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Bateau's burger.

Image: Sarah Flotard

For high-end restaurants, burgers are tricky. Customers love them; so do chefs. But too much buzz and suddenly you’re running a burger joint. The solution—off-menu burgers for diners in the know. After Eden Hill regulars caught wind of the upgraded Big Macs Maximillian Petty made for his staff, the chef-owner made the Big Max available on Sunday nights in his Upper Queen Anne restaurant, but only at the bar. Petty’s kitchen asserts the same care that defines Eden Hill’s regular menu: Sea Wolf sesame seed buns, a housemade American cheese stand-in made with agar and creme fraiche, and good-quality beef whipped with liquid nitrogen to emulsify the fat.

At Bateau on Capitol Hill, burgers are a handy way for chef Taylor Thornhill to use up trim, but requests to customize kind of defeat the brilliant burger combo he conceived—aioli, caramelized onions, housemade challah-style bun. It’s so simple and yet so complex you’d swear there was cheese lurking atop that grass-fed patty. It’s no longer on the menu, but just ask—it’s always available.

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