It seems as if aspiring burger barons are born every minute these days, fledgling entrepreneurs who are sure they have hatched a novel concept for beefy, fatty, irresistible hamburgers.
Long Island has embraced this boom, and burger eateries have been popping up at a record pace, some expanding to multiple locations.
Just in the past six months, That No Good Burger Joint opened in Baldwin featuring a burger on a jelly doughnut and another topped with spicy peanut butter and jelly. At Black Label Burgers in Westbury, you can upgrade to dry-aged beef for a few bucks, while at New York Burger Bar in Massapequa, which reopened and retooled recently after a fire, a patty takes its cue from Wisconsin and is stuffed with molten yellow cheese.
If beef bores you, it’s now cool to have patties made with ground elk, ostrich, bison or wild boar at a growing number of burger-centric restaurants, from Bareburger to Burger Village.
This burger-saturated market is part of a shift that has been gradually taking place over the past two decades as consumers demand more from a ground beef patty.
Overall, burger sales have only grown about 2 percent annually in recent years with consumers losing interest in fast-food burgers such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, according to Technomic, a Chicago-based restaurant research and consulting firm.
But within the burger market, a new boom features the kind of patties some market analysts have dubbed the “better burger,” a segment of the market that has been growing annually at a 13-percent pace, said Darren Tristano of Technomic.
“Quality is the key here,” Tristano said. “They are willing to pay a little bit more for quality.
“They are also looking for the experience,” he said. “They are looking for dine in. Made to order is the big key. They don’t want the perception that the burger has been sitting around for a while.”
It’s not just the Five Guys, Shake Shack, Elevation Burger and Bareburger chains that have gained fame for — real or perceived — using better meat, taking a little extra time to cook patties to order and serving them to consumers tableside in a hip setting (think subway tiles, distressed wood, funky lights). Increasingly, it’s also independent shops such as The Rex Burger & Lobster in Mineola and Burgerology in Rockville Centre.
Here are 10 of the newest crop to join the already hot burger scene on Long Island:
Black Label Burgers
Black Label Burgers ( 683 Old Country Rd., Westbury): The name is a tip-off to the ethos behind this gastropub-esque Westbury spot, opened in January, where the USDA-prime beef comes from a farm in Washington state, the hot dogs are wagyu beef, and fries can come dusted with truffle oil or (if they’re of the sweet-potato variety) alongside a poof of marshmallow sauce. At the brass-tacks level is the 6-ounce, staple Black Label Burger gussied up with American cheese and tangy “label” sauce on a shiny potato bun. It’s easy to go luxe, though: Upgrade any burger to dry-aged beef for $1.99, then wash it down with local craft beer from Southampton Publick House or Oyster Bay Brewing Company. More info: 516-333-6059, blacklabelburgersny.com
Build A Burger
Build A Burger (160 Adams Ave., Hauppauge): For 14 years, restaurateur John Robertson has run The Sexy Salad in a Hauppauge commercial park. This spring, he’s filled an adjacent space with hand-built tables and dedicated it to salad’s polar opposite: Made-to-order, 6-ounce Pat LaFrieda burgers topped with a latticework of cheese, plus crispy shoestring fries and milkshakes for the harried, hungry lunchtime crowd. Order online or at the counter — just don’t ask for it bloody, because all burgers are cooked medium well. More info: 631-230-1072, buildaburgerworkshop.com
Burger on the Mile
Burger on the Mile (28 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport): Even The Nautical Mile is joining burgermania. The no-nonsense burger joint is the latest restaurant on the summer strip from the owners of E.B. Elliot's and Tropix on the Mile. Well-travelled chef Anthony Citarella (Locale, Taste American Grill, Cavendish and Insignia) helms the kitchen in this freestanding building with a wraparound porch where they’ll sling burgers (and egg and cheese sandwiches) beginning at breakfast with quirky flavors including a hangover burger (egg, bacon and cheese) and the pizza burger, which comes topped with fried mozzarella, marinara and more fresh mozzarella. Plans to open in June 2017.
Burger Village (216 Broadway Mall, Hicksville): In May, Ikea shoppers gained a new spot to fortify themselves at this reclaimed-wood temple to burgers on the outer edge of the Broadway Mall in Hicksville. The third outpost of the growing Burger Village empire — the other two are in Great Neck and Brooklyn — devotes itself to sustainable gorging with organic and free-range patties that reach beyond beef to include ostrich, bison, boar, lamb and salmon. Take or leave the complex signature toppings, such as the “Jalo Parkway” of smoked mozzarella, fried egg, jalapeños, and barbecue sauce, but don’t miss the succulent elk burger, towering beanstalk burger, or the wispy onion rings. A full bar encourages lingering. More info: 516-597-5336, burgervillageny.com
Burgerology (226 Merrick Rd., Rockville Centre): It often feels like a party inside this downtown Rockville Centre burger mecca and lively bar, a cousin to Massapequa’s New York Burger Bar. The name of the place reflects the scientific way burgers are constructed: Diners choose from seven patties, three buns, seven cheeses, 12 toppings, and 15 sauces, which are delivered to the tables stabbed dramatically with a knife. The indecisive can tuck into a pre-considered creation such as a $16.95 Einstein burger topped with braised short rib, melted Swiss, caramelized onions and cabernet gravy, just the way the genius purportedly liked it. To up the calorie quotient, Burgerology also serves six types of fries and two gravy-drenched poutines, plus milkshakes, beer, wine and booze. More info: 516-600-9720, burgerologyrvc.com
New York Burger Bar
New York Burger Bar (4225 Merrick Rd., Massapequa): Destroyed by a fire in September, the winner of Newsday’s Burger Smackdown overcame adversity and reopened in January with a new chef who has kept the focus on the burger. Here, you’ll find more than a dozen flavor combinations using three types of beef: a classic proprietary blend of prime beef, American Kobe beef and aged prime. Not to worry, the winning patty, a juicy Lucy, remains on the menu: an 8-ounce burger stuffed with cheese, topped with caramelized onions, tomato and a creamy special sauce, all on a torta bun that challenges even the biggest of mouths. Conquer and your next obstacle is to watch out for the molten cheese that comes shooting out of the center. More info: 516-799-9199, nyburgerbar.com
That No Good Burger Joint
That No Good Burger Joint (930 Atlantic Ave., Baldwin): This tiny local burger shop with a hipster vibe has already changed its name from That Burger Joint, but that has not affected the swagger. The menu challenges conventional wisdom with sandwiches that include an 8-ounce burger topped with cheese and placed between jelly doughnut halves, and another that comes topped with a house-made spicy peanut butter and jelly spread between two slices of cinnamon-raisin toast. Your choice of meat blends includes a well-flavored traditional blend and more daring 50/50, which is packed with raw bacon before it’s cooked. More info: 516-442-5434, thatnogoodburgerjointny.com
Elevation Burger (437 S. Oyster Bay Rd., Plainview): This 12-year-old, Virginia-based chain is the latest to set its sights on Long Island, setting up shop in the former Boomy’s New York Deli space that sits less than 400 yards from a Bareburger, and less than four miles from DirtyBurger. The menu features organic beef burgers and French fries fried in olive oil. The restaurant was projected to open by the end of 2016, but it’s in the final stages of a buildout with a new projected date being sometime in June 2017. More info: elevationburger.com
The Rex Burger & Lobster
The Rex Burger & Lobster ( 524 Jericho Tpke., Mineola): More than two years of testing went into creating the simple burger at the heart of the small menu at this 6-month-old Mineola shopping center burger joint with a gilded vibe. Owner Jonathan Otto and a team led by chef Charlie Keller (the former sous chef for top-toque Tom Valenti in the city at Ouest) ate hundreds of burgers around the world before determining that two well-done patties are better than one large one. Next they tested weights from 2 ounces to a quarter-pound before settling on 3.2 ounces as the right ratio of meat to bun and fixins. The result is well-balanced sandwich that comes with two slices of American cheese, a 3⁄16-inch slice of tomato, hand-torn lettuce and onions your way — raw and sweet or caramelized. Pair it with fries that have been given the same type of treatment and a local beer or wine. Two more Long Island locations are in the works. More info: 516-739-2747, therexburgerandlobster.com
Wahlburgers (4837 Nesconset Hwy., Port Jefferson Station): Where Mark and Donnie Wahlberg go, loyal fans follow. Such has been the case since December at the first Long Island location of the burger franchise at the heart of the A&E reality TV show. The shrine to the singers-dancers-actors-producers, who have added “burger moguls” to their résumé, continues to be a draw even as better burger spots open. The patties here come with cute names such as the O.F.D. (Originally From Dorchestah, named after Dorchester, the Boston neighborhood where the boys grew up), a half-pound burger served with Swiss cheese, bacon, sautéed mushrooms and tomato jam. The ownership group has rights to open additional locations across the Island. With this kind of star power it seems to be the beginning. More info: 631-473-8525, wahlburgersrestaurant.com