22nd Jun 2018
The humble hamburger seems to be everywhere as of late; on café menus, hotel bars, high-end restaurants and every second pop-up. And style-wise, they can be all over the place, having changed so much from the first-wave gourmet versions, too-big-to-eat with farmhouse cheese that didn’t melt and ridiculous ciabatta buns, to the utterly pointless tiny slider era where you never knew how many were enough. Thankfully, much of the current great burgers have gone back to their (mostly) American diner origins, offering burger bundles that can be picked up to be eaten with your hands and that concentrate getting that taste ratio right. Happily, more and more are also offering good, if not great, vegetarian and vegan options. Here are some of my favourite places to chow down on a great bite in all shapes and sizes…
Bunsen, Dublin, Cork & Belfast
The top dog of the burger spots, their tagline is ‘Straight Up Burgers’ and it doesn’t get more straight up than a business card-sized menu of hamburger, with or without cheese, fries and then soda, milkshake or beer. Burgers are fresh minced Black Aberdeen Angus, perfectly melting cheese, pickle for umami and a classic American Amish dinner roll bun. There’s a skill in the grilling, which involves a quick steam before serving. All served up to us on a dinky, retro silver tray, wrapped to minimise mess. Simple and sublime and worth a wait at busy times.
Featherblade, 51b Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Strictly speaking, this is a steak restaurant, but two years ago, they did a burger special and due to demand, haven’t taken it off since. It’s only available at lunchtime and until 4.30pm on weekends, but well worth seeking out. Meat lovers will appreciate that they use cold smoked brisket, chuck and aged striploin for the excellently cooked beef patty and then match it up with caramelised onion purée and bearnaise in a brioche bun. The burger is a cracking combo of fancy pants with a real burger bite. Watch out for specials too, El Jefe being the most recent; mojo rojo, aged manchego, chorizo jam, pickled shallots and the smoked patty.
Happy Food, YogaHub, 27 Camden Place, Dublin 2 & Junction 6, Castleknock, Dublin 15
Vegans rejoice! Tucked down a lane between Camden & Harcourt Street, you’ll find this plant-based haven, serving a mean burger menu alongside their yoga studio. They serve up a creative selection of reimagined diner classics, with the burgers built around a tasty black bean and sweet potato patty. The Happy Classic, for example, is a happy mess of burger, caramelised onion jam, tomato, lettuce and vegan mayo. The Sloppy Joe is with coconut ‘cheese’ and tofu ‘bacon’ and The Devil Diablo comes with melted ‘cheese’, pico de gallo and spicy buffalo mayo. They also do delectable dairy-free shakes like the Snickers, made with peanut butter, banana, almond and cacao.
This neighbourhood counter-service burger joint opened to almost immediate acclaim and I can see why. A pared back burger menu offers the BuJo; a chargrilled beef patty, cheese, pickles, BuJo sauce and a brioche bun alongside a Bacon Cheeseburger version. They also serve the BuJo Vegan Burger; an organic vegan patty with spiced hummus developed by vegan chef Mark Senn (of Veginity and Vish Shop). The burgers are generous, American style and served with fries and shakes on retro metal trays. Everything is well thought out and tastes good. I always think Sandymount can be a little awkward to get to, but these burgers make it worth the trip.
Box Burger, Eatyard, Dublin 2 and 7 Strand Road, Bray. Co. Wicklow
Full disclosure; I’ve had more than my fair share of these due to doing plenty of work at Eatyard. But I’d still go out of my way to eat a Box Burger, as the many who flock to Portobello or Bray for them do too. Purists love their cheeseburger with pickles; The Mexican with jalapeno, chipotle, guacamole and sour cream keeps the new-school burger fans happy and veggies can get their mouth around the Chickpea + PB; chickpea, peanut butter, carrot, courgette & cumin patty, rocket, mango, cucumber and jalapeno slaw on a fluffy vegan bap. The best thing about all their packed burgers is they get the ratio just right; even when it’s packed with toppings and twists, you can still pick it up and give it a good bite.
Jo’Burger, 4/5 Castle Market Dublin 2 and Smithfield, Smithfield Village, Dublin 7
An oldie but a goodie, Jo’Burger’s creations may seem to be preposterously big compared to the favoured diner-style burgers du jour, but there is no denying they still taste great. Choose from dry aged beef, Irish lamb, chicken, fish or veggie for your burger and then build it up, choosing your bread, your toppings and your cheese. The end result comes stacked high with a layer of frilly, green lettuce, loads of toppings and airy buns with crunchy crust (unless you’ve gone nude – wrapped in lettuce). There’s plenty to keep the fussiest eaters happy and the vibe in the restaurants is always buzzy and fun.
Wowburger, Various Locations
When the urge for a hit of fast food happens upon you, Wowburger could be the place to sort you out. Thisdiner-stylee chain from the Press Up gang has started to pop-up all over Dublin, serving American style burgers, shakes and fries in retro surrounds. They stick to the simple formula of hamburger, cheeseburger and bacon cheese burger and offer mini versions for kids, with all the toppings free. Sides, shakes and sundaes are succinct and approachable, designed to devour along with your foil wrapped bun. The Wexford Street branch is open until 4am, which also makes it the perfect way home fuel.
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