The Bangalore Burger Smackdown

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I love burgers. They are, to my mind, the culinary equivalent of commercial cinema: unpretentious,  enjoyable, and either unabashedly good or appallingly bad. Despite what health fanatics would have me believe, I see a burger as a healthy meal containing all four food groups: carbohydrate (the bun), protein (the meat), fiber (lettuce, tomato), and fat (cheese).

The Quest For Bangalore’s Best Burger

A well-made burger is a glorious thing. A juicy, medium-rare patty of lightly seasoned beef nestled comfortably between two slices of soft, sesame-sprinkled bun, and dressed up with tomato, lettuce, cheese, and condiments.

My ideal burger also features bacon and grilled onions. When you bite into it, the bread is soft and fresh; your teeth meet no resistance until they encounter the bacon. At that point, magic happens: the smoky aroma of the bacon transports you to olfactory heaven a split second before you bite down through the crunch of sweetish, caramelized onion and the fruitiness of ripe tomato. You barely have time to register the creaminess of cheese before releasing the meat’s jus. The jus trickles down your thumb to your wrist, taunting your inability to catch every last drop. Ah, heaven!

In pursuit of this burger wet-dream, I decided to rate the offerings of every establishment in Bangalore that stakes its claim to fame on the quality of its burgers. I devised a 25-point checklist for my perfect burger, and then went about gaining five kilos as I ate my way through a smorgasbord of Bangalore burgers.

The Checkpoints

I evaluated eight key parameters:

Each of these was further broken down into specific, weighted attributes which you can see in the table at the end of this post. Each establishment’s burger has been scored (and therefore consumed) twice, and its total scores averaged. A score of 60 would represent a perfect burger (please bear in mind that this is what think of as the perfect burger; you may or may not agree on some of the specifics.)

The contenders…

Ten restaurants, each visited twice. That’s a whopping total of 20 burgers over a four month period. No one can say I don’t do my homework! I decided to divide the offerings into two groups: Group 1, those priced at Rs. 225 or more; and Group 2, those priced below Rs. 225. I know it’s probably unfair to judge the cheaper burgers by the same standards – but to me, a good burger need not be an expensive one.

In contention:
Group 1: The Biere Club Chop House, Hard Rock Cafe,  Monkey Bar,  Plan B, and Thulp
Group 2:  Peppa Zing, The Only Place, Ice and Spice, Indiana, and Bistro Claytopia

These are the restaurants that spring to mind when you say the word “burger” to a Bangalorean.

And The Winners Are…

Here’s how they stack up, with a brief description of the top three:

 

The winning burger

The Biere Club Chop House: 59/60
This one was a dark horse. It doesn’t contain bacon, so I never expected it to surpass a MoBar burger, but it did – by virtue of grilled onions and more cheese. The addition of perfectly-done bacon and some extra mayonnaise would have made this one perfect. Price: Rs.450

Runner up

Monkey Bar: 57.5/60
Monkey Bar was my odds-on favorite to win. Its chances were ruined by overdone – and on one occasion, burnt – bacon, and inadequate cheese. Also, the onions are raw (I prefer them grilled), and mayonnaise is not served unless you request it. Price: Rs. 440

Comfort burger!

Thulp: 45.5/60
I live next door to Thulp, so I think of their burgers as my trusty neighborhood comfort-burgers. Thulp lost points for not providing doneness options, not grilling their onion, and using processed cheese – too little of it. Notice the huge gap between Thulp’s score and that of the other two winners;  notice also the commensurate price differential (as opposed to the other two, Thulp is a cafe rather than a bar or restaurant.) Price: Rs.240

Hard Rock Cafe (the most expensive burger in this group at Rs. 560) came in at 37.5, and Plan B, whose burger is priced considerably lower at Rs.315, scored (coincidence?) 31.5.

Group 2

Mustard? No, ketchup! WTF?

Most burgers in Group 2 were sub-standard. All, with the exception of The Only Place, were lamb. Given that, Peppa Zzing (Rs. 210) tops with a score of 42 (better than HRC, my friends!) followed by The Only Place (Rs.140) at 36.5 and Ice and Spice (Rs.130) at 34. Old-favorite Indiana (Rs. 130) scored a dismal 25 (representing the death of nostalgia for an entire generation of Bangaloreans) and Bistro Claytopia in Koramangala (Rs. 125) limped in last with 24 out of 60. [Aside: Claytopia serves ketchup in mustard bottles. What’s with that, dude?]

How It Was Done

Below are the parameters for my Bangalore Burger Smackdown. One point awarded for a “yes” to each parameter, and the total points for each section multiplied by the weightage given to that section. Your idea of a perfect burger may differ from mine – if so, feel free to conduct this exercise for yourself and report your own results!

 Weightage
Patty   X 5
Beef? 1
Juicy? 1
Made to order? 1
Chunky texture? 1
4 20
Bun  x 4
Soft? 1
Right size vis a vis patty? 1
Zero crumbling? 1
Zero sogginess? 1
4 16
Construction  x 3
Easy to cut in half? 1
Everything stays together till finished? 1
Comfortable size for hands and mouth? 1
3 9
Overall  x 2
Was this a great burger experience? 1
Was it worth the price? 1
Would you come back for it? 1
3 6
Cheese  x 1
Natural cheese? 1
Well-melted? 1
Enough to cover the patty? 1
Enough to taste? 1
4 4
Bacon  x 0.5
Enough to taste? 1
Neither crisp nor chewy? 1
2 1
Other Toppings  x 0.5
Grilled onion? 1
Tomato? 1
Crisp lettuce? 1
Dill pickles? 1
4 2
Condiments  x 1
Mustard, mayo and ketchup? 1
Other sauce absent or minimal? 1
2 2
 TOTAL SCORE 60
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