North Light Has Steamy Secret

It’s in the cooking technique of the burger.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

North Light is part bar, part record store, part bookshop — with shelves curated personally by such celebs as Michael Chabon, Patti Smith, Pico Iyer, and Samin Nosrat.

It’s also part restaurant — whose signature sandwich, the North Light Burger, isn’t fried, broiled, or grilled: It’s steamed.

That’s because executive chef Leo Batoyon made “frequent pilgrimages” years ago to Ted’s — a 60-year-old Meriden, Connecticut, luncheonette that steams its world-famous cheeseburgers.

“I brought that rare technique here to North Light. It highlights the flavor of the beef without masking it by searing or adding extra fat. The pure flavor comes through,” said Batoyon, who grew up on Guam before cooking in such critically accaimed hotspots as Napa’s Ubuntu and, in San Francisco, Twenty-five Lusk and AL’s Place. Batoyon was executive chef at the latter when Bon Appetit named it Restaurant of the Year.

“Our meat is a blend of chuck and brisket Angus,” he revealed. “We use hothouse tomatoes — never refrigerated! — and iceberg lettuce with that delicious crunch. The cheese is Tillamook cheddar. I found that the mild cheddar worked better than the sharp, which tended to compete with the flavors of the meat. The bun is a Martin’s potato roll, also used at Shake Shack. And then there’s the ‘not-so-secret sauce.’”

It’s actually called that on North Light’s menu, where it joins such fun fare as comeback-sauced tater tots; miso-dressed, boquerones-topped Caesar salad; and duck-liver mousse with jam on “thick-ass toast.”

“A lot of places claim to have a secret sauce, but it’s basically all the same stuff,” Batoyon laughed. “Ours is a take on that classic combination: mayo, ketchup, Dijon, and Ranch powder.”

“There’s nothing better than tucking into a burger and a cocktail or glass of wine with your favorite book while a record plays on our turntables,” added North Light’s owner, Dan Stone.

“One thing I love about Leo’s burger is its perfect size: It’s easy to eat one without feeling grossly stuffed afterwards. It’s actually possible to eat a burger at North Light for lunch or a late-night meal and walk away feeling satisfied and good.” 

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