Like all moronic food quests, this one began as a joke: “What if you made a Luther Burger with a Cronut and an Umami Burger?!”
Let’s unpack that question for the uniniated/non-fat kids in the group: A Luther Burger is a burger variant of disputed origins that uses glazed doughnuts in the place of a bun; the Cronut is chef Dominque Ansel‘s doughnut-croissant mashup, currently the world’s most coveted (and notorious) pastry; and Umami Burger is the cultish West Coast burger joint that opened the doors to its first NYC location—one that has been buzzed about for more than a year—at 11am this morning.
To combine the Cronut and the Umami Burger into one Lutheran (?) package would be the ultimate hype-on-hype-on-hype, fat-on-fat-on-fat, zero-fucks-given, brunch-on-dinner-on-dessert #hastag feast.
It all seemed like a punchline until one brave intern, Matthew Schonfeld (@MBSchonze), raised his hand and volunteered for Mission: Umami Cronut Burger.
Here, for your amusement/envy/befuddlement, is his unadulterated tale:
Creating the World’s First Umami x Cronut Luther Burger: A Timeline
5:30am: I wake up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
I’m hungry and tired. I’ve been tossing and turning all night, waking up on the hour because I can’t risk sleeping through my alarm and not making it to Dominique Ansel Bakery on time. Ansel’s opens at 8am, but when it comes to Cronuts, on time means 6-6:30am, because that’s when die-hard minions line up to get their hands on the signature croissant-doughnut hybrid that Ansel created in early May, and which has taken the city—and the world—by storm.
I hop on the Manhattan-bound L train. My plan is to transfer to the A at Eighth Avenue and 14th Street, then get off at Spring Street, two blocks from the bakery.
6:25am: I am an idiot. The A train doesn’t stop at Spring Street. So I run from Canal to Spring. This is the most stressful thing to happen since I found out I was doing this.
I fall into line when I get there, exhausted.
6:38am: All the embarrassment of getting up early to stand in line for a pastry kinda leaves when you get in line behind a bunch of other people standing in line for a pastry.
The worst part of waiting in line is the uncertainty. It’s impossible to count, because you can’t step out of your spot, and it’s unbelievably stressful knowing you are about to stand outside for three hours with the possibility of Ansel’s running out of Cronuts by the time you get to the front of the line.
Supposedly he makes 300 a day, and he allows two per person.
8am: The doors open and probably 20 people go in.
I move forward about 15 feet. There is about a 15-20 minute cycle of this happening. People being let in, the line catching up, and then more waiting.
9:24am: I’m inside Dominique Ansel Bakery.
I’m a little disappointed when I get inside. It’s a normal New York bakery, nothing special, just crowded. But there’s a rush when you see those Cronut batches on display, and there’s an edge of celebrity that Ansel’s had since the craze began.
If you wait three hours for anything, the exhaustion mixed with the hype builds, and when you see that pastry, a weight is lifted. Knowing that I’m guaranteed one of those coveted hybrids is a major relief, to say the least. I grab my gilded box, order a frozen S’Mores (the latest hotness), and head out. As I sit on a stoop a block up, I place my Cronut box behind me. I waited so long for those mere baked goods; I am protecting them with my life.
The frozen s’mores thing is great. An odd amalgamation of flavors and temperatures: warm on the outside, caramelized from the torch, but gooey through the marshmallow to a cool, refreshing vanilla ice cream center.
9:45am: I’ve been up for five hours and all I’ve eaten is a bougie, avant garde take on campfire food. I have two Cronuts on me, but my morning/life is not over. Next up: Umami Burger.
My morning isn’t close to over. I haven’t even looked into my box of Cronuts, but a checkpoint is achieved and I’m on to the next one: the grand opening of New York’s Umami Burger, a beloved West-Coast burger chain making its East Coast debut.
I get to Umami about an hour before opening and sit on a bench with my Cronuts. I feel like I’m smuggling drugs or something, hoping nobody asks what’s in the box.
In a strike of brilliance, though, I am asked one of the most telling questions by a disheveled homeless man on the side of Sixth Avenue:
“What the hell is that!?”
I smile and keep walking, unprepared to explain to a homeless man that I waited on a three hour line for a pastry, only to carry it to a burger joint, all in attempts to create one of the most ridiculous culinary feats in hyped history.
11:09am: I enter Umami Burger as one of the first five costumers in the restaurant.
For the hyped-up grand opening of a gloried West Coast burger chain, the turnout is rather quiet. Maybe 10 parties lined the sidewalk of Umami. I order the signature Umami Burger, which comes with shiitake mushroom, caramelized onions, slow-roasted tomato, a Parmesan crisp, and Umami ketchup. I haven’t held the Cronut in my hand since I bought it. I haven’t even taken it out of the box. So that climatic moment when my burger arrives and I arrange it right next to the Cronut on my plate, is revelatory. I sit there with my camera out being the most obnoxious customer ever. But I had waited 5 and half hours for this moments, so I felt warranted to look like an idiot.
11:12am: The Cronut is out and it’s right next to my Umami Burger and I don’t think the manager is as psyched as I am.
It’s time to create the Umami Burger–Cronut sandwich, the Shangri-La of hyped junk food. I take my serrated steak knife and carefully make the horizontal incision to the side of my Cronut. While the pastry is layered, it is also tightly packed and filled with blackberry filling. Carefully, I cut through it, lifting off the icing-covered top to reveal the custardy, jelly-like insides. As I lay the patty right in the middle of the Cronut, the dimensions match perfectly. I cut through the center and prepare to devour both halves. Messy doesn’t begin to describe it—a soft, juicy patty, already falling apart, stuck in the middle of a flaky, blackberry-packed pastry is not supposed to happen. I eat the early morning dessert burger anyway I can, with jam and burger grease fresh on my slick hands.
11:40am: The first ever official Umami Burger-Cronut lovechild has just been born on my plate, and now it is in my belly. Mission accomplished.
To my surprise, the flavors melded well. The blackberry filling sweetened the savory Umami flavoring. As my waitress told me, “It looks like a heart attack on a plate.” I corrected her, “A little sweeter than a heart attack.” At 11:38am I finished my Umami-Cronut Burger. I wiped my face, paid the bill, and left. Almost exactly six hours since I woke up, I walked out of Umami Burger victorious and headed down Sixth Avenue. The memory of standing in line, buying my Cronuts, shocking Umami’s staff, and eating my brunch sandwich was fresh in my mind, making me proud, absurdly so.
Story and photos by Matthew Schonfeld (@MBSchonze)