Friday, November 8, 2013

[Feature] A burger manifesto for Ireland

I don't know who was the first person to think of placing a grilled meat patty between two slices of bread, along with salad and condiments, but I thank that person from the bottom of my gluttonous stomach. The burger probably started out as a quick dining option, and while it still serves that function, it's also possible to dine on gourmet burgers. The burger is truly a king among foodstuffs.

Across the pond in the US, they take the burger pretty seriously. Patties are juicy and often cooked to order, even to my preferred medium rare. In recent years, several hamburger chains have achieved something close to cult status, including Five Guys, In-N-Out and Fatburger. Even the Wahlberg brothers have a hamburger restaurant, the cleverly titled Wahlburgers. Recently, I found myself running through Washington Dulles airport, hoping my make my connecting plane to Newark, where a plane home to Dublin awaited me. But, just a short distance from the gate, I noticed a Five Guys outlet. I skidded to a halt. 5 minutes later, I was sitting at the gate gleefully wolfing down my lettuce-wrapped, bacon cheeseburger and praying to St Jude (patron saint of lost causes) that this burger would not leak it's juicy goodness over my work clothes.
Stitch and Bear - Burgers - Selection of US burgers
A selection of US burgers (from top Houlihan's, Stanford Grill and Five Guys)
All these wonderful burger experiences have made me despair of the standard of burger production in Ireland (with some obvious exceptions, which I'll get to later). If you order a burger in most pubs or casual dining spots, chances are that you will receive a hockey-puck lump of dry grainy meat, cooked to an attractive grey wallpaper paste colour. A slice of tomato and a few lettuce leaves usually sit miserably on top as garnish, unsure as to how they ended up there. I understand that cooking meat through is a food safety issue, but there is no excuse for much of the woeful mistreatment of burgers to which I have been subjected in Ireland. Most of them belong to a monochrome world which has been sucked dry of all pleasure and joy.

It really a travesty. The chefs who cook and serve these monstrosities should call themselves aside. If they don't understand the burger, then they shouldn't have it on their menus. So this is is my manifesto. If you are a restaurant or venue that serves up a burger crime, I will critique you. Simply put, Irish diners and Irish beef deserve more respect.

There are some bright spots of burger cuisine, enough to make me optimistic that there are some chefs  and restaurants out there who really do understand the burger. For me Bunsen Burger on Dublin's Wexford Street serves up the best burger in Dublin. Their offering is a juicy and flavoursome dirty-style burger, the complete opposite to standard grey Irish burger.
Stitch and Bear - Burgers - Bunsen Burger
The Bunsen Burger
The Morrison Grill at the newly refurbished Morrison Hotel also serves up a burger worth eating. It's a substantial beast with a thick patty but their Josper Grill ensures that the meat remains juicy. Half the burger was more than enough for me, especially as it comes with additional sides such as pickles and crispy onion strips.
Stitch and Bear - Burgers - Morrison Grill Burger
The Morrison Grill Burger
During my quest around Dublin for the best burgers, I revisited Bóbós. Several years ago, I hadn't thought much of their burgers, but I was quite pleased by their bacon cheeseburger offering. It ticked all the boxes with a juicy, tasty patty and clean simple toppings. Extra marks were awarded for the excellent fries, plus who can resist a restaurant packed with cow pictures?
Stitch and Bear - Burgers - Bobos Burger
Bóbós Burger
My final mention is for Gourmet Burger Kitchen, a chain of gourmet burger restaurants. While this place does suffer from a soulless atmosphere, a forced Kiwi jollity and a tendency to construct burgers Pisa-style, it must be said that the burgers are good, plus they have a brioche bun option.
Stitch and Bear - Burgers - Gourmet Burger Kitchen
Bacon Cheeseburger at Gourmet Burger Kitchen
What do you think about burger crimes? Which places serve the best (and maybe the worst burgers)? Please comment below, especially if you have any hidden gems which deserve to be praised.

3 comments:

Lemonwilly said...

The Counter and their DIY burgers never fail to please. Whatever mood you're in is what your burger is going to be like.

Anonymous said...

I like all burgers so if you have any you don't like, leave them here and I will insert them.

Anonymous said...

Donkey shed near Ashbourne!