Ever seen $5,000 hamburgers and $500 milkshakes? Just as unhealthy as a patty from Burger King, likely, but a whole lot more expensive. Junk food is an American institution. McDonald’s may have tried to present a healthier image, but it’s those grease-drenched fries and Big Macs that define junk food culture in America. It’s a world of high sugar and high fat, food that's fast and above all cheap.
Junk food in America dates back to the 1893 and Chicago World’s Fair when two street vendor brothers named Rueckheim whipped up a popcorn, peanut and molasses confectionary that by 1896 was being boxed and sold as Crackerjack. The popsicle came about one freezing night by accident when, in 1905, 11 year old Frank Epperson left a soda drink outside in a glass with a stirring spoon in it. It was 18 years later before he applied for a patent for his Episicle Ice Pop. Twinkies came about in the 1930s during the Depression, when an enterprising baking plant manager decided to try injecting banana cream into cakes.
Everybody knows McDonalds, but before the McDonald brothers got going with their innovative assembly line production methods, there was White Castle. Started in Wichita, Kansas in 1921, White Castle took the traditional low-cost burgers and fries to the masses.
But we're in a different realm altogether with the items on this list. Imagine a chocolate pudding that would cost (what is, for many) a year's salary, or a hamburger worth 5 month's rent - if you can get your head around that, then you'll have an idea of the most expensive junk food items in America. For the most part, these items use expensive ingredients like truffles and edible gold leaf and are sold in upmarket restaurants in places like New York and Las Vegas. Some come with add ons, like pricey bottles of wine or diamond sprinkles (presumably not edible).
Including burgers, milkshakes, cupcakes, pizza, hot chocolate, hot dogs and sundaes, here are ten of the world's most over-the-top and overpriced junk foods.
10 10. 'Powder Room Milkshake', Hollywood, California: $500.00
A few years ago, a pre divorce and pre-Kanye Kim Kardashian turned up in Dubai with her mother to launch the Kim Shake. Dubbed the most expensive milkshake in the world, it marked the launch of Millions of Shakes at a Dubai mall.
But this claim that her shake was the most expensive turned out to be an overblown and untrue. The most expensive milkshake was in fact dreamed up by the Powder Room in Hollywood. At $500, it has Belgian chocolate, edible gold leaf and more than a touch of liquor. Called The Velvet Goldmine, the drink is topped with a $190 Swarovski ring. The Powder Room is a trendy bar with a difference. The drink, according to the owner, is “lush and fun”. Even if you take out the ring and factor in the fact that you're in Hollywood, it’s still $300 for a mixed drink with some ice cream thrown in.
9 9.'Nino’s Pizza', New York City: $1,000.00 +
Part of Positano’s Italian Restaurant, Nino’s Bellissima Pizza is a mid-town New York dining tradition. Derek Jeter, the Yankee captain, is a regular and important customer and has a private table at the back of the restaurant. One night, Jeter ordered take out and a besotted hostess tagged along to the delivery and made an embarrassing scene at the ball player’s house, declaring her undying love. The owner, Nino Selimaj, fired the girl, saying, “I’ll take Jeter over that bimbo any day.”
In addition to his sound business sense, Nino is known for his pizza and in particular the $1000 12-inch caviar and lobster pizza topped with crème fraiche and chives. No word on whether Jeter is a fan of this particular creation.
8 8.'Bloomsbury Gold Phoenix Cupcake', Dubai: $1,000.00
The most expensive unadorned cupcake comes from Dubai. The Bloomsbury Golden Phoenix is wrapped in 23 carat gold and its flour is imported from Italy. However, there was a $150,000 cupcake called the Rox Diamond Cupcake created for Glam, the Edinburgh fashion event, in 2010. It’s just a cute little pink cupcake, but it’s the totally inedible diamonds adorning it that make it worth a mint. If you got greedy and ate too fast, you could chip a tooth...
7 7.Golden Opulence Ice Cream Sundae, New York City: $1,000.00
Serendipity 3 is a New York Restaurant that once attracted the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol. Its owner Joe Calderone has created a number of expensive junk food dishes, including the $295 'Le Burger Extravagant'. Indeed, this chef with a taste for the finer things appears more than once on this list. The Golden Opulence Ice Cream Sundae has 3 to 5 scoops of Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream and is covered in 23 carat edible gold leaf. The gold leaf is flavourless, but costs up to $160 a gram. The chocolate syrup that crowns this sundae is the most expensive in the world and the candied fruits that sit on top are imported from Paris.
There’s a bit of Grand Passion Caviar on the side and it's all eaten with a gold spoon.
6 6. 'Cupcake Dress', Food Network UK: $1,275.00
A total publicity stunt, the cupcake dress was touted in ad campaigns for the Food Network UK. It is made from 300 edible cupcakes in red, purple and pink, weighs 28 pounds and took 3 days to construct. It was featured and displayed during London Fashion Week and was presumably eaten afterwards - as National Cupcake Week came hot on the heels of the end of London Fashion Week.
5 5.'New York’s 230 Fifth Hot Dog', New York City: $2,000.00
The most expensive ballpark dog comes from Massachusetts - the “McMullen” is an $80 footlong that's probably not a big seller. But back in New York, the outdoor rooftop garden (the biggest in New York) and bar, 230 Fifth, has a hot dog infused with cognac, sprinkled with mushroom dust and lobster. The hot dog is made from aged Wagyu Japanese beef (the gold standard of beef). Its Vidalia onions are caramelized in Dom Perignon champagne and the sauerkraut is braised in Cristal Champagne and caviar.
With its view of the Empire State Building, '230' is a celebrity favorite and getting in can be tough if you are not connected. The proceeds from this indulgent hot dog go to charity.
4 4. 'Margo’s Pizzeria' Valletta, Malta: $2,420.00
Said by some to serve the best pizza ever, Margo’s Pizzeria is a favorite with locals and the tourists who flock to the beaches on the Mediterranean Sea island. Owner Claude Camilleri says that they came up with their expensive pizza “to draw attention to the quality of [our] food.” Indeed, the thin crust pizza is quite an attention grabber, topped with buffalo mozzarella and white truffles and 24 carat gold. It has to be ordered a week in advance and at last report had been ordered twice.
3 3. 'Fleur Burger 5000' (package), Las Vegas, Nevada: $5,000.00
In the overkill land of Las Vegas, we find a $5,000 burger. Fleur Restaurants’ Fleur Burger 5000 is made from Japanese Wagyu beef and foie gras. Its sauce is made from truffles and shaved truffles are sprinkled over the burger and it rests in a Brioche truffle bun. You also get a $2,500 bottle of Chateau Petrus and a Certificate of Authenticity with your order - so you can prove to the world you blew $5,000 on a burger and a few glasses of wine.
2 Serendipity 3’s 'Frrrozen Hot Chocolate', New York City: $25,000.00
Back at New York’s Serendipity Restaurant, we have Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. More of a publicity stunt than a dish, it made the Guinness Book of Records as the most expensive dessert. And yes, the price tag is $25,000. It's hot chocolate... that's frozen. Made from over 14 different types of cocoa with edible gold and diamonds on top, it has 18 carat gold at the bottom, together with an added surprise - a diamond bracelet. At this end of the market, restaurants throw out most expensive dishes in the same way that designers show outlandish show pieces on the catwalk.
1 1.Chocolate Pudding, Lindeth Howe Country House Hotel: $35,000.00
We reach the nirvana (or hell?) of fancy junk food in the Lake District of the U.K. where we find a $35,000 chocolate pudding that looks like a big brownie. You’ve got to order this monstrosity two weeks in advance (probably forking out out a hefty deposit). Combining chocolate, gold and caviar, the hotel owners claim it is the most expensive dessert in the world. The chocolate brownie is topped with champagne jelly and edible gold leaf. There’s a 2 carat diamond on top. Bring a little bag so you can take the rock safely home.