I’ve done the math. Over the course of my life, I estimate that I’ve consumed about 1,500 hamburgers (give or take a dozen or so). That — we can all agree — is a lot of beef. And, other than some slight variations in seasonings, they’ve all tasted pretty much the same.
Until I ate a burger at Poppy’s, that is. Operated by Paul “Poppy” Yeaple, a financial-advisor-turned-chef, this five-table storefront eatery on Beacon’s Main Street basically serves just burgers (both beef and vegetarian), fries, and a handful of toppings. Ho-hum, right? Wrong.
Poppy’s owner and chef Paul Yeaple with his chalkboard menu
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Poppy’s burgers are made with beef from cattle raised at Kiernan Farm in Gardiner, Ulster County (which, as the crow flies, is about 10 miles from Beacon). The cows are 100 percent grass-fed (no grain, by-products, hormones, or antibiotics), and the beef is dry-aged using an all-natural process that concentrates its flavor. The result is a hamburger with a deep, rich, “real” flavor that — to this palate — is vastly superior to the 1,499 patties that came before it. (And I’m not the only one who thinks so — Yeaple’s meat orders to Kiernan have more than doubled since he opened in 2009.) The secret to his success, he says, is karma. “When the cows eat what they’re supposed to eat, you get a healthier cow that’s happier. If I eat a tortured animal, I just have this notion that I’m going to have to assume some torture myself.”
Poppy’s Classic Burger comes in two sizes — “little” (a single quarter-pound patty for $6) and “big” ($9 for two patties). Each is topped with melted cheese and diced onion. (Hint: forgo the ketchup and get the jalapeño aïoli, which adds a spicy tang). Variations include the barbecue bacon burger (with house-made barbecue sauce) and the Egghead (with an organic fried egg). The hand-cut fries and sweet potato chips match the burgers in freshness and taste. And baby boomers will want to try a bottle of Coke. Made in Mexico with cane sugar (not the high-fructose corn syrup used here), you’ll feel like a nine-year-old again when you taste it.
Poppy’s interior, with its orange-painted walls and exposed air duct, is not much to look at. But that’s okay by Yeaple, because it’s all about the food. “Someone from the city, where you have this ultimate choice of food, came and said, ‘I had a burger here a year ago, and all I’ve been thinking about since is having another one.’ It almost makes you want to cry, because that’s the whole point of why we do this.”