The Year That Was: Burgers in 2008

The Year That Was continues with a look at what happened in burgerdom in 2008. Holy cow, some stuff sure went down!

Extreme Burgers

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Extreme burgers are often a recurring theme in any given Year in Burgers, and 2008 was no exception. The biggest exception here is that A Hamburger Today was able to contribute in no small way to this legion of madness, with both our Hamburger Fatty Melt and Bacon Hamburger Fatty Melt. Other burgers that went to the extreme: the deep-fried cheese-stuffed cheeseburger made from bacon, the McD's McChicken–Big Mac mashup, Paula Deen's bacon-doughnut-egg brunch burger. Which fast food burgers were the biggest? Tucker Shaw investigated in Portfolio magazine.

Acclaimed Chains Expand

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"Pass the mic, and give me a Fatburger."

California's The Counter moves East, while D.C.'s Five Guys moves west. (And north: There's now a Five Guys in my neighborhood. Hooray!) Our own Robyn Lee, though, says "meh" to the 5G burger but "mwah" to the fries.

And, oh, yeah: Kanye West is bringing Fatburger to Chicago.

AHT Housekeeping

This is HUGE news that I'm sorry I'm making official here in a wrap-up, but I will have more on this later, in a proper post. You see, in late August, Robyn Lee took the reins as editor of A Hamburger Today. If you noticed a sharp uptick in the awesomeness of the site, that would be why! She's done an amazing job—far better than I was doing. Go, Robyn!

In September, AHT began Twittering. Follow us here!

New Voices

In May Nick Solares debuted as our main New York burger reviewer—and occasional L.A. reviewer. (We Grill him here.) And pretty soon, he was talkin' burgers on a national radio show. Welcome, Nick!

In October, Damon Gambuto debuted as our L.A.-based reviewer. He's Grilled here.

Plus, we had some awesome correspondence from Kenji Alt, who did his INSANE tour of 12 burgers in 8 hours and who followed Heston Blumenthal's 30-hour burger recipe.

Shake Shack

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New Upper West Side Shake Shack!

You thought you were safe from Shack news, huh? No dice, buddy. It's one of our favorite burgers here in New York City, and there was big Shake Shack news this year.

In January, it installed heat lamps as part of its new year-round schedule. The heat lamps took longer than expected, but we figured out a way to eat burgers even on the coldest of days (above).

Then it was announced that the New York Mets' new stadium would have a Shake Shack location in it when finished. And then the Shack opened a location on the Upper West Side. In 2009, I want a Shack in my neighborhood. Danny Meyer, are you reading this?

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Shake Shack's fries. Yes, Mr. Levine, we know they're not that great.

And I liked this video that our friend Josh Ozersky at The-Feedbag made, which shows how Shack burgers are made. (By the way, here's the Shake Shack burger patty recipe.)

Oh, and Ed "Don Quixote" Levine won't stop beating a dead horse when it comes to the frozen french fries here. Ed, get over it. You go to the Shake Shack for burgers first, frozen custard second, and fries never.

Books

20080328-bookz.jpgMan does not live by burger alone. Were that the case, we'd all blindly consume the stale-bunned, hockey pucks at the nearest McKing. True burger fans hunger for a deeper understanding of their favorite food, and, luckily, two books that lavish obsessive attention on this dish hit the bookstores in April.

Yes, 2008 brought us Josh Ozersky's The Hamburger: A History and George Motz's Hamburger America.

UGH!

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It was a lame run for burgers in pop culture this year. Too-precious-for-its-own-good indie hipster flick Juno popularized the burger phone. If that's not bad enough, Iron Man Tony Stark won back his freedom from terrorists, and then asked for Burger King as his first meal Stateside. Maybe that's because the character's portrayer, Robert Downey Jr., claims that BK saved his life. And on Survivor, a competitor paid $400 for a burger. Add to that Burger King's lame Whopper Virgins ad campaign and Flame body spray, and you've got some real low points in burgerdom.

Personally, I got a little tired of hearing about Pat La Frieda–powered burgers in New York City. It's just beef, people! But still, Nick's posts (here and here) about the outfit's new Black Label blend kicked some serious ass.

The Year That Was in Burger Videos

Andy Warhol Eats a Burger

That guy!

Creepy McD's Commercial

Creepy!

Best Three Seconds in Burgerdom

I'm hungry.

Big-Name Chefs/Celeb Chefs Do Burgers

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Crunchburger from Bobby's Burger Palace. Photograph by Nick Solares

Early in 2008, Time magazine IDs a trend that had been well in the making already. That didn't stop lots of big name and/or celeb chefs from jumping everbody else's train: Gordon Ramsay professes love for In-N-Out while Eric Ripert digs McD's and Burger King and Ferran Adrià digs Mickey D's (and, um, tell me why we respect these guys as chefs again?).

Then the Top Chef asshats went burger mad. Spike Mendelsohn opened Good Stuff Eatery in D.C., and Richard Blais opened Flip in Atlanta.

20080717-bobby.jpgBobby Flay opened Bobby's Burger Palace. We talk to him about it. His "Cruch Burger," topped with potato chips, sounds awesome. But AHT's Nick Solares is less than impressed.

Rachael Ray had a burger bash in New York City, where she's also planning on opening a burger joint. Oh, and you remember who won that Burger Bash and how it caused a minor uproar among food snobs? Katie Lee Joel (who defended her patty melt here).

The Weird, Wacky, and Wonderful

Weird

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Pastures of cows and steer
Fields of golden wheat
A burger is born

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A Chihuahua on cheeseburgers. Noted without comment.

The madness of King Burger. Lots of burger weirdness at BK this year. In May, a drag queen robbed a Burger King, and in August, a BK employee takes a birthday bath in his restaurant's sink.

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Cheeseburger in a can: Yes, for real.

Wacky

Our burger haiku contest netted six lucky people a copy of Hamburger America, gave us some awesome burger poetry to read, and gained me some enemies.

The Rube Goldburger Machine. Sweet!

The sneaker burger.

Wonderful

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Shopsins Conan Burger is a cheeseburger combined with pancakes and served with real maple syrup and hot sauce.

The quest for the perfect burger is neverending, thankless, and delicious. An episode of How I Met Your Mother has a pitch-perfect take on this fool's errand, with Marshall and the gang teaming up with Regis Philbin.

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The 1-Up Mushroom Burger! Yippee!

SEEN IT!

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One of the minor annoyances of blogging for a living—and of being a veteran of three-plus years of blogging burgers in particular—is that you end up seeing a handful of memes over and over and over and over. All of a sudden the crochet burger dress flares up and makes the rounds on the blogs. Or the super tiny hamburger meal set. Or the Heart Attack Grill. Or the Googleburger. Or any burger with doughnuts for a bun. But, as I said, it's a minor annoyance and one that I'm grateful to put up with as one of the hazards of a job that is bringing you awesome burger news.

The Fatty Melts

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Speaking of memes, we seem to have created one of our own with the Fatty Melt family—The Hamburger Fatty Melt (a burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches as buns) and The Bacon Hamburger Fatty Melt (a bacon-added Fatty Melt). I would be absolutely thrilled if these guys became recurring burger memes! (Heck, we made it into this round-up of the Top 11 Weirdest Burgers.

Oops, did I already mention the Fatty Melts above? Yeah, I did. But they're so awesome they just had to begin and end this review. And I'm out!

Chars,
Adam

More of The Year That Was

Stop-Motion Food Videos
Pizza
Food as Other Stuff
TYTW on Serious Eats New York
Movies
Food in Space
Food Media
Food Shortages, Scares, and Rising Costs
Videos
Science
Starbucks
Bacon

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