Hamburger Helper: Is 2009 the Year of the Burger?

In tough economic times, diners and restaurants are turning to burgers.

ByABC News
January 8, 2009, 2:43 PM

Jan. 8, 2009— -- With the real estate market reeling, car companies crumbling, and the economic outlook ominous, there is one delicious, juicy exception -- the burger.

The succulent, savory American staple has continued to thrive, and even grow in popularity during tough economic times.

"And it always will boom because the burger is omnipotent and irresistible," said Josh Ozersky, the national restaurant editor of and author of the blog "The Feedbag." "It can never be weakened. It can never be slowed down. It can never stop its ever-increasing growth and popularity. It's the most single powerful force in the food universe."

Apparently, Ozersky is not alone in his love affair with the burger. In this economy, he has received a lot of company.

"The hamburger is a way that people can experience everything that's great about eating beef," said Ozersky. "The flavor, the tenderness and everything, [is there] in a way that's affordable and in a way that also you know that doesn't make them feel so enervated."

To showcase the strength of the burger, "Nightline" accompanied Ozersky on a burger tour across Manhattan, starting at The Spotted Pig restaurant, where celebrity chef April Bloomfield whipped up two patties -- medium rare.

"If you come in here on any given night, 80 percent of the people are eating hamburgers," said Ozersky. "I believe that this is the only Michelin starred restaurant in history to get its star largely on the strength of its hamburgers."

Seven percent more restaurants are offering burgers than did two years ago with the biggest boom coming in fine dining establishments. For diners, it's good eating. For restaurants, it's simply good business.

"The other thing is that it's easy," said Ozersky. "You know, there's a big part of the restaurants is how laborious and complicated putting together some of these dishes are. [With] a hamburger, all you need is a flat top and a spatula."