First published on 19 Apr 2013. Updated on 14 Feb 2014.
We all know about the Huxtaburger (or the crackburger, as these wildly popular wagyu and brioche versions of fast food buns have been affectionately dubbed). We're all aware of Neil Perry's David Blackmore wagyu burger with zuni pickles at Rockpool too. It's good, eat it. And we're preaching to the choir when we rave about Beatbox Kitchen's Raph burger – saving festival-goers lives for a good few years now. So (horror!) we haven't mentioned them here. Instead we set out to discover who else is doing a meat sandwich worth investigating. Over three days, we road tested 20 of Melbourne’s most talked up burgers. Here are ten of the best, and some of the rest that you should get on your radar.
Need to summon an angry mob in a hurry? Talk smack about Andrew’s. This Albert Park joint has been churning out two-hands- required burgers for 70 years. The onions are cooked. The bread bun is lightly toasted. The lettuce is a crunchy iceberg-cabbage mix, and the fried egg is often cooked through. It’s packing grilled beef mixed with cooked onion for moisture and sweetness, double cheese, bacon, and plenty of tomato sauce (go stick your ketchup). Andrew’s, we salute you. Albert Park.
Live Bluegrass jams! Bacon Martinis! DIY SodaStream! The B.East is a rockabilly burger house ticking a lot of boxes. You want pork crackling or an ice-cream sundae on the side of your meat sandwich? Done. Go for gluten-free buns, triple-sized or spiced-up burgers if you must, but we can’t go past the classic. The brioche can err on the cakey side – the bread tends to break rather than smoosh – but the organic beef is juicy, onions are pickled, and sweet tomato relish plays nice with crisp cos lettuce and sharp melted cheddar. Get it with a craft beer. Rock and roll. Brunswick East.
Meet the midnight burger. Seeded brioche, bacon and caper mayo all gather around a gruyere- capped wagyu patty that’s flecked with onion and concealing a runny egg shirt-assassin at its centre. Belle’s has done some game-lifting of late. Along with great new shakes – the peanut butter number packs enough nuts to wipe out a primary school – service (wobbly in the past) has come good. With its Hollywood lights, vintage booths and long silver bar, Belle’s makes a hell of a space for cogitating over a burger. Fitzroy.
Brother Burger, we love your single-batch craft beers as much as we love your fresh bread baps. The beef patty here is a tangle of straight-up pure-breed wagyu mince. It’s halal too. The standard model is simple – it comes with slices of vinegary house pickles, thick-cut tomato, a slip of lettuce, ketchup and American mustard. But it’s all about accessorising here – add cheese, bacon and jalapeños, and you’re sitting pretty at the prettiest burger bar on Brunswick Street. Fitzroy.
Joe’s is the sleek, beachy diner serving a burger that’s a balance miracle, plus ace cocktails courtesy of bartender Matt Stirling. Soft, sesame-sprinkled brioche houses a well seasoned Hopkins River beef patty shrouded by melted cheese, mustard-mayo and smoky bacon. A fine dice of onion, kosher pickles and crisp salad brings it all together. The bun-salad-meat ratio is dead-on and it’s saucy and cheesy in all the right places. St Kilda.
The Merrywell burger, crowning glory of this calorific American casino pub, is everything that’s right and wrong with the USA. Served with crunchy golden fries, it’s a $22 monster requiring a stack of napkins and maybe even a bib. Black Angus chuck steak and short rib form a thick patty that’s scorched, saddled with smoky bacon and cheese and then steamed till it all fuses into a hulking mass of protein. Pickles and tomato are somewhere within the saucy confines of the soft, flour-dusted bun – you just can’t see them. It’s a cumbersome burger, and pretty ugly, but hot damn, is it delicious. Southbank.
This Led Zeppelin-playing, vintage-furniture- having burger house nails the American diner theme as well as it nails a burger. The swivel chairs lining the well dented bar are squishy and arse-hugging, and malt shakes go heavy on trashy chocolate syrup. Given this place is pro-tequila and fried chicken, we’re surprised that the burger is also pro-salad – the well toasted bun lid is buoyed up on a puffy cloud of mixed leaf lettuce, tomato and a chunky spear of pickle. Still, a thick, charred patty all covered in cheddar cheese and ketchup is fatty enough to handle it. We guess the Parlour boys’ mamas just raised them right. Windsor.
It’s called the double patty smash and it’s a decided screw-you to your arteries. Two slender prime beef patties sandwich sticky salty sheets of Kraft cheese, tiny gherkins and special sauce that may or may not be ketchup mixed with mayo. It comes in the softest of sweet, buttery buns. So wrong. So right. ’Nuff said. Collingwood.
Trunk has just pimped their courtyard out with a brand new diner that serves a burger for fans of the BFP (Big Fat Patty). Firm brioche holds a fairly unadulterated hunk of minced wagyu (chuck and shin, with good fat content keeping things juicy) that’s as thick as the bun. If you hold that a burger should be all beef and condiments, it’s a winner. It comes with zucchini pickles and house-made ketchup, and salad is served on the side for ignoring if you so wish. But we reckon some green stuff and Monterey Jack cheese goes a long way to pimping out this thing. Then again, perhaps you prefer to take your dairy as a biscuity Golden Gaytime shake? We do. Melbourne.
The Thursburger (only available Thursdays) sees sharp relish, eschalots, mayo, and smoky bacon back up beef that’s rollin’ rissole-style with rosemary, thyme and Dijon mustard. It’s coated with gruyere and served in a brioche- bread hybrid bun, and while it could be too much, everything works together in sweet saucy harmony. Sitting at the gleaming marble bar with a pint of 4 Pines Kolsch (and access to great natural wines) makes for one fancy Thursday. Melbourne.
More Melbourne Burgers
Most underrated - Grill'd
Sure, Grill'd is everywhere you look, but they've been on the local, free-range meat bandwagon longer than many restaurants have, and the fact that they do grill everything makes their burgers some of the least calorifically compromising of the bunch. Last year they even introduced a whole range of ridged crockery for use in-store to prevent soggy buns (fancy!), and to help reduce waste from disposable plates. Respect. Around Melbourne.
It’s the contents of a double cheeseburger stuffed between three (!) grilled cheese sandwiches. This mutant comes with a staff prescription for Metamucil – oh, and there’s not even a prize for finishing it. Carlton.
If you’re planning on smashing all Melbourne’s burgers like we did, take some training tips from the Australian Competitive Eating champion.
Sign up to our monthly food & drink newsletter