Buffalo Wild Wings Smashed Burgers plus Q&A with Culinary VP Jamie Carawan

It’s been a long time since I stepped foot inside of a Buffalo Wild Wings. I’m talking more than ten years long. The last experience left such a bad taste in my mouth that I had written them off.

It piqued my interest when I received an *email to try their smashed burgers. I researched and found out that they switched to fresh beef burgers a few years back. Now I was excited.

The Buffalo Wild Wings website revealed a line of burgers featuring several Regional Burger Styles. Their newest creation, a Bacon Hatch Chile Burger, looked promising. So I agreed to come in to try the All-American, Avocado Bacon Burger and, of course, the Bacon Hatch Chile Burger.

I called on Ed, one of my ride or dies, when Marcela could not accompany me. He and I have not sat in a restaurant together for years. So, in short, I was in great company for this tasting.

While Ed and I agree on many things, there are times when our opinions are on opposite sides of the food spectrum.

*Stay tuned for a question and answer with Buffalo Wild Wings Culinary V.P. Jamie Carawan after all the burger talk.

All-American Cheeseburger

All-American Cheeseburger
All-American CheeseburgerDouble smashed burger patties with American cheese, sea salt, coarse black pepper, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, and mayo on a challah bun
 Here are the natural-cut french fries that came with the All-American Cheeseburger
Here are the natural-cut french fries that came with the All-American Cheeseburger

The burgers were brought out one at a time with a different side. First up was the All-American Cheeseburger with lightly seasoned natural-cut fries.

I’m not a fan of dressed-up burgers; by that, I mean I remove the lettuce and tomatoes. It looks beautiful, but those fellas had to go.

After removing the filler, I cut it in the middle. Ed liked it but wished I hadn’t removed the l&t. However, I loved the All-American, and after the first bite, I envisioned myself returning to have another.

The challah bread was an excellent choice for these burgers. This bread has no structural integrity issues; the bottom bun will hold up.

The mayo and mustard condiment duo is an interesting choice for this burger. I could have seen it either going only mayo (known as a Sissy Burger in Texas) or with the burger fast food trinity of ketchup, mayo, and mustard.

Avocado Bacon Burger

Avocado Bacon Burger from Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurants
Avocado Bacon Burger – Double smashed burger patties with pepper jack cheese, avocado, bacon, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato & bacon aioli on a challah bun

Next was the Avocado Bacon Burger; it’s their take on the California regional burger style. Ed seemed particularly excited about this one. It scored higher points on his scale than the All-American Cheeseburger.

He loves things piled up on his food, the opposite of what I like. Also, I wouldn’t say I like avocados, so I sat this one out. It sure was pretty, though.

Beer Battered Onion Rings from Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurants
Beer Battered Onion Rings

This burger came with a side of beer-battered onion rings. I enjoyed dipping the o-rings in the southwestern ranch sauce while waiting for the final pretty baby to arrive.

Bacon Hatch Chile Burger

Bacon Hatch Chile Burger from Buffalo Wild Wings Restaurantsfalo Wild Wings Restaurants
Bacon Hatch Chile Burger – Double smashed burger patties with American cheese, bacon, grilled onions, pickled Fresno chile peppers, Young Guns Hatch chile peppers, & Hatch chile aioli on a challah bun.

The Bacon Hatch Chile Burger did not disappoint. It is an exceptional burger. By that, I mean this is the type of burger that dreams are made of, the kind that drive to get and build your lunch around.

The Bacon Hatch Chile Burger exceeded all of my expectations. It is up in the top 1% of the burgers I’ve enjoyed in the last couple of years.

It’s not only the quality ingredients (American cheese, bacon, grilled onions, pickled Fresno chile peppers, Young Guns Hatch chile peppers, & Hatch chile aioli) but how they’re layered. Buffalo Wild Wings nailed it.

Ed enjoyed it so much that he ate another one yesterday. I’m not sure if the picture he texted me was to rub it in or issue a challenge. There’s no need to challenge; I will return for another Bacon Hatch Chile Burger.

Thank you to Buffalo Wild Wings for the invite and the staff at their Dolphin Mall location; everyone was great.

P.S.: I did not forget to mention the Bacon Hatch Chile Burger’s accompanying side. It came with Buffalo Chicken Tots. It’s just that we were down for the count after the burgers.

Q&A with Culinary VP Jamie Carawan

Buffalo Wild Wings' VP of Culinary Jamie Carawan
Buffalo Wild Wings’ V.P. of Culinary Jamie Carawan

After trying the new Buffalo Wild Wings burgers, I asked if it would be cool to send a few questions to Jamie Carawan, their V.P. of Culinary. They answered, “NO!” Just kidding, he did answer my questions. I’m happy to announce they’re committed to the fresh beef smashed burger.

QBurger Beast: Tell us a bit about your burger background. Are you a lifelong burger fan?

AChef Jamie Carawan: I gotta admit. I’m obsessed with burgers. I have developed burgers for a while; I can’t lie. I have stayed up at night thinking about the perfect burger. The toppings, the bun, the grind, the patty. It all has to work in unison to deliver a burger experience.

If you try the All American Cheese Burger, it seems pretty straight forward but don’t be fooled. Every step and ingredient is curated to create what we think is the perfect burger. The Challah bun is a twist. Brioche and potato buns are popular, but I love the texture and taste of this classic bun.

Even the way we stack the burger is important. Mayo goes on the bottom bun to help “seal” it from the burger juice. Then the shredded lettuce is topped with tomato and pickles to protect the lettuce from the hot patties.

Then, the meat with cheese on each patty – caramelized onion and the top and with mustard finish out this masterpiece. This is a simple burger but simple hard. All of these ingredients deliver a classic, amazingly indulgent, delicious burger.

QBurger Beast: What caused Buffalo Wild Wings to switch to these fresh smashed beef patties?

AChef Jamie Carawan: Having a great burger is a must for any sports bar, so we knew we had to take Buffalo Wild Wings’ burger game to the next level.

Every burger we serve includes two patties that are simply seasoned to order with salt and pepper and then smashed and seared on the griddle to get good caramelization.

We’ve found this process results in a better product that can be consistently executed across 1,200+ sports bars.

QBurger Beast: This isn’t so much a question as it is a statement; the Challah Bun you’re using is perfect for your smashed burgers.

AChef Jamie Carawan: Well, thank you! We agree that it’s the perfect vehicle for our burgers. You will notice a slight sweetness in the Challah bun from the honey that is baked in.

Also, the bread-to-meat ratio is a real thing. The meat and toppings must be the hero. The bun needs to be a delicious handle for your burger without being over-powering or doughy.

QBurger Beast: I recognized a few Regional Burger-Styles on the new Buffalo Wild Wings burger menu, like the California Burger (Avocado Bacon Burger) and the New Mexico Green Chile Cheese Burger (Bacon Smashed Hatch Chile Burger). Even the Cheese Curd Bacon Burger has a nod to Wisconsin, while the Smoked Brisket Burger has a nod to Texas.

So what inspired the burgers?

A Chef Jamie Carawan: I love food and food stories that have a place. These are the flavor stories that draw us in – make us curious, and allow us to take an adventure. Given Buffalo Wild Wings’ national footprint, we’re always looking to incorporate unique, regional flavors to our menu items.

We’re really proud of the new Bacon Smashed Hatch Chile Burger, in particular. We source Hatch chiles from Hatch, New Mexico, which is the only place in the world you can find this particular chile. They deliver a deep roasted character and an earthy finish, along with a consistent heat that you’d expect from a southwestern-style burger.

Our brisket platform is really impressive too. Smoked in Texas in hickory oak pits, this product is hand-trimmed and rubbed before it’s smoked low and slow over coals and hickory for 14 hours. We’ve found that these regional flavors perform well at both a local and national level.

QBurger Beast: Were there any burgers that you tested that did not make it to the menu?

AChef Jamie Carawan: First of all, we’re very proud of the fact that our culinary team has continued to stay on task and push innovation forward over the past 12+ months. The usual pace of business does not typically give teams the opportunity to incubate on new platforms, ingredients, and products.

However, our team took advantage of the time to be more innovative and come up with new products – including our new Bacon Smashed Hatch Chile Burger. We haven’t shown our hand all the way. We continue to innovate around our double-smashed burger. The future is bright for this platform.

QBurger Beast: Are you cooking up anything else burger-wise? Maybe some real-deal sliders with minced onions? Or smash burger cheese fries with chopped burgers?

AChef Jamie Carawan: Those are great suggestions.

You mentioned cheese fries topped with a chopped burger. While we don’t offer that right now, we use our Smoked Brisket in a variety of different ways – as a burger topping on the Smoked Brisket Burger, as the hero of our Smoked Brisket Sandwich and Brisket Street Tacos, and as an optional add-on to the Dirty Dubs Tots or Ultimate Nachos.

Perhaps we’ll do something similar with our burgers at some point.

Burger Beast: Thank you to Jamie for taking the time out of his schedule to answer my questions.

*I want to be clear; this is not a paid ad. My opinion was not influenced because I was treated to my meal. If I did not care for any of it, I would not have written about it or posted it on social media.

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