Mistakes You Are Making When You Order A Burger At A Sit-Down Restaurant

You're hungry, you get seated at a restaurant, and you're about to order a burger from the menu. Nobody wants you to turn hangry, so go ahead. Asking for a burger is pretty straightforward, but getting exactly what you want with the right taste is something else. Believe it or not, there are some mistakes you can make when choosing a burger from a restaurant menu.

Sure, you can make your own restaurant-style burger, like this copycat Shake Shack Shackburger recipe that includes not pulling apart the bun so it springs open. You can even create famous chef Bobby Flay's burger with a twist that has bacon and cheese in the patty and a sauce made from mayonnaise mixed with mustard, ketchup, and smoked paprika. But dining out is half the fun.

When you do dine out, know what to do when you want a burger at a sit-down restaurant — from ordering the right patty and bun to getting the toppings right, too. In addition, know how you can avoid certain mistakes and improve your burger-eating experience.

Only ordering a beef burger

When you order a burger, you want it to be a recognizable dish. That's part of the appeal. But herein lies the issue — that you kind of know what you're going to get. If you are taking the time to dine in at a restaurant rather than grab fast food takeout or hit the drive-thru, then surely it's worth ordering something a little different, isn't it? So, you want a burger, and you won't be swayed. It's totally understandable if you're craving a meaty, filling patty, possibly with some fries on the side. But do you have to choose a beef burger? 

There's a whole world of appetizing restaurant burgers out there just waiting to be ordered. One mistake you could be making when you order a burger at a sit-down restaurant is only sticking to what you know. It's true that not all beef burgers are the same, and they do vary from one eatery and the next. But with trained chefs behind the scenes, it might be a better option to try a different type of patty, perhaps with a different kind of bun, toppings, and condiments. What about a fried cod sandwich with a panko crust? Or you could try a Greek-style lamb burger or Kurobutga pork burger. Spicy chicken burgers are fabulous too, and if you've never tasted one while dining out, then a good example is this Buffalo chicken burger recipe.

Not trying meat-free burgers

Burger fans love biting through a lightly toasted bun, fresh toppings, and zingy condiments to get to a succulent burger. However, sometimes a patty can be so big, especially with all the extras, that it's over-powering. Beef is full of saturated fats, as anyone knows, and a huge 8-ounce burger isn't exactly a light meal. For a light lunch, you might want to pick a meat-free burger from the menu for a change. Die-hard burger lovers may balk at the idea, but that's honestly a big mistake.

Restaurant chefs are skilled at creating tasty variations on classics with interesting flavors and ingredients. You might see a portobello mushroom burger on a restaurant menu. If not, it's super simple to make at home. Brush mushroom caps with tamari or soy sauce, and fry on both sides in a skillet with a little olive oil. Serve on a bun with thick slices of fresh tomato, lettuce, and a mayo-ketchup sauce. Fast food favorites and other chain restaurants are increasingly tapping the plant-based market, too. At Mashed, our highest-ranked veggie burger from a chain is the Impossible Burger at Wahlburgers, which is served with a spicy Wahl sauce, caramelized onions, chili-spiced tomatoes, plus smoked cheddar.

Adding bacon

Do you love a crispy rasher of bacon atop a double cheeseburger? It might come as a surprise then that adding this could be one of the mistakes you are making when you order a burger at a sit-down restaurant. Before you dismiss this as a ridiculous concept dreamed up by those who don't fully appreciate burger toppings, consider why you might want to leave out these greasy meat strips.

Burgers aren't usually a dieter's delight, so it's worthwhile considering whether you really need those extra bacon calories. Not to mention all the fat that comes with them. Does bacon elevate the taste so much that it's worth adding? Smoked bacon, especially, is strong-flavored, so much so that it can overpower the taste of the meat. And let's face it. At certain restaurants, the bacon served on burgers isn't always crisp, and it can sometimes taste a little cold and fatty. A thin and unimpressive rasher hardly seems worth it. However, this mistake is a wild card as there are plenty of burger fans who love nothing better than the combination of chargrilled beef and smoked bacon. Perhaps this mistake really depends on where you dine. 

Not checking whether the burgers are homemade

Not all restaurant burgers are made the same. In fact, some are not made in-house at all. Instead, they are brought in chilled or frozen. Don't be fooled by the look of an eatery, the caliber of the other dishes on a menu, or the high prices. High-end restaurants may buy burgers from a good source rather than a big food company. This means they can taste as good as if they were being made by the restaurant chefs, if not better. Meanwhile, plenty of mom-and-pop style bistros with traditional menus make their own burgers without a high-class price tag.

Quite often a menu will describe in detail what a burger is made from, the weight, and whether it's homemade or handcrafted. If it doesn't say, then don't make the mistake of not checking before you order. This should be your first question so that you can then decide whether to even order this meal in the first place. A great homemade burger can often become a signature dish on the menu, whereas at some restaurants, it's a nothing special type of order that may not be worth the price. There are also sit-in restaurants that serve fast food in an upmarket style, such as Five Guys, where its specialty is burgers made by hand.

Trying to customize too much

From takeout coffee to restaurant dishes, customizing orders is almost a national pastime. There are allergies to consider and dietary requirements, of course. And diners used to eating out often know exactly what they like and don't. However, it can be a mistake to try to customize burger orders too much. Ask serving staff to hold the tomatoes if you hate them or the raw onion rings if you're on a date. However, deconstructing a burger that a chef has devised and recreating it into something else could detract from the taste.

It's true that you might not have thought about adding guac and pork rinds to a patty with a sweet jalapeño mayonnaise. What's fantastic about dining out is getting to taste dishes you wouldn't ordinarily make at home. There's a lot to be said for going with a burger concept that a culinary expert has come up with. After all, a quality chef understands taste, flavor, and texture and can elevate dishes in ways that you might not have thought of. Dining out is fun when you trust a menu and are inspired to step outside your comfort zone, even when it comes to burgers. And remember, you can always ask for toppings to be served on the side if you're not 100% convinced.

Ignoring asking what buns they have

A good bun can enhance a burger, and a bad one can ruin this all-American classic. Just as chefs like to get creative by making different patties, they also love pairing burgers with specific buns. Not every burger bun is a cartoon-style one with sesame seeds on top. Don't make the mistake of not asking what bun options are available if it doesn't say so on the menu. This could swing whether you order a burger or not.

Some chefs like the sweetness of brioche, whereas others prefer a more robust carb such as sourdough or a tasty pretzel bun. A lot of restaurants offer gluten-free buns, and it's not uncommon to find bun-less burgers with lettuce or some type of veggie slice in place of the bread. A bun used for a beef burger may be replaced by another type for a chicken burger, so don't make an error by assuming that chefs will stick to only one type. Remember, this is about pairing texture and taste. All you need to be sure of is that the bun is fresh. If it comes apart when you grab it, then it might be a little stale. Don't be afraid to ask for another one if it tastes a bit dry. Toasted buns are best so that they don't turn soggy with the meat, toppings, and condiments.

Not saying how you'd like your burger cooked

If your server doesn't ask how you want your burger cooked, then that's a red flag. And it's a mistake to dine in at a restaurant and not specify how pink or cooked-through you like the patty. The best burgers are cooked once you place your order, and they are cooked exactly how you like them. You might love a rare fillet steak, but that doesn't mean you like your burger served that way. The size of a patty makes a difference as well. 

If you're not sure, your best bet is to opt for a burger that's more on the medium side or cooked for longer. If the meat is rare, you might find it doesn't work with the bread bun, salad, and toppings so well. Some diners and chefs think there's no right or wrong way. However, what culinary experts know, and you should too, is that temperature does make a difference. A medium-rare burger may be succulent as can be, but if it's cooler than 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then you might be more at risk of food-borne illnesses. If you know that a restaurant uses quality meat in a hygienic way, then this is less of an issue. Otherwise, it might be best to ask for your burger well-done. It should still be tasty, and plenty of folks prefer it this way.

Chowing down on a lettuce leaf

There's a big difference between a salad sandwich and a burger in a bun. Or at least there should be. For some burger lovers, a patty and bun should never meet a lettuce leaf. However, a slice of juicy tomato and some crisp salad leaves make a burger less greasy and more of a meal than a slab of protein between carbs. However, it's a mistake to order a burger with one big lettuce leaf slotted into a bun.

When you take a bite, the burger and other toppings can easily slide off a slippery piece of lettuce. And you may end up dragging the sole leaf out all in one piece so that you're at the table munching on it like a rabbit. Order your burger at a sit-down restaurant without any lettuce at all. Or you could ask for it to be shredded. This makes each bite more enjoyable, and it also means that any juices from the patty don't pool or trickle off. Instead, they will run into the chopped lettuce and add to the taste. This also stops the juices from soaking into the bun and making it soggy. Of course, if you want to order a carb-free burger with a patty sandwiched between lettuce leaves, then that's up to you. 

Loading up on too many toppings

Even a classic burger comes with toppings, but it's a mistake to load patties with too many toppings. The burger is the star, and the toppings are extras meant to complement the flavor of the meat and not overtake or out-flavor it. No matter how darned good some caramelized onions are, they have to enhance the succulent taste of the patty. Less can be more with toppings that are powerfully tasty. A spicy blue cheese burger with hot sauce and blue cheese crumbles promises heat and tangy creaminess with a yummy umami lift. However, add too much cheese or sauce, and the taste of the meat is lost. 

On a practical level, a loaded burger can be almost impossible to eat without making a mess. And who wants onions falling out and sauces dripping down at a sit-down restaurant? When you're at home chowing down on a messy bun in front of the television, it matters less. You might want to say a big no to burgers that come laden with fries and onion rings inside the bun. Keep sides as sides, not toppings. Let the patty be flavor-forward, and the toppings will follow. Or maybe look to order a burger where the toppings are inside the patty.

Not asking for different condiments

Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and pickle relish are classic burger condiments. But that doesn't mean to say that you shouldn't be asking serving staff for some extras that are a little different. Or you might want to order some special ingredients from the kitchen that pair with your patty. If you are dining on a Wagyu burger with Asian-style toppings, such as a spicy slaw, for example, then you could add some wasabi to your bun too.

Caramelized onions give your burger a tangy sweetness, and spicy mayo made with Cholula hot sauce or sriracha adds heat. What about some Buffalo sauce, barbecue sauce, or creamy garlic mayo? Combine creaminess with cucumber pieces in a Greek tzatziki sauce that goes well on a lamb burger. You don't have to stop at savory condiments either. A sweet and spicy sauce can also bring out the flavor of a burger in an interesting way. If you're trying to imagine how, then a good introduction might be a fantastic burger recipe that combines smoked paprika and garlic powder with jam that's been heated up on the stove. Now that's different!

Not going to a food truck or bar instead

Probably one of the biggest mistakes you are making when you order a burger at a sit-down restaurant is ordering a burger at a sit-down restaurant! If burgers are a side note on the menu of an upmarket eatery, then the chefs are not going to necessarily be as focused on making these their signature dishes. In addition, a fine-dining bistro is probably not as used to grilling burgers as a mom-and-pop place, a bar with traditional American food, or a food truck.

If you want to grab hold of a big juicy burger that's perfectly cooked, then you might have more luck at a popular diner than an exclusive restaurant. Check out reviews, and keep your eyes open for pop-up food trucks that are renowned for making the best burgers. A good rule to follow is if you're ordering food at a place where you can't eat with your hands, then you might want to skip the burger.

Not asking for a charred patty

You've put your order in, and you're waiting for the chef to cook your burger to perfection. You imagine the cold patty of the finest beef hitting the hot grill with a sizzle. Little bursts of fat spit as the heat browns the meat, and it starts to caramelize. You imagine that slightly crunchier outside and all the melt-in-your-mouth succulence inside. As you bite into the soft, lightly toasted bun, you can taste that frazzled edge before you sink your teeth into the burger.

Unfortunately, too many toppings can obscure this taste and texture. And as chefs seek to make more elaborate burgers, they can sometimes focus less on getting that classic grilled effect on the meat. Don't take it for granted that you'll get this when ordering a burger. It's a mistake. Make sure that no matter how you like your burger cooked, that you ask for a good, charred exterior. Only then will your patty be good enough to eat on its own, as should be, with anything else an enhancing add-on. A pale, over-juicy patty can look greasy and unappealing, and there's no excuse for it. 

Not pairing the toppings with the type of patty

Think before you order toppings with your burger. It's a good idea to pair them with the type of patty you've ordered. For example, a strong mustard might overpower a fish burger but can add a powerful kick that's perfect for a thick and juicy beef burger. Some chefs in a bid to be different put together all sorts of ingredients in imaginative ways. However, while some are ingenious, others create tastes that simply don't work. 

Pickles, meat chili, mushrooms, and jalapeños are strongly flavored, and that's no doubt why they are ideal as toppings with a beef burger. Pickled onions, truffle aioli, and arugula go well with a lamb burger. Meanwhile, salsa verde with spinach and avocado pair well with a turkey patty. There's more to a burger than American cheese, and certain types of cheese pair well with certain other toppings. A great combination is Swiss cheese with caramelized mushrooms.

Spending way too much

It figures that the price of a burger at a fancy restaurant could be elevated compared to a fast food joint. And often, special ingredients justifiably increase the amount on the menu. However, when you order a burger at a sit-down restaurant, don't make the mistake of spending way too much. Some chefs have transformed an all-American staple into a gourmet dish. And while you might be okay with paying a bit more for upmarket fare, check out the less expensive burgers on the menu too. You might decide that less is more in every way. If there aren't any lower-cost ones, then you might decide to order a burger another day from another place.

One Philadelphia restaurant takes the pricey gourmet burger to the extreme with its $700 offering (more than $750 with tax). The Gold Standard burger at Drury Beer Garden is nothing short of super-lux. Imagine Wagyu served in an edible gold-leaf-covered bun. While aged Irish cheddar doesn't sound super upscale, the other extras do: Cognac-flambéed lobster, black truffles, and caviar. If you do decide to splurge on a burger, then don't make the mistake of regretting it when you see your bank balance.