In Chicago, the restaurant Kuma's Corner recently revealed its latest creation: The Ghost, a 10-ounce burger topped with a red wine reduction and a communion wafer.
The idea, as The Chicago Tribune reports, is to "represent the body and blood of Jesus," though more as an ode to heavy metal than to Catholicism. The wafer is unconsecrated, so, as the restaurant's Luke Tobias says, "it's really just a cracker."
Still, as someone who was raised Catholic, I'm offended. Not because it's blasphemous. But because it's an affront to hamburgers.
A good hamburger doesn't need gimmicks. One doesn't bite into a burger from Shake Shack — what my former colleague Josh Ozersky once called the "the platonic ideal of a hamburger" — and think, "This really could use some red wine to represent the blood of Christ."
Here is how you make a hamburger: Salt some fresh-ground beef, preferably with a decent amount of fat in it (lean-to-fat ratios are a source of heated debate among burger nerds). Press it loosely into thin patties, then sear those on a griddle. Stick them between some Martin's Potato Rolls. Add some cheddar or American cheese, plus onions, mustard, and whatever else you want.
If you have good quality beef, you will most likely have a good hamburger. No communion wafers required.
Kuma's Corner isn't the only offender in the overly elaborate burger category. Earlier this week, another restaurant in Chicago, Rockit Burger Bar, premiered the Mac Attack, which places a beef patty between two buns made out of fried macaroni and cheese.
That, of course, came on the heels of the Ramen Burger. Last year saw the appearance of the $666 Douche Burger with gold-leaf-wrapped beef and Gruyere cheese melted with "Champagne steam." And don't even get me started on Kobe beef burgers, which A Hamburger Today's Adam Kuban once described as "always, always a bad idea," thanks to a texture like "moist cat food on a bun."
Not that untraditional hamburgers can't be good. At Txikito in New York City, the El Doble — two thin patties, a smoked Basque sheep's milk cheese, pickled peppers and onions, and a cornichon — is incredible.
But for the most part, an over-the-top hook obviously designed to reel in diners and members of the media is a bad sign. The Ghost might be tasty. But do you really want to spend $17 on a culinary one-liner? Last time I checked, you could still get a Double-Double at In-N-Out for under $4.