Burgers Go Sunny-Side Upscale

Burger Business

Smashburger shows itself to be doubly trendy with its systemwide introduction this week of the Sin City Smashburger. Not only is this the fast-casual chain’s first limited-time offer but the build includes an Angus beef patty toped with applewood-smoked bacon, melted American cheese, grilled and haystack onions, Smash sauce and a fried egg on an egg bun. Fried eggs are growing in popularity as a burger topping almost as quickly as Denver-based Smashburger itself, which has opened nearly 100 locations in little more than three years.

Smashburger creates unique local burgers for each of the markets it serves and the Sin City Smashburger was developed for its March 2010 entry into Las Vegas. But the chain says the Sin City has sold so well that the burger has become its first LTO, available at all locations until Feb. 27, 2011. A sweepstakes promotion tied to the burger is being run on the chain’s Facebook page.

Burgers aren’t just for lunch and dinner anymore, which Carl’s Jr. has long recognized by offering its egg-topped Breakfast Burger all day. And many of the hippest burger joints have similarly realized that an egg makes an interesting and tasty topping for ground beef. Burger Kitchen in Los Angeles has an $11 Breakfast Burger topped with grilled tomato and Swiss as well as bacon and egg. At BRGR in New York City, the Fresh Morning BRGR gets grilled onions and Thousand Island dressing on its beef, cheese and egg. Foster Burger in Portland, Ore., goes all out with beef, a farm-fresh egg, pickled beet, mayo, lettuce, house-made pickles, onion and Cheddar on a brioche bun. In Atlanta, Richard Blais’ Flip Burger Boutique tops a patty of spicy chorizo with a fried egg, Romesco ketchup, hash browns, Spanish Manchego cheese and smoked mayo.

But I’ll argue that nowhere has the breakfast burger, or at least the egg topper, taken hold more strongly than in Chicago. We love our burgers here and increasingly we’re being offered them with eggs. Kuma’s Corner is widely known for its eclectic, heavy-metal-inspired menu, but the basic “Famous Kuma’s Burger” has just bacon, Cheddar and a fried egg atop it. At Old Town Social, one of the city’s best new burger bars, the $13 house burger has a fried egg, house-made bacon, Cheddar, PLT (pickles, lettuce, tomato) and aïoli. Another great new joint, Burger Bar, has a limited menu of specialty burgers, but one is the Fa-Getta-Bod-It with prosciutto, fried egg, mozzarella, tomato and basil mayo.
DMK’s Turkey Breakfast Burger
Michael Kornick’s DMK Burger Bar has offered a fried egg as a $1 add-on since it opened, but this month the restaurant added two breakfast burgers. One has a turkey patty topped with egg, bacon, Jack cheese, maple aïoli and hash browns. The other is a beef patty with egg, bacon Dijonaise, arugula and tomato on grilled cheese bread. For mornings after, The Bad Apple’s $10 Hangover Burger build includes house-lazed ham, a fried egg, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion ketchup, mayo, mustard, provolone cheese and fries on a pretzel bun.

In Northbrook, Ill., Prairie Grass Cafe’s $17 Sirloin Breakfast Burger is served up on toasted English muffin with Cheddar cheese, Nueske’s bacon and a sunny-side-up egg. Nueske’s bacon and a fried egg also appear on the $9.99 Ampersand burger at the new Tom & Eddie’s. The build also includes an Angus patty, Wisconsin smoked Gouda, barbecue sauce and house-made haystack onions.
Tom & Eddie’s Ampersand
Inovasi in Lake Bluff, Ill., celebrates “Dietzler Tuesdays,” when the menu features special burgers from Elkhorn, Wis.’s Dietzler Farms. Included is the $9 For Breakfast burger with house-smoked bacon, fried egg cooked over medium and Cheddar cheese on brioche.
At one sixtyblue, Executive Chef Michael McDonald’s lays down crispy hash browns in place of a bun and tops them with a beef patty, house-cured bacon and a fried egg for the bar menu’s $12 Bacon & Eggs Burger. The One Eyed Runt at new J. Wellington’s has blue cheese, spicy mayo, and applewood-smoked bacon with its beef and fried egg.

When Chef Cary Taylor changed concepts for his Chaise Lounge to The Southern, the Brunch Burger—a beef chuck patty with smoked bacon, Cheddar, fried egg and rémoulade sauce—made the transition nicely. Because it seems you can’t be a respectable Chicago burger joint without an egg-topped option.