Burgers used to be a tummy filler made from the cheapest cut of beef, the kind that could not be cut up by our teeth, and placed inside a bread bun, the way that Spongebob Square Pants makes it. At one time, burgers sunk so low that “pink slime” (beef trimmings) was added to fatty ground beef to further reduce the cost. So the bar for burgers was very low, while its fan base was huge because burger has a triple come-ons: grease, burned meat, and ease of eating.
In the 1990s, a bred of higher end burger joints started to appear in different parts of Metro Manila. One that survives up till today and has a presence in Fort Bonifacio is Brothers Burger (Bonifacio High Street branch). It sells designer and premium burgers in the price range of P175 to P310. They use 100% beef without any filler, and chargrill the patties instead of frying them. They also allow you to choose a big variety of add-ons.
Then in 2010s, another upgrade occured, where the beef patties used more expensive cuts of meat, adventurous ingredients such as bacon and french fries were added, and the sauce became more exotic, using blue cheese and secret recipe and so on. In Fort Bonifacio, this class of burger joints are represented by 8 Cuts (Serendra branch), Burgers and Brewskies (Burgos Circle branch) and Lucky Burgers (McKinley Hill).
Burgers & Brewskies at Burgos Circle is a hip kind of casual burger and beer place that has some interesting names for their burgers, and most of the time the ingredients work well together, such as in the case of their “Call the Nurse” burger (P280) shown below, which has bacon and mac and cheese.
Now comes 2016. We have burgers good enough to pair with wine. First there is Pound by Todd English in Bonifacio High Street. It has a very limited menu, around 6 burgers and a few side dishes, but the burgers are very unique and tasty, and most of them are not that much more expensive than the first generation gourmet burgers like Brothers’ Burgers. Its extra-premium burger is Foie Gras (P700). The interior design is as sophisticated as a fancy restaurant. Apart from the usual beer offerings, Pound has three wines to choose from, at P270 per glass. Photo below shows their top seller, Amsterdam burger (P280). All the ingredients in the burger (beef patty, onion, pastrami, gruyere cheese, sauerkraut) are well balanced.
Two weeks ago, in early May, a hypergourmet burger joint opened at Net Park, called Grind Bistro. Even though it also serves steak, Grind’s lunch menu is dominated by a large variety of burgers, and all patties are made from beef imported from USA. The cheapest is Cheese on Rye (P350), and the most expensive is Indulge with bacon (P495), apart from the one with Foie Gras (P750).
Grind Bistro is owned by a couple who had worked in the food and beverage industry in the USA for many years. The husband, who is from Oregon, USA and is the head chef, worked at Hyatt Hotel before coming to the Philippines with his wife, Ms. Cristina Imperial Carl. Ms. Carl is the wine expert of the restaurant, apart from being the co-owner.
We tried the Grind burger (see photo below) one evening, and were really impressed by the flavor and texture of the burger patty. As a package, though, we find Pound’s Amsterdam more interesting. On the other hand, the restaurant has a more diverse menu than Pound, so if your companions do not feel like eating burger also, this would be a good place.
But why does burger innovation always have to go up the price scale? It does not have to be. Last February, we found a road side burger joint at Kalayaan Street near EDSA that has a menu that can blow all of these high end competitors out of the water.
As you can see from the photo above, it has the most creative menu that you have ever seen. And the price is just jaw-droppingly low. We think it is still in business, but are not sure if it can last. It is not because of the quality of the burger. Well, just a little. We tried its Bluer than Blue because we are a sucker for anything that has a song title in it. Idiosyncratic though its ingredients mix appeared, It tasted pretty good. The minus was the texture of the patty. The meat was so powdery that the patty crumbled easily, and there was no ‘mouth feel’ as they say.
But what could be the real down fall of this experimental venture was its cost. The owner used branded imported cream cheese and blueberry jam, and she was very generous with the amount used. In fact, she used way too much blueberry jam than the burger needed. We do not think she would make much money from each burger sold.
As food lovers, we welcome all forms of innovation in burgers or any kind of food, as long as it makes us feel pampered, whether by its sight, smell, taste or all of these qualities. So we eagerly wait for the next fad in burgers, while saving money for it now.