Photo: p0kp0k, Flickr
In tough times, diners aren't going for the prime rib or petit filet mignon.
Instead, they're looking to get their gourmet beef fix from designer hamburgers -- and restaurants are turning the fast-food sandwich into a "fine dining experience" all over the country, Voice of America News reported.
"I think with the economy the way it is now, honestly, I think there is more room for profit in a burger restaurant than there is in a steak house right now," Greg Cook, head chef at the BLT Mirage in Las Vegas, told VoA News. "I think that the general public can always afford to have a burger."
And they're not the only ones turning to toppings like fried eggs, spicy fresh aïoli and even truffles to take burgers to the next level.
"We're using certified black Angus beef. It's all organic, no hormones," Brian Ogden, owner of Munch Bar at Ceasar's Palace, told VoA News.
"We're going to the farmers' markets everyday, picking out the ingredients, the lettuces, washing them ourselves and doing all organic romaines and icebergs and the boutique lettuces like red leaf, making our jalapeño mayonnaise, spicy remoulades, little relishes, homemade relishes from scratch. Takes a lot of stuff that goes into this everyday and our guys start early in the morning prepping the ingredients fresh daily."
Even Iron Chefs are going gourmet with burgers, like Chef Kerry Simon, owner of KGB: Kerry's Gourmet Burgers in the Harrah's casino in Las Vegas.
"I did 'Iron Chef' and it was a main ingredient on 'Iron Chef' so I did the ultimate hamburger and then I started fooling around with other different flavorings of meat and that kind of thing and my other restaurants and we've gotten awards for burgers in my other places so one thing led to another, Harrah's called me and asked me to do a burger bar," he told VoA News.
And burgers are expected to continue to be big sellers as the economy staggers on.
A survey from consulting firm Technomic found burgers have become more popular in the recession, with 90 percent of respondents saying they have them at least once a month. More than a third bite into a burger once a week, VoA News reported.
Are you going gourmet with burgers? Tell us in the comments.