We have absolutely no problem with a classic beef burger – like we could turn down an American icon? – but, sometimes we want to switch up our routine. Luckily, Angus ain’t the only protein in play in the patty game anymore. Chefs are utilizing unconventional meats sourced from the land and sea. From shrimp and salmon to kangaroo and bison, these burgers are far from your average Big Mac. Here are 11 alternative burgers that buck the convention that is beef.
Azu, Ojai, California
This is one lean, green burger machine. The primo patty is forged out of grass-fed, fat-marbling-free bison. Don’t worry, there’s still some gluttony involved. It comes topped with onion jam, Gorgonzola, and bacon — and there’s a side of fries. Make a reservation at Azu.
Badmaash, Los Angeles, California
Sacred cows are left out of the equation when it comes to making these alternative burgers. Instead, well-spiced lamb takes the lead. Served on a brioche bun, they come with red onion ringlets, iceberg lettuce, juicy Roma tomato slices, and paprika-pepped mayonnaise. Make a reservation at Badmaash.
The Commoner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Chef Dennis Marron didn’t want to follow the flock when he was designing his burger. So he created one out of lamb to stand out from the herd. It comes capped with Moroccan-spiced aioli, Indian relish, and whipped goat cheese. Make a reservation at The Commoner.
Sambar, Culver City, California
Here’s one done the Bombay way. The chicken burger comes with a plethora of flavor-boosting toppings, including crispy chicken skin, hempseed chutney, and summer fruit chutney. Warning: it may inspire you to book a trip to India — and we will not cover the cost of the ticket. Make a reservation at Sambar.
Sepia, Chicago, Illinois
We want this burger baaad. Sorry, couldn’t resist. The Middle Eastern-inspired round is made with lamb and finished off with pickled eggplant, fiery harissa aioli, and feta crumbles. Make a reservation at Sepia.
Kachina Southwestern Grill, Westminster, Colorado
This is all kinds of awesome. Roasted green chilies and smoked cheddar cheese are piled high on the bison built burger. It’s all shoehorned onto a cheddar brioche bun, which is tasty enough to be eaten on its own. Make a reservation at Kachina Southwestern Grill.
Burke & Wills, New York, New York
Don’t tell the kids what you had for lunch. The burger at this Australian-minded bistro is made out of kangaroo. It’s hopped up with tomato jam, pickled onions, and arugula, and served with triple-fried chips (or, as we Americans call them, freedom fries). Make a reservation at Burke & Wills.
Proof, Washington, D.C.
A Vietnamese banh mi sandwich inspired executive chef Haidar Karoum when he was casting about for the perfect shrimp burger recipe. The crispy patty comes topped with a vibrant cast of accompaniments: pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber slices, cilantro sprigs, and rings of jalapeno for a hit of heat. For another spicy accent, he swipes the bun with a little red chili mayonnaise. Make a reservation at Proof.
Oceana, New York, New York
We’d swim upstream for this burger. Executive chef Ben Pollinger’s pink patty made out of fresh salmon is an A-list alternative to its beefy counterparts. It’s served with pickled red onion and horseradish and accompanied by crispy housemade kettle chips. Make a reservation at Oceana.
mk, Chicago, Illinois
Sometimes size doesn’t matter. These sliders may be small, but they pack a flavorful punch. Petite bison burgers are served on focaccia then slathered with bone marrow butter and crowned with hen of the woods mushrooms, Pecorino cheese, and watercress. Make a reservation at mk.
Et Voila, Washington, D.C.
Meet the mussels from Brussels. They form the body of this blue ribbon burger, which is held together with a creamy scallop mousse. The patty is smeared with aioli, crowned with crisped onion strands, and served on a buttery brioche bun. Make a reservation at Et Voila.
Nevin Martell is a Washington, D.C.-based food and travel writer and the author of several books, including Freak Show Without A Tent: Swimming with Piranhas, Getting Stoned in Fiji and Other Family Vacations. Find him on Twitter @nevinmartell.