It’s about time someone put elk on the menu in Elkhart.
523 Tap & Grill has an elk burger available from time to time. “We want to put the elk back in Elkhart,” said chef Jamie Amador.
The restaurant ordered some elk because sous chef Aaron Beaver likes cooking game. And because he and Amador thought a restaurant in Elkhart should be serving elk.
I stalked the burger for a while since it’s not on the regular menu, but is available as special occasionally. And today, May 30, they made one for me at lunch at 523 S. Main St., Elkhart.
The burger’s usual preparation is with applewood smoked bacon, smoked gouda, prickly pear barbecue sauce, red onions and dill pickle spear.
The meat is incredibly lean, but has a fuller flavor than beef. This burger doesn’t taste gamey. And the condiments pair well with the flavor of the meat. The barbecue sauce in particular has enough sweetness, but not so much to overpower. This is a great burger.
I told Beaver that with a from-scratch pickle, perhaps something with a bit of spice, the burger would sing even louder than it already does.
The burger isn’t cheap. It’s $16, with fries, due to the cost of the game they’re getting from the supplier Sysco. And don’t order it anything but medium. The meat should be juicy and if you order it medium well it won’t be and you are less likely to like it. Don’t call what’s dripping onto your plate anything other than juice, either.
Truth photos by Marshall V. King
Beaver said the burger may be a special, but customers can also ask at lunch or dinner whether it’s available. If more customers ask for it and it becomes popular, it’ll be easier to get more of the time.
The conventional story of how Elkhart got its name is that Island Park is shaped like an elk heart and the Shawnee Indians figured that out (without the benefit of flying devices to show them that from above). But a book by George Riebs that’s republished in part with permission on a blog by Richard Dean Taylor said that elk romanced the area and the Elkhart River and Elkhart Prairie likely had those names prior to the laying out of the village. The name may have come from Shawnee Indian Chief Elkhart, who was the cousin of Tecumseh.