When I checked in with chef David McMillan back in March, he told me some significant changes were taking place with for John Tesar's legacy CVap burgers at The Commissary. For one, they were supposed to be thinner, so the coloring would be more consistent throughout the center of the patty. He also mentioned tweaking the cooking process a little in an attempt to achieve better consistency.
I stopped in last week to check out how the new burgers are coming along.
Not much at all.
I called McMillan to see what's up, and he admitted he's still working out his burger cooking process. "We're tasting three a day," he told me, grumbling a bit. They're still trying to optimize the burger, but for now I think it's very similar to the original Commissary burger experience. Not that that's a bad thing -- they're fucking delicious.
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There is one significant change, though: price. When Tesar first opened the place, some of the more simple burgers sold for $6. The price of ground beef has been steadily rising, though, up a dollar a pound since McMillan took over the kitchen. Now the basic burgers at Commissary cost two dollars more.
Eight dollars doesn't seem like that much for a burger. I've paid $20 for a burger at Local, and many high-end taverns charge in the teens. Is the price increase really that big of a deal?
"We lost a big part of the day-time office workers," McMillan told me. "Those kinds are on budgets."
McMillan's discovery of the impact of a $2 price increase is illuminating. While journalists and advocates have been pushing Americans to choose to eat less meat for health and ethical reasons, the biggest driver for food choices is clearly economics.