A Chef Explains Why You Should Spend $30 on a Hamburger

Chef Doug Brixton serves a burger made from Angus chuck, brisket and short rib

The Brixton Burger retails for $31.
The Brixton Burger is on the menu at the Golden Swan's Wallace Room.
Golden Swan/Wallace Room

In New York City, where income equality is a major issue and the value of a dollar largely depends on how many of them you have in your bank account, almost everything, from a delayed ride on the subway to a flat draft beer to a fifth-floor walkup, costs a little bit more than it probably should. That’s just life in the big city.

That being the case, most New Yorkers have become accustomed to $12 cocktails, $20 salads and even hot dogs that’ll set you back three sawbucks instead of $3. Michelin-starred chef Doug Brixton, who presides over the kitchen for the Golden Swan in the West Village, doesn’t have a $30 frankfurter on his menu, but he does have a hamburger that retails for $31 that’s available to customers who eat on the first floor in the restaurant’s Wallace Room. (Some interesting history about the room’s namesake here.)

Due to the circumstances noted above, seeing a $30 burger on an NYC restaurant menu is far from shocking, but it does make it perfectly fair to ask a very simple question: why so much? As Brixton, who trained under Daniel Boulud before earning his star while cooking up at Bâtard in Tribeca, explains, the proof is in the patty, which is made from Angus chuck, brisket and short rib sourced from the same South Dakota ranch that provides the steak for the Cote de Boeuf that’s served in the Swan’s dining room on the second floor.

“The patty had to be high-quality and have that ‘Wow’ effect,” Brixton tells InsideHook. “I was able to source a patty that gives a nice caramelization and funkiness to the burger. It’s not just fat, and it’s nice and juicy. It has its soft notes. I wanted the burger to be all about the flavor of the meat. I didn’t want to add too much to where everything just got lost. I just tried to keep it simple and make sure all the other components were a complement to the patty.”

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As for the other Brixton Burger’s other components, they include slow-cooked balsamic onions and melted Gruyere cheese accompanied by crispy French fries that have been seasoned with sea salt before being cooked in duck fat. Served on a pain au lait (French milk bread) bun that’s been coated with Dijon mustard and a smear of garlic aioli, the burger is cooked medium in order to ensure it delivers on flavor.

“One thing I always consider when cooking a burger is making sure that the patty isn’t overcooked. So we cook the burger to a perfect medium to keep the integrity of the meat,” Brixton says. “If you overcook the meat, all that flavor, all that moisture and all that natural juice that’s in the burger is extracted. We cook ours in a cast iron and sear it really hard on two sides and that’s it. It has a crust on both sides, but it is nice and soft on the inside.”

Strong on taste, the decadent burger is also enjoyable for at least one of the other five senses, according to Brixton. “This isn’t dry-aged meat, but the flavor profile is so pronounced and flavorful that you can smell it in the bar when they walk it to the table. When somebody’s eating it, the aroma of this burger is just out there,” he says.

The Brixton Burger with fries.
For about $30, the Brixton’s hamburger can be yours in New York City.

Add the components and care to the prep and presentation, and you’ve got a $30 New York City hamburger.

“I don’t consider myself a burger guy or a burger chef and I’m not trying to compete against any burger establishment, but I’m proud to put out the things I do on the menu. This is one item I am very proud of, and I constructed it in my way,” Brixton says. “If you really think about it, the burger is a rustic dish. It is what it is. It’s like lasagna. There’s only so much you can do, but at the end of the day it’s lasagna, if you change it too much, that’s not it. A burger speaks to everybody, and everybody knows what they should expect. Being able to construct and deliver it in an elevated fashion without taking away from the nostalgic flavor that people know is meaningful to me.”


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