Our love affair with the humble hamburger shows no sign of waning. It's astounding the number of burger joints already open for business, and when it seems we've reached saturation point, more burger mavens can be found feverishly setting up shop.
What's equally remarkable is the incredible popularity of the neighbourhood burger joint. Huxtaburger opened in Collingwood in 2011 and has since added two more shops, with plans to further expand the Huxta-empire. Mr Burger's lone food truck rapidly reproduced and there are four Mr Burgers roaming the streets, three permanent sites (93 Therry and 428 Little Bourke streets, city, and 364 Chapel Street, South Yarra) and more rumoured to follow. Tuck Shop Take Away in Caulfield North sells out of its burgers most nights. And, one burger joint visited during opening week was so busy that staff refused to take any more orders and suggested returning in half an hour's time.
Tracking down Melbourne's best new burgers is no easy assignment. It can be hit-and-miss trying so many untested burgers but discovering a spectacular burger in an unlikely location makes it all worthwhile.
Celebrated American burger chains, such as Shake Shack, In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys, have heavily influenced Melbourne's new-wave burger scene, with the use of wagyu and brioche buns. Now, there is more emphasis on producing upscale versions of fast-food franchise burgers than ever before, such as Dandenong Pavilion's ''McDowell'', and Rockwell and Sons' Double-patty Smash Burger, both inspired by the Big Mac.
If you're not a fan of the new-fangled burger, head to Andrew's Hamburgers in Albert Park, Danny's Burgers in Fitzroy North and Embassy Taxi Cafe in West Melbourne. These beloved stayers are still going strong, serving their old-school burgers to diehard fans.
The 10 burgers profiled here represent the new players and celebrate the most outstanding burger joints that have opened within the past year.
What makes a good burger?
Best beef Wagyu may be all the rage, but its inclusion is not imperative for a great burger. Fat is flavour, and having at least 10 per cent fat content (preferably more) is crucial. If you don't have adequate fat, you'll end up with a dry, tasteless burger.
Nice buns Buns that are too bulky or dense make for disappointing burger experiences, hence the popularity of buttery, soft brioche buns.
Say cheese You'd think that putting the cheese directly on top of the burger patty to ensure a lovely melt would be straightforward, yet I routinely see burgers where the cheese is inserted elsewhere.
Pickle power Pickles add another dimension to a burger. As a child I couldn't remove them quickly enough, but these days they are integral to my burger experience.
1. Dandenong Pavilion
Dandenong Pavilion may seem like an unlikely spot to discover a decadent burger, but along with pizzas and typical pub bistro fare, it serves some of the best burgers in town. Don't tell anybody, but there's actually a secret burger menu you'll need to ask for to partake in the ''good stuff''. The burger patties are their own blend of premium Australian beef that's minced onsite. One of the standouts is the McDowell, which pays homage to the classic Big Mac.
55-61 Princes Highway, Dandenong, 9793 2133
2. Fat Bob's
Amid the industrial backblocks of Moorabbin, Fat Bob's large warehouse space has been painstakingly decorated with vintage signs, reclaimed furniture and collectibles. Its popular Jackie O burger comprises a 180-gram grass-fed beef patty, tomato, Spanish onion, fontina cheese, cos, mustard and Fat Bob's tangy mayo special sauce. For a textbook Aussie burger experience, try the Fat Bob burger with pineapple, beetroot and a runny-yolked fried egg. It's family-friendly and there's a kids' menu with suitably sized burgers.
80A Cochranes Road, Moorabbin, 9555 0909
3. Chew Burger
Chew Burgers sounds like the sort of advice my mother would bestow but it's actually a nod to one of the store's three owners, Andrew Chew. A welcome addition to Preston, the stark fitout combines polished concrete and exposed brick with green-tiled benchtops and funky timber-topped stools. The Chew burger comes with a lavish, 190-gram wagyu patty cooked medium-rare, with cos, tomato, pickle, mustard, cheddar, house-made tomato sauce and aioli on a brioche bun. Make sure you have plenty of serviettes handy before you dive in.
147 Plenty Road, Preston, 9484 9720
4. Laurie Dee's Hamburgers & Frozen Custard
I'm a fan of the Laurie Dee Double, which comes with two freshly minced beef patties, grilled onions, cheddar cheese, special ''D'' sauce, tomato, lettuce, pickles and relish. This is the sort of burger experience where I recommend rolling up your sleeves before you begin. It's a messy affair but so satisfying. Laurie Dee's looks like a big, multinational burger franchise, albeit a tad more stylish. It's in the Urban Diner development at Epping Plaza shopping centre. For the interim, it's one of a kind, but I wish they'd open in my neighbourhood to save me the long drive.
Shop RE 03, Urban Diner, Epping Plaza, 9408 0196
5. Zombie Burger
I mightn't know much about zombie pop culture but I do know when I'm dead hungry I head to Zombie Burger. Once you get beyond the zombie-themed decor and Evil Dead references, you'll discover the burgers are incredibly good. They may not be the biggest, but they're up there with the tastiest. The Broomstick Burger is a winning combo of grass-fed beef, mushrooms, barbecue sauce and beef jus mayo - a juicy experience that's rather unique.
5 Shakespeare Grove, St Kilda, 9537 1118
6. Dude Food Man
Owner-chef Ogulcan ''Johnny'' Sertkan has done time at Cafe Di Stasio in St Kilda and The Point in Albert Park. He's obsessed with sourcing top-notch ingredients, such as bacon and black pudding from Melbourne Pantry and brioche buns from Laurent Bakery. Sertkan has been running his Dude Food Man food truck for the past year or so, and has decided to take the plunge and open a permanent shopfront. It's a modest set-up, but the burgers from it are made with highly prized David Blackmore wagyu. Try the signature Dude Burger, or if you're really hungry, get stuck into the Ultimate Double Cheese & Bacon Burger that packs two beefy patties.
191 Buckley Street, Essendon, 0416 762 676
7. 1090 Burger
The quality of burger coming out of all the Melbourne food trucks is impressive and 1090 is no exception. Friends and business partners Son Nguyen and David Nguyen use premium local beef for their patties, served on a seedless brioche bun from Breadtop. The cheeseburgers are an absolute bargain at $6, or try the signature Vintaburger with shiitake mushrooms (hello, umami) that delivers a flavour hit for a couple of dollars more. Unlike many of the food trucks, 1090 Burger has traded in the same location in Northcote since opening for business a few months ago.
Ruckers Hill, Northcote (corner Bayview and High streets) 0430 947 287
8. Charlie & Co.
First established in Sydney in 2011, Charlie & Co. has recently made its foray into Melbourne, opening in the food court of the swish new Emporium (expect more openings within 12 months). The Classic Charlie Burger comprises a 180-gram wagyu patty, tomato, gherkins, garden leaves, aioli, Charlie's signature tomato sauce and a choice of cheese - melted cheddar, blue or brie. It's served on a part-brioche, artisan bun that's not too sweet. The thick, juicy wagyu patty is the star here.
Store 60, Level 3, Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne 8609 8136
9. The Royale Brothers
Opened by the team behind the Pantry in Brighton, the Royale Brothers (named after the Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction) have an impressive array of burgers. There's the ''Royale with Cheese'', a classic burger combo of beef, cheese, onions, lettuce, pickles, mayo and sauce. Samuel L. Jackson's character would no doubt have said: ''This is a tasty burger.''
Rear 1 Church Street, Brighton, 9005 4242
Since opening last month, 8Bit has put to bed any doubts about whether a hip burger joint would work in a neighbourhood better known for its affordable Asian and African offerings. References to the owner's adoration for old-school video games are obvious with the Altered Beast and Double Dragon burgers (popular video games of the late '80s), and instead of table numbers you're given a character, such as Pac-Man or Super Mario Luigi. The 8Bit with Cheese proffers a 110-gram beef patty, tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles, mustard, cheese and 8Bit house sauce. Served on a brioche bun, it's a perfect example of the short-stack-style burger (usually with a flat, soft bun and not much height) that's becoming so popular throughout Melbourne.
8 Droop Street, Footscray, 9687 8838
Simone Egger tracks down the best veg in a sesame seed bun.
Follow that giant old-school stereo. A lot of north-siders do, and many of them for Beatbox's grilled portobello 'shroom burger with gouda, cos lettuce, fresh tomato, onion and signature, secret ''stereo'' sauce (a tangy mayo).
Inner-north locations, 8060 6664
These guys are scared to change even one thing on their veg burger - they've been warned, apparently. It's made with a potato-mash patty spiked with corn and carrot, cheddar, tomato relish and spinach on a crusty white bun. Served with bad-boy beer-battered chunky chips.
McKinnon, 9503 4312
Primped vegie burger options at this vintage-summer salon include kale and cannellini bean sliders, with a parmesan wafer; and a portobello mushroom burger with haloumi, red onion, lettuce, tomato and lemon-yoghurt dressing.
Frankston, 9783 1382
BIG HUEY'S DINER
There's house-made wholesomeness in Big Huey's ''Shroom'', its roasted field mushrooms tarted up with house-made cucumber pickles, topped with cheese sauce and a sprinkling of green-chilli vinaigrette.
South Melbourne, 9686 1122
You know it, you love it. Galleon's epic vegie burger is made with a tasty, crisp chickpea patty, roasted capsicums, Bulgarian feta, spinach and olive tapenade.
St Kilda, 9534 8934
The Tramway has just added a new veg burger to its longstanding vegan quinoa go-to. It's a marinated and sliced king brown mushroom, with almondnaise (almond meal mayo), lettuce, tomato and red onion, plus a choice of coriander and mint yoghurt or tomato relish.
Fitzroy North, 9489 6100
What did we miss? Let us know in the comments.