How do you improve upon a Big Mac? That isn't a sarcastic question; I'm a sucker for a McDonald's hamburger.
Blame it on nostalgia or perhaps my family history of diabetes. But it's rare that I feel an upscale restaurant can tackle a fast-food dish and improve significantly upon the original. Liberty Kitchen -- with its McDonald's-esque, special sauce-topped Liberty Burger -- is one of the rare restaurants which can, and now so is Haven.
Chef Randy Evans recently added the $20 Big-H burger to his lunch menu at Haven, which is his deliciously over-the-top reinterpretation of a Big Mac.
In true McDonald's style, the burger is even described on the menu as two Akaushi beef patties with "secret sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on sesame seed bun" (remember the old jingle, fellow oldsters?). It can also come topped with a fried egg on request, because what would modern dining be without the option to yolk up your burger?
And if $20 seems like a lot to pay for a burger, that's because you haven't seen the full size of the thing in person.
Behold that fantastic beast. I managed to get less than a quarter of the way through it at lunch before admitting defeat. Do yourself a favor if you're possessed of a similarly wimpy appetite and split the Big-H with a friend. Evans told me that only two people had finished the entire burger, one of whom was a petite Vietnamese woman. Wherever you are, petite Vietnamese woman, I doff my metaphorical cap to you.
In addition to the two perfectly medium-rare Akaushi patties, Evans also tops the burger with a special sauce that's captivatingly close to McDonald's own "secret sauce." That's not saying much in general, as pretty much anyone can throw together Thousand Island dressing. But it's the fact that Evans decided to go with restraint in this area instead of making his version of the secret sauce a swaggering, truffled-Sriracha-and-miso gilded lily that I admire.
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I also admire the use of his housemade pickles, the pitch-perfect shreds of iceberg lettuce and the slightly sweet eggy buns that hold it all together. It's the all-natural Big Mac that, well, a top-notch chef would make if he were making one for himself at home. And price aside, it's a complete and total improvement on the original.
Oh, and did I mention that it comes with something McDonald's doesn't offer at all? (Besides the fried egg, that is.) Housemade tater tots. Watch your back, Sonic: Haven is gunning for you next.