Why do I love this annual collaboration so much? Maybe because the chef lineup is always great, and the burgers they create feel gonzo and fun, considering they all (or this year, almost all) begin with the same 1/3–pound grass-fed patty. Also because...burgers. For the third year now, Li'l Woody's has turned over its basic burger to four local chefs. Each of their creations gets a week in the spotlight at the chainlet's three locations around town, including the newcomer in South Lake Union.
Here's the rundown and schedule. All photos are via Li'l Woodys, as you can probably tell from the text. Eat all four (and fill out the fancy Burger Week stamp card) and you'll earn my undying admiration, but also a limited-edition hat.
Behold, the burgers...
Rachel Yang: The Relay Burger
January 31-February 6
The chef behind Joule, Trove, Revel, and its new Portland spinoff, Revelry, could have gone the popular kalbi-inspired route with the patty. But she keeps things unseasoned on the meat front and adds a caramelized bacon and kimchi mayo, butter lettuce, and some pickled Korean peppers and onions. So it sounds like the Americana cheeseburger of my youth crossed with the comforting powers of Revel. Which is to say: I'm in.
Zoi Antonitsas: The Ras El Hanout Fried Oyster Roll
Antonitsas is gearing up for her chef role at the upcoming Jarr and Co., the preserved seafood–loving successor to JarrBar that's coming to Pike Place Market's expansion. Just like the Westward menus that made her a Food and Wine Best New Chef, her burger marries Antonitsas's Greek heritage (and broader Mediterranean flavors) with seafood: In lieu of beef, some fried Pacific oysters seasoned with ras el hanout and topped with tzatziki sauce and mint, plus lettuce, tomato, and pickled red onions—all on a seeded oyster roll.
Aaron Willis: The Merguez Burger
The new chef at Ciudad (who shares a partner with Li'l Woody's) came over from Delicatus. Which is to say, he likes meat. And global flavors, as it happens. He's gilding his burger with a link of Ciudad's own spicy, smoky lamb sausage, plus arugula and an aioli of roasted garlic and chimichurri. Doesn't get more global than that. Oh, wait—he finishes it off with a Basque-inspired piperade, a condiment of sun-dried tomatoes and piquillo peppers.
Jason Stratton: Big Freedia
February 21-February 28
Jason Stratton is so not a burger guy. That's why his version has so much panache (plus a nod to the flavors at Mamnoon and, somewhat, Mbar): a relish of fried cauliflower, golden raisins, pomegranate molasses, and calabrian chilies meets feta and a ton of herbs (mint, cilantro, dill, parsley) and some tahini mayonnaise that sounds like it would be dynamite with fries. The patty's baharat spice mixture is designed to conjure up images of shawarma. He named his creation for the New Orleans hip-hop/bounce artist, whose musical stylings, says Stratton, are appropriately bold and vibrant.
The Li'l Woody's Instagram should have plenty of reminders and come-hither photos after Burger Month kicks off on January 31.