The Taste Bud: Ham(burger) and eggs ... lunch or breakfast?

Mar 2, 2011 at 6:00 am

Like most of us, I grew up eating eggs — fried eggs, scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, sunny-side-up eggs.

My dad was a big-time egg lover; he used to mix up scrambled eggs in a glass measuring cup, dropping in little pieces of sliced American cheese as he stirred, before pouring it into a hot skillet with leftover bacon or sausage grease. Yeah, it’s true, he was no gourmet chef, but if you ever wanted a scrambled egg, the dude could hook you up.

But until recently, I had never had an egg on a hamburger. Avocado? Yes. Bacon? Sure. Even jalapeño peppers. But never an egg.

Well, if you haven’t either, you should. I met my friend Amy at Bunz, at 969½ Baxter Ave. in the Highlands, for lunch last week, and made a beeline for the Bunz Burger. I did not pass Go. I did not collect $200.

The Bunz Burger is a double bacon cheeseburger — with an egg. So yeah, a pretty basic concoction, except that to my taste buds, chicken eggs are a more natural fit with with bacon or sausage, not hamburger. This thing had bacon as well, so it boasted two breakfast items. So is it a breakfast burger, or what?

I’ll get back to that in a minute. When I started researching the marriage of hamburger and egg, I found that this is by no means a new concept. In fact, it’s not even a completely American concept.

Paula Deen, the eminent celebrity home-cooking chef, is behind the idea, for starters. But the monster she created not only combined egg with hamburger, but also tossed out the bun and utilized glazed donuts as the bread.

“Those donuts were there,” Deen said in one interview, “and the hamburger was there, so I said, ‘What the heck are we using buns for when we’ve got these luscious donuts?’”

I’m not a huge Deen fan, but it’s hard to argue with that logic.

There’s also the concept of leaving a hole in the center of the meat, dropping in an egg and cooking it as one. That’s often referred to as a “bull’s eye” burger. The egg-vs.-burger concept is also popular in New Zealand and Australia, where a fried egg is a common ingredient. In fact, if you’re an Aussie, you can apparently order “a burger with the lot” and be assured of getting an egg. Of course, you’re also just as likely to get beet root. (But that’s a whole other column.)

Via the InterWeb, I also located a couple places in New York that serve egg-burgers (they were pretty expensive); plus the cable show “Man vs. Food” did a segment on the subject, and the national burger chain Red Robin adds egg to its Royal Red Robin Burger.

My friend Stephanie said she visited a place called White Spot in Charlottesville, Va., some years ago and enjoyed a “Gus Burger,” which was a cheeseburger on white bread with a fried egg. She said the food there was “basically grease held together by magic.”

Oof. Now I’m hungry.

Anyway, back to the Bunz Burger. It’s a tad on the pricey side, at $7.39, but they don’t skimp on the content. The fairly sizeable beef patties start out as, well, meat wads, and are smashed and fried crispy at the edges (kind of like Steak ’N’ Shake, only better). You get a slice of cheddar on top of each patty, plus two strips of bacon, with red onions on bottom, the sauce on the bun lid, and, of course, a fried egg crowning the creation before the lid is placed.

Not sure how consistent this is, but my egg was fried just up to the point of firmness — the yolk was moist, but not runny. That can’t be easy to do consistently, but it was appreciated. I didn’t want yolk running down my forearms, nor did I want to lose a single drop of the dark yellow goodness, and I didn’t.

And I must say that, even with all the other ingredients, the egg indeed made its presence known, especially in the center bites where the yolk was thickest. The beef, cheese and yolk seemed to play together especially well, while the sauce stayed in the background. And bacon is, well, bacon.

Was it breakfast? Was it lunch? I have no idea. But it was damn good. (And 5 bucks says my dad starts putting eggs on his cheeseburgers after he reads this.)