The Guilty Pleasure:
Where to Get It: Paradise Valley Burger Company
What it Really Costs: A food hangover, whose symptoms may include bloating, lethargy, and a compulsive need to count the hours until your next "cheat" day.
If you ask food aficionados in North Phoenix where to find a solid local burger, there's a good chance they'll point you to Paradise Valley Burger Company. Since opening its doors in 2011, the burger shop near 40th Street and Bell Road has become a neighborhood hit, as well as a destination for anyone in the Valley looking for the latest uncommon burger.
You might even say that Paradise Valley Burger Company is dedicated to the art of the uncommon burger. Owner-chef Bret Shapiro and his team preside over the kitchen as if it were a kind of experimental burger lab, pumping out cheekily named, limited-time-only burger specials on a weekly basis. Part of the fun of visiting the restaurant is to check the white board that hangs next to the counter in the small dining room, where you'll find the name and description of the latest burger creation scrawled in unfussy writing.
In recent weeks, the restaurant has featured burgers like The Carnie, a carnival-inspired burger made with two funnel cake-battered beef patties. Then there was The Flying Guido, a sun-dried tomato aioli smeared burger topped with a slab of fried crispy mortadella.
But while the weekly special is always a point of intrigue, there are also a handful of specialty burgers on the restaurant's permanent menu that have become house favorites. There's the Burger Brulee, a burger patty topped with havarti, bacon, a fried egg, and a bright purple garnish of pickled onions. It takes its name from its hallmark burnt sugar bun, which wraps each bite with a nice, sweet crispness. Shapiro was inspired to create the burger during a glassblowing session, when he realized that using a small, fiery torch might be a good way to add burnt sugar to a hamburger, in the fashion of a classic creme brûlée.
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Another of the restaurant's signature burgers — this one featured by none other than Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives — is the Booze Burger, which seems like something concocted during a hangover-induced fever dream. It's two beer-battered, deep-fried beef patties, glazed in a green chile vodka bacon cream sauce. The whole thing is topped with a bright pile of chiles pickled in, what else, whiskey.
The thick, dripping and loosely packed burger may not be the prettiest thing you've ever seen. On arrival, it looks a bit like a squishy puddle of deep-fried cheese cemented onto a bun. But take a bite and you'll notice its irresistibly fatty crunch (that would be the deep-fried burger patties), which is coolly finished with the creamy, bacon-kissed sauce. The green chiles add a deft flourish of sweetly light heat, but otherwise their presence seems mostly ornamental. A crispy brioche bun, which manages to hold the whole thing together, adds to the textural integrity of this sturdy little burger.
While hardly a colossal meal, the Booze Burger is thick, savory, and calorie-rich enough to give you the fat- and salt-fueled energy you need to help you sail through the rest of your day. Or, at the very least, crawl to the finish line.
You can chase down the burger with one of the restaurant's house-made milkshakes, which include flavors like maple pecan bacon and Lucky Charms marshmallow. Sure, a sugary, cereal-flavored milkshake, consumed in combination with a fatty burger, might seem like a harbinger for future heartburn and bloat. But if you just ate something called the Booze Burger, you may as well throw in the towel and call it a cheat day.