What Makes a Burger?
“I want something mayonnaise-y, like [a restaurant’s] special sauce or relish,” says Matthew Heaggansof Preston’s: A Burger Joint and Ambrose and Eve. “I want something acidic, something fatty and smooth to keep my bun from getting
soggy and because I like the flavor. I want iceberg lettuce, American cheese, pickles, onions. The sharpness of those crispy things help round it out.”
“I’m a firm believer that salad shouldn’t go on a burger,” says Dan Krausof Baba’s. “Meat, cheese, pickles—we’ll put harissa on it if somebody asks for it. Also, tomato is maybe the only other thing that should be allowed to go on a burger—only when they’re fresh and when you know where they’re coming from. Once you start adding all the other stuff, in my opinion that’s not what a burger should be. As long as you use good meat and good product, you don’t need anything else.”
Sangeeta Lakhani, chef and co-owner of The Table, agrees. She’s generally against condiments because she says they’re often used when the meat is poor quality and overcooked. “Ketchup, mustard, mayo are easy fixes,” says Lakhani, who doesn’t have an attachment to traditional hamburger preparations because she didn’t grow up in the U.S. But she doesn’t rule out toppings altogether. “A burger is just another dish; I like layering flavors. I need something spicy, whether it’s a hot sauce, caramelized onions, grilled jalapeños, bacon—I like the layers of fat, acid and heat.”