By Michael Deeds, IdahoStatesman.com
The world is full of juicy, mouthwatering hamburgers.
Still, Boiseans never tire of debating about the best burger in town.
That’s not the point of this exercise — well, not exactly. Instead, here are five hamburgers — local and chain-created — that stand out. Not because they’re competition winners. Or because they’re pricier than fast-food burgers.
These gourmet hamburgers have extra fun between their buns. They’re a little bonkers. Think of them as burgers with style. And maybe, just maybe … Boise’s best? Only your taste buds can decide.
JEKYLL & HYDE BURGER
The Jekyll & Hyde is a monster — of sweet and savory. It starts with a hunkin’, 1/2-pound patty of Snake River Farms’ Double R Ranch beef, which is a 20/80 blend of American Wagyu and Black Angus. Sid’s tops it with Swiss cheese, stone-ground mustard, bacon-onion jam (made in-house), mixed greens tossed in vinaigrette — and a grilled peach. All served on a toasted brioche bun.
“It’s really freakin’ good,” Sid’s co-owner Will Primavera brags. “You get a little bit of sweet and acidity from the peach. You get the savory from the stone-ground mustard, and then arugula gives it a little bit of bitterness to cut the sweetness. And then the Swiss cheese smooths it out … . I think the great thing about this burger is you don’t get it all at once. You get it at different times — and it works.”
28 DAY DRY-AGED BONE MARROW BURGER
▪ $20 with fries, Eureka, 800 W. Idaho St., Boise
Wait, $20 for a hamburger? (Hey, it comes with “signature” fries.) And bone marrow? “Ewww!” newbies might think. But here’s the thing: Spending big bucks to scarf down red blood cells scraped out of a rib cavity? Them there be braggin’ rights! (At least for any card-carrying burger snob.)
To my palate, the bone marrow porcini butter on Eureka’s original Bone Marrow Burger didn’t impact overall flavor as much as decadence and mouth feel. Either way, that burger, along with Eureka’s 28 Day Dry-Aged Burger, has been replaced by an even ritzier mash-up of the two: The 28 Day Dry-Aged Bone Marrow Burger. This rich splurge comes with bone marrow shiitake butter slathered atop 7 ounces of dry-aged, carrot-fed Angus — specifically, Santa Carota beef. Rounding out the accoutrement: charbroiled onion, horseradish mustard aoili and roasted Roma tomato.
▪ $12.99 with choice of side, R&R BBQ, 3680 E. Fairview Ave., Meridian (second location planned in downtown Boise this summer)
Bring a fork. And maybe a wooden club, too — to fight off jealous bystanders. The Caveman is the sort of burger that it’s OK to eat while grunting. Utah-based barbecue chain R&R gives the recipe a pitmaster’s touch by smoking the 1/3-pound hamburger patty. (Which is not overly huge, actually.) Then things go full-on carnivore-crazy.
The Caveman is stacked with even more smoked goodness: a mound of pulled pork and fat slices of sausage. That meat mass gets topped with fried jalapenos, jack cheese and R&R’s sweet barbecue sauce. Want to make the experience even “gruntier?” Choose coleslaw as your side, and ladle it onto the meats for crunch — and hedonistic bliss.
PEANUT BUTTER BACON BURGER
▪ $15 with fries, 10 Barrel Brewing Co., 826 W. Bannock St., Boise
Hey, 10 Barrel Brewing Co. had no choice. The place, like, had to concoct the Peanut Butter Bacon Burger. The downtown brewery is across the street from City Peanut Shop. Consequently, this burger’s spicy key is a Thai peanut sauce made from City Peanut’s honey-roasted peanut butter, chef Keith Moreno says. “The burger is pretty much kind of a Frankenstein kind of effect,” he explains. “We had this sauce on hand, and the idea just jumped into our head.”
The patty is a never-frozen, 7-ounce blend of brisket, sirloin and chuck. That gets topped with bacon. And cilantro. And pickled carrots for added texture and taste. But there’s one more kicker besides the Thai peanut butter sauce: a housemade Korean mustard sauce, which gets smeared on the Gaston’s bun. “It’s actually kind of a mustard custard,” Moreno explains. The final result? Richness, savoriness, crunch, “jolt” …. “There’s a lot going on, definitely!” Moreno says.
A staple for over six years, it’s one of only three burgers on the 10 Barrel menu. By the way, if you bring a banana to add to the peanut butter burger, Moreno promises not to boot your Elvis butt out. “No,” he says with a laugh. “It would probably taste good, too!”
THE HOLY COW
▪ $17, Holy Cow!, 1226 1st St. South, Nampa
Why ever leave Boise when you’ve got beloved hamburgers at downtown restaurants such as Bittercreek Alehouse (known for its Huntsman) and Fork (ditto for its Urban Burger). Because Holy Cow! in Nampa is a craft burger junkie’s paradise. Case in point: the banh mi-inspired Banh Moo ($11.50), with ingredients such as Dr Pepper-braised pork belly, pickled daikon and kimchi mayo.
But the signature Holy Cow burger is a jaw-dropper: Two 1/3-pound grass-fed beef patties, double bacon, American cheese and Holy Cow fry sauce — served between two grilled cheese sandwiches. Legit grilled cheese sandwiches made with Texas toast. As buns. “Every time we bring one out, you tell a customer, ‘Best of luck,’ ” co-owner Dylan Hutter says. A nod to food truck-style burgers, the Holy Cow is like the sneering, blue-collar alternative to Eureka’s bone-marrow carrot-cow creation. “I’ll put it up next to that,” Hutter says with a laugh. “I’d be proud to!”
That said? “I can’t tell you the last time I ever attempted to eat one,” Hutter admits. But customers do love it, he adds. “There’s probably someone eating one right now.”