After last week’s column about the upcoming start of grilling season, it’s only fitting that I share a few of my favorite burger sauces. Burger purists may recoil in horror when I mention dousing, dipping or sprinkling a grilled burger with anything. Disputing their belief that the flavor of the meat should be allowed to shine, adding a flavorful sauce can and is often needed to enhance what can sometimes be a banal burger experience.
I’ve always enjoyed a close relationship with sauces, dips and the like. I love topping burgers, sandwiches and even a few cuts of steak with a tangy sauce like homemade sriracha. It’s made from chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, salt and sugar. Another favorite is Mississippi comeback sauce. Recipes for the ketchup-based sauce abound, depending on the region of the state and many other factors.
Just as I prefer my burgers adorned with sauce, I can’t imagine enjoying fries or chips to the fullest without a bowl of my favorite dip nearby. It’s even better when a spread or dip can double as both a topping for a burger (or other type of grilled meat) and dip for chips, crackers or crudites.
Side note: Many scoff at the idea of making their own ketchup, mayo or barbecue sauce. Trust me when I say the extra effort is worth it. As with any homemade sauce, being able to control the taste and healthiness by using fresh vegetables, tomato sauce, sour cream and spices, to name a few ingredients, more than makes up for the time spent making your own. If you own a food processor or blender, most sauces only take a few minutes to whip up.
If grilling and blending sounds like too much work, there are several restaurants around the state that serve outstanding burgers with a side of “special sauce.” A few worth checking out include:
1. Zip’s in Magee, a long-time family eatery, is almost as famous for its “Zip Sauce” than for the signature burgers named “best in Mississippi” several times. Make sure to order the battered fries and an extra helping of Zip Sauce for dipping.
2. Tupelo’s Neon Pig serves an amazing lineup of food — check out their eclectic, fun menu to see what I mean — but the burgers and special sauces are hard to beat. Crowd favorites are the Smash burger served with a hearty side of Comeback sauce (named “best burger in America” at one point) and the Belvis with a spin-off name of Tupelo’s most famous son. Topped with bacon pimento cheese, jerky sauce and Creole mustard, it’s a creation of which Elvis would be proud.
3. The Gulf Coast is known for seafood, but that hasn’t stopped Biloxi’s old-school eatery, Burger Burger, from gaining national acclaim. Its namesake burger, the Burger Burger, of course, is juicy and delicious and encased in a crispy po’boy bun. But it’s the restaurant’s top-secret burger sauce on top that steals the show.
While you’re in Biloxi, don’t forget to stop by the city’s beautiful welcome center. It’s the white antebellum-style building across from the Biloxi Lighthouse. Besides offering above-average rest stop accommodations, the spacious center is filled with multiple rooms filled with artifacts and engaging displays depicting the history and progression of the city. Biloxi’s history dates to 1699, making it one of America’s oldest cities.
Here is the recipe for one of my favorite sauces — it’s very similar to the famous sauce served at a national chain known more for its chicken tenders than burgers. However, its deliciousness translates, making it the perfect burger sauce and dip for my favorite chips.
PERFECT BURGER SAUCE AND CHIP ‘N DIP
1 cup real mayonnaise
4-5 tablespoons ketchup (add to taste)
5-6 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon hot sauce (substitute vinegar if you don’t like the heat)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of celery salt
■ Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Cover and chill overnight or at least six hours before serving. Recipe doubles easily.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at [email protected]