Some people will tell you that a burger is a balanced meal, with meat, salad and bun for carbs. Whether you agree with that or not, there is no arguing that hamburgers are one of the most popular menu items in South Africa.
Just about every restaurant has a burger or several on the menu, but they can often disappoint. A great burger is a treat and harder to find than one would expect. Maybe it’s the recipe, or the attention paid in selecting the ingredients, or the care taken when making the burger, but there are definitely good burgers and bad burgers.
What makes a good burger? Each element is important, but also the way they work together. The criteria I used to judge burgers for this list were:
1. Patty (tastiness & texture)
2. Bun (freshness, texture)
3. Size (not too big or too small)
4. Ratio of bun to patty
5. Juiciness (burger should be juicy but not be too messy to eat)
6. Should be possible to eat the burger by hand
7. Value (good burgers do cost more, but not a fortune)
8. Sides (are the fries good? Are there other options?)
9. Environment (venue, service, etc. If these are bad, they can ruin a good burger)
10. Drinks (I like a good selection of craft beers)
To truly judge a burger, it’s a good idea to order just a cheese burger. This way the sauces don’t mask the flavours of the patty and it’s easier to compare one burger against another.
Here are my 10 ‘unmissable’ burger spots in Cape Town, in no particular order…
1. Jerry’s Burger Bar
The first one opened in Observatory and now there is one in Park Road in town. A great burger all round. Bun, patty, ratio, toppings. Excellent fries and big beer selection.
2. Weinhaus & Biergarten
Here they make just one burger, the Bree St Burger, and they make it well. It’s a steal at R65 too. The beer is really expensive though, so it’s not the steal it seems at first.
In contrast to the first 2 burgers, this burger is meat focused. No lettuce or such distractions. Just meat with cheese. Add bacon if you dare.
4. Devil’s Peak Taproom
Another beautifully balanced burger that comes with great fries. Don’t be distracted by the lamb burger or the veggie burger, the cheese burger is the one you want. Obviously it doesn’t hurt that this is in a brewery and there is Devil’s Peak beer on tap!
Hiding all the way out in Hout Bay, this restaurant has a funky steampunk theme and serves delicious burgers. Some might be disappointed that they don’t serve fries, but ‘smashed new potatoes’ instead.
Sister restaurant of the ever-popular La Boheme, the focus here is burgers and pizzas. It’s busy for a reason, these burgers are memorable.
Short for Inside & You’re Out, these guys have only been going for a couple of months in their Bree Street venue, but cut their teeth in a food truck. We like the focus on provenance; they use only local ingredients and grass-fed beef. Also, there is cheese INSIDE the patty!
The Burger Bar out back does amazing takeaway burgers but if you sit inside, you can order their wagyu beef burger which is next level.
A well-known option, with several branches around the city. Order the smaller burger for the better bun to patty ratio. The chips are good but so is the side salad.
Sharing a kitchen with Balthazar next door means some good quality meat is finding its way into the pattys. The only problem with this place is that it’s difficult to get a table!
Which of the 10 have you tried? What are your favourites that are not on this list? Tell us in the comments below…
Dax Villanueva has been eating his whole life. Based in Cape Town and reporting on the world, he shares his experiences on his blog www.relax-with-dax.co.za. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for real-time updates.
28 May 2015 is World Burger Day - get stuck in with Food24 and show us your best burger!
- Dax Villanueva