By Hungry Hungry Harris
With the big game behind us now, I can’t stop thinking about grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. The two kind of go hand in hand, with the food obviously being the more important of the two.
With burgers and hot dogs still on my mind, I knew I had to get my fix. So, I took a very slow trip down the 405 to Irvine to pay Chef Jason Wishengrad a visit at his restaurant, The Stand. I had the opportunity to pick his mind for a little bit and of course, eat until my pants didn’t fit.
I know most people reading this have some interest in food or cooking, so I’m sure we’ve all watched a cooking show. There’s always an ingredient that the chef adds that makes us wonder, “Where the hell did you get the idea to add that?” Whether it’s adding chimichurri to a hamburger or a cilantro lime aioli to a hot dog. These are both things that exist at The Stand by the way. So, if you’re reading this and your mouth is already watering just head over to one of their restaurants now because it’s only going to get worse.
I asked Chef Jason what his process was like, how does he get the idea to pluck these amazing ingredients out of thin air and decide to put them on one of his creations. For him, it’s a combination of knowing what flavors go well with each other. You have to find a balance when it comes to food, something acidic to cut through richness or salty to counter sweet. He owns tons of cookbooks so he is constantly studying food and other chefs. He combines his research with developing ideas through trial and error. Before my visit, he was actually in the kitchen messing around with some ideas. I offered my services to his R&D, but I’m still waiting to hear back. When he’s out for a meal, he admitted he likes to try and figure out other restaurants’ secret recipes. I must admit it’s a pretty impressive skill to be able to figure this stuff out, at least to me it is. I won’t tell you which ones he’s figured out but he concluded that the older the recipe, the easier it is.
(Photo: Kaitlin Egan for Bread and Butter Public Relations)
When your menu is based around burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches and salads you have to come hard with the flavors and accouterments. Chef Jason and crew do exactly that. They offer one of a kind burgers and dogs, literally. All of their burger patties and dogs are made at a local butcher with their very own special beef blend. The meat is then delivered to all of their locations every morning. As for their other ingredients, just about everything is made in-house. All of their pickled onions and jalapenos are sliced and brined in their own kitchen, nothing comes from a can. But enough about how everything is made, let’s talk about what I ate.
My favorite question whenever I visit a new restaurant is, “So what do you want to try?” In my mind, my answer is “the whole left side of the menu.” But I always settle with whatever the chef recommends. Chef Jason must have read my mind because he ordered everything I wanted.
My wish list included the French Onion Soup Burger, El Capitan Burger, Three Pigs Hot Dog, Spicy Beef Short Rib Sandwich and a side of Brussels Sprouts.
French Onion Soup Burger
Right off the bat I had to try the French Onion Soup Burger. Chef Jason told me that he always wanted to serve French Onion Soup, but it didn’t fit in with his restaurant concept for fast dining. So, what did he do, he decided to put it on a burger. The burger consists of their deliciously juicy beef patty with melted Gruyere cheese and topped with red wine braised onions and crispy onion strings all served on a double parmesan crusted bun. The burger is served with a side of French Onion Soup au jus for you to dip the burger in. Yes, you read that correctly, you can dip your burger in the broth of the French Onion Soup. Never mind the au jus running down your hand as you take a bite out of the burger, The Stand has plenty of napkins.
El Capitan Burger
Next in the queue was the anticipated El Capitan Burger. What made this burger so interesting to me was the use of chimichurri and braised short rib. The chimichurri, made in-house of course, contrasts the fresh flavor and aromatics of parsley, garlic, and oregano with the heaviness of the beef. The El Capitan combines their special beef patty topped with braised short rib, pickled peppers and onions, fresh guacamole and chimichurri.
Burger Cross Section
Chef Jason’s burgers are packed with so many well-balanced flavors and textures. For those of you who like to eat, you’re well aware of the “perfect bite”. You know, the bite that you can end your meal on, the bite that includes every ingredient and texture, the bite that makes you pause and lean back into your seat like you’ve accomplished something. Well, every bite of my burger was a perfect bite.
The 3 Pigs
The 3 Pigs hot dog was another story, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The 3 Pigs is a massive offering. There was no way to get my mouth around that thing to get the bite I wanted. And I have to put this out there, it’s hard to write about a hot dog without innuendo, so let’s keep our minds out of the gutter. Anyway, the 3 pigs hot dog takes their locally made bratwurst and tops it with bacon tomato jam, porchetta, Swiss cheese, chimichurri and their delicious green apple & red onion slaw. The bun is packed with deliciously balanced ingredients and the hot dog has the perfect snap. This hot dog isn’t like any other, it just as filling as any other entrée on The Stand’s menu. I’m pretty sure the hot dog was enveloped in a hoagie roll because there is no way you can keep everything in a puny hot dog bun.
The Stand has such a vast menu, which each item being customizable. Whether you want a beef, turkey or veggie burger either lettuce wrapped or in a gourmet bakery or wheat bun. And then there are the 7 different sausage options on either a poppy bun or a gourmet French roll. Along with the customizable entrees, Chef Jason made sure to pack his menu with an amazing collection of sides. The Stand offers gigantic salads, steak or porchetta fries, chili and my go to side… Brussels Sprouts.
My experience at The Stand was so much fun. Having the chance to speak with Chef Jason about food and his creation process was stimulating. I want to thank Chef Jason and the crew at The Stand in Irvine. I can’t wait to come back. Be sure to hit up one of The Stand locations near you. See a full list of locations here.
The Stand Irvine
5633 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92618