Food & dining

These favorite burger spots are not here — yet

One of the signs that Umami Burger will be serving something outside the American routine.
umami burger
One of the signs that Umami Burger will be serving something outside the American routine.


It’s hard to prepare yourself for an experience like Umami Burger, largely because of the “umami” part. The elusive fifth taste, umami flavors tickle your L-glutamate receptors in a way that’s savory, but not necessarily salty. It’s the stuff of food comas. The best way to prepare for Umami Burger is to show up hungry, because you will not want to stop eating. Owned by Adam Fleischman, and propelled by his addictive proprietary rub, Umami Burger has been opening locations all over Los Angeles and San Francisco with future plans for Anaheim, Calif., Miami, Texas, Las Vegas, and New York, so I will see you on the Bolt Bus. The Original tops its transportive patty with a five-fingered umami slap: a Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms, roast tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a house umami ketchup. From the fried pickles to the short-rib smothered thin fries, Umami is a trip beyond whatever flight you take to get there.

Whataburger by the Bay in Corpus Christi, Texas, where it was founded.


You might not have felt it, but a wave of joy spread across Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oklahoma this month when Whataburger made a huge announcement: Spicy ketchup was coming back. This grand return of a simple condiment may not sound like a big deal, but for millions of Whataburger devotees, any addition or tweak to a menu that has stood the test of time since 1950 amounts to some exciting stuff. The down-home feel of your average Whataburger belies the chain’s attention to detail: Each burger comes with four dill pickle slices, three fresh tomato slices, lettuce, and mustard, and is served on a fresh 5-inch bun. Factor in the toppings, and WB estimates about 36,864 different ways to address your craving. If those orange-striped roofs hit Massachusetts, there’s gonna be trouble in burgertown. Also: Best straw ever; it’s like a fire hose of Dr. Pepper.

ap photo/adam lau
In Baldwin Park, Calif., its birthplace.


Widely understood as a California phenomenon, In-N-Out has started spreading its goodness to states including Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Texas. There are no existing plans to infiltrate New England anytime soon — the chain’s high quality-control standards have kept it skittish about franchising — but that only gives us more time to study up on In-N-Out’s much ballyhooed “secret menu.” That allows customers to upgrade their hamburger, cheeseburger, or “double-double” (referring to patties and cheese) to any number of off-menu variations, from “Animal Style” (lettuce, tomato, plus pickles, onions, and spread on a mustard-cooked patty) to “Protein Style” (bun replaced by lettuce leaves) to the maxed-out dimensions of the 4 x 4 (consult your health plan first). For me, a Neapolitan shake (try getting that at McDonald’s) and a double-double with chopped chilies edges close to the divine — even without the little Bible references hidden on the wrappers.