In a now annual tradition, today we gather together, slap meat into a sliced piece of bread, and stick it in our mouths. Here are the burgers we dreamt of waking up to, on National Burger Day morning — and our pick of our favourite real ones.
For me, the ultimate burger is a rich brown on the outside, a soft pink on the inside – and a ball of top-quality, butter-soft meat, rather than a thin, firm patty. I like mine oozing with cheese and topped with crisp streaky bacon, sandwiched between a lightly-toasted seeded brioche bun, with a generous slap of mayonnaise and some iceberg lettuce leaves for the tickle. French mustard is welcome, but no thick-sliced tomato, thanks. Jalapenos and gherkins are good for a sea-change, as is blue cheese, but for a true meat-feast love-in, you can’t beat bacon and cheese simplicity. I want the juices to run as I take a big bite – a good burger should err on the John Travolta side of greasy.
Personal favourites: 1 Lucky Chip 2 Meat Liquor 3 Bleecker St
Vegetarian burgers are almost an oxymoron, and are super difficult, but they're the only ones I eat. Trying too hard to replicate a meat-burger is almost always bad — but so is going too out there, like the Byron approach of whacking a patty-sized slab of cheese in the middle. The better thing is to get some sort of patty in there — quorn, a mash of vegetables, whatever — and then try and make up for the taste with good sauces and extras. Jalapenos, gherkins, a nice spicy sauce, plenty of fresh lettuce and other salad, and whatever else. And then stick a super-soft brioche bun around it.
Personal favourites: Five Guys vegetarian sandwich, but it’s not actually a burger per se; Nando’s; GBK
As someone gifted with a ravenous appetite and the metabolism of a thoroughbred greyhound, I’ve found myself wolfing down a burger at least twice a week. And I can tell you now that anything purporting to be a ‘gourmet’ burger can literally get in the bin. There is no point in a burger on a china plate, with some artfully squirted truffle mayo on the side. A good burger is a sloppy, delicious, gloopy, barely-held-together gobful of hot meaty deliciousness and it’s at its best when the whole thing could potentially collapse in on itself like some umami-flecked black hole. The classic components - good quality, pink-ish patty, cheese, bacon, crisp lettuce - are so fine-tuned you don’t need to do something radical. Lamb in a burger is, to me, utter nonsense. But Patty & Bun did a special with slow-cooked pork belly a while back and it was so deliciously piggy it made me foam at the mouth. What a time to be alive.
Personal favourites: 1 Patty & Bun, 2 Bleecker St, 3 Honest Burgers
I'm all about simplicity when it comes to burgers; there's not much more off-putting for me than monstrous creations or burgers topped with gold leaf and adorned with a rolex or whatever. I want a soft bun, because you shouldn't have to work when you first tackle a burger, but a range of textures beneath that is equally important, as well as some integrity within the bread. A crust on the outside of the beef (if it's not beef then it's not a burger, despite what my colleagues or others may say) is as important as the bun so cooking on a flat top or a good cast iron pan is imperative. I'm also a processed cheese man. There's no cheese like Kraft or variants, and while I'm not averse to a bit of sharp cheddar or, at a push, a slither of smoked Gouda, it's all about the bright orange fake stuff that melts like no other. If I was designing my perfect burger it would have a soft bun, beef cooked on a flat-top and well seasoned, onions (caramelised or otherwise), processed cheese and a bit of special sauce - like the stuff they use in a Big Mac.
Personal favourites: 1 Bleecker St 2 Flat Iron 3 Patty & Bun
Loathed though I am to back a chain over a small business, Shake Shack has returned back to the top of the pile for me. It is the perfect union of the fast foody American taste your stomach is craving and the quality ingredients you want if massively calorific burger is your chosen meal that day. The patty is juicy, the signature Shack Sauce and chopped cherry peppers give the burgers a morish tang, and the Martin's Potato Roll bun is an unrivalled doughy casing. Crucially, they avoid the frequent mistake of making burgers too big/ridiculous, so you'll leave the restaurant without feeling like you need to fall down for a nap on the pavement.
Personal favourites: 1 Shake Shack 2 Bleecker St 3 Tommi's
I like my burgers to be as rare as possible – the more blood the better. Let it drip! If it doesn’t resemble a gently blowtorched steak tartare between two buns, then you can forget it. “My diet” and “healthy” aren’t two terms that really go together, but “me” and “crippling fear of premature death from my bad diet” are. Because of this, I like there to be a bit of lettuce thrown into the mix, as well as some red onions and a tomato. I always feel a bit guilty having a cheeseburger, in the same way I feel anxious whenever I butter a croissant and fill it with peanut butter, or eat a pasta sandwich. But sometimes that’s the only way you can get through the day, so why not?
Personal favourites: 1. Honest Burger 2. Five Guys 3. The burger counter in a club called Timepiece in ExeterReuse content