A burger is a burger, unless it’s the House of Wines burger, which is in a class of its own. The patty has a juicy interior, with an outer crust boasting just the right amount of sear. A generous smear of tangy roasted garlic and rosemary aioli totally negates the need for ketchup, and maybe even mustard. I get physical cravings for the thing, and I’m not the only one. It’s developed a regional cult following of savvy burger-lovers who know the real deal when they see it.
My husband and I have lived in New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Portland, Oregon—all cities hopping with lively, fancy-pants hamburger joints. The House of Wines burger easily stands shoulder-to-shoulder with offerings from any urban market with a respected burger scene. And at $9, it’s a steal in the city or the country.
I asked Sally Oliver, House of Wine’s owner and general manager, what makes their burger a world-class burger. It’s not specifically the beef; House of Wines does serve locally raised meat on occasion, but not in the burger. They do use a grind that’s 80 percent lean to 20 percent fat, a ratio widely acknowledged by most burger-lovers as a sweet spot.
And there’s no special tricks to how they form the patty. Sally even showed me: it’s a big wad of meat, not too densely packed, not too loosely packed. “Then is it how you cook it?” I pressed Sally.
Gracious as always, she replied, “On the flattop.” So the patty is griddled. Nothing earth-shattering about that. They toast the brioche bun and heat up the savory wine-braised onions on the flattop, too.
Here’s my theory. The House of Wines burger puts a diner in burger nirvana because it offers a balance of all burger components: the bun does not dwarf the patty; the braised onions compliment the beef without overpowering it; the aioli is packed enough with flavor it does not need to be piled on in excess to cut through the burger juices. The burger comes with a moderate scoop of rich and tasty potato salad. Why? Because fries have no business being around this burger.
Also, I think chef Matt Lancaster cooks those burgers with love, and he trains his staff to, as well. It adds the je ne sais pas factor that’s more important than braised onions or aioli.
It’s worth noting my husband Joe loathes braised onions, and when we go to House of Wines and he orders the burger—which is every time we go to House of Wines, so enchanted is he—he heaps the braised onions on my plate. This is an ideal situation, in my opinion. Joe keeps meaning to branch out of his burger rut, but he can’t bring himself to. It’s worth it; despite the glory of the House of Wines burger, their other offerings offer pleasures, too (particularly the specials, where Chef Matt can exercise his creativity and enjoyment of seasonal ingredients).
House of Wines, 4339 State Route 60, Marietta, 740.373.0996, www.houseofwines.com