Many of you may remember the 1970s Burger King jingle “Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us.” Well, Terrapin in Rhinebeck has taken that philosophy to the nth degree: Every burger they serve is a special order. And while chef/owner Josh Kroner may be regarded as the Valley king of the burgers (CNN was so impressed that in 2009 they showed up to film his patty prowess), this is no fast-food joint. “Having moved to Rhinebeck eight years ago as a fine-dining chef, I never had the opportunity to do burgers,” says Kroner, whose elegant eatery is housed in a converted 1825 Baptist church and has been voted best restaurant in Dutchess County several times by readers of this magazine.
Kroner, who received a degree in architectural engineering before changing course and studying at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, believes it is best to build your own burger. (We must believe it, too: in 2009, our editors dubbed it the best “upscale burger” in the land.)
The Bistro and restaurant are housed in a refurbished church built in 1825
First you start with the foundation: hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef from the Hudson Valley Cattle Company. You can choose a quarter pound ($9) or a half-pound ($10) — or a $9 bean-based veggie burger — and then the real fun starts. Select your bread — there are six options including a French baguette, a soft brioche, or a crusty ciabatta — delivered daily from Eli Zabar’s bakery in New York City. Counting carbs? Kroner notes that increasingly patrons are ordering burgers sans the bread, and are instead piling on the tasty toppings. Ordering gets a little tricky here: there are more than 30 options to dress up your patty. Choose from among 11 special sauces (with options like maple mustard and citrus aïoli); eight cheeses (including Brie and smoked Gouda, each for an additional $1.50 a pop); and $1 extras, which range from the ordinary (bacon) to the extraordinary (cured Moroccan olives, sliced artichoke hearts). Smoked onions, sherried onion confit, lettuce, tomatoes, and sliced raw red onions are always free. (Servers can advise you about topping combinations.)
So what does Kroner’s ideal burger look like? “A half-pound burger with crispy bacon, smoked Gouda, tomatoes, roasted poblano chilies — for earthy flavor — lettuce, and mayo on a brioche roll. And, as a side, I would order the mesclun salad from local Sky Farm in Millerton to balance the burger.” Kroner adds he’d pair his creation with an India Pale Ale “because the strong hoppy note goes well.”