Camel, cauliflower, competition: Chefs and restaurateurs get creative with Burger Week

A handmade cauliflower burger from Flying Machine in Wrightsville Beach is topped with smoked blue cheese, homemade hot sauce and fried crisp, topped with lettuce, tomato and homemade Ranch dressing. (Courtesy picture)

SOUTHEAST NC – Fifty billion hamburgers are eaten each year in the States. America’s quintessential handheld apparently pleases most palates with its versatility. Port City Taste Burger Week proves that a sandwich can be dressed many ways and never the same twice – from traditional beef to wholesome cauliflower, shrimp to… camel?

Yes, the 2022 event – a Port City Daily program – also features exotic meats. More than 25 burgers are getting a makeover at 18 restaurants this week alone, thanks to local chefs and restaurateurs offering inventive flavors.

ALSO: Keep up to date with local food news

True Blue Butcher and Table in Landfall and True Blue Butcher and Barrel in South Front District will offer five burgers throughout the week. Chef Bobby Zimmerman decided to use Burger Week to pit some of his team’s creativity against each other in a friendly battle. Still, the end goal is to give real-world experience on developing proper menus, an essential part of running a restaurant, Zimmerman said.

“The rules of the contest are that the burger must be the chef’s creation, cost must be analyzed, and a sales strategy must be developed with staff training, marketing, and pricing considered,” Zimmerman explained. “At the end of the week, we will not tally the total amount sold, but the total sales contribution margin for each burger and that will determine the winner.”

Seventeen chefs exist in its restaurants, including Mariposa (although the latter does not participate in Burger Week). Each presented their best offerings, and Zimmerman narrowed it down to five on the menu.

All patties are made from custom ground meat on site, as the True Blue brand is known for its fresh butchery offerings. A Greek and Spanish inspired burger – made with lamb and chorizo ​​respectively – appears on the menu.

A bacon version will be enjoyed in Tones of Home, topped with jalapeño cheese, crispy onions and Eastern North Carolina BBQ smoked pork.

“Accessibility,” Zimmerman said, “creates a high performing burger.”

While the restaurateur is clear he can’t choose a favourite, he’s delighted to see the public’s preference: “The curiosity behind Chef Jesse’s Haembeogeo (Korean burger) will be fun to watch.”

Haembeogeo is topped with Thai sweet chili gochujang, Kimchi slaw, bibb lettuce, Japanese condiment Furikake, and a homemade chili-lime bun made by the baking team at True Blue.

Platypus and Gnome is the Quackin’ Camelope. (Courtesy picture)

Perhaps Burger Week’s most exotic offering will come from downtown’s Platypus and Gnome. The restaurant features the Quackin’ Camelope.

Platypus has become known for experimenting with various meats not always found in other local restaurants.

“We wanted to find healthier alternatives to the traditional meats found in the United States,” owner Matt Danylec said. “The result was richer-tasting foods from more sustainable sources that were higher in protein, minerals and amino acids, but lower in fat and cholesterol.”

Camel is similar to beef, he explained, but with “more minerality” and a stronger flavor. It can be cooked at any temperature, but like lean beef, staff often recommend making it medium-rare to medium to prevent it from drying out.

Camel isn’t the only exotic meat on the burger; Platypus garnishes it with antelope chili, a duck egg and duck bacon.

“A regular beef patty would completely get lost on the bun and offer very little to the overall taste of the burger,” Danylec said.

For diners who want a lighter bite, general manager Molly Brodbeck of Flying Machine in Wrightsville Beach said the kitchen created a cauliflower burger, bold with spices. The kitchen tested various ideas but landed on cauliflower as one of their options – the other is a beef burger – for several reasons.

“Our cauliflower appetizer is very popular, so we decided to make our veggie burger a reflection,” Brodbeck said.

Plus, there’s no other burger joint like this on the beach, she added. The Crispy Fried Cabbage Patty is topped with Blue Cheese Buffalo Sauce, baby greens, fresh tomato slices and Ranch dressing on a buttery brioche bun.

Brodbeck said the restaurant serves an active clientele who appreciate vegetarian options, though the goal is to appeal to all palates. “This burger reminds us that sometimes innovation combined with simplicity can yield the best results,” Brodbeck detailed.

All of its elements are homemade, with the galette being made with blanched cauliflower, egg and breadcrumbs. The staff smokes the blue cheese crumbs to add to the traditional hot sauce. Fresh herbs and garlic complement the homemade vinaigrette.

“The ranch is a southern staple [cuisine] and we understand the importance of it being done correctly and fresh,” Brodbeck added. “We source locally whenever possible.”

The local is also centrally located in Cast Iron Kitchen near Porters Neck. Chef Josh Petty has created a menu of five burgers, some including beef from Brasstown, North Carolina. A grass-fed dry-aged burger gets a smoky crunch from fried pork belly and BBQ sauce, while a breakfast burger, topped with an egg and Hollandaise sauce, can transform brunch .

CIK will also appeal to the purse strings by offering some of the cheapest deals of the week: $5 sliders. The restaurant will serve Kobe beef, chorizo ​​sausages and turkey burgers.

Located across town in the Cargo District, Mess Hall – which produced more than 600 orders of its famous Britts burger during Burger Week last year – amps up the ultimate snack food. Mountain Dew, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and mac ‘n’ cheese combine to make the Flamin’ Hot Mac ‘n’ Dew Burger.

Owner Sam Steger said the conceptualization of unique burgers usually happens when he and some of his team members joke around in the kitchen. Most of the weird notions bounce back, some he says never make it to the menu.

“But sometimes the ideas stick, and it becomes a challenge to try to take something weird and make it taste good,” he added.

The restaurateur finds himself surfing the internet to see what’s going on in the world of food. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, he found, has a cult following.

“When Mountain Dew released the flamboyant flavor, people freaked out about it. The internet is a wild place,” Steger said.

He decided to fold the Dew in bacon jam to give it a kick, add crispy Cheetos on a creamy mac on a smash burger to see how it all worked.

“The flavors come together surprisingly well,” Steger explained. “The sourness of the pickles cuts through it perfectly too.”

The ultimate Mess Hall snack includes the Flamin’ Hot Mac ‘n’ Dew Burger. (Courtesy picture)

South Beach Grill has moved away from land and sea to offer an alternative handheld this coming week. “Sustainable prawns from Atlantic waters make all the difference,” assured owner John Andrews.

While a fried shrimp burger is a traditional staple of North Carolina seafood menus, Andrews and his team chose a healthier option without sacrificing taste.

“Grilling and blackening spices give the shrimp a rich, smoky flavor,” Andrews described.

Chef Michael Overman adds garlic aioli, fried green tomatoes and the secret ingredient: his grandmother’s homemade bacon jam recipe to give it some textual interest.

“We could leak it,” Andrews said, “but Grandma swings a mean wooden spoon.”

Diners who want to participate in Burger Week can do so without the need for coupons or special tickets. Simply walk into any participating restaurant and ask for the Burger Week menu – all listed below:


Crust cuisine and cocktails

Front Street Brewery | Click for the $12 menu

Dining room | Click for a $13 menu

Rebellion | Click for a $15 menu

Platypus & Gnome | Click for menu

Shuckin’ Shack Oyster Bar – Downtown Wilmington NC | Click for menu

True Blue Butcher and Barrel | Click for a $14-$21 menu


Catawba Brewery | Click for a $10 menu

Hop Supply Company | Click for a $13-$14 menu

Whiskey Trail at The Creek | Click for a $15 menu

Whiskey Trail Midtown | Click for a $15 menu

North of Wilmington

Cast iron kitchen ILM | Click for a menu from $5 to $17

Soundside Seafood and Raw Bar

True Blue butcher and table | Click for a $14-$21 menu

Wild Wing Cafe

Wrightsville Beach

Flying machine at WB | Click for a $14-$16 menu

Poe’s Tavern | Click for a $15-$17 menu

South Beach Grill | Click for a $16 menu

Watermans Brewery | Click for a $13 menu

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