My top 5 burgers of Cape Town post was very well received last year. Since then every other website has done a post on top burgers in Cape Town so I decided I needed to do something different for 2016. This is a list of 12 undiscovered burgers. But before we get to that, let’s just talk burgers for one minute. 2016 seems to be the year that burger prices have passed the R100 mark. There were always a few outliers over R100, but it’s become quite common now. With craft beers priced at between R40 and R60, the burger and beer meal needs to be taken more seriously. I don’t want to eat bad burgers at that price.
So, back to the undiscovered burgers of Cape Town. What’s qualifies a burger as undiscovered? I’m glad you asked. There are 2 criteria:
1. It must not be a burger restaurant
Since my last burger post, many burger joints have opened up and some of them are making good burgers. For example, RocoMamas has opened in Green Point, Banks Burger has opened on Dean Street in Newlands, and Burger & Lobster has opened on Bree St. There are others, I’m sure. The big burger names we know have also expanded. Jerry’s (which was in my top 5 last year) now has 5 restaurants, and Hudsons is also growing. None of these burger places qualify for this list because we expect them to make good burgers, considering that is all they do.
2. It can’t have been on my previous list
My list last year included my top 5 burger spots and another 5 received honourable mentions. Some of them are not burger spots and may well have made this list but because everyone has read that post already, they have been discovered.
My criteria remains similar to last year. I evaluate the burger on:
- Patty – Is it flavourful, cooked to specification, reasonable size, doesn’t fall apart, quality and ethical meat
- Bun – Is it the right size, does it hold together, is it toasted, is it the right density
- Texture – Does the burger have crunch, or is it just one dimensional
- Flavour depth – I’m looking for a combination of flavours not just that rich fat that comes from the meat and cheese, give me some spiciness, some tang to cut the richness
- Ratio – Are the bun and the patty the right size for the burger, can it be eaten by hand (which is how it should be)
- Environment – A good burger eaten in your car is not as enjoyable as a good burger eaten at a decent, vibey restaurant which has a good list of beers and wines, etc.
Also, I like chips with my burger, good chips get extra points.
I’ve broken the list into honest burgers and saucy burgers. I’m more of a traditionalist and enjoy a burger that is just patty and cheese with relish and pickle. Those elements should be enough to make the burger great. Some burgers rely on sauce to make the burger tasty, the patty and bun move into the background and the flavours in the sauce become the hero. These burgers can still be delicious and I know that some people prefer saucy burgers so I have included a few.
Burgers that use ethical meat go to the top of the list because our meat consumption is destroying the planet. We need to start thinking about more than just our taste buds.
So, enough rambling, here’s the list of undiscovered burgers of Cape Town in no particular order. I’ve selected 12 burgers so that you can try one a month during 2017:
1 Mount Nelson
Chef Rudi Liebenberg has been on a crusade to create the best burger. He’s been experimenting with various options for 5 years, trying to get the patty, bun and relish all perfect. Even the type of cheese has been selected through trial and error. Importantly, chef Rudi uses ethical meat and on top of that, his kitchen at the Mount Nelson hotel minces the meat and makes the patties and they make the buns (to a special recipe developed specifically for the burger), plus they make the relish that goes on the burger.
Here’s a video of the burgers being made at the Mount Nelson. The second video is of me tasting the burger. I must warn you, by the time you’ve watched these 2 videos you will want a burger! You can order the burger in the bar or the restaurant, or even room service!
and now for the eating…
Another chef that is focused on ethical meat, Ash Heeger opened this restaurant in the old Frankie Fenner butchery space on Church Street. We enjoyed our meal there. Several dishes were memorable but the burger stole the show. I offered a bite of my burger to my dining partner and she ate half the burger. I’m sorry the picture is not great, it was taken with my cellphone but you can see it’s all about the meat. A nice crunch from the fresh lettuce and the sesame seed roll was properly toasted. The cheese, relish and pickle worked well together to enhance the burger.
Under the guidance and expertise of chef PJ Vadas, The Hoghouse is doing amazing things with (ethical) meat, including turning it into a delicious burger. It’s difficult to order the burger when you’ve seen the other deliciousness on offer, but you won’t be disappointed.
4 The Local at Peddlars & Co
Chef Brad Ball has his hands full running 4 restaurants at Peddlar’s & Co, but that hasn’t stopped him from creating a superb burger which is available at The Local at Peddlar’s. It’s called the Local Burger and the bacon jam may or may not be the secret ingredient. Brad is also committed to using ethical meat whenever possible.
This one caught me by surprise. The old La Vie on Sea Point Beach Road has upped its game. The pizzas are good and the burgers are great. It’s such a fantastic location, I’m glad it’s no longer the home of bad service and bad food. According to the menu, they use grass-fed beef.
6 Kloof St House
Kloof Street House is one of my top places to take visitors from out of town. They always love it and on more than one occasion they have ordered the burger and then returned of their own accord to have it again because it’s so good. I have to agree, it is a good burger. It used to be a wagyu beef burger but now I think it’s just a normal beef burger but it’s still top notch.
(Tel: 060 681 3803)
This is definitely the most elusive burger on the list. You should get some sort of badge to wear if you actually get your hands around one of these burgers.
Firstly, Bardough is not open all the time. It’s open for lunch Monday to Saturday and dinner Wednesday to Friday. Secondly, the menu changes all the time so you may get there to find they are not making the burger that day. But, a little tip, ask for it anyway and they might be able to rustle one up for you.
It’s worth the effort though, just look at it! And yes, that is crispy bacon! Many burgers have bacon, but it’s not crispy bacon. When you have this burger you’ll understand why crispy bacon is next level. It adds more than just flavour. It adds crunch! Meat could be grass-fed (Greenfields) or feedlot (Chalmar) depending on the day.
8 The Press
This is a fairly new spot in Sea Point. And the burgers did imPRESS me (haha). It’s actually a really good looking restaurant too. They have a few burgers to choose from but as usual I opted for the classic cheese burger and I really enjoyed it. There’s a good selection of craft beers available too.
My tip: Ask about the Kevin Bacon burger special. Burger and craft beer for R115, which is great value!
9 The Butcher Shop & Grill
This is how they present the burger but I just flipped the top on and ate it with my hands and it was great. Both sides of the sesame bun nicely toasted. Fresh relish gives it a crunch and what sets it apart is the slightly charred patty which adds extra texture and flavour.
10 Loading Bay
I was told I shouldn’t include Loading Bay as it has been around a while and has therefore already been discovered. But I have never mentioned it and the burgers are good, so here it is 🙂
11 Lucky Bao
This is the only wagyu beef burger on the list and it’s also the burger that’s making sure Hout Bay is on the list again this year. Lucky Bao is a very small spot that is an add-on to Cheyne’s Restaurant. The burger is saucy but oh so delicious. Great bun and excellent patty ensure nothing lets the burger down. But don’t do this for a first date, it gets messy.
This is also a fairly new spot. It’s on Waterkant Street in town. The burger was great but I have to say that out of all the burgers, these might be the best chips I had.
There you have it, 12 awesome burgers for you to try. What burgers should I try? Let me know in the comments below which undiscovered burgers you think deserve to be on this list.
May 2017 be a year of great burgers for you. I heard that the Famous Brands (that owns Steers) has bought Gourmet Burger in the UK so we can probably expect to see that franchise rolling out here next year. In N Out Burger also did a test run in Cape Town this year, so maybe they will open a store here in 2017. But that’s not as exciting as the restaurants and chefs that are making great burgers that I have yet to discover.