20 | Mar | 20

Richard Johnson

Peak Patty

‘Do not order burgers at restaurants’, said Eater – back in 2017. ‘They’re overpriced and overwrought’. That was the case over in New York, anyway. Where, apparently, the city had reached peak patty. They were too big, too rich, too overloaded with toppings. Basically, they were America in a nutshell, where commercialism and over-the-top-ness are an art. We’ve written about this before, but have things moved on?

The stats aren’t looking good for the two-fisted classic. And it’s not just America’s Empire State which is turning its backs on the nation’s favourite fast food. Three years ago, 75% of Americans surveyed as part of Technomic’s Burger Consumer Trend Report said they eat a burger at least (at least!) once a week. Now, that figure’s dropped to 56%. What’s going on?

Chains are charging more, people are choosing to put their own riff on the burger at home, and there’s a better assortment of hot dogs, burritos, and pizza in the fast food arena. But, significantly, Americans are queuing up for a bit of variety. The classic hamburger just doesn’t cut it any more – according to Technomic’s research, 35% of those surveyed thought it was ‘very important’ burgers were made available with ‘new and unique flavours’.

If there was ever a street food that needed a bit of reinventing, perhaps it should be the burger. Purely because – while this is a testament to its design – traders rarely break the rules of the recipe. So let’s turn our attention to those taking the risks. Like the Stickybundits of this world with their rice bun. The Patate’s Franco-American creation of rich boeuf bourguignon and creamy raclette, sandwiched in a brioche bun, is fantastique. And the meat-free options aren’t as much of a joke any more…

All being said, there’ll always be a special place for those who really do a good burger. We mean, the ones who can put A-grade meat in between two slices of bread – the likes of Fukuburger, Flying Cows and Son Of A Bun – without overdoing it. One can only put up with so much brioche bun, mediocre chuck mince and processed cheese in one lifetime.