I discuss burger history and classification a bunch. One topic that comes up rather often is whether or not a Patty Melt is classified as a burger. I’ve always felt that a Patty Melt was a burger. I also think that it’s almost impossible to mess one up.
The OFFICIAL ingredients for a Patty Melt are rather simple:
- Burger patty
- Rye bread
- Swiss cheese
- Grilled onions
I can’t say that I ever remember eating a bad one anywhere, and I’ve had them in many cities and states. I do encounter variations on the cheeses (American cheese, cheddar cheese), the protein (ground turkey) the bread (Sourdough), and even some cheese encrusted bread.
Another thing, most Patty Melt purists say that the rye bread is only griddled on the flat top not toasted. The Patty Melt should taste like the child of a great burger & grilled cheese sandwich. Hey, I’m all about that thought!
PATTY MELT HISTORY
Unlike the burger or cheeseburger, where you’ve got a bunch of folks claiming to be the creators, the Patty Melt is a product of California. Tiny Naylor owned a chain of Biff’s and Tiny Naylor restaurants in the late 1940s and 1950s. It was there that the Patty Melt made its debut.
Tiny passed in 1959, but his son Biff (the inspiration for the restaurant name) now owns the Du-Par’s chain (with a pretty mean Patty Melt on the menu). His granddaughter Jennifer was a former Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck.
While I haven’t come across the recipe for Tiny Naylor’s original Patty Melt, I did find one for the Patty Melt Jennifer served at Wolfgang Puck’s. Remember, beggars, can’t be choosers.
The cover for the Beastie Boy’s 1994 album Ill Communication was from Bruce Davison’s 1964 picture of Tiny Naylor’s for Esquire magazine.
JENNIFER NAYLOR’S PATTY MELT RECIPE
PATTY MELT INGREDIENTS
- Two tablespoons butter softened
- 4 slices rye bread
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 pound fresh ground round (divided and shaped into 2 oval burgers)
- One tablespoon olive oil
- One small red onion, peeled and sliced into rings
- 2 to 3 slices of Swiss cheese
PATTY MELT INSTRUCTIONS
- Melt butter over flat top griddle/sizable cast-iron skillet to toast rye bread slices.
- Season burgers w/salt & pepper, then grill on a flat top.
- Cook the burgers to medium-rare or desired doneness.
- Put olive oil on griddle and grill onions until caramelized.
- Melt Swiss cheese slices over each burger.
- Assemble Patty Melt by placing cheeseburgers over one slice each rye toast, top with caramelized Onions, and then remaining slices of rye toast.