Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Whither the Olive Burger?


I’ll get to a wrap of the 2007 Pleasant Peninsula Tour soon, but we have important matters to discuss first: How do you make an olive burger? More specifically, how do you make the sauce?

For the uninitiated (read: those lacking familiarity with Michigan), an olive burger is topped by a delicious, creamy white sauce full of chopped green olives. The sauce precludes the need for other condiments. It is likely mayonnaise based, but it certainly isn’t just mayo and olives. The sauce is tangier and of a lighter consistency. Properly made, there is no cheese on the patty. I was told as a child that Dagwood’s in Lansing invented the sandwich, but that just sounds too cool to be true. What is certain is that Dag’s makes the best one I’ve ever had. If you go, and you have an appetite, order two: They make ’em so that one will easily fit in your palm. Also, the Peanut Barrel serves a strong o.b.

Anyway, how does one go about making an olive burger? My foodie co-worker, Derek, searched the Internet for a recipe, but came up with nothing. In fact, plugging "olive burger" into Google returns surprisingly anemic results. Theres hardly a mention of it anywhere. And no one I’ve talked to in L.A. has ever heard of them. I guess olive burgers join pasties as the only Michigan-specific foods. (Although, has anyone else ever tried a Spam-and-Velveeta melt?)

So, I put it to you, Team Rocket Fever: What are the secret ingredients in an olive burger?

42 comments:

The City Desk said...

Interesting... I always assumed it was an all-over thing, not just Michigan. As a test, I asked someone here at work, a native Philadelphian who enjoys eating a great deal. Never heard of it. But, after a description, he said it almost sounded like a variation on the muffaletta, which involves a olive salad mixture as a topping.

A recipe for the muffaletta's olive salad might yield something close to what you're looking for, but you just might have to mayonnaise it up.

Ian Bonner said...

I believe the olive burger is not only a Michigan-only food but that it primarily a West Michigan food stretching only as far east as Lansing. Being a native Detroiter I never heard of the thing until a college-age visit to P.T. O'Malley's (which I'm sure was topped with just Olives and Mayo).

This past weekend I had lunch with another Detroiter who recently relocated to Grand Rapids and told me about this new thing she discovered...the olive burger which was of course followed by eating some.. The burgers we ate on this particular occasion had a mayo-less tapenade of green olives *under* the patty and mayo on the top bun. It was tasty.

Craig said...

Are there olive burgers in Chicago? Research has indicated it might also be an Illinois thing.

Mike "Mike" Hudson said...

Good connection with the Muffaletta...a sandwich I've become familiar with lately thanks to Town & Country Cafe in Silver Lake.

But I think it's a misdirection...that has more of salty olive deal...different types of olive, celery stalk, capers, oil.

The olive burger topping is green olives and mayo plus maybe...lemon juice? Some pepper? I also like the "Mr. Fables" "beefburg" style where the olive is simply laid beneath the patty (perhaps a GR style, the home of Fables? Great insight, Ian), apart from the condiments. But I ADORE the olive burger of which Gaine-a-saurus is referring.

Oh my goodness land sakes I love olives. And I love this discussion.

Steve said...

I think the Peanut Barrel olive burger also has mustard in mixed in with the olive/mayo (?).

When you chop the olives, you also get some of the liquid in which the olives are stored. I like to add a little hot sauce to mine.

Craig said...

Hot sauce on an olive burger? I don't know. It seems that would throw off some fundamental balance.

Ryan said...

Mike is right on about the Muffaletta, which is just about the perfect sandwich.

I must have made the mix at some point, but don't really remember any details other than chopped olives and mayo. The salty brine that the olives sit in are what gives it its tanginess. It's like an olive-infused mayo, or something.

In fact, call it olive-infused mayo, and Californians will go bananas.

Craig said...

"In fact, call it olive-infused mayo, and Californians will go bananas."

Ryan Ahrens: Culinary entrepreneurial genius.

The City Desk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The City Desk said...

olive-infused mayo

Sitting in a massive glass jar on the counter behind the bar, yellowish-white, with chunks of green floating in it, distributed through a spigot onto a burger patty, right in front of the customer's eyes.

Stevo said...

Craig -- I'm not talking about a lot of hot sauce, just a few drops mixed into the olive (and olive juice, essence of green olive?) infused mayo to give a twang (tang).

You should try it the next time you make yourself an olive burger. Trust me, for once?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure the Fable's deluxe is the ultimate olive burger. I think the beef was exceptionally good and it was fried thin. The secret was their own mayonnaise. If we could get that mayonnaise recipe we might be able to eat another Mr. Fable's deluxe! I pine for one. If you have the Fable's mayonnaise recipe, please post it!

Anonymous said...

the secret of the olive burger made by mr.fables is the type of mayo used. i have been told that it is not hellmans but thats all they would reveal.I read a post once from a lady dragonfly wyoming michigan who said her husband knew how to make them.he was a former Fables manager.Maybe she could help.Someone has to know.Please post if u have info.

Anonymous said...

up here in the u.p. there is a restaurant in the soo that has an olove spread that has a cream sheese typs texture. it's fabulous!

bradydetroit said...

I know that there are olive burgers in Detroit because I just had a wonderful one at Foran's Irish Pub right in downtown (on Campus Martius). It is actually that burger that has me searching for a recipe today.

Joe Zamaripa said...

Here's a link to a Mr Fables-style olive burgers and onion rings recipe. I've tried them and they *do* taste like the real thing as I remember it!!

http://www.recipesecrets.net/forums/your-favorite-recipes/26790-mr-fables-olive-burgers-onion-rings.html

Anonymous said...

I was looking for an Olive Sauce recipe and knew that 50 years ago I used to get Kewpee Olive Burgers in downtown Lansing, Michigan. Low and behold, they are still in existance and appears they've been in business since the 20's making their signature burgers. Here is the site...... contact them and see if they will share their recipe with you.

http://kewpees.com/

Lansing native

Anonymous said...

The Olive Burger has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the Muffaletta, besides the fact that they both have olives and bread involved. Get your shit straight.

ROC Coupons said...

Here's an olive burger recipe:

1 lb 81/19 ground chuck
3 tbsp chopped green salad olives with pimento (about ten whole olives)
2 tbsp Helman's Mayonnaise (MUST BE Helmans)
2 tsp olive juice
2 pieces iceberg lettuce (not the white part; must be green, and not the very-outer green part)
2 slices of tomato, large enough for one to cover bottom of bun
2 slices Kraft american cheese
2 white buns

Heat griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees. Mix the olive juice with the mayo. Split the chuck into 4-4oz VERY FLAT patties and FRY them (not charbroiled) to desired temperature. Place a slice of cheese on two patties and top with the other patties, like you would two double cheeseburgers. Place buns in the microwave for ten seconds to warm (do not toast or grill the buns). Stack each bottom bun with one slice of the lettuce leaf, one tomato, a tbsp of the mayo, and a tbsp of the chopped olives. Place burgers on top of the condiments, top with the top bun, and enjoy!

Anonymous said...

I remember the olive burger from a restaurant in Portage, MI when I was little. The drive-in was called "Satellite." My Dad would always get it. Bill Knapp's used to have an olive burger which they called the "Garden Burger." Since Bill Knapp's was all over the midwest, that might be why some have heard of it in Illinois. The other day I was at "Culver's" in Wyoming, MI, and they had a sign posted inside to try their olive burgers. I haven't tried it yet, but I was very excited about it. Culver's is based out of Wisconsin.

Anonymous said...

Well, after all this talk about the Olive Burger (I posted about the one in Portage, MI at a restaurant from the late 60's called "Satellite), I tried the one at the chain called "Culver's". I just tried it today, and it wasn't too bad. I had the single with cheese and it came with olives and mayo. I didn't get anything else on it, and it was very much like I remembered the one from the Satellite when I was little.

So, if you're craving the olive burger and having trouble finding it, try it at "Culver's." I went to the one in Wyoming, MI, on 54th just west of Division (just east of 131).

Laura DeVinney said...

Hey, I think this is a Michigan thing. I am from Lansing but live in Florida now. Keepee's was the best but also Clara's on Michigan Ave in Lansing is great too. Everyone looks at me funny if I ask if they have green olives on anything down here and Blue Moon Ice Cream too!

Anonymous said...

There are definitely olive burgers in Detroit. In fact, that is where I first encountered one. Foran's Pub in downtown Detroit (on Campus Martius) has an amazing olive burger that is served on Avalon Bakery's greektown olive bread. Mmmm ... So good.

viagra online said...

There are different types of olive oil, which is best?

Anonymous said...

I live 10 miles west of Lansing, MI, and the first time I had an olive burger was at Kewpee's in downtown Lansing. It was just the burger with the olive sauce on top--no cheese, lettuce, tomato, etc. There are several places near Lansing, MI, where you can get an olive burger. Right now, A & W restaurants in the Lansing area have the olive burger.

Draft House said...

The Draft House in Dewitt MI has the best Olive Burgers, from a recipe handed down three generations now. Sorry, can't divulge the recipe! My grandfather had a stand in Mt Pleasant where he served it, then my Dad started serving it at the Draft House 29 years ago, as I do today.

Anonymous said...

Hello, another michigan native here. Specifically Coldwater, MI. My favorite olive burger was served at a small cafe in Vicksburg, MI. called Mar-jo. they used an olive sauce that consited of pimento stuffed green olives and mayo only, the trick being you chop them up pretty fine in the food processor,add some of the olive brine back to them and then add Mayo and black pepper. I've spent a lot oftime tinkering with this, And I've finally nailed it down pretty close.
1 15 ounce jar of pimento stuffed green olives with brine drained and reserved.
Kraft olive oil mayo (use your fave, I like the flavor with gives it)
Pluse the olives in the food processor an pulse them until you get a fairly small dice, remove to a smaller (two cup) bowl. Add approx. 2 tsp of the reverved brine. Add about a cup and a half of the mayo. stir untill well blended. add a few grinds of black pepper to taste.
NOTE
under no circumstances use miracle whip or salad dressing! An over night in the fridge improves the flavor.
This recipie is a bit vague, however, it is a matter of taste regarding the amount of brine that you add back in. And more mayo can be added I however like it pretty chunky. For all you experimenters, this is a fine stsrting point and really bests sliced olive on mayo. the additional brine holds the flavor!
ed

DMcKrill said...

I was born and raised in Lansing and remember when Kewpee's was just a drive up in the location which is now part of Lansing Community College. I have not lived in Lansing since 1984 and miss Kewpee's king olive burger even though I have not eaten beef in 16 years! I have tried to mimic the recipe many times but its not the same. I called Kewpee's last year and asked if they can the sauce and sell it on the Internet. The daughter of Mr. Weston told me she has been trying to get her Dad to do this for years. He won't . You can go to Kewpee's in down town Lansing and buy the sauce to take out she advised me. If anyone is in Portland Oregon with that sauce don't forget me!!!!

Anonymous said...

Another Michigan native with comments --My Grandmother first introduced me to the olive burger in the early '60s. More recently, I spent a week with my Dad in 2007 and we went on a quest to find the best olive burger around his area (Hastings). Our favorite was found at a locally owned restaurant in downtown Nashville, MI. My Dad has since passed away and this was a special and fun time I shared with him. Thanks for the blog! Ed - I will try your recipe, it sounds very good.

Diane Peek said...

I live in north central Indiana now, but grew up in Lansing, MI. I think that I remember my first Olive Burger from Dog & Suds, on Washington Ave. Nobody here in Inidana that I've asked has even heard of them. No restaurant serves them here that I know of. I make them at home on occasion. Thanks for some tips about how to make the sauce. Reading others posts brought back memories!

~~Matt, Melissa and Timothy~~ said...

I love the Twin Burger from Russ' Restaurant, Kalamazoo. I worked there as a teenager... but always go back to the ones in GR when home visiting. Lately, I've been craving and cannot remember for the life of me how they made it, althogh it wasn't in store, it was from their commissary.

If anyone has a recipe.. I'd be willing to make and test any you send my way! :)

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oojcon said...

I lived in Three Rivers, MI and we would go to a drive-in called Schwartz's on Westnedge in Kalamazoo. They had the best olive burger around. I also had one just a good in Howell called a Highlander Burger. Of course, both restaurants are now out of business. I am 65 and have been looking for this recipe for years. If anyone out there has it, please share.

Marc Miller said...

I have to say if ur from lansing mi u need to try the olive burger on wllow st at olympic broil, deepfried mushrooms are killer as well.

Anonymous said...

I remember getting my first olive burger at an old restaurant chain called Hot N' Now. Im originally from Michigan (Three Rivers area) and absolutely love them! I now live in KY and when I talk about them people look at me like Im crazy! Down here I have to result to making them myself but when I make visits home there is a little bar in Decatur called M-40 Bar and Grille that has them and I make a special trip to take care of my olive burger cravings.

Anonymous said...

My mother lived in Chicago in the late 1940's where she enjoyed olive burgers at a diner near her workplace. Sorry, she never told me the name of the place.

John Bozzo said...

I had my first olive burger from a Satellite Drive-In fast-food place that was between East Lansing and Okemos. The Satellite was ahead of its time -- it had a drive through.
Satellite was started by some guys from Williamston, also near Lansing.

Rick said...

Best olive burger ever West lake drive-in Kalamazoo.also great fried mushrooms and onion rings.

An old employ gave me the secret It almost seem too easy get the cheep sliced olives squeeze out all liquid mix with Hellman mayo,THAT'S IT
removing liquid takes out some of the vinegar taste and allows the mayo to better blend. I once drove from Houston Texas to get one of these

lgunn68 said...

I totally agree with you on the sauce being mayonnaise based, but NOT just mayo and olives. I have heard rumors that cream cheese may be added to the mayo. I have yet to try it but I will be soon. Dog & Suds was the best! It's not a good olive burger unless the sauce is dripping down your hand, wrist and even arm....it was totally the best ever. Nice to know I'm not the only one out there with the desire for a really good original olive burger....mmmmm

Anonymous said...

For those that live out West, "Hellman's" mayo is called "Best Foods" out here. Widely available. Same stuff, same company.

Anonymous said...

I went to college in Kalamazoo, and they were available at every place from Rally's to DQ, but that's the only town I've ever seen them in.

Bac said...

I have no idea how long ago this post was made about mr fables olive burger sauce. But it's driving me nuts so I have to say this: the special olive burger sauce is nothing more than chopped olives and Gordon food service mayo THATS IT. Gordon food service mayonnaise is my favorite because it is so balanced --not overdone with sugar or lemon juice. Anyway, that's why the mr fables olive burger was so darn good. Anyone who went to fables should know this because they made the burgers right in front of you in the cafeteria line. And when the mayo would run out they had giant plastic containers of the mayo that they would top off in the stainless steel containers. And they used plastic disposable spoons to put it on.