Its historical origins are a bit murky, but the hamburger has emerged as a definitively American menu item in the same way hot dogs and egg rolls have.
All three are inspired by foreign cuisine, yet created and popularized in America. Each have also become associated with inexpensive food-on-the-go over the decades.
Lately, though, burgers have gained an almost aristocratic status in some places that focus on refining and perfecting them — similar, maybe, to the way craft breweries have created beer connoisseurs from what was basically more of a bland, blue-collar beverage for years.
Adelene restaurant’s reputation for putting personal spins on popular trends has recently extended into the world of burgers.
The on-site restaurant of the Port-O-Call — a large pink-hued hotel that has been part of Ocean City’s boardwalk seascape since 1966 — Adelene came on the scene in 2016 when ownership rebranded a more traditional-looking restaurant, enlarging and enhancing it with a coastal-chic décor. Panoramic views of the beach and ocean are enjoyed from any table, and a new burger bar, with 11 unique selections, is reflective of an entire menu that was recently overhauled to jibe with the quality of the establishment’s ambience.
“The reason we’re going with this concept is because it’s been gaining popularity all over the country, and in this area we really don’t have any other venues that offer an extensive burger selection,” says Port-O-Call General Manager Glenn Losch. “So we wanted to be the first onboard with that, and hopefully, once the word is out, Adelene will become well known for our burgers.”
Adelene is open 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. daily for breakfast and lunch, and tends to tailor menu items to what is popular during specific times of year.
“When families come to the Jersey Shore — and Ocean City specifically is well known as a family town — they’re looking to have that Jersey Shore experience, and this fits in well with that idea,” says Port-O-Call Marketing Director Renee McIntyre.
“In addition to that, we’re also focusing on the whole presentation,” Losch adds. “We all know that when you go to a restaurant and there’s a cool presentation, it’s something you tend to remember. So we’re no longer serving burgers on plates. We’re using a shallow tin pale, which is a really cool presentation and we wanted to focus on meshing the presentation and the quality of the product together. It helps give it a little more of a relaxed, fun feel when you’re in the restaurant, instead of being too formal.”
Adelene Head Chef Rich Cope says Pat LaFrieda burgers are used in all 11 selections. LaFrieda is a well-known butcher from New York City who had the audacity, according to an article in “New York” magazine, to blend dry-aged beef into a burger, which at one time would have been considered “an act of blasphemy, not unlike shredding a Chanel gown to make a bandana,” according to the article.
The meat quality is also reflected in the prices, which, while not outrageous, are a bit higher than one might expect to pay for a burger at your neighborhood corner tavern. All are served with French fries and range from $12 for the Classic American (lettuce, tomato and cheese on a pub roll) to $19 for the Crabby (topped with crab meat, Old Bay seasoning and cheese sauce).
“One thing that brings to mind the shore is that there’s probably a ton of places where you can get a regular old cheeseburger, but this is more of a gourmet burger selection,” Cope says. “It’s a very unique menu with different styles, toppings, buns, presentations. It’s definitely taking your traditional burger and kicking it up a notch to the gourmet level.”
The Country Fried Burger ($14) has country-fried breading on the outside and is topped with a white-pepper gravy that Cope created. The Monte Cristo ($17) is served on French-battered Texas toast and topped with ham, Swiss cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg. The Mac Daddy ($18) is a burger topped with mac-and-cheese and served on a bun toasted in a waffle iron, and the Angry Oinker ($13) is topped with what Cope calls “angry onions” along with pork roll and American cheese.
“I marinate the onions in a hot sauce to give them a little kick,” the chef says. “I try to play around with different ingredients sometimes to see what works best.”
Adelene’s Epicurean Supper Club
Restaurant Manager Joanie Adams says that Adelene will be starting a new members-only supper club featuring private dining. The club will run Saturday and Sunday evenings from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Its menu offers an array of soups, salads and starters and about a dozen entrees such as the Grilled Chicken Caprese with sauteed Jersey tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and mozzarella in a light cream sauce ($26), and the Epicurean Ocean Platter with oysters, shrimp, crab cake, flounder and scallops served with remoulade and cocktail sauces ($42).
Visit OceanCityEOC.com or call 609-323-1499 to find out more about the supper club.