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A donut burger is sometimes considered a novelty food item, and it sometimes is considered a legitimate eclectic dish. The barest form of the burger is a beef patty, usually fairly thick, that is cooked and placed on a sugar-glazed donut that has been split in half, much like a traditional sandwich roll. Some restaurants serve the donut burger as a standard menu item, offering classic burger toppings such as lettuce, tomato and ketchup. In other venues, such as at fairs and carnivals, the burger is used almost as a parody of decadent high-fat foods, with variations being made that contain toppings such as mayonnaise, onion rings or bacon.
There is no verifiable account of the origin of the donut burger. Some of the earliest appearances of the burger, however, seem to indicate that it started as a traditional beef hamburger with lettuce and tomatoes and served on a lightly toasted sugar-glazed donut that had been split in half. The burger is calorically high, typically containing more than 900 calories, depending on the size of the individual elements.
As the donut burger became better known, it was partially adopted as a type of novelty food. Certain restaurants and vendors at fairs and other gatherings started to make burgers that included ingredients known to be unhealthy or high in fat. Some of the additions included cheese, bacon and mayonnaise. Instead of serving the burger on a split donut, it sometimes began being served on two whole donuts, one on each side of the burger.
More outlandish versions of the donut burger appeared, some even being the subject of eating contests. The bacon was sometimes coated in chocolate before being placed on the burger or the burger itself was made incredibly large. Regional foods, such as scrapple, barbecue ribs or polish sausages, were sometimes placed on the burgers. There have been variations of the donut burger that contain so many ingredients that they can't be eaten like normal hamburgers and contain 3,000 calories or more.
Despite being considered a novelty by some, the donut burger does have some followers based solely on the taste. A typical example of a donut burger that is not a novelty includes a beef patty, pickles, bacon, lettuce, tomato and a split, toasted donut. The savory ground beef, the salty bacon and the sweetness of the donut can complement one another to provide a complete flavor profile in the mouth.