From greasy whoppers to fancy-pants brioche affairs, a decent burger is tempting enough to reduce the most stoic of dieters to tears. We couldn’t resist putting in a little extra research to ensure these patties are up to standard...
To celebrate the centenary of the hamburger bun, loosen your seatbelt and come on a tour of the planet’s best and most bizarre burger experiences.
Slider man – birth of the burger, USA
In 1916, while Europe was in the grip of the Great War, Kansas-based frycook-come-inventor Walter Anderson dreamed up something truly great: the hamburger bun. Five years later he opened White Castle, a fast-food joint in Wichita, serving ‘sliders’. The USA remains the burger’s spiritual home – synonymous with everything that’s good, bad and downright ugly about it. Some might say the bad is represented by the gargantuan chains that eventually overran White Castle, but the good is still in evidence in boutique burger bars such as New York’s Burger & Barrel (burgerandbarrel.com), where you can chomp the signature Bash Style Burger, winner of five NY Food & Wine Festival gongs.
Kiwi burger, New Zealand
Burgers don’t have to be outlandish or enormous to be worth travelling for. Born in the pumping heart of one of the world’s true adventure capitals, Queenstown’s funky Fergburger (fergburger.com) serves protein-heavy fodder to fuel you up for any number of bungee jumps, jet-boat rides and zorbing forays. Being New Zealand – where humans are outnumbered 6:1 by sheep – the lamb burger is particularly special, but the Little Bambi Fiordland venison burger is quality too, and the fish (Codfather), beef, and chicken-and-swine combo (Cockadoodle Oink) options don’t disappoint either. Wash you choice down with a handle of Kiwi tap beer.
Dromedarian delicacy, Morocco
Camel meat has always featured in Arabic cuisine – camel liver cooked in hump fat is a delicacy in many parts of North Africa and the Middle East – but Morocco’s Cafe Clock (cafeclock.com) has become famous on the undulating back of its East-meets-West fusion dish, the camel burger. Founded in Fez, with a sister restaurant now open in the Kasbah of Marrakesh, the venue is a cultural centre where you can listen to local storytellers and music, take cooking classes and do a ‘Download’ experience – a crash course in all things Moroccan, from mealtime etiquette to basic language skills.
Arctic explorers, Canada & Iceland
In the challenging climes of the frigid far north, indigenous peoples have survived on a super high-protein high-fat diet for centuries. While few, if any, communities now enjoy a truly traditional diet, many of the meats they’ve always eaten can still be found on menus, sandwiched betwixt bread buns. In Whitehorse, capital of Canada’s Yukon Territories, the Klondike Rib & Salmon’s caribou and elk burgers are sensational, while further north, the musk ox burger served at Tonimoes Restaurant in Inuvik is an Inuit treat (tonimoes.com). In Iceland, Reykjavík restaurants such as Grillmarkadurinn (grillmarkadurinn.is) offer burgers from the gourmet – puffin, reindeer – to the highly contentious: minke whale meat.
Big Bird sandwich, South Africa
Nothing gives you a taste of Africa quite like a mouthful of ostrich, and one of the best places to chase this classic Saffa dish down is at the excellent Neighbourgoods Market (neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za) that kicks off once a week at Cape Town’s Old Biscuit Mill. Housed in a renovated Victorian-era warehouse, this is always a lively spot, but every Saturday it goes into sensory overdrive. Stallholders compete to tempt you towards their steaming pots, bubbling pans and sizzling hotplates, filling the air with foody fragrances from around the world, but we recommend going local and grabbing an ostrich burger from the grill.
The great British ham‘burn’ger, UK
You might expect to find the world’s spiciest burgers in Mexico, Sri Lanka or India, but actually, it’s the Brits who really relish the red-hot meat experience – taking masochistic masticating to a nuclear level. The Atomic Fallout burger served at the Atomic Burger (theatomicburger.com) restaurant in Bristol is so hot that diners must sign a legal disclaimer, wear protective gloves and prove they’re over 18 before they begin eating it. Not to be outdone, the XXX Hot Chilli Burger produced by Burger Off in Hove (facebook.com/BurgerOffHove) near Brighton, Sussex, registers 6-9 million on the Scoville heat scale (to put that in perspective, Tabasco sauce scores 2500-5000) and has hospitalised several people.
Bloodless burgers, Singapore
The art of packaging a well-considered patty within a multi-storey bun and splashing it with relishes isn’t the exclusive sport of carnivores – there are many great non-murder burgers on menus around the world. Many meathead joints offer veggie options, but the best bloodless burgers are invariably made by dedicated animal-avoiding venues, such as VeganBurg (veganburg.com) in Singapore. Here, soya and mushrooms are used to create burgers, livened up with zesty ingredients like pineapple and satay sauce. Its Paleo Burger goes further, substituting the bread bun with layers of fresh lettuce. The health-kick continues on the side too – with fries sprinkled with seaweed instead of salt, and organic soft drinks.
Burgers with bounce and bite, Australia
Much of Australia’s famously ferocious fauna will take a lump out of you, given half a chance, but it’s possible to return the favour at a number of places where crocodile burgers are on the menu. The white meat is an acquired taste (perhaps because humans rarely eat carnivorous animals). Aussies aren’t squeamish about serving up some of their cuter creatures between two bits of bread, either, and kangaroo and emu burgers are quite a common sight on specials boards. To try crocodile, emu, kangaroo, barramundi and other meats, Mindil Beach Sunset Market (mindil.com.au) in Darwin is a hard spot to top.
Burger noir, Japan
Japanese cuisine is known for precise aesthetics and artistic flair – with a kaiseki meal, for example, presentation is as important as taste. Not so, perhaps, for a Burger King meal deal, but the Japanese arm of the fast-food chain (burgerkingjapan.co.jp) caused a sensation when it launched the Kuro Burger range, starting with the Pearl. Kuro means black, and these creations are exactly that – from the bun to the bamboo-charcoal cheese, black-pepper burger and squid-ink ketchup. Recent weird and wonderful creations have included the gruesome-looking Kuro Shogan and even a range of ruby-red Samurai burgers. Keep an eye out in 2016 for Burger King's next annual oddity.
Supersize me, USA & UK
It’s an alarming ride, tracing the uglier side of the slider’s evolutionary path. Take the horrifically calorific Doh! Nut Burger from PYT in Philadelphia (beef patty, cheese and chocolate-covered bacon served on a glazed donut bun) or the thoroughly bad taste and inadvisable Las Vegas’ Heart Attack Grill, where diners don hospital gowns before tucking into behemoth Octuple-Bypass Burgers with lard-fried chips and buttermilk shales, served by waitstaff dressed as nurses. If you’re over 350lbs (159kg), keep eating for free! Perhaps the silliest slider ever, though, was a one-off burger created by London restaurant Honky Tonk. The Glamburger, decorated with gold leaf, lobster and caviar, had a price tag of £1100.