It’s Burger Week over at Eater.com, the popular blog network that covers restaurant, bar and nightlife news across 15 metropolitan areas including New Orleans. And on Monday during my daily visit to the Nola.Eater page, I came across a post on Bud’s Broiler. Reading that piece had me thinking back to 1970-something and left me craving a big, juicy burger with a milkshake and fries.
Bud’s Broiler is a New Orleans institution and anyone who grew up in the City has vivid memories of meals eaten there. Whether they frequented the old Gentilly location on Pelopidas (with a not-so-memorable view of the cemetery), the original City Park Avenue address or one of several other locations, they can more than likely rattle off their favorite menu item by number too. That’s because this small, local hamburger chain has been cranking out its “original charcoal broiled” burgers from basically the same menu since 1952. We’re not talking fancy schmancy burgers. No. These are classic old-school burgers made with 100% ground chuck (and probably nothing else), cooked over a charcoal flame and served on toasted buns. Topping options are classified by order number and are limited to the basics plus mayonnaise-relish sauce, hickory smoked sauce and chili. My favorite was always a Number 4 with chili and cheese, which is reflected on their menu board something like this:
4 – MEAT GRATED CHEDDAR CHEESE, CHILI OR OUR OWN HICKORY SMOKED SAUCE 3.75
Coincidentally, my kids had requested regular burgers (as opposed to sliders) for dinner that night. So I decided to create a Bud’s Broiler experience for them at home. Since I knew they wouldn’t care for a burger with chili, I prepared for them a Number 4 with hickory smoked sauce. Let me clarify. I prepared for them Numbers 4s with my best attempt at recreating Bud’s Broiler’s famous hickory smoked sauce. I based my sauce on a list of ingredients I found on the Tiger Droppings (Go LSU!) forum, the link to which was referenced in that Nola.Eater article. Geez, I had no idea this condiment was such a hot topic. Apparently decades have been devoted to nailing down Bud’s secret recipe. Anyway, Tiger Droppings’ list included tomato sauce, ketchup, liquid smoke and chili powder. I dumped those ingredients in the pan, tasting and adjusting the amounts while the sauce cooked down, but I wasn’t getting any good taste memories from that combination. So I started adding this and that until I tasted what I recalled being Bud’s famous sauce, if just a tad thicker and darker. The hubby spooned a generous amount on his burger and thought it was spot on. The kids’ take on it? Well, for the record, they’ve never eaten an original Bud’s Broiler burger (sigh, I know), but they loved it just the same. We’ll definitely have to pay Bud’s Broiler a visit during one of our next trips home.
Bud’s Broiler Burger with Hickory Smoked Sauce Recipe
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins (Worcestershire sauce), divided
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups ketchup (I used Heinz, but read that Bud’s uses Hunt’s)
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon chili powder
Kosher salt and coarse black pepper to taste
6 hamburger buns, lightly toasted
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, for serving
In a large bowl, combine ground chuck, 2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Gently shape meat into 6 patties about 1 1/2-inches thick; make a deep thumb impression in the center of each one. Season outside of patties with additional salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the sauce by combining the tomato sauce, ketchup, liquid smoke, vinegar, chili powder and reserved 1/4 cup Lea & Perrins in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened, 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt; keep warm. Prepare grill (preferable charcoal) for direct cooking over high heat. Remove patties from refrigerator and place in center of grill. Cook until the patties begin to sweat on top, about 4-5 minutes. Flip patties over and cook to desired doneness, another 2-4 minutes for medium-rare. Place burgers on the buns and top with grated cheese and hickory smoked sauce. Makes 6 servings.