Brisbane bloody loves burgers. Every year a food writer (often myself) will declare "peak burger" has been reached and every year more burger joints seem to open.
Most recently, we've seen Neil Perry open his Burger Project shake shop at the new Southpoint precinct. Getta Burger spent most of 2016 setting grease traps in North Lakes, Capalaba, Ashgrove, Underwood, Clayfield and Bridgeman Downs. Hanks and Fritzenberger (RIP Casablanca karaoke) both started flipping patties at Petrie Terrace last year while Miel Container opened a new joint in Sunnybank and Brooklyn Depot brought its burger wares to Southbank.
When will this self-feeding madness end? Most likely not for a while, so it's time for another list to separate the good from the bad and ugly.
A good burger is a burger you can hold in one hand while the other sinks beer. Structure is key. A dribble of sauce onto that webby bit of skin between your thumb and forefinger is fine. A burger that implodes into a mulch of meat, lettuce and mustard is not.
Fresh ingredients and a focus on quality over quantity is also important. A good burger is about the balance of sweetness and acid, carbs and beef. (For the past few months, Esq. has had the best example of this in Brisbane, however it's being phased from the menu at the time of writing. Hurry.)
The limited edition Esq. cheeseburger. Photo: Lisa Maree Williams
And those foot-tall freak-burger things stacked with fries, peanut butter, ice-cream, doughnuts, Doritos, onion rings, potato gems, mozzarella sticks and a pigsty-worth of bacon? I'm not even sure those things are burgers. Any more than two meat patties is gross. Those burgers are cheap thrills for Instagram likes and every time you eat one a baby Grimace cries.
These 10 burgers are not those kind of burgers. These burgers are delicious.
A Classic burger from basketball-loving Ben's. Photo: Supplied
There's a spectacular TripAdvisor review from a bloke moaning that Ben's wouldn't serve him a burger without mayonnaise. "I can't really rate their burgers because I didn't actually get to eat one." (Bloke then proceeds to give two-star rating.) Props to the basketball-loving crew at Ben's for sticking to their "no alterations" rule. That mayo is terrific and brings the whole burger together (beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion, pickles - you know the drill). Ben's also has the best chips in town, full of fluffy potato and crunch. I like this place a lot.
5b Winn Lane, Fortitude Valley; 153 Boundary Street, West End, bensburgers.com.au
Billykart West End
If you're jonesing for a Quarter Pounder but not keen on McDonald's then chef Ben O'Donoghue's Billykart burger is for you. It's a thick slab of beef, grilled medium, and teamed with cheese, diced red onion, thinly sliced pickles, tomato sauce and mustard. Minimum funny business for maximum taste. Before you baulk at the price, know that it includes a fistful of golden fries, too.
2-4 Edmonstone Street, West End, 07 3177 9477, billykart.com.au/west-end
Burger Project's 'classic' burger. Photo: Wayne Taylor
I wrote about Neil Perry's first Burger Project when it opened in Sydney more than two years ago. My notes from then read "a proper Australian burger that reminds you of post-beach walks to the corner store on school holidays". The Rockpool chef's classic number has remained true to brief since: a milk-bar-style burger of hand-minced beef (brisket and chuck) with lettuce, white onion, pickles and tomato. The best value burger on this list and light enough that you won't need a nap or defibrillation afterwards.
271 Grey Street, South Brisbane, burgerproject.com
Lefty's Old Time Music Hall
Lefty's looks like a cross between San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom circa 1976 and Ted Nugent's mind palace and it's an excellent place to snap a cheeseburger with roast onions and horseradish dijonnaise at 1am. There might be better burgers on Caxton Street, but in the same way the first beer cracked after work will be the best beer of the day, a cheeseburger scoffed after 10 whiskey apples will be the greatest cheeseburger you've had in your life. Or that week, at least.
15 Caxton Street, Petrie Terrace, leftysoldtimemusichall.com
David Blackmore burgers at Gerard's Bar. Photo: Supplied
Gerard's Bar and Charcuterie
Wagyu cheeseburger, $14
Neil Perry uses Cape Grim beef at Burger Project, however it was his David Blackmore wagyu burger at Rockpool Bar and Grill that kicked off the whole fancy burger thing almost a decade ago. It's real deal beef and chef Ben Williamson flies the Blackmore burger flag in Brisbane with this nifty little number - a blowtorch-seared puck of wagyu with tomato relish, dijon, pickles and a Kermit collar of American cheese. Order five and a bottle of fino and be happy.
13/23 James Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3252 2606, gerardsbar.com.au
Buffalo crispy, $12
Because I'm a wanker and believe that a burger should have minced beef otherwise it's a sandwich, Lucky Egg's buffalo chicken bad boy is a problematic inclusion on this list. However, it's so stupidly good they can call it an Iced VoVo for all I care. Greaseless fried chicken, American cheddar, garlic pickles and spinach for health. A sandwich to rule them all.
27 Warner Street, Fortitude Valley, facebook.com/Lucky-Egg
Gourmet wagyu cheeseburger, $7
Why are the six Australian stores of a multinational Japanese fast-food franchise only found in Queensland? I don't know. Why is Clive Palmer tweeting about sarsparilla and lettuce? It's best not to question these things and just embrace the magic. Surprisingly, this slammer jammer from MOS is closer to a suburban fish-and-chip shop burger than anything else in the city, thanks to crisp iceberg, fried onions, a thin patty and lightly toasted bun. Only teriyaki sauce and a whisper of wasabi hint at its true origin.
Various locations, mosburger.com.au
The New York-style cheeseburger at Red Hook. Photo: Chris Hyde
Brooklyn cheeseburger, $12
American cheeseburgers are straight-up delicious. Beef (not too ground) charred on the outside and pink within, partnered with pickles, mustard, ketchup and cheese the colour of a New York cab. It's the kind of thing hospitality legends Bonnie Shearston and Tom Sanceau serve at this chilled laneway bar and the Brooklyn burger will see you through the healthiest of Budweiser sessions. No sleep 'til...
3/88 Creek Street, Brisbane, 07 3220 0462, red-hook.com.au
DIY Beef Burger, $13.50
Although Miel Container dabbles in the dark art of "gourmet" burger toppings such as tzatziki and truffle-oiled mushroom, its grass-fed patties are well-seasoned and juicy enough to warrant your hard-earned. A design-your-own option is the ticket where you can add up to three veg ingredients (gherkin, beetroot and iceberg, say) and your choice of cheese and sauce. Hold the cranberry jam.
72/88 Mary Street, Brisbane, 07 3229 4883; 341 Mains Road, Sunnybank, 07 3345 8807, facebook.com/MielContainer
Cheesy Beef Burger, $15
UberEATS gets a pounding in my household on Sundays and this Brunswick Street pub kitchen is the hangover go-to thanks to a burger that travels well and is compact enough to eat in bed with Netflix on your lap. The Cock's standard issue cheeseburger (now with bonus butter lettuce) can be taken to new heights by ordering a white-pepper gravy for dipping on the side. Now, back to Chef's Table season three.
388 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, 07 3172 6109, theflyingcock.com.au