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Loosely-Compacted Burgers With Crunchy Highlights

Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 10:15 AM

Amid the hyper-profusion of upscale burger joints, is anyone grilling mishapen, loosely-compacted burgers with crunchy highlights (and juicy centers)? Or are they all pucks?

I've attached an example photo, from Town-Topic burgers in Kansas City.

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  1. k
    knucklesandwich RE: Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 10:36 AM

    R.U.B. barbecue. Monday nights only.

    1. k
      kathryn RE: Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 01:00 PM

      A Hamburger Today calls this the smash technique:

      Have you tried Smashburger in Brooklyn?

      1 Reply
      1. re: kathryn
        Jim Leff RE: kathryn Sep 5, 2012 01:15 PM

        No, but I will. And RUB, too!

      2. s
        sugartoof RE: Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 01:33 PM

        The singles at Shake Shack used to be pretty close, and often misshapen. Guess they're not crispy or flattened enough.

        1 Reply
        1. re: sugartoof
          Jim Leff RE: sugartoof Sep 5, 2012 01:35 PM

          I don't need flat. Just loosely compacted!

          And Shake Shack has never really floated my boat.

        2. southernitalian RE: Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 01:42 PM

          I seem to recall burgers like that at JG Melon.

          1 Reply
          1. re: southernitalian
            harrison RE: southernitalian Sep 5, 2012 02:28 PM

            +1 for JG Melon w/ a side of cottage fries

            Smashburger - meh

            I miss the All-State on W. 72nd st.

          2. Jim Leff RE: Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 03:16 PM

            Thanks. Keep the tips coming!

            Again, not necessarily flat, not necessarily real crispy, and not just "misshapen". What I'm looking for is really loose, messy compaction.

            I'm gonna do a grand tour...could use a couple more.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Jim Leff
              drumwine RE: Jim Leff Sep 5, 2012 11:41 PM

              Bill's Bar & Burger

              1. re: Jim Leff
                princeofpork3 RE: Jim Leff Sep 6, 2012 11:23 AM

                Mollys 22 and 3rd. Crispy and mis-shapen and oh so good.

                1. re: Jim Leff
                  carfreeinla RE: Jim Leff Sep 7, 2012 06:22 PM

                  Molly's. No question.

                2. r
                  rae305 RE: Jim Leff Sep 6, 2012 03:34 AM

                  the Corner Bistro on West 4th.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rae305
                    harrison RE: rae305 Sep 6, 2012 01:51 PM

                    Corner Bistro's are broiled, no?

                  2. m
                    mitchleeny RE: Jim Leff Sep 6, 2012 04:43 AM

                    Loosely compacted ande juicy inside for sure- J. G. Melon's...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: mitchleeny
                      trixareforkids RE: mitchleeny Sep 6, 2012 02:27 PM

                      another vote for melons

                      1. re: trixareforkids
                        princeofpork3 RE: trixareforkids Sep 7, 2012 06:18 AM

                        I agree with JG Mellon however, i do find the burger quite small. Is it even 6oz?

                        1. re: princeofpork3
                          brancron RE: princeofpork3 Sep 9, 2012 06:29 PM

                          What do you mean "*even* 6oz"? 6 ounces is large—too large, in fact.

                          1. re: brancron
                            rae305 RE: brancron Sep 10, 2012 04:54 AM

                            If 6 oz is too big - you'll never make it through Mollys at 10 oz.

                            1. re: brancron
                              princeofpork3 RE: brancron Sep 10, 2012 07:07 AM

                              6oz pre cooked is not very big probably the same size as the average diner burger.

                        2. re: mitchleeny
                          r32nissan RE: mitchleeny Sep 7, 2012 02:57 PM

                          The JG Melon burger ranks extremely highly in my list of NYC burgers. Corner Bistro ones are a little on the bland side for me personally.

                        3. howdini RE: Jim Leff Sep 9, 2012 05:39 PM

                          l know it's Outer Boroughs, but l just ate at Blue Collar in Wmsburg last week: In-and-Out style, loosely compacted, tasty and cheap.

                          1. Jim Leff RE: Jim Leff Sep 10, 2012 08:59 AM

                            Guys, I don't mean to complain when your'e kindly pitching in with suggestions, but while Corner Bistro and Molly's make well-regarded burgers, they're not even close to the sort I'm talking about. And I've never tried Melon's, but the photo just looks like a very good hamburger, not the specific type I'm talking about.

                            This sort of burger is very rare in NYC (hence my query). I guess people are so unfamiliar with it that it just sort of fails to compute and they default to recommending burgers they like. Which is cool, but I'm betting there are more burgers like this than RUB and Smash (both of which look right, but I haven't tried yet). Maybe in otherwise unheralded diners or coffee shops. And I'm hoping to get some reccos.

                            14 Replies
                            1. re: Jim Leff
                              HillJ RE: Jim Leff Sep 10, 2012 09:53 AM

                              Does this include burgers that are so loose they require a fork, nearly impossible to hold together inside the bun?

                              1. re: HillJ
                                Jim Leff RE: HillJ Sep 10, 2012 04:37 PM

                                I guess, but that sounds like a flat out mistake rather than an intentional choice! OTOH I'm open-minded...

                              2. re: Jim Leff
                                kathryn RE: Jim Leff Sep 10, 2012 10:37 AM

                                Apparently Steak 'n' Shake also uses the "smash" technique. But I think they start with a puck and not a ball.

                                Shake Shack does griddle & smash but with a smaller sized ball of ground meat, 4 oz. I think their starting point is not loose enough to compare to the ones you're talking about.

                                More photos of a loosely compacted / crunchy sear burger are here.

                                Because this is such a Midwestern style, maybe only the chains that have sprouted up from there will have it.

                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                  carfreeinla RE: Jim Leff Sep 10, 2012 06:28 PM

                                  You have completely lost me- might have to make a trip to KC for a first hand understanding. Has anything in NY come close?

                                  1. re: carfreeinla
                                    Jim Leff RE: carfreeinla Sep 10, 2012 08:54 PM

                                    Hamburger Choo Choo, Huntington, NY circa 1974

                                    1. re: Jim Leff
                                      princeofpork3 RE: Jim Leff Sep 11, 2012 06:51 AM


                                      There has to be a reason that this specific product has not been seen since 1974. Maybe you were the only one who actually liked it?

                                      1. re: princeofpork3
                                        howdini RE: princeofpork3 Sep 11, 2012 07:13 AM

                                        Hamburger Choo-Choo was well-loved by many; the restaurant burned down in the late 70's.

                                        1. re: princeofpork3
                                          Jim Leff RE: princeofpork3 Sep 11, 2012 09:12 AM

                                          "There has to be a reason that this specific product has not been seen since 1974. Maybe you were the only one who actually liked it?"

                                          It's not the only place, just a place I once loved. And it wasn't closed for Crimes Against Chopped Meat, it was a fire.

                                          Anyway, I noted in my OP one famous and much-loved current burger place which makes this sort of burger. There are many other places around the country that do it this way. I didn't know any in the NYC area, but, thanks to Chowhound, have already been made aware of at least two. So, thank god, I'm pretty sure it's not just me.

                                          But thanks for adding your thoughts to the thread!

                                        2. re: Jim Leff
                                          howdini RE: Jim Leff Sep 11, 2012 07:14 AM

                                          Fond, fond childhood memories!

                                          1. re: howdini
                                            Jim Leff RE: howdini Sep 11, 2012 09:16 AM

                                            Sigh. That's not snapshot fade; that's tear stain washout.

                                            Were you there in the George era (middle-aged black dude chef) or the pudgy-Greek-kid chef era?

                                            1. re: Jim Leff
                                              howdini RE: Jim Leff Sep 11, 2012 09:40 AM

                                              l wish my memory was that good...l grew up in Jericho/Syosset, and was probably about 10 years old when the fire happened ['77?], so l only got to go a couple of times, but how magical it was! Huntington was like Neverland to me, a total fantasy village.


                                              1. re: howdini
                                                Jim Leff RE: howdini Sep 11, 2012 11:19 AM

                                                Did you know Eddie's Pizza in Fort Salonga, the other half of my Proustian core?

                                                1. re: Jim Leff
                                                  howdini RE: Jim Leff Sep 11, 2012 11:23 AM

                                                  Proustiancore is my favorite genre! But, no, l don't think l've ever been to Ft. Salonga.

                                                  1. re: howdini
                                                    Jim Leff RE: howdini Sep 11, 2012 11:25 AM

                                                    Fancy term for Northport. They only made Sicilian pizza. On 25A. Same era.

                                                    Think, man, think!

                                    2. b
                                      Brian W RE: Jim Leff Sep 10, 2012 09:43 AM

                                      The one time I tried Paul's on 2nd Ave at 8th St that was the kind of burger I got. The roll was so off-putting as it fell apart in my hand that it ruined the experience. The old Soup Burg at Madison and 73rd made a good loosely packed burger but that has been gone for years. The latest Soup Burg on Lex at 77th may be good but I haven't had the burger there. Their egg cream is top notch though. My father was an old time NY bartender who knew how to shuck clams, run a grill, and make most any drink. He made burgers the way you like them, and that's what I ate at home. That kind of burger was phased out in NY in the 1950s by the standard, perfectly round and flat diner-type burger.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Brian W
                                        GoodGravy RE: Brian W Sep 10, 2012 10:28 AM

                                        Soup Burg on 77th and Lex doesn't make them quite the way the OP wants. It's loosely packed, but not that crusty. You might have to ask them to make it crunchy on the outside w/o being overcooked on the inside.

                                        1. re: Brian W
                                          biondanonima RE: Brian W Sep 11, 2012 09:17 AM

                                          I was going to suggest Paul's but I haven't been there in years so I don't know if they still do them this way. I don't remember the bun being offensive but there was some sloppiness. Give them a go and see what you think.

                                          1. re: biondanonima
                                            Jim Leff RE: biondanonima Sep 11, 2012 11:20 AM

                                            Same here. I went to Paul's when they first opened. Liked-didn't-love their burgers. Can't remember how irregular/loose they were, but if they were big on that, I'd have liked 'em better! :)

                                        2. w
                                          wanderluster RE: Jim Leff Sep 11, 2012 06:07 PM

                                          Half King on 23rd on the right day. Crumbly heaven.

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