somehow overlook the decorations and supplies, but that doesn’t change the fact that, according to Food Network, the cheeseburger is the second most-ordered food in America.

May 28 came and went, with nary a sizzle or a bubbling mustard squirt (you know … that sound the squeeze bottle makes when it’s almost empty). In the good ol’ days, kids would stay up late sewing their costumes and swapping heartwarming stories of Hamburger Days past. Mom and dad would re-stock the condiment shelves, while smiling neighbors built floats in anticipation of nonstop patty parades. Every hour, families would check their mailboxes for the long-awaited avalanche of greeting cards.

As this prolonged closure slowly comes to an end, Cape Region eateries will yet again fry, grill, smoke, flip, top and slather their way into the forefront of burgerdom. And when the festivities are but a savory memory, beach eats will still include the humble yet hallowed burger.

Last Monday, Summer House kicked off its limited reopening with the traditional Burger Night, a Rehoboth Avenue tradition that has survived through three separate ownerships. Though I have a hard time getting past the Hickory Blue Cheese burger (with bacon, of course), this carnivore surprises even himself by occasionally indulging in the Monday-only Salmon Burger. The taste is properly amplified with pickles and a cool lemon basil mayo. It’s a hard choice. Make it wisely.

Shorebreak Lodge has kept the LaFrieda Burger on the menu. Custom, never-frozen patties are crafted by longtime Bronx butcher Pat LaFrieda. He grinds a secret combination of brisket, chuck and short rib from American Black Angus beef. They are then whisked overnight to restaurants throughout the land that will proudly display LaFrieda’s name on their menus. This one will spoil you for other burgers. Owners Kate Wall and Sean Pusateri will be happy to pair the perfect wine with your burger.

 I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit to a few of our locally operated franchise spots that have distinguished themselves in the burger department. Five Guys’ never-frozen, cooked-to-order bacon cheeseburger is tightly wrapped in foil and buried under a mound of hot fries. With our recent reliance on takeout, it travels quite well. I add pickles, jalapenos, bacon, cheddar and extra mustard. Drive-through burger lovers reverently tout the Baconator at our local Wendy’s (how do they get that bacon so crispy!?). According to local owner Mike Meoli, McDonald’s relatively recent switch to fresh, never-frozen beef for the Quarter Pounder generated a surprising number of complaints that in-car consumption resulted in some of the juicy contents ending up on the front of shirts and dresses. So have yourself shrink wrapped if you plan to consume a Quarter Pounder, a Baconator or a Five Guys cheeseburger in your car.

Other local burgers deserve mention. One is dished up by Pickled Pig Pub. The Bacon, Jam & Blue Burger marries bacon shallot jam with blue cheese to create an entirely new taste. Another burger of note is the Apple/Bacon/Brie burger at Zogg’s. Out of nine custom burgers on the menu, this is one of the best. And the apples qualify it as a salad! Reason enough to order two. In Lewes, chef/co-owner Ian Crandall’s Kindle Burger sports a half-pound of short rib & chuck, decorated with smoked bacon and aged provolone. It marches proudly out of the kitchen swaddled in a warm kaiser roll.

A sleeper on Rehoboth Avenue is most certainly the Blue Heaven Burger at Conch Island Key West Bar & Grill. It fulfills the requirements of all three daily meals in each bite. And perhaps soon we can even enjoy it in the presence of live music. Out on the highway? Not to worry: Hideout Arcade & Grill sells that very same sandwich as the Breakfast Burger - with the added Delawareness of scrapple. Back downtown, the newly remodeled Blackwall Hitch is currently offering the Aspen Ridge beef burger (certified humane, source-verified with no added hormones or antibiotics), swaddled in white cheddar, crowned with a fried green tomato, bacon and roasted garlic mayo. The always accommodating GM Zach Diogo never forgets my crisp onion frizzles on the top.

Can a well-known seafood house come up with an exceptional burger? Apparently so. Big Fish Grill’s Chop House Bacon Burger is even better when cozied up to hot and salty fries. Kick it up with a frosty Namaste White. Of course, the villagers would have surrounded Fork & Flask with pitchforks and torches had they not kept the Nage Burger on the menu.

By the same token, the Blues Burger at Bethany Blues has a loyal following. Pecan-smoked bacon. BBQ sauce. Sharp cheddar. ‘Nuff said? I like to wash it down with an ice-cold Fat Tire draft. Yes, I know there are more great burgers around here. It’s what I do, for goodness’ sake. But a growing boy can only eat so much. (Stop laughing.)

So get your toppings in order, pat your patties and toast your buns. Last week’s National Burger Day might be but a sad, savory memory, but the celebratory glow lives on here at the beach.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

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