Despite offering a rapidly changing menu — full of playful tapas and the occasional bun/sandwich item — NW hotspot Ataula has never featured a burger on its menu. But chef Jose Chesa says he's "always" had one in mind, revealing his initial plans to serve a highbrow-lowbrow mash-up borrowing from fast-food iconography. "Like when you go to [get] fast-food, you open your little box, and you get a burger," Chesa says, mimicking the cardboard packaging that houses Big Macs. "But I wanted to do different flavors: Like a fine burger in a fast-food package."
For Eater Burger Week, Chesa gets to make the first burgers of his 20-year career, and though he's ditched the box, he delivers on the "fine" burger promise. Ataula's tapas-style beef hamburger features a 2.5-ounce prime beef chuck patty adorned with ingredients from Spain. For the patty, Chesa grinds the Southern Oregon beef then adds Spanish pimenton pepper, olive oil, garlic, and cubes of Iberico Bellota lard, the cured fatback from the same pigs whose cured legs sit on Ataula's bar. The lard melts when the patty hits the plancha, adding "that fattiness and richness," Chesa says, sealing it all in with a hard sear.
After a slice of Mahon cheese is melted on top, the cooked patty hits a Spanish smoked pimenton bun, which Chesa selected specifically for its brioche-like internal texture and its hard outside texture. The bun's spongy interior and hard shell help "hold all the moisture from the burger," Chesa says.
To both the bottom and top buns, Chesa spreads a black sofrito and black garlic aioli: The sofrito recipe, which Chesa learned in a small town in Catalan, involves simmering onions for six hours with wine to bring out their sweetness. For pickles, Chesa reaches for piparras, a pickle pepper from Basque country, then finishes with watercress. On the side, the patatas bravas once on the now-defunct Ataula brunch menu make a return: They're blanched with olive oil and bay leaves before they're deep-fried, then drizzled with both aioli and the in-house bravas sauce, featuring tomato and Basque chili-based sauce. (Aside: Between the dinner menu's nuestras bravas and tortillas, Chesa notes that the restaurant goes through roughly 40 pounds of potatoes per day.)
But the final burger, Chesa notes, is a "harmony of ingredients that all go together: We have sweet, we have smoked, salt; we have cured, aged." The Ataula Eater Burger will be available for $12 all week.