So I’m going to tell you a little secret that you’ve probably figured out by now: I like fancy things.
But more importantly, I like ordinary things with a fancified twist: Homemade root-vegetable chips. Popsicles made with Prosecco. Grown-up grilled cheese with high-end brie, carmelized onions and figs.
You get the idea.
That’s why, when a reader raved on and on about the very fancy-pants-sounding burger at Table 50, I knew I had to try it. Just listen to this online menu description:
“Table Fifty’s house-ground burger, truffle-buttered Kaiser, Wisconsin cheddar, charred shallot mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and gaufrettes – $14.”
I guess you can bet where I found myself last night.
Table 50 is a little downtown oasis for me: a place where I can relax at the bar in the very epicenter of Market Square, order a glass of wine and maybe a charcuterie platter, and not feel accosted by too much loud music or aggressively flirty dudes. It’s a quiet, classy establishment that feels traditional in just about every way, from its twinkly little sterno candles on the tables to its menu, which offers quality cuts of steak, fresh seafood, crab cakes … and yes, that burger. Last night, I met a girlfriend, Kaitlin, for a quiet girl’s dinner out, and we came ready for a citified sandwich . Here it is, topped with sautéed onions at my request:
Now, confession from the start: this burger isn’t quite what I was expecting. Something about the description made believe that this one would have a more pronounced savory flavor profile. I took a bite anticipating the woodsy aroma of truffles and the garlicky taste of those charred shallots … but instead, I just tasted … a really good hamburger.
And then I thought about it for awhile, and I realized: that’s exactly in keeping with what Table 50 does. You won’t find any test tubes or fuming nitrogen flasks in the kitchen here. Nothing about the menu tries to be trendy or even particularly attention-getting. This is a restaurant that says: we serve fine food in exactly the high-quality manner you’ve come to expect, without any gimmicks or silly frills.
And I can appreciate that.
In fact, when I took half of this burger home for a taste-test with my hubby, his first reaction was: “This isn’t Wagyu, but it is really good beef … and you can taste it.”
See what I mean? It’s a burger with Table 50’s signature on it.
But perhaps one of the *most* traditional things about this burger is the choice of a Kaiser-style roll — which bucks the gourmet-restaurant trend of using brioche.
Yeah… About that.
I think it’s worth stopping for a minute here and talking about an oft-neglected element of great burger preparation, which is the bun. It’s true: the meat is the star, but the consistency of the bun has a lot to do with how that meat is approached physically, and also how it tastes in your mouth.
Hip restaurants these days tend to prefer brioche — a yeast bun enriched with egg. It’s got an airy texture that straddles the line between a pillowy potato roll and a crustier Kaiser. I like brioche because it still holds together when you take a bite (important, if you don’t want to end up eating pieces of burger from your plate with a knife and fork) … but it’s also soft enough to collapse in your hands so it doesn’t overwhelm the patty. Frequently bathed in an egg wash before it makes its trip under the broiler, brioche browns up nicely on top and offers a little flakiness to boot.
Kaiser — a roll with a distinctive segmentation on top, often in little rays the make a whorl in the center — is a bit crustier and more substantial. And while that can sometimes get in the way of the flavor of the beef (this is particularly true on a smaller sandwich), the benefit is that the eating experience is a touch … well, classier. A Kaiser roll keeps itself together when you eat it. The textured crumb soaks up enough sauciness that you don’t end up with burger-juice running down into your French cuffs.
So you can see why the Kaiser is a fitting choice for Table 50, where nobody eats like a Neanderthal.
All that to say: if you want to impress a date but also chow down on a massive hunk of ground beef on a bun, then Table 50 is exactly where you want to be…
And I can raise a glass of fancified Malbec to that.
Happy eating, Roanoke! I’ll see you tomorrow for a much more lowbrow burger … And I mean that as a compliment. 🙂