The Pat LaFrieda Burger Tour
What do you do when you want to make a great burger, but you also want to get it on the table in five minutes?
This was the question facing Brett Reichler and his team at Bill's Bar and Burger. The answer? Smash the patty thin and sear it hard and fast on a ripping hot griddle. Sound like what fast food joints do? Yup. And it makes a damn fine burger, so perfect at what it sets out to do that we had to make it stop 3 on our Pat LaFrieda Burger Tour.
What's that? Why aren't we writing about Shake Shack? Isn't that the most famous drooled over smash burger in the city? Well here's the thing. There's more than one great smash burger in this town, and Bill's is pretty fantastic. And at Shake Shack, especially now that the weather's warm, you'll have to wait on pretty long lines, likely next to some French tourists stumbling over their guide books as they puzzle out the English for Royale avec fromage. At Bill's, which has sit-down spots in the Meatpacking District and in Rockefeller Center, you can sit down at a private real table with a roof over your head and enjoy your burger in peace. We think that's pretty great, especially for a patty this crusty and meaty.
Chef Reichler and Pat (who you can now watch on Food Network's Meat Men) spent months testing dozens of different burger and blends. "You didn't want to eat meat for a while after that," Reichler pointed out. They settled on an 80/20 blend of chuck, short rib, and deckle, the fat cap on the brisket that, like short rib, is rich with buttery flavor. It's a monstrously meaty blend designed to stand up to the heat of a hard sear while still delivering great flavor and plenty of juice.
The rest of the burger is pure Americana: special sauce (a mix of mayo, barbecue sauce, and some house secrets), tomato, shredded iceberg, American cheese, and thin slices of pickles "so you get a little in every bite," all on a sesame seed bun. It's a messy mix of crunch, sauce, and meat, and all the more satisfying for the dribbles it makes down your arms.
We stepped into the kitchen with chef Reichler to learn why this smash burger is so much better than its competitors. Take a look at the slideshow to watch it get made.