Back in 2012, when we were talking about what trends we would like to see disappear in 2013, CityBeat editor David Rolland piped up with something along the lines of, "I would love to see restaurants stop putting goddamn eggs on burgers." It was the equivalent to making the chillwave record skip (remember, this was 2012). Perhaps it was the vehemence of his distaste for something I'd never heard of, or the fact that it elicited such a strong reaction from the pro-egg camp in our department, but it's a moment that found residency among the permanent compartments of my brain (somewhere between "Wedding Anniversary" and "Netflix Login Info").
When we were coming up with topics for the Food Issue, I pitched a Rolland vs. Bradford egg-on-burgers standoff. The subject has come up so many times in subsequent meetings that it's practically an inside joke. My pitch would allow each side to present the pros and cons of what's probably the most non-Kosher hipster food trend. We'd present our arguments in articulate and stern-yet-gentlemanly terms.
So here's Rolland's side: "It's gross."
Now, I'm not a contrarian by nature, and I believed myself to be an impartial judge. I'm no egg lover, per se. To me, the idea of eggs-on-burgers seemed like a gimmick, and my attitude toward them was neutral bordering on ambivalence. But—but!—you only get so many chances to prove your boss wrong, especially in a public forum. My heart swelled at the prospect of rubbing the figurative yolk of victory in his and every other naysayer's face.
(This was before my heart swelled, quite literally, from intake of calories endured to research this article.)
The first stop in my quest was Downtown's The Lion's Share (629 Kettner Blvd.), a restaurant tucked inconveniently between two trolley tracks. The menu offers The Wild Style—a burger so gamey that you practically need a hunting license to eat it: "Grass Fed Beef, Boar Bacon and Fried Farm Egg." My wife—a vegetarian and a pacifist—didn't even want to watch me eat it.
"You're on your own," she said, and hinted that I'd probably spend the night on the couch or somewhere else with decent ventilation.
For being a testament to the American/stoner model of innovation—combining shit with other shit to make food—The Wild Style sure is a pretty burger. Even the table next to us was awed by the stack of humanely slaughtered animals, the glistening bun, the egg that hugged it all, and the toupée of caramelized onion. I didn't know whether to eat it or buy it its own dinner.
The first bite: Oh my. It was the taste of opulence. I felt guilty in the way new money must feel when it buys fur coats or blood diamonds. It was delicious. The egg was subtle—cooked soft enough to bleed with the medium-rare-tinted juice that dripped onto my truffle fries. And if that sounds gross to you, then you've never had the opportunity to turn into a werewolf: I growled territorially at the server when she asked if everything was OK.
The bill, however, was sobering. Twenty bucks for a burger is pricy, and I felt like Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction and his milkshake. I don't know if it's worth $20, but it's pretty fucking good.
With any high-quality product, there's bound to be the affordable knock-offs—what Marshmallow Mateys is to Lucky Charms, or what Jim Beam is to Jack Daniels, or what paint thinner is to Jim Beam. However, I was raised on these off-brands and still prefer a big bag of those friendly marshmallow pirates to that highfalutin' leprechaun. After eating what I consider the Cadillac of carnage, I wanted to see if an affordable variation exists. The blue-collar egg-on-a-burger, if you will.
Smashburger will let you throw a fried egg on any burger for an extra dollar. Even with the extra charge, my cheeseburger was about one-third the price of The Wild Style. Granted, it's not as visually appealing—pretty much the equivalent of having your East Coast Uncle Louie slap an egg on your burger after an hour of bothering him: "There. Ya happy?!"
But the Smashburger was actually really good. The egg flavor was more prominent—not as integrated with the other meats as with The Wild Style—but not overbearing. The egg was fried a little harder, so it's not going to be an indulgent pile of slop by the end, but it had the taste that you'd want if you were going to eat these things for breakfast. And the fact that I had that thought while eating it by myself was not at all depressing.
After two consecutive days of eating these things, I woke up in the middle of the night with a sharp pain in my chest. I want to think it was due to the anxiety of showing up my boss and ultimately claiming victory, but it was probably just the result of my struggling arteries.
Editor's note: Ew. Gross.