A Hamburger Today

Grilled: Mark Estee of Burger Me! in Reno, Nevada

Editor's note: Grilled is our interview series where we get to know more about our favorite burger makers and burger lovers. The column has been dormant for too long—it's time for us to ramp it up! If there you have any suggestions for people we should grill, drop us a line at burger@seriouseats.com.

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[Photograph courtesy of Mark Estee]

Burger Me! founder and partner Mark Estee says he's motivated to serve authentic ingredients that reinforce the connection between land, farmers, food, and diners. To that end, some of his efforts include purchasing produce and buns locally and sourcing sustainably raised beef and bison from Durham Ranch.

The menu at Burger Me! is pretty diverse. You can order everything from a classic cheeseburger to more exotic creations, like a Gyro Burger (a lamb patty with feta and tzatziki) or an Italian Stallion, a bison burger/Italian sandwich mashup that was recently named one of the "Top 10 Burgers of All Time" by Diners, Drive-ins and Dives viewers.

Now that you've got some background info, let's talk burgers.

Name: Mark Estee
Occupation: Founder and Partner in Burger Me!, plus chef and owner of Campo and chez louie
Location: Reno NV, Truckee CA, and on the road with The Burger Me! Truck

What makes Burger Me! unique?
Burger Me! is unique because we source local ingredients, provide fresh food fast and pride ourselves on great service.

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Gyro burger [Photograph: Burger Me!]

How did you first come up with the idea for a restaurant like this?
The restaurant concept was born from a non profit I was on the board of for many years. We needed a space in downtown Truckee and a space became available, so I grabbed it and we made Burger Me!

What's the most popular specialty burger? Which one is your favorite?
Most popular are the rotating daily specials, the bison burger and the bacon cheese burger. My favorite is the Italian Stallion because it is spicy and has mortadella and salami on it!

How often per week do you eat a burger?
Once a week.

Would you do us the favor of describing your perfect burger?
Toasted wheat bun, all natural meat from Durham Ranch in Idaho (cut and ground fresh), special sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickle, and a little ketchup and I am good to go. I add an egg if I am extra hungry!

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Classic cheddar cheeseburger [Photograph: Burger Me!]

What topping or condiment, in your opinion, should never grace a burger?
There is no item that cannot go on a burger; it just has to make sense...meaning the rest of the items need to work together. If you build it properly, you could even have a burger with marshmallows!

Anything on the side? (ie: fries, rings, or other?)
I am half and half guy: fries and rings with yellow mustard to dip.

The hamburger is a food item with which most Americans have strong childhood associations. Do you remember your earliest encounter with this delicious dish?
I remember hockey puck burgers on the hibachi. My dad would burn the shit out of them back home in Boston! But we still ate them, I just did not know better back then.

In-N-Out Double-Double [Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

What's your favorite fast-food burger?
I am a fan of In-N-Out Burger and the fries at 5 Guys. I also love Gott's Roadside.

Got any burger making tips to share?
Grind the meat yourself. Form a nice 8-ounce patty, but do not over pack it. Season the patty well on both sides before you cook, and also season as you are cooking.

Thanks, Mark!

About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax

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