Countless places around town throw down amazing burgers — we'd need a Burger Year to do them all justice — but few burger joints can truthfully claim to create every item on the burger completely in-house. Enter Foster Burger.
The Huffman/Ricker/Mondok-founded burger joint — which Eater hailed as a "clusterfuck of happiness" upon its opening in late 2009 — creates "everything in house except for the ketchup — [because] some things just don't need to be improved on," says Foster Burger kitchen manager Mark Markhams of his allegiance to Heinz. Eater ordered up the Burner (aka the regular Foster Burger plus roasted jalapeños, fried onion straws, cheddar, and American cheese), then sat back and watched now the sausage was made, so to speak. So, piece by piece, how does the burger break down?
First, there's no relaxing on the buns: Last fall, Foster Burger began baking its buns in-house, using an eggy brioche recipe and churning out dough in 100-bun batches. "They get brushed with egg whites, then we bake them for seven minutes, let those cool, and during service we'll finish them in the oven as we need them," Markhams says. "It's an ongoing, 24-hour-a-day [process]; there's no relaxing on the buns." Depending on the day, Foster will bake up two to three batches, for a total of 200-300 buns.
Playing with the patty: Foster serves up six-ounce patties on all its burgers — "we don't believe in the half-pound burgers you can barely finish and you want to be sick afterwards," Markhams says — using the standard 80/20 lean/fat ratio for beef burgers. "We're using chuck. We played around with several different cuts of meat — brisket, sirloin, mixes of chuck. We tried adding pork fat in instead of beef fat, but it was too much: It just charred the outside of the burger, melted and caused fires. It was too hard to control. And to be honest, I didn't think the flavor made that big of a difference. To start adding other meats in, before you know it, you're working with sausage instead of beef."
Mondok's pickles: Foster Burger alum Daniel Mondok is credited with pioneering the joint's pickling program, which has churned out everything from watermelon to turnip to cherry pickles. "We keep our chips, beets, and onions pickled all the time, so we just do that as needed, which is usually twice a week," Markhams says of the pickling process. "Monday's our main pickling day of the week. As the seasons progress, we'll get to play with all kinds of things. And it's really interesting... you never know what you're going to see in here."
The secret's in the sauce: "Pretty much all secret-style sauces are the same things: Pickles, horseradish, mayonnaise, and ketchup," Markhams says. "Instead of using regular pickles, or relish, we get actual gerkins, cornichons, and we use those [in the sauce]."
With those basic ingredients down, Markhams talks us through breaking down the Burner, from bottom to top:
- [We take] one of our buns, and then we put fried onion straws on the bottom.
- It gets the burger, then it gets the jalapeños that we roast — we get them nice and almost crispy, like you could peel them, then we toss them in vanilla — a vanilla paste that's really mild. But that sweetness really goes with the jalapeno.
- Then we melt a slice of American cheese, because you can't really beat it, and we put a slice of Tillamook cheddar on top of that — so it's two slices.
- On top of that, it gets shredded lettuce and a lettuce cup.
- Then, our own sriracha sauce that we came up with... basically it's ranch dressing that we make, we add a lot of sriracha to it and [some] horseradish.
- It turns out amazing.