The World’s Most Expensive Burgers, Cheesesteaks, and Other ‘Cheap’ Dishes
There’s a certain joy in taking dishes that are traditionally associated with fast food — burgers, pizza, and the like — and turning them into over-the-top, outrageously ostentatious and expensive creations. But there are plenty of restaurants out there that are doing exactly that.
Why would someone in his or her right mind pay hundreds (or in some cases thousands) of dollars for something that can be found for just a few bucks at fast food joints? Well, what’s the point of being fabulously wealthy if you can’t show it off? Also, these dishes are far from ordinary. Seriously, the term “gilding the lily” doesn’t do these dishes justice. It’s more like “gilding the white truffle, caviar, and foie gras.”
These dishes give the term “conspicuous consumption” new meaning. Some of these are actually astoundingly delicious and others just pile on luxury items for the heck of it, but these foods are the ultimate status symbol, both for the restaurants that serve them and for the well-heeled souls who decide to spend their money on them.
Egg Dish: Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata, $1,000
Norma's / Yelp
Norma’s is one of New York City’s most popular breakfast spots, and its Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata is the world’s most expensive egg dish. Launched in 2004, the frittata contains six eggs and the meat of a whole lobster, and it’s sopped with a whopping 10 ounces of sevruga caviar. It’ll cost you $1,000 (the menu goads customers with “Norma dares you to expense this”), but if you’d like to sample it with just 1 ounce of caviar, it’ll cost you only $100.
Sundae: Golden Opulence Sundae, $1,000
Carla E./ Yelp
Perhaps America’s most famous super-expensive dish, Serendipity 3’s Golden Opulence Sundae was introduced to celebrate the New York City restaurant’s 50th anniversary in 2005, and at $1,000 it’s listed by Guinness as the world’s most expensive sundae. What’s on it? Three scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream infused with Madagascar vanilla and covered in 23-karat gold leaf; chocolate syrup made with Amedei Porcelana, one of the world’s most expensive chocolates; chunks of rare Venezuelan Chuao chocolate; candied fruits from Paris; gold-covered almonds; chocolate truffles; marzipan cherries; a small bowl of unsalted caviar infused with passion fruit, orange, and Armagnac; and a whole lot of edible gold leaf.
Burger: FleurBurger 5000, $5,000
This isn’t just the most expensive burger in America, it’s the most expensive restaurant dish in America, period, served at Las Vegas’ Fleur by Hubert Keller. What exactly does a $5,000 burger look like? It starts with real wagyu beef, and it’s topped with foie gras and truffles. To gild the lily, it’s served with a bottle of 1995 Château Pétrus.
Cheesesteak: Barclay Prime Cheesesteak, $120
Barclay Prime / Yelp
Philadelphia’s Barclay Prime is one of the best steakhouses in America, and its $120 cheesesteak, which has been on the menu since 2004, is actually a popular menu item. Why? Because it’s delicious, and is big enough to share with a couple friends. It’s made with Japanese wagyu New York strip and rib-eye, caramelized onion, shaved truffle, and big chunks of foie gras, topped with a truffle-flecked mornay sauce, and it’s served with a split of Perrier-Jouet. It’s greasy, cheesy, full of flavor, and (so we’ve heard) worth every penny.
Grilled Cheese: Quintessential Grilled Cheese, $214
Serendipity 3 shows up a couple times on this list; this Manhattan restaurant is nothing if not self-promoting. How does it make its $214 grilled cheese? Chef Joe Calderoni starts with bread that’s been baked with Dom Pérignon and piles on slices of super-expensive caciocavallo podolico cheese. Both sides of the bread are then brushed with truffle oil and white truffle butter and the sandwich is pressed until golden brown and melty. The edges of the sandwich are then coated in gold leaf, and it’s served with tomato and lobster bisque in a Baccarat crystal glass.
Chocolate Truffle: La Madeleine au Truffle, $250
Master chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt is selling the most expensive chocolate truffle in the world from his online shop, House of Knipschildt, based in Norwalk, Connecticut. It’s made via a seven-step process and contains chocolate ganache made from 71 percent Valrhona dark chocolate, French Perigord truffle (or Italian white truffle if they’re not available), and truffle oil. It takes about 14 days to ship, because each truffle is made to order.
Coffee: Kopi Luwak, $90 per cup
Cute, cat-like creatures in Sumatra, Java, and Bali, called Asian palm civets, eat whole coffee cherries, and by the time the beans come out the other end they’ve been digested, so they have shorter peptide chains and more free amino acids (which equals better flavor). The beans are then cleaned, roasted, and brewed. Being run through a cat’s digestive tract supposedly makes the coffee taste better, but we’re not planning on testing it for ourselves. Due to the product’s rarity, if you can find a cup, you can expect to pay upwards of $90 for it.
Macaroni and Cheese: Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese, $200 and up
America’s most expensive order of macaroni and cheese is served at Barton G., which has locations in Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago and is known for its over-the-top opulence. This dish is so opulent it’s actually an off-menu item and has to be ordered at least a couple days in advance. It starts with cheesy spiral pasta, which is topped off with a 5-pound Maine lobster and a generous dose of shaved black truffle. The price changes depending on how much the lobster costs, but it’s always well over $200, according to a restaurant representative.
Nachos: Brennan’s Blue Crab & Caviar Nachos, $100
Nachos usually only require some chips, cheese, salsa, and other cheap ingredients to make, but when they’re topped with a full pound of Louisiana jumbo lump crabmeat, queso made with Saint-André cheese, and an ounce of Petrossian caviar (along with fire-roasted corn, avocado, pico de gallo, and lime crema for good measure), the price tag jumps accordingly. That’s exactly what they’re serving at Brennan’s in Houston, Texas, and it’ll set you back $100.
Pizza: Guinness World Record 24K, $2,000
Plenty of restaurants over the years have crafted some sort of super-expensive pizza, but only one remains that actually lists it on their menu: New York City’s Industry Kitchen. It’s called the Guinness World Record 24K, and as the name might imply, it actually holds the world record for the most expensive commercially available pizza. It’s topped with Stilton, foie gras, platinum osetra caviar, truffles, and 24-karat gold leaf, and it clocks in at $2,000 (an additional half-ounce of almas caviar is available for $700, if you’re feeling sassy). Unsurprisingly, you’re going to need to give the restaurant 48 hours’ notice if you want to order the most luxurious pizza in the country, but if you don't want to spend a mint you'll be better off trying one of the 101 best pizzas in America.
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