We've been working on this project for a long time now. Testing out different types of beef, different blends of beef, different grinds of beef, different ways of cooking the different blends and the different grinds of beef, the list goes on. Finally we found some American Red Label and Angus cuts that opened up in our mouths and had us moaning and groaning in pleasure. We knew we were on to something.
You see, a burger needs to start with the beef. Sure, you can dress up some ordinary beef with fancy toppings that obscure it's questionable origin, and you can also put a pig in a dress and take it to the prom. A real quality hamburger should be so good that you would crave it naked and unadorned.
"It is the Americans who have managed to crown minced beef as hamburger, and to send it round the world so that even the fussy French have taken to le boeuf hache, le hambourgaire."
Now don't get us wrong, we're going to accent our delicious cuts of American Red Label and Angus beef with all sorts of delicious condiments and toppings that you won't find anywhere else in Chengdu. We do a homemade wine reduction that will change your religion; an onion jam that will make you re-examine all your life choices up until this point if they haven't included onion jam; and I haven't even gotten started on Jessi's slow-cooked chili.
But the point is, we started the way every burger should, by just focusing on the beef.
“Rock and roll is the hamburger that ate the world.”
There is always a similar story behind how restaurants begin. Some poor saps hate themselves, and think their life is too easy. Just kidding! Redbeard Burgers was born out of a mad desire to create the best hamburgers possible, in an authentically friendly and casual American environment, as well as to finally eat a decent burger ourselves. In fact, Nick won’t admit it, but I’m firmly convinced that it was more of the latter. We came to Chengdu in 2013, with an entirely different set of goals in mind, but as with most choices in life, “what the hell?” was clearly the best option, so here we are.
A little background on us, and why our food is so awesome.
Nick hails from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, which no one can locate on a map. His interests include weightlifting, martial arts, and being WAY too into movies for his own good. He loves eating good food and drinking good beer while listening to good music, so as you can see, he has created his own personal Valhalla here in the ‘Du. Nick’s food traditions are strongly influenced by his Italian grandmother and his mother, Mona, the former who taught the man how to make a damn fine red sauce and how to cook beef, and the latter who taught him everything else he knows. He is deeply, passionately and abidingly in love with hamburgers, and has spent many years worshipping at their alter in pursuit of perfection. All our friends back home knew to come over when Nick whipped out the grill. His father once described Nick eating a hamburger as ‘meditative and blissful’, which is pretty accurate. Nick’s mission is to create delicious, succulent and unpretentious food in a personal and welcoming atmosphere. Nick is also a videographer and photographer, so the awesome photos that you see on our website are his doing.
"Man who invented the hamburger was smart; man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius."
Jessi, on the other hand, loves pretentious food. Blending creative and gourmet ingredients with the humble hamburger to create a truly artistic palette of flavor is what gets her motor running. Jessi got her start cooking at the tender age of 7, mostly out of necessity. In college, her ‘champagne tastes and cheap beer budget’ forced her to learn how to recreate the delicious restaurant recipes she craved, but couldn’t afford. Jessi loves cooking for people and making them happy, and views the restaurant as an extension of her home, ready to welcome old and new friends alike. Also from Oklahoma, Jessi has been kicked out due to being a vegetarian. Which is why, as well as awesome hamburgers, Redbeard is proud to offer several delicious vegetarian options on the menu. Amongst Jessi’s illustrious careers, bartending has been one of her favorites. Her drink slinging has earned her several awards, amongst which are “Best damn bloody Mary on Bourbon” and “Best damn mint julep on Bourbon”. Feel free to ask her for a custom or unusual cocktail, to keep her on her toes. A former high school English teacher, her hobbies include playing jazz harp, singing, yoga, and correcting other people’s grammar. In the words of her friend Brennan, “Jessi, your cooking ain’t just GOOD, it’s ‘slap-yo-mamma-good’”.
Frank is the small mongrel who shares our home and hearts, and also likes to chew our feet. He can’t understand why our menu doesn’t consist of only boiled pork chunks.
"I eat a cheeseburger with French fries almost every day."
So we moved to Chengdu, and within a few weeks, Nick was feeling anemic and was looking for a gym. We happened to live in the same apartment complex as Mike and Aiqing of Mike’s Pizza, and one day when passing Mike in the complex, Nick decided that this man clearly knew where the gym was. Nick is relentlessly friendly, so eventually Mike caved to his overtures and we became friends. Over a glass of wine (or several) one night, the idea was broached that what Chengdu really needed was a burger equivalent of what Mike and Aiqing are doing with pizza. Which is, making it awesome, and something that would be better than competitive back home. Since we are burger enthusiasts, and enjoy cooking and working like the possessed, we thought the idea over and figured it was a good one.
"I can't be on the cheeseburger diet all the time."
Thus began the Saga of Meat. We tried and tested nearly every beef supplier’s products we could find, until we found one that was of the quality we needed. We bought different cuts of meat, and combined them in different ways and in different grinds until we got the flavor and texture exactly right. We tested and tried all the sauces and accompaniments to all the burgers until they were perfect. We baked more test buns than I even care to think about, and ate way too much bread. Finally, we were ready.
"Looking hard for a drive-in
Searching for a corner cafe
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and the jukebox jumping with records back in the USA"
Thanks to the expertise and tireless help of Aiqing and Mike, we are lucky enough to have avoided a lot of major pitfalls, and have been shown the ropes of how to run a restaurant in this town. It’s wonderful to have such great friends who also happen to be awesome at what they do, and know all the ‘insider secrets’ to save time and money. Many months, discussions, trials and tribulations later, we opened our doors on July 22, 2014. Here is to a bright future of bringing superlative burgers to the good people of Chengdu!