5 Awesome, Chef-Driven Burger Recipes

Chefs nationwide riff on this favorite comfort food, the perfect wine-pairing partner.

Sinking your teeth into a succulent hamburger is a visceral experience, one that often conjures up favorite summertime childhood memories. From simple char-grilled beef patties topped with a squirt of ketchup, to elaborate prime-meat compositions dressed to the nines with fashonable garnishes and served on artisanal buns, there’s a time and a place for every type of burger. These establishments on our 100 Best Wine Restaurants list have made waves with their signature masterpieces.


Salt Lake City

Diners love the seasonal, new American cuisine at this Utah restaurant, which focuses on locally sourced ingredients. Hand-selected by owner Scott Evans, the wine list highlights small producers and sustainable wines, with 20 wines by the glass chosen to match 20 seasonal menu selections.

A favorite pairing at Pago is a mineral-driven, high-acid white wine like Marco Carpineti’s Moro paired with Mussels in a Tomato-Fennel Broth, served with grilled bread. And don’t miss the Pago Burger (recipe below), considered a menu classic, with artisanal bacon and the housemade gnocchi.

Pago Burger 

Recipe courtesy Pago in Salt Lake City, photo by Barrett Doran

3 pounds ground chuck
1 pound ground short rib
1 pound ground brisket
1 pound Benton’s bacon, or other artisanal bacon
½ pound Gruyère, sliced
¾ pound kale
4 cups roasted mushrooms (recipe follows)
2 cups pickled red onion (recipe follows)
¼ cup Dijon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 cup black garlic aioli (recipe follows)
8 brioche buns

In a large bowl, mix together the ground chuck, short rib and brisket. Form the mixture into 8 10-ounce patties.

In a large pan set over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crispy, reserving the rendered fat to cook the patties. Remove the bacon and set aside.

In the hot, rendered bacon fat, pan sear the patties for about 3 minutes per side for medium rare. In the last few minutes of cooking, place a slice of Gruyère on the burgers, allowing it to melt.

To serve, place kale leaves on the topside of the bottom end of a bun. Place a burger atop the kale and stack on the mushrooms, bacon and pickled onions. Drizzle with the vinaigrette. Spread a layer of the aioli on the underside of the top half of the bun, and enclose the burger. Makes 8 burgers.

Wine Recommendation:

“I really enjoy Bedrock Wine Co.’s Heirloom red blend with our burger,” says Scott
Evans, owner and operator of Pago. “We have offered several vintages of the wine, and it’s a great pairing with our burger. The extra mineral and earthy components from the old vines do well with the black garlic aioli and of course the burger itself.”

For the Black Garlic Aioli
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons black garlic purée
⅔ cup grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a stainless steel mixing bowl combine the yolks, mustard, lemon juice and garlic purée. Slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously to form an emulsion. Season with salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup.

For the Dijon Vinaigrette
1 medium shallot, minced
½ large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
¼ cup Sherry vinegar
⅔ cup olive oil
1½ tablespoons tarragon, chopped
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Combine the shallot, garlic, mustard and vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil to create an emulsion. Season with tarragon, salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup.

For the Pickled Red Onions
4½ cups water, divided
3 medium red onions, sliced ¼ inch thick
1½ cups white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup Clifford Farms Honey
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Place the onions in a medium oven-proof bowl, and top with the boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine the vinegar, honey, sugar and salt. Mix ingredients until they have dissolved. Drain the onions from the water and combine with warm pickling liquid. Let onions remain in the liquid until serving. Makes 2 cups.

For the Roasted Mushrooms
2 sticks unsalted butter
¼ pound oyster mushrooms
¼ pound shiitake mushrooms
¼ pound baby beechwood mushrooms
¼ pound cremini mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat an oven to 375˚F.

Heat a large roasting pan in the preheated oven. Add the butter. As the butter starts to bubble, mix in the mushrooms. Pour in half of the olive oil, and stir to evenly coat the mushrooms. As the mushrooms absorb the butter and olive oil, add the remaining olive oil. Roast the mushrooms in the oven for 4 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, then add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Continue to roast until the mushrooms are caramelized, about 5–7 minutes. Makes 4 cups.

Anasazi Restaurant

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Stacked with artisanal bacon, escabeche onions and orange-chipotle mayo, the Buffalo Burger explodes with flavor. For a wine pairing, Diane Cochran, assistant food and beverage manager, suggests Perrin & Fils’s 2007 Le Christins Vacqueyras. “[Its] smokiness and minerality enhance the [buffalo] meat and bacon flavors,” she says.

Buffalo Burger with Vermont Cheddar, Apple Smoked Bacon and Chili Mayonnaise

Recipe courtesy Juan Bochenski chef of Anasazi Restaurant, Santa Fe, New Mexico

14 ounces buffalo meat, minced (85% lean, 15% fat)
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 brioche buns, split
6 slices Vermont Cheddar
Red Wine Escabeche Onions, to taste (recipe below)
12 slices applewood-smoked bacon, cooked until crispy
Chili Maynonnaise, to taste (recipe below)
Butter Lettuce, for garnish
1 tomato, sliced, for garnish

Season the buffalo meat with salt and pepper, and form into 6 patties equal patties.

Preheat a grill to 375˚F. When the grill is hot, cook the burgers for about 4–5 minutes per side for medium-rare. In the final minutes of cooking, place a slice of cheddar on each patty and allow it to melt.
Place a burger on the bottom half of a brioche bun. Top with onions, 2 slices of bacon, chili mayonnaise, and garnish with butter lettuce leaves and tomato slices. Cover with the top half of the brioche bun. Serves 4.

Chili Mayonnaise
⅛ cup chipotle adobo sauce
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/6 bunch chives, finely chopped
Orange juice, to taste
Salt and ground pepper, to taste
In a small bowl, whisk together the chipotle adobo, mayonnaise, mustard and chives. Season with orange juice and salt and pepper to taste. Yields approximately ¾ cup.
Red Wine Escabeche Onions
3 cups red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
⅓ bunch thyme
¼ bunch rosemary
3 large red onions, peeled and sliced into thin rings

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the wine and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Add the herbs and onions and turn off the heat. Transfer the mixture to a holding container and refrigerate overnight. Makes approximately 2 cups.

Red Wine Escabeche Onions
3 cups red wine
1 cup red wine vinegar
⅓ bunch thyme
¼ bunch rosemary
3 large red onions, peeled and sliced into thin rings

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, combine the wine and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Add the herbs and onions and turn off the heat. Transfer the mixture to a holding container and refrigerate overnight. Makes approximately 2 cups.

db Bistro Moderne


The brainchild of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud, the db Burger is a hedonistic affair: a ground-sirloin patty stuffed with braised short ribs, foie gras and preserved black truffles.“No matter how much you dress up a burger, [it’s] still comforting and accessible,” says Chef Jarrod Verbiak. To pair, Sommelier Christopher Lindemann recommends Château Simard’s 2003 St.-Émilion.

Daniel Boulud’s Classic Hamburger

Recipe courtesy Daniel’s Dish: Entertaining at Home with a Four Star Chef (Filipacchi Publishing, 2003)

For the Classic Hamburger:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
1¼ pounds ground beef, preferably well-marbled shoulder, not too finely ground
2 ounces Gruyère or Emmenthal, cut into ¼-inch dice (optional)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, plus additional for serving
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground, lightly toasted white peppercorns
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground, lightly toasted black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground, lightly toasted pink peppercorns
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground, lightly toasted green peppercorns
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
8 slices sourdough bread, approximately ½-inch-thick
1 clove garlic, halved
4 leaves Boston lettuce
1 medium tomato, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and season with salt. Cook, while stirring, until the onion is tender and translucent, approximately 5–7 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, ground beef, cheese, parsley, mustard, egg and peppercorns. Season with salt, and mix well. Form the mixture into 4 round patties, each approximately 1-inch thick. (Patties can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 8 hours; remove them from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.)

To cook outdoors, preheat a grill to 375°F. Put the burgers on the hot grill and cook for 4–5 minutes on each side for medium-rare.

To cook indoors, center a rack in an oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Warm 1 tablespoon of oil in a large ovenproof skillet set over high heat. When the oil beings to smoke lightly, add the burgers and cook for 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for an additional 2–3 minutes for medium-rare.

Meanwhile, lightly brush the bread slices with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Grill or toast the slices in a skillet until golden, about 2 minutes on each side. Rub the hot toasted bread with the garlic.

To serve, spread some mustard on a piece of toast and top with a burger, a lettuce leaf, a tomato slice, and another slice of toast. Serves 4.

Minetta Tavern

New York City

A dry-aged beef patty seared in butter and crowned with caramelized onions, The Black Label Burger keeps down-home goodness at the forefront. Beverage Director Alessio de Sensi recommends pairing it with cru Beaujolais, like Morgon. “You need the right amount of acidity and flavors that [aren’t] a meal of their own,” he says.

Black Label Burger

“[The] chefs confessed they never came down with a precise formula [for the Black Label Burger] as they are in the kitchen all the time,” says Minetta Tavern’s Beverage Director Alessio di Sensi. “It’s so them! That’s why I love these guys.”

While Minetta Tavern did not disclose their top-secret burger recipe—which consists of a dry-aged beef patty that’s seared in clarified butter and topped with caramelized onions—here is a Wine Enthusiast variation of their savory-sweet accoutrement with which to crown a juicy burger at home.

Caramelized Onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
2½ pounds Vidalia onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon granulated sugar

In a large sauté pan set over a medium flame, heat the butter and oil. Add the onions, and stir to coat with the oil and butter. Season with the salt and sugar, and continue to cook for 20 minutes, or until the onions are soft and caramelized. Makes 2 cups.

 Proof on Main

Louisville, Kentucky

Using grass-fed bison meat as the base, Executive Chef Michael Paley tops his Bison Burger with local Cheddar, house-cured bacon and Jezebel sauce. For wine, General Manager Rachel Cutler gives a nod to Palazzo’s Cabernet Franc from Napa. “It has structure and spice, but is soft and earthy enough to pair well with the bison.”

Jezebel Sauce

Recipe courtesy Michael Paley, executive chef of Proof on Main, Louisville, KY

2 cups apricot preserves
2 cups apple jelly
1½ cups prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ tablespoon ground black pepper
½ tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon grated clove

In a medium mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients and stir until well incorporated. Makes 4 cups.

Published on June 28, 2012
Topics: Food Recipes, Popular Recipes

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