I have a number of mostly food related pet peeves, chief among them being the persistent over complication of burgers that permeates our society. This exhibits itself in two main culprits: the “monster” burger and the “gourmet” burger. The monster burger is stacked high with superfluous patties and toppings, whereas the gourmet burger uses meat that, let’s be honest, is too good for a burger and too thick to achieve maximum juiciness and even cooking.
Ironically, getting pretentious about burgers means getting back to basics with classic, no frills, diner-style burgers. While places like Bunsen may give themselves a leg up with their quality of ingredients and method, their burgers stand out for their simplicity and it’s shocking how many places are still serving unnecessarily fancy burgers (Bobo’s, Joburger).
So, what are the components of a good burger?
Minimally processed: This is important. While adding seasoning into your mince isn’t necessary and can potentially detract from the pure meat flavor of your burger, you also risk overhandling the meat, effectively making it more meatloaf than burger.
Meat to fat ratio: This should linger at around 80/20 (Meat/Fat) to produce a really succulent and juicy burger.
Maximum surface area to meat ratio: This is where the size of the burger comes into play. Think about it this way: the less meat in the burger, the more delicious crispy outside area you have to complement the meat. Your method of cooking is also a factor here since you need to smash the burger and make sure that you’re getting as much contact with the pan or grill as possible, while making sure not to squeeze out the juices.
Being from America, I didn’t really get the point of burgers until I had Five Guys and so my feelings about burgers are deeply rooted in that experience. Moving to pre-Bunsen Dublin, I had to learn to make themself, using The Food Lab’s method. If you don’t like burgers, there’s a chance that you just haven’t tried the right one and I’d highly recommend checking out Bunsen and Wow Burger who are neck and neck for best burger in Dublin. Full disclosure: these burgers are so good that I wasn’t even pushed to go out to Dundrum for Five Guys, although I will be surely checking out the George’s St location once it’s opened.
Wexford St, South Anne St, Essex St E, Ranelagh
The first dedicated purist burger establishment in Dublin, Bunsen’s menu is still business card sized, offering hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and doubles, along with various options for fries and beverages (including beer).
You should know
Sometimes if you don’t specify toppings they’ll default to serving it with all the toppings (so you’re better off making sure that you have this conversation),
You can specify the doneness of the burger. They grind their own meat fresh every day and while food safety isn’t necessarily a concern, you don’t actually lose out on any of the luscious meatiness getting it cooked medium well (my preference).
Wellington Quay, Wexford St, Wicklow St, Ranelagh, Parnell Centre
Wowburger’s menu is very closely modeled after Five Guys (they’re basically identical), meaning that you can order delicious grilled mushrooms and grilled onions as toppings, along with the usual stuff (lettuce, tomato, onion, etc.). As with Five Guys, the regular size is actually a double and the mini is a single. They do veer away from the Five Guys template with their fries though, which are delicious.
You should know
Wowburger is part of a large restaurant conglomerate that includes Wagamama, The Liquor Rooms, and Captain America’s. This doesn’t make their food any less delicious but if you like to support small businesses, Bunsen is the way to go.
The Wellington Quay and Wicklow St locations are in The Workman’s and Mary’s Bar respectively, so you can indulge in additional beverage options
Looking for something to eat after 3am? Check out out feature on Late Late Night Eats.
Someone else serving this kind of burger in Dublin? Thoughts on Bunsen v. Wowburger?Let me know in the comments! 🙏