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mnebergall

The Ubiquity of the Miniburger in DC DelMarVa

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Does anyone make miniburgers using country sausage instead of ground beef?

Bob Evans? :biggrin:


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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Steve,

I disagree with you only on the reasoning for my objection to mini-burgers.

I'm a huge fan of small plates, and I'm thankful that I was introduced to them largely through Jaleo. I'm glad that there are more places where I can just load up on apps if I so choose. I'm glad that more of the cuisines and their chefs around DC are adapting themselves more towards the Asian style of shared plates.

My objection to mini-burgers isn't about wanting a big burger versus a little burger, my objection is to the sheer hipster foodie trendiness behind it all. In this sense I view mini-burgers as being no different than pet rocks, Cabbage Patch Kids, Pokemon, or whatever "must have" toy of childhood that I will inevitably have to hear about over the next 20 years. Such wide-spread adoption of the mini-burger around area restaurants inevitably results in their commodification. It becomes not "Hey, Matchbox has these really great small burgers to have as bar snacks", but "I'm in the mood for McMini-Burgers, where can I grab some?"

Some places that have adopted the mini-burger late have tried to do something different with it, see Jackie's with the pimento cheese to honor Elvis, but on the whole I think alot of them might well be purchased from Sysco. The late adopters strike me not so much as responding to customer demands, but as lazy chefs/restauranteurs.

It's the mini-burgers that are the fad of the month, I think the small plates concept represents more of a long-term evolution that (hopefully) will continue to develop and evolve.


If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I see your point--and don't necessarily disagree: mini-burgers are just the most current example of the ubiquitous chicken finger or peanut satay, both of which have been co-opted. But, on the other hand, I think we have to operate beyond sheer hipster trendiness--meaning we gain a little when even the marginal places execute the Sysco-produced versions of these things--and the better places with engaged chefs execute them more reliably and well--at a given price point with given care--and then perhaps put their own wrinkle or sauce alongside them. Elevated snack foods translate into more options, break down diner barriers and preconceived notions and yes are destined to be co-opted--but I'll tell you one thing: those mini-onion ring things when done well are what make those Matchbox mini burgers special--that and the little crunchy salt crystals stuck to the buns. And we'll always be able to appreciate that--and bemoan their loss when we get something inferior. Imagine our joy, though, when we do happen across a place with really committed chefs who do take care to do their miniburger or chicken finger or satay really really well. The difference is clear and we'll go back to those places. And a few average Joe's will order that in one of those places and just might say hey, this is really good, this isn't like it is at Costco or wherever.

I wonder, do you feel the same way about donuts--and all the local pastry chefs rushing to put donuts dunked in something somehow on their dessert menus? What's more sheer hipster trendiness--miniburgers or donuts?

(And, this isn't news, but the same Sysco trucks pull up to finest restaurants all around town.)


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I see your point--and don't necessarily disagree:  mini-burgers are just the most current example of the ubiquitous chicken finger or peanut satay, both of which have been co-opted. But, on the other hand, I think we have to operate beyond sheer hipster trendiness--meaning we gain a little when even the marginal places execute the Sysco-produced versions of these things--and the better places with engaged chefs execute them more reliably and well--at a given price point with given care--and then perhaps put their own wrinkle or sauce alongside them.  Elevated snack foods translate into more options, break down diner barriers and preconceived notions and yes are destined to be co-opted--but I'll tell you one thing: those mini-onion ring things when done well are what make those Matchbox mini burgers special--that and the little crunchy salt crystals stuck to the buns.  And we'll always be able to appreciate that--and bemoan their loss when we get something inferior.  Imagine our joy, though, when we do happen across a place with really committed chefs who do take care to do their miniburger or chicken finger or satay really really well.  The difference is clear and we'll go back to those places.  And a few average Joe's will order that in one of those places and just might say hey, this is really good, this isn't like it is at Costco or wherever.

I wonder, do you feel the same way about donuts--and all the local pastry chefs rushing to put donuts dunked in something somehow on their dessert menus?  What's more sheer hipster trendiness--miniburgers or donuts?

(And, this isn't news, but the same Sysco trucks pull up to finest restaurants all around town.)

I think the root of the donut or small donut trend on pastry menus began with the traditional Bomboloni of Italy. Again co-opted and turned to the influences of the truly ubiquitous American regional cuisine. The donut movement also has roots in the revitalization of comfort foods in new haute clothes that began in the early to mid 90's. A mini burger is just what it is, and I think that perhaps the chef's that utilize this venue for expression are choosing it for its creative outlet. For example if a chef has three to four preps for a burger that hold equal merit andf have the ability to synthesize on the plate or be wholly disparate, they may choose this mini burger route to display them all for their guest


Edited by chefbrendis (log)

If he is thin, I will probably dine poorly. If he is both thin and sad, the only hope is in flight.”

Fernand Point

Cirrcle Bistro, Potato Peeler

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And we'll always be able to appreciate that--and bemoan their loss when we get something inferior.  Imagine our joy, though, when we do happen across a place with really committed chefs who do take care to do their miniburger or chicken finger or satay really really well.

This is true. Good chicken fingers are one of the finer simple things in life!


Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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To sort of bring this full circle, the reason this thread got started was because that new place in the space that used to be Whitey's (which used to have the best onion rings) put miniburgers on its menu. It seems that those who contemplate opening a new restaurant in the DC area survey the local scene to see what is popular and always notice miniburgers. They think they have to have them on the menu in order to be perceived as on top of things. It sort of a "me too" syndrome. But, as they saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Now, who started this trend to begin with so we can figure out who it is that is being flattered?

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Locally, Graig at Matchbox got it going, Tom Sietsema correctly called attention it. It'll take some more convincing for me to feel it has to do with miniburgers per se--that it's not more indicative of how people want to eat.

It seems that those who contemplate opening a new restaurant in the DC area survey the local scene to see what is popular and always notice miniburgers. They think they have to have them on the menu in order to be perceived as on top of things.

I agree, if you're opening a new restaurant aiming for that somewhat-safe tweaked-yet-accessible American comfort food. I think our area will continue to show an unlimited capacity for this, especially in the burbs, Arlington, Clarendon, and a little further out. Home and luxury condo owners who don't want to go back into the city with their family to a Matchbox, Dish, Firefly, a Palena front room, a Cashion's, etc, after just driving or taking the metro home. If I'm the chef at, say, Boulevard Wood Grill, I'm sure putting mini burgers on my menu because I know my clientele would order them like crazy. How good my mini burgers are will have nothing to do with trendiness but what kind of chef I am--and I'd have to make sure my miniburgers represented me and were distinctive compared to my competition a la Harry's and any other local American comfort food place in and around Clarendon.


Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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I think this whole miniburger thing is much ado about nothing-- well, very little anyway.

It's been a slow week on the board...

Not that the 'ado' over which 'much' is about isn't sometimes interesting to read on an inexplicably busy day at work.

And then write more about!

Mini-burgers are just another instance of 'food item or concept that is everywhere these days'. We see this in higher-brow foods and establishments, too. Read Bon Appetite, Gourmet, and Savuer, and they've all got a hot nut for pretty much the same thing every month. I'm sure the more widely restaurant experianced than I have noticed themes, ingrediants, and foods showing up more than their share of times in higher-end contexts than the lowly mini-burger. You can even be really cynical and say that seasonally-driven cuisine is a sub-type of this effect. Tomato season rolls around and suddenly everybody has tomato salad, or softshell crabs, or squash soup, or whacky fruits in unexpected places. You can't escape them! I don't nessesarily buy into that belief, just I can't resist a good bout of cynicism when opportunity presents itself*.

I don't see the hipster-foodie aspect of miniburgers, though, other than White Castle's kitch appeal among the 'artificially faded jeans and trucker hats' crowd. Show me mini-burger with pomegranite chutney, or studded with black truffle, or topped with single-cow cheddar, and then I'll buy it! Until then, it's just a tasty bar snack!

* Chef Shogun supports, participates in, and wholly endorses the concept of seasonal eating. I'm Chef Shogun, and I enjoy squash soup. When climatically appropriate.


Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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I'm sure the more widely restaurant experianced than I have noticed themes, ingrediants, and foods showing up more than their share of times in higher-end contexts than the lowly mini-burger. 

I know have been seeing a lot of Brussels Sprouts on menus these days. I'd bet that not too long ago a restaurant couldn't give away even the freshest Brussels Sporuts. Now there everywhere - pureed, sauteed with pork stuffs, in creme brulees (see slkinsey's Thanksgiving blog), the leaves separated and tossed as a salad, etc. And I think it has more to do with trendiness than seasonality.

What is the next hot vegetable / miniturized food item coming down the pike?


Bill Russell

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Are the chorizo corn dogs at Tallula mini?  Put these two together and perhaps the new trend is the mini-weiner.  The DG version being the analog to Nadya's deconstructed vision.

Ha! We have been dining on cocktail weinies and mini corn dogs around here for some time now.

When you have toddlers, "mini" isn't really trendy anymore. :rolleyes:


Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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What is the next hot vegetable / miniturized food item coming down the pike?

It's neither vegetable nor miniature, but my contrarian prediction for a future fad item is bluefish, not necessarily in pure form (and certainly not blackened), but in a myriad of presentations as-yet not conceived.

Why do I say this when there's barely any hint of it on DC DelMarVa menus? It's cheap, it's healthy, it's oily, and it's flavorful. We're in the midst of a garbage-meat fad courtesy of the influential restaurant Saint John (in London), and bluefish can easily be considered a "garbage fish," basically a logical extension of garbage meat. It's currently on the menu at Legal Seafood who has the financial and marketing clout to be a trickle-down market leader. In essence, all the components are in place for bluefish to be wildly popular several months, or perhaps a couple of years, down the road.

You heard it here first!

Rocks.

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Does anyone make miniburgers using country sausage instead of ground beef?

Bob Evans? :biggrin:

I believe you can get them in the frozen section at Costco. :wink:

Seriously, I think Klc is right on the money in his post above.

Edit: Rocks, bluefish is delicious with Bearnaise. Try it sometime.


Edited by hjshorter (log)

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Rumor has it Michael Landrum is on the verge of introducing the Nebuchadnezzar - equivalent in size to 20 standard hamburgers and weighing in at over 10 pounds.  Offered only rare, medium-rare or medium, it requires an entire bottle of ketchup, a half-jar of dill pickles, a custom-baked bun, and is served with a whole bag of potato chips.

Recommended wine pairing:  the 2002 Marquis Phillips Shiraz "Integrity," rated at 99 points by Robert Parker.

Actually, I am going in a whole new direction--my team of top carno-ontological technicians is working on the Ni-Burgers. Vaporized essence of meat char and other secret ingredients will be released into the HVAC system like Amyl Nitrate at Studio 54 while liveried major domos (yes, while other restaurants laughably expect you to make do with "sommeliers" and "captains," I am cutting new edges with a switch to full major domo service) randomly blurt out "Ni" "Ni."

Guests must provide their own coconuts.

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After a 2 hour (!!) wait at Matchbox on Friday night, we finally got a table and immediately ordered a plate of 9 miniburgers (there were 5 of us).

I can report they are as good as ever. On my first bite, juice from the meat was running down my arm. The pickle slices seemed thicker than I remembered, which was a good thing in my book.

And those onion rings are like crack.

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I ain't saying how I knows this, precisely, but it has come to my attention that Chick-fil-A is now dispensing something suspiciously like a chicken miniburger. When an infection jumps the species barrier, doesn't it threaten to become a full-fledged pandemic?


"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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When an infection jumps the species barrier

Jumps the shark?

we can only hope


Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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ain't saying how I knows this, precisely, but it has come to my attention that Chick-fil-A is now dispensing something suspiciously like a chicken miniburger. When an infection jumps the species barrier, doesn't it threaten to become a full-fledged pandemic?

Krystal has had the Krystal Chikfor years. Sometimes they have the spicy Chik. Those Chick-Fil-A thingies look tasty, though!

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I think butternut squash soup is another ubiquitous menu item. It's good and all, but I would be so happy to go to a restaurant and see...I don't know "split pea with ham and bacon" or "potato."

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I think butternut squash soup is another ubiquitous menu item.  It's good and all, but I would be so happy to go to a restaurant and see...I don't know "split pea with ham and bacon" or "potato."

I don't know, I'm a huge fan of the butternut squash soup...however, Tallula's Celery Root Soup is yum - haven't seen it offered anywhere else.


Edited by MelGold (log)

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I think butternut squash soup is another ubiquitous menu item.  It's good and all, but I would be so happy to go to a restaurant and see...I don't know "split pea with ham and bacon" or "potato."

I don't know, I'm a huge fan of the butternut squash soup...

Didn't say that I don't like it; just that it's everywhere. Firefly? Check. Bardeo? Check. Vermillion (just mentioned elsewhere)? Check.

You get the picture. It's good, but it's ubiquitous IMHO. I'd just like a little more variety in the soup selection given that most restaurants only offer one soup at a time.

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Yeah, squash soup seems to be everywhere. Thankfully, I've yet to meet one I didn't like. The difference between squash soup and mini-burgers is that eventually the squash will go out of season and be gone for the rest of the year, for better or worse, where mini-burgers never leave!


Matt Robinson

Prep for dinner service, prep for life! A Blog

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Is it treasonous to say that I have yet to have a "mini-burger" in this city or anywhere for that matter? Will I have to were a scarlet M-B on my chest from now on?

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Yeah, squash soup seems to be everywhere.  Thankfully, I've yet to meet one I didn't like.

Be thankful you weren't with me for lunch at Lavandou last week - your streak would have been broken.

Not so much bad as bland,

Rocks.

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"however, Tallula's Celery Root Soup is yum - haven't seen it offered anywhere else."

It seems to me celery root is one of those more obsure ingredients that chef's are pulling out of the pantry, so you might start to see more of it...kind of like how Cauliflower has suddenly taken on a new prestige recently.

Neither vegetable really ranks high on the taste-o-meter for me.

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