Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Baltimore Harley's Sandwich Shop Burger

      I won't go through the history of the Harley's Sandwich Shop chain as I have it all laid out in the tuna salad article, just suffice it to say that Harley's was THE fast food chain in Baltimore long before Gino's and McDonald's.  Harley's restaurants were open all night and so were a favorite of the night shift crowd and police officers.  These burgers were always simmering in Harley's secret sauce ready to be served to hungry customers.

     Reconstructing this recipe has not been easy.  The original recipes were lost after Shane's, the successor to Harley's, closed down in the 90's, however the clues are out there and I followed the trail.  The model for it appeared in an old edition of the Baltimore Sun.  I tried it but thought the sauce was watery and under-flavored compared to the original Harley Burger Sauce.  So since then I've made it no less than 8 times trying out different variations and ingredients until one day, one glorious day I hit the nail on the head

     Now keep in mind, this recipe is my own interpretation, based on how I remember the originals tasting.  I'm always open to comments and suggestions from anyone else who experienced this heaven on a bun back in the day. 

Baltimore Harley Burger

Ground chuck, formed into 4, 4oz balls and smashed 1/4" thin separated by paper and frozen
4 Potato Bread Hamburger Buns
2 cups water

Sauce Seasoning:
2 large red onions sliced in thin rings
1/4C A-1 steak sauce
1/4C Worcestershire sauce
2/3C ketchup
1 teaspoon sugar
1tsp Tabasco Sauce (can be reduced by half for a less spicy sauce)
1T French's Mustard
1/4tsp Garlic Powder
1tsp Salt
1/2tsp Pepper

The first step is to form the meat into 1/4lb patties.  These burgers are much thinner than your usual 1/4lb patty so I used 2 small plates and smashed each meatball into a patty 1/4inch thick.  Stack them separated by wax paper and freeze completely.  Get all your sauce seasoning ingredients ready by mixing together in a bowl until well blended. Get a frying pan (not nonstick!) searing hot and sear the burgers 3 mins on each side then set aside.  Your pan should have a nice brown coating on the bottom (fond).  Deglaze the pan with the water using 2C.  Scrape up all the brown bits on the bottom and mix into the water then add your bowl of seasonings and mix well.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes before adding onion rings.  Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes then add burgers back in making sure they are covered with the sauce. Simmer for 30-45 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens a bit, the end product should have the consistency of A-1 steak sauce. To serve, split a potato roll, on the bottom place a patty and top with some onions and sauce. If you want cheese, use provolone and place on top of the onions, serve with lettuce and tomato on the side.

Remove onions from any leftover sauce and save sauce in the fridge, I'll get to a use for that in another recipe but in the meantime try it on a roast beef sandwich.


  1. I recall as a kid hearing on radio the impassioned plea from the disk jockey for witnesses who might know who murdered several people inside the Harley store (I think the one on Hampden's Falls road ?); I never heard if the killer was id'd ? it was one of those emotions I felt when young and even now I still think about.

    1. The murders were at the York Road location. I believe it was 1968 and 4 people died. I lived in the neighborhood, one day f the dead was in my graduating class, and I have been haunted by it forever. I don’t believe the killer was ever caught.

  2. You know, after the Bullets NBA played, the players from both team ended up across street at Harley's; as a kid I used to stand with them. Wonder why they named the team "Bullets" (just askin').

  3. Gave this recipe a try and was, as in the past with other recipes for Harley Burgers, disappointed. This was more of a soup or broth than a sauce. I guess the family recipe will go to the grave with the family.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. not the recipe from the Harley Burger I remember. really a disappointment after i made it.

  6. I know what you mean. I gave it a try as well. Definitely not the recipe.


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