This is how you know you’ve arrived at Dirty Burger when you’re walking on Highgate Road.
Sandwiched between an LA fitness and a hospital (which is hilarious in its own right), this unassuming little shack of a burger joint is quite amusing and very much off the beaten path. The menu is very simple: you can get one kind of burger and that is a cheeseburger. Not a hamburger with the option to add cheese onto it, but just a cheeseburger. Onion fries, chips, and an assortment of beverages including milkshakes and beers are also available. ‘Dirty breakfast’ is also served until 11am and includes your choice of sausage and egg or bacon and egg which nicely comes with bottomless tea/filter coffee which is definitely a rarity in this country.
You order at the counter and can sit at the communal wooden table in the centre or one of the bar stools that are along the walls where you can enjoy a nice view of the hospital parking lot and if you’re lucky like I was, get to watch the staff wheel a whole lot of old people in wheelchairs into an ambulance. The place is quite literally a shack so there’s not that much seating. I frequented DB before a show at the Forum down the road so didn’t have to queue as it was only 6:00pm but when I left by 6:30, the place was about 75% full.
Oh and when you order a beer, you get to go get it from the little alcohol cubby fridge which I thought was quite a nice touch.
The cheeseburger comes in paper wrapping as is trendy to do these days for some reason, like some higher class version of McDonalds. The burger is really small – it’s a not a thick patty by any means. Overall, I thought the burger was good. Good, solid burger. However, I thought there was way too much mustard on it. If you’re a mustard lover, this burger is for you. If you’re just not that into it, you might want to tell them not to put mustard on your burger as they do slather it on generously. The cheese to meat ratio was great, tomatoes good, lettuce good, salt levels good. Strangely, there was quite a bit of pepper on the burger which is an interesting choice seeing as people have pretty strong feelings about pepper in their food. Not to harp on about the mustard some more but it did make the burger extremely messy as well. Not the most attractive looking burger I have to admit.
The onion fries resembled American carnival funnel cake with its weird twisty shapes and thick fried dough coating. Way too much salt on these though and the use of red onion was just peculiar. When making onion rings or onion fries whatever you want to call them, it’s best to stick with traditional onions. The fried batter however was pretty delicious because let’s face it, who doesn’t love salty fried stuff.
There are so many burger joints in London, with plenty more on the way (Shake Shack opening in Covent Garden this summer!) that it’s hard to assess what’s THE best burger in London. There are many contenders and I wanted to wait until I tried Dirty Burger (based on the rave reviews it has received) in order to make a more enlightened assessment of the burger situation in this fine city. I’d have to say Patty & Bun still wins the contest (thus far).
In a place equally lacking any decorative flourishes, P&B sits in a bit more of an accessible spot, close to Bond Street tube station and the lovely St. Christopher Place. Only seating 30 people, the queue for this place gets pretty outrageous. For example, I went on a Thursday night in the winter at 6:30pm and had to wait outside for 2 hours. I have no idea why I waited outside in the freezing cold this long for a freaking burger that doesn’t even get served on a plate but again, is wrapped in the ‘trendy wrapping’ indicative of the new ‘cool fast food’ dining experience, but hey, I did what I felt I needed to do at the time.
P&B definitely serves up the thickest, juiciest burger I have tasted to date in London. Many people say that Honest Burger serves up the juiciest burger. This is false. Whilst Honest Burger is good, it is not amazing like Patty & Bun is – any restaurant that can serve up a huge hunk of beef patty like they do and make it extraordinarily tender, massively juicy, coarse yet crumbly is just.. wow. All of the burgers at P&B are made with Aberdeen Angus beef aged for 35 days (which explains their juicy tenderness). I ordered the famous ‘Ari Gold cheeseburger’ which is served on a sweet, amazingly massive Brioche bun. Like the DB burger, this is a messy messy burger. It is not a pretty looking thing. But it’s so good that it really doesn’t matter. It is cheesy and it is gooey which is what I love- just a whole massive amount of cheese oozing out of my burger. The thickness of this burger is truly in a class of its own.
The famous ‘Winger Winger Chicken Dinner’ is also an interesting touch to the menu- smoked confit wings with BBQ sauce and spring onions (not a fan of the spring onions – really don’t think they belong with wings)
The wings come in a white styrofoam cup drenched in the thick sweet BBQ sauce with a strong hint of honey. The meat fell right off the bones and for that I’ll say they were cooked perfectly but I would prefer to see a classic buffalo wing on the menu. The BBQ sauce was almost too sweet and I don’t think its flavor meshed as well with the burger as a traditional buffalo wing would have with some bleu cheese sauce and celery.
P&B has already been a massive success since opening last year as evidenced by the absurd queues and extremely complimentary reviews.
While I love DB’s little quirky shed and the fact that they are so confident in their product, there is only one burger listed on the menu, I think they can evolve, tweak the food a bit, and improve. Their strange, almost hidden location makes them seem a bit elusive which might account for the high level of intrigue surrounding this establishment. But I think their cheeseburger could be even more awesome – little less mustard, little less pepper, thicker meat patty and they could definitely become my #1.
Now would be a good time to add that I haven’t been to Meat Liquor or Haché let alone some of other burger contenders that are probably lurking out there..