Photo Lynette Carrington

By Lynette Carrington

There are burgers and then there are burgers. Gone are the days where a burger was just a patty and some ketchup. This new era of burgers combines flavors and culinary styles from around the globe to create fun and exciting new options to tempt every taste bud out there. Here are three Valley burgers that represent the most unique burgers available on the scene.

  1. The Korean BBQ Burger at ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho
Photo Lynette Carrington

This is one burger that will put your taste buds into overdrive with a delectable combination of savory, sweet and just a tiny kick of spice. This burger includes a patty topped with a luscious layer of pork belly, sambal aioli, jalapeño cabbage slaw and pickled red fresnos, all kissed with a tangy hoison barbecue sauce and piled on to a sesame seed-kissed bun. Although drawing inspiration from across the globe, the burger fits seamlessly into the easy breezy style of the Hotel Valley Ho.

The Korean BBQ Burger is the creation of ZuZu chef Angel Rubio, who was the winner of a recent internal ZuZu burger battle. Although a.m. sous chef Marissa Encinas’ own Greek burger was recently ousted as top burger by Rubio’s Korean BBQ Burger, there are no hard feelings. Encinas explains, “This competition gets everyone involved – everyone from dishwashers, to pantry cooks to head cooks. Everyone is allowed to enter and Angel was feeling a Korean barbecue burger.” She continues, “He likes Asian food and he likes the pork belly on there. He really tried to balance it.”

Rubio orchestrated a burger that is a perfect combination of the soft texture of beef and the even softer texture of pork belly complemented with the snappy crunch of slaw.

Luckily for all diners, the staff at ZuZu competes regularly to create the most unique and tasty burger. Each time a new menu debuts at the restaurant, so does the most recent competition winning burger. The Korean BBQ Burger will be on ZuZu’s menu through the summer season. ZuZu is located inside Hotel Valley Ho, at 6850 E. Main Street, Scottsdale.

  1. The Kaiser Burger at Boulders on Broadway

Exactly how do you pack a combo pizza into a burger? That’s one burger building secret that Tempe restaurant Boulders on Broadway is sharing with its eager customers. But those who order the Kaiser Burger will enjoy a tasty meal that somehow effortlessly combines the best parts of a pizza and a burger in a most deliciously satisfying way.

This exciting burger incorporates all the tastiest ingredients of a supreme-style pizza including sausage, pepperoni, onions, black olives, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese cleverly folded inside the middle of the patty then cooked to tender perfection. The burger that combines two of the most popular foods in America was originally created for National Hamburger Day on May 28, but has proven so popular, Boulders on Broadway will showcase it on the menu through the summer.

Owner and burger mastermind at Boulders on Broadway Erick Geryol explains this intriguing burger. “Tim Kaiser was the owner of the restaurant in Illinois that I worked at when I was 14 and his signature burger was the Kaiser Burger,” says Geryol, who also owns Boulders on Southern, Spokes on Southern and Quartiere, all located in Tempe.

“The Kaiser Burger is made with an Arizona-raised piece of beef – a standard 80/20 blend,” Geryol says. “Then we add all the fresh produce to it.” He  utilizes fresh ingredients, cut in-house, something that not all restaurants do. The proof is in the taste of one of the most satisfying burgers in the Valley. Next time your group of friends is deciding between going out for pizza or burgers, there won’t been any need for compromise Boulders on Broadway.

The Tempe location of Boulders on Broadway is located at 530 W. Broadway Road, Tempe.

  1. The Sonoran Burger at The Vig
Photo Lynette Carrington

When thinking about a burger that has a distinctive Arizona quality to it, you might assume the use of ingredients like jalapeños or a salsa topping. Corporate executive chef for Genuine Concepts, Justin Woodard has thrown that expected notion out the window and taken burger orchestration to the next level with the Sonoran Burger.

The Sonoran Burger is an eye-popping, attention-getting entree that could be considered an Arizona signature burger. The ingredients for this burger include a patty blend of 50 percent shiitake mushroom, 25 percent ground chuck and 25 percent ground sirloin, sauteed cactus paddle and poblanos, porcini dusted crispy shallots, smoked chiltepine aioli, a yellow chile mushroom mole and arugula piled high inside a toasted brioche bun. The result is a burger that is extraordinarily unique and will hopefully propel Woodard straight to the James Beard Foundation’s Beard House for a burger competition.

The burger had it earliest concept in Woodard’s head when he recently toured a produce farm in California where he met a representative with The Mushroom Council. That representative invited Woodard to participate in the Fifth Annual Blended Burger Project developed by the James Beard Foundation with support from The Mushroom Council.

“I had about a week or so to get the burger together,” says Woodard, who is at the helm of the menus of The Vig, Ladera, The Womack, The McMillan, Linger Longer Lounge and Cobra Arcade Bar. He continues, “I’m from Arizona. For me, it was important to try and incorporate as much of Arizona as I could into this burger.” The inclusion of mushrooms into the burger was also an important factor in the competition which demanded the use of at least 25% fresh mushrooms.

Woodard and members of his culinary staff worked feverishly to find the right blend of beef and correct variety of mushroom for use in the patty. Portobello, shitake, button and white mushrooms were all considered, and shitake won. Mushrooms were also incorporated into a never-used yellow mole recipe the chef had been holding in his culinary arsenal.

“The burger really does speak for itself,” Woodard says. Diners can vote for this burger through the summer, and Woodard adds, “The reception I’ve received with this burger has been amazing, so I might consider keeping it longer.” More than 250 restaurants across the nation are competing in the Blended Burger Project and the five burgers that receive the most votes will see their respective chefs compete for the winner’s title at the James Beard House later this year.