To Burger, Or Not To Burger – That Is The Question

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My answer? Definitely to burger. Long gone are the days of over-processed chains and late night greasy dives being our only options. The humble burger has undergone somewhat of a revival of late and a retro style icon is reborn. From posh to punk, brioche to bap, we’re spoilt for choice and the making of this go-to fast-food staple has become a bit of an art. I’ve been on a mission in the bright lights of Leeds to witness first-hand this booming burger scene…

 

FIve Guys Burgers

Five Guys: The All American Dream

Let’s start with Five Guys. When I want something quick and easy without compromising on quality, this is my new best friend and lucky for me, it’s conveniently located on my way home from work so to say I have become a regular is an understatement. The self-confessed ‘heaven in a brown paper bag’ is the new kid on the block in Leeds and harks back to the 1950s all-American dream where it all began for the simple hamburger. A basic palette of red and white décor makes the place feel fresh and crisp, much like the ingredients. With only four choices of burger on the menu (each available in two sizes; I opt for the ‘little’ which is plenty big enough) and only a dozen or so classic toppings to choose from, it’s the quality of ingredients and sheer simplicity of these foil-wrapped beauties that’s the winning formula. Served with a mountain of fries, made from the sacks of potatoes on show in the store, and a choice of over one hundred soft drinks (I highly recommend the cherry vanilla Coca Cola – very Sandy in Grease), this American import is a firm-favourite here to stay and certainly gives its famous red and yellow competition a run for its money. So much so, Elvis would have felt right at home here.

 

If you crave a vibrant party atmosphere and a few cocktails with your grub plus bold experimental flavours that pack a punch, Almost Famous is an in-your-face neon explosion with a cool electronic soundtrack to boot. My advice, come hungry. One of the most creative menus in town, each burger has its own aptly named label and comes stacked high, oozing with unctuous toppings and dripping with sauce (learn from my mistake and pick up enough napkins). The Johnny Mac is pure handcrafted heaven with not one, but two juicy burgers smothered in applewood smoked and cheddar cheese, bacon, grilled onions, crunchy cheese tortillas, million island dressing, chipotle ketchup and wait for it…a deep-fried mac and cheese ball on top. This spectacular combination of flavours will have your tongue doing a dance. Oh and don’t under any circumstances forget a side of Bacon Bacon fries; their famous ‘winning’ fries covered in baconnaise and bacon rain. Enough said.

 

Located above hip Call Lane haunt Brooklyn Bar, New York Burger Kitchen is American by name, American by nature and things here are a little more chic. Exposed brick and low-slung lights give this space an oh-so-cool, loft-like feel. Sitting here on a Friday night, I can’t help but feel I’m in an episode of Sex and the City and Carrie and the girls are on their way for a Cosmo and a catch-up (probably not the burgers to be fair, oh well, more for me). Using locally sourced beef sandwiched between homemade brioche buns, the result is absolute perfection. The succulent California burger has an earthy taste and is packed with bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, Monterey Jack cheese and creamy guacamole. This melt-in-the-mouth marvel is made even better with a pile of gently cascading sweet potato fries which are utterly moreish (I still dream about them). No wonder NYBK claims to serve up the best burgers in Leeds.

 

Heisenburger

Mr Nice Guys Signature Dish: The Heisenburger

And finally, my personal favourite; Mr Nice Guys (part of Get Baked) is a hidden gem of a takeaway tucked away down an unassuming Meanwood street. Originally starting out as a purveyor of imported American candy and sweet goods before delving into the world of all things burger, this now Leeds institution has fast acquired a cult following of loyal fans and proud patrons. All with good reason you’ll see when you try their signature Heisenburger; a delicious smoky beef patty topped with the perfect marriage of sweet candied bacon (aka heaven on earth) and soft, salty blue cheese that leaves the taste buds truly tantalised. I thought peanut butter on a burger sounded a bit odd and then I tried the Goober. One word – amazing. Throw in some BBQ pulled pork smothered fries on the side and wash it all down with a cold, thick shake to sample the very best of this legendary Leeds takeaway. I have to admit; I’m completely hooked and am making it my duty to convert the masses. Failing that, to at least work my way through the menu. The Willy Wonker-esque genius behind this outfit is Richard Myers who’s also just expanded into his first restaurant venture; Get baked Presents the Joint. Located in an old church (formerly Halo nightclub) on Woodhouse Lane in Headingly, I’m yet to visit but when I do, I’m certain it won’t disappoint and can’t wait to try the Diplodocus; a deep fried halloumi burger smothered in garlic butter and guacamole – yum. Rumour has it the guys are taking their own unique brand of cool across the Pennines to Manchester next so watch this space.

So next time you fancy a Big Mac, think outside the box because the world it seems (or Leeds at least), is our burger.

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