When you hear General Lee, you think of the orange Dodge Charger with signature horn and confederate battle flag driven by Bo and Luke Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard.

However, Ohakune locals or frequent visitors to the Ruapehu town might be inclined to think of The Blind Finch Hamburgeria's General Lee burger.

Featuring a chicken pattie, lettuce, tomato, pickles, spicy buffalo sauce and blue cheese mayo between two buns, it's one of the most popular burgers at the Goldfinch St establishment.

Owner and executive chef Derek Allomes said it was hard to choose a favourite from the 11 burgers representing countries on the menu.

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Derek Allomes has prepared the two USA burgers from his menu, the General Lee (left) and The Ali (right). Photo / Bevan Conley
Derek Allomes has prepared the two USA burgers from his menu, the General Lee (left) and The Ali (right). Photo / Bevan Conley

"It's like choosing a girlfriend. They all look beautiful, but only one of them's for you. I shouldn't have a favourite, but secretly, my weakness is the General Lee," Allomes says.

"The blue cheese and spicy buffalo sauce invoke memories of eating buffalo wings at a sports bar in America. That's where the inspiration behind it came from."

The burger was named following a Facebook competition, in which the winner won a $50 gift voucher.

General Lee was chosen due to the eye-catching orange of the buffalo sauce, resembling the Duke brothers vehicle named after American Civil War general Robert E. Lee.

"People had to come in, eat the burger and then they got a naming slip. There were over 300 names to choose from," Allomes says.

"Some of them were not politically correct, some were a bit tongue-in-cheek. There were references to Big Bird from Sesame Street and people of the orange-haired persuasion."

With chicken, lettuce, tomato, pickles, spicy buffalo sauce and blue cheese mayo between two buns, Americans have said the General Lee is the best burger they have ever eaten. Photo / Bevan Conley
With chicken, lettuce, tomato, pickles, spicy buffalo sauce and blue cheese mayo between two buns, Americans have said the General Lee is the best burger they have ever eaten. Photo / Bevan Conley

A chicken pattie hits the grill with a hiss and then it begins sizzling as Allomes starts cooking – he's got hungry customers to feed.

Flames wrap around small pieces of macrocarpa above the grill, burning down into the embers that cook the meat, which can take up to nine minutes.

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Being cooked on a wood-fired oven grill is what makes the burgers unique.

"Because we're cooking over embers and not charcoal, we get the manuka woodsmoke flavour coming through the burgers," Allomes says.

"It's very subtle, but it makes it rather moorish."

The Blind Finch Hamburgeria has been in action for over two years and become so popular that people queue down Goldfinch Street waiting in winter. Photo / Bevan Conley
The Blind Finch Hamburgeria has been in action for over two years and become so popular that people queue down Goldfinch Street waiting in winter. Photo / Bevan Conley

Allomes hails from Whanganui, he studied at Wanganui Polytech and purchased the Cracked Pepper Cafe 19 years ago.

Before purchasing the Plunket rooms which would become The Blind Finch two-and-a-half years ago, he travelled the world as a private chef on super yachts for five years.

It was during these travels that Allomes met a man in Spain who cooked wood-fired paella and inspired him to create his own wood-fired restaurant.

Allomes said he'd had enough of all the toys, bells and whistles aboard.

"I was predominantly fine-dining, so this was more about getting back to basics and being almost primal in our approach to cookery.

"Wood-fired cooking makes service quite interesting because the grill's a little bit like driving a morris minor backwards on a gravel road, it's not easy."

The restaurant also offers over 40 different craft beers. Allomes recommends a Ruapehu Brewing New Zealand Pale Ale to accompany the General Lee. Photo / Bevan Conley
The restaurant also offers over 40 different craft beers. Allomes recommends a Ruapehu Brewing New Zealand Pale Ale to accompany the General Lee. Photo / Bevan Conley

One challenge is keeping up with demand as the restaurant has become so popular that customers are left queuing down the street in winter.

That popularity has been rewarded as The Blind Finch Hamburgeria had a successful outing at the Whanganui Chamber of Commerce Regional Business Awards.

Not only did they receive the supreme award, but also the WDC Waste Minimisation Fund – Environment award and the UCOL – Hospitality award.

"I've seen Fergburger in Queenstown with their queues out the door and around the block. I never quite expected that to happen in Ohakune," Allomes says.

"We get Americans coming in and saying 'that was the best burger I've ever eaten in my life' and I'm thinking 'you guys are from the home of burgers,' it blows me away."

At $17 for a large burger or $12.50 for a smaller size, it's a quality price for a quality burger and who would have thought you could get a taste of America in Ohakune?