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Loosely-Compacted Burgers With Crunchy Highlights

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

    1. A Hamburger Today calls this the smash technique:

      Have you tried Smashburger in Brooklyn?

      1 Reply
      1. 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

          I don't need flat. Just loosely compacted!

          And Shake Shack has never really floated my boat.

        2. I seem to recall burgers like that at JG Melon.

          1 Reply
          1. re: southernitalian

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

            Smashburger - meh

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

          2. 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

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

                1. the Corner Bistro on West 4th.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: rae305

                    Corner Bistro's are broiled, no?

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

                    6 Replies
                      1. re: trixareforkids

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

                        1. re: princeofpork3

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

                          1. re: brancron

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

                            1. re: brancron

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

                        2. re: mitchleeny

                          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. 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. 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

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

                              1. re: HillJ

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

                              2. re: Jim Leff

                                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

                                  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

                                    Hamburger Choo Choo, Huntington, NY circa 1974

                                    1. re: Jim Leff


                                      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

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

                                        1. re: princeofpork3

                                          "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

                                          Fond, fond childhood memories!

                                          1. re: howdini

                                            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

                                              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

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

                                                1. re: Jim Leff

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

                                                  1. re: howdini

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

                                                    Think, man, think!

                                    2. 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

                                        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

                                          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

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