BEIRUT: Hamburger aficionados attest that the perfect patty is one that has barely been worked. Mixing ground beef with minimal seasoning and shaping it ever so slightly with the hands prevents the meat from becoming dense and dry.
Bobby Flay, America’s god of the grill, calls for six ingredients in his perfect burger: ground meat, salt, black pepper, oil (for the grill), cheese and hamburger buns.
No cliche is more fitting in the doctrine of burger-making than less is more.
It was by this credo that I judged Street Burger, Beirut’s newest hamburger joint, which opened its doors in Mar Mikhael less than two weeks ago.
The verdict: Street Burger’s Classic Cheese burger (LL10,500) is the best I’ve had in Lebanon.
It is the thickest, juiciest patty. It did not sacrifice flavor for size. The patty was also delicate, evidence that the meat was never frozen and its maker had molded it by hand.
In addition to the beef patty, Street Burger adds lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese and a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce. The bun is baked in house, and it’s fresher and fluffier for it.
I ordered my burger with caramelized onions (LL1,500), and barbecue sauce (LL1,500).
I took the lettuce out of my burger halfway through eating it, but I detest lettuce in general. My inkling, however, was that it was soggier than it should have been.
Street Burger is minimalist and practical, things conducive to making good burgers. For example, the burger comes served in a perfectly sized paper pouch, which catches all the juice from falling into your lap, down your fingers or, worse, into your hair.
The french fries (LL4,500), which are cut fresh in house, are also good, crispy and well seasoned.
The Animal fries (LL7,500), however, are a must have if you eat pork. Street Burger melts cheddar cheese (not nacho sauce, I’m talking real cheese) over the top, sprinkles chopped up bacon over the cheese and drizzles a generous spoonful of special sauce over that.
It’s possible the founder of Street Burger has run into In-N-Out Burger, which offers its own “animal-style” that bears a striking resemblance (minus the bacon).
The decor of Street Burger is consistent with its no-fuss food. The interior is tiny and industrial with steel pipes snaking around the walls. A small mural of illustrated heads – oddly with no mouths – feasting on burgers is subtly reminiscent of the Gorillaz. Outside, the tables sit atop cylindrical steel parking blocks, which are stuck in the sidewalk cement. These tables will never wobble.
If you prefer a burger with more going on, however, it might be better to stick with tried and true favorites like Frosty Palace and Burger Bites – for now that is.
One of my companions got the Illegal burger (LL12,000), a patty stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and topped with guacamole. The stuffed burger was too dense from overworking, and the cheese seemed to have dissolved into the patty or else it was forgotten altogether.
The missing cheese and dense patty show that Street Burger may have nailed its classic burger before opening, but it still on the learning curve in terms of its specialty items.
But a hamburger, after all, is every hungry man’s food. It does not, in my opinion, belong next to words like aged, marinated or gourmet. And this seems to be Street Burger’s overall approach, too.