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What a 4-Star Truffled Cheeseburger Tastes Like

Alex Van Buren
Food Features Editor
June 12, 2014

The Daniel Humm truffle burger at Shake Shack. Photo credit: Courtesy Shake Shack

Is it the look of truffles? Is it that, when sliced, they almost resemble a heart?

Is it their wallop of a bouquet, conjuring earthiness and elegance— nostalgia for childhood camping trips and the fanciest meals of your life—at once? 

Whatever it is, it got hundreds of people in line for a cheeseburger before 11:30am this morning at the Madison Square Park Shake Shack in New York City.

The chain, which turned 10 years old this week and now has outposts as far flung as Turkey and the United Kingdom, has been hosting collaborative chefs all week, including Momofuku’s David Chang, who created a shrimp terrine to plop on top of the famous burger. But today representatives from four-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park crowed that they had triumphed over Chang with their truffled bacon cheeseburger. For $9.50, one could purchase chef Daniel Humm’s “Shack beef-blend Gruyère cheeseburger topped with all-natural applewood smoked bacon, celery relish, Bibb lettuce, truffle mayo and shaved fresh black truffle.”

And the line was insane, stretching three full New York City blocks before noon. The Shake Shack burger being among the best we’ve ever had, and truffles always being a lure, we got ourselves to the Shack today to give it a try. (We were permitted to skip the line, but we paid for the burger.) Chef Humm was at Beyoncé levels of popularity today, but we managed to eke out of him that—because he’s Swiss—he’s always been a fan of slapping Gruyère on to burgers. The black truffle and celery combo is a classic, he told us, that he often employs in vegetables dishes at EMP. 

As for him throwing a Shake Shack apron over his traditional chef’s whites, and leaving the rarefied air of his upscale restaurant for an afternoon?

Eleven Madison Park chef Daniel Humm, (left), at the burger pickup window with Randy Garutti, Shake Shack CEO (center), and Mark Rosati, Shake Shack culinary director (right). Photo credit: Alex Van Buren

Apparently it’s not much of a stretch. “We spend most of our days at the Shake Shack!” laughed Eleven Madison Park restaurateur Will Guidara. 

On to the taste!

So here’s the thing with a burger that has truffle mayo and a giant slice of black truffle: As is true of every ill-advised makeout session in the history of humanity, the first bite seemed like a really good idea. The fragrance of the truffle was a knockout. The bacon was salty and a smart counterpoint, and the contrast of crunchy celery bits and creamy truffled mayo seemed like genius.

But the burger — where was the burger? Bite two, and the burger was a bit more detectable. It was cooked medium-well, to grey, not pink, which happens sometimes at the Shack, but which is more well-cooked than we like. And it sort of paled in comparison to that truffly first bite.

As we’ve said before, this is sort of the concern when putting truffles, foie gras or caviar… on a burger. It’s gilding the lily, but is it gilding it in a way that makes sense? 

Did we wolf it down in less than a minute? Absolutely. Would we wait in line for it? Probably not.

Is there any way to successfully put truffles on burgers? We swoon at the idea, but for now we still like our truffles separate from our cheeseburgers.