WHETHER it’s a simple American-style cheeseburger, or a chip shop works burger with all the trimmings of pineapple, egg and bacon, burgers have never gone out of fashion.
Burgers are more popular than ever and the offerings in and around Newcastle are only becoming bigger and better.
Newcastle chef Tim Montgomery has always been a big burger fan.
Two years ago, Montgomery and business partner Tom Robinson left careers in fine dining to turn their attention to burgers with the launch of Rascal.
Montgomery says the key to a good burger is ensuring that every element is considered, from the bun, to the quality of the meat, and the sauce.
The fried chicken Marty McFly burger remains the top-seller, while the classic Rascal burger - beef, cheese, Rascal sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickle - follows in second place.
Every week they create a new special, usually in homage to a favourite film or musician, or even a great pun that works for a burger (see last month’s tribute to Kevin Bacon - the Kiev n’Bacon).
This week, Rascal celebrates International Women’s Day with the Frida Kahlo burger which they created in conjunction with Got Your Back Sista to donate a portion of proceeds from sales to the women’s charity.
The burger pays tribute to artist Kahlo’s Mexican heritage with a combination of fried chicken, beef carnitas, mole ranch sauce, nacho cheese, with a watermelon and queso salsa fresca.
“We are up to well over 100 burger creations now, so some weeks it is a little bit taxing and you get a bit of writer’s block, so to speak,” Montgomery says. “But it’s always good fun coming up with the concepts.”
Here’s five places to try a burger:
1/266 King Street, Newcastle. Rascal’s burgers range from simple (cheeseburger with beef patty, tomato sauce, mustard, onions and pickles) to the not-so-simple (The Milky Joe has fried chicken, coconut jungle curry sauce, pineapple and coconut sambal). As well as burgers, they pride themselves on their fried chicken and have a bunch of sides to complete the burger experience - mac n cheese, slaw, loaded fries, and tater tots. Keep an eye on Rascal’s social media pages each Monday for their weekly burger special.
65 Stewart Avenue, Hamilton South and 157 New England Highway Rutherford. Eightbulls proudly declares itself as the “Dad bod specialists” on its website and it’s true - if you tuck into one of these burgers, there’s a chance you’ll need to loosen your belt buckle. There are 13 beef or chicken burgers on the menu - a few even pair beef and chicken. You want chips on there, too? Sure! The F*** Me Up Fam’ burger has sour cream, chips and gravy, two beef patties, cheese, bacon, and chipotle aioli. To quote Homer Simpson: you don’t make friends with salad.
The Exchange Hotel, 125 Denison Street, Hamilton. If you are one for a challenge, Goodtime Burgers has its Man vs Burger option - the 1kg burger towers with five wagyu beef patties, cheese, crispy bacon, tomato, lettuce, pickles, chutney and roast garlic dijon aioli. It’ll set you back $25, but if you can finish it off in under eight minutes, the money goes back in your pocket. The Newcastle offshoot of the Sydney burger brand is also known for its burger toppers - expect to find anything from a chicken nugget, a spring roll or a jalepeno popper pierced onto the top of the bun.
1E Cooper Street, Cessnock. According to the Australian Good Food Guide, the best burgers don’t belong in Newcastle. In January, Burgerfiend at Cessnock received the Guide’s reader choice award, winning the burger category in the Newcastle and Hunter region. Since opening in 2017, they have kept the menu small (five burgers and a handful of sides), instead focusing on serving good quality burgers every time. Try the Bellbird with fried chicken, cheddar, bacon, tangy slaw and Sriracha mayo, or The Fiend with beef patty, cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and Burgerfiend sauce.
40 Church Street, Minmi. At first glance, Bonta Vera’s range of plant-based burgers could just about fool any meat-eater into thinking they’re getting the real deal. The restaurant is 100 per cent vegan and uses mock meat-style ‘beef’ and ‘chicken’ patties. There’s the cheeseburger with ‘beef’ patty and vegan cheese, and the Hannah Montana, with fried ‘chicken’, Big Mock sauce, lettuce, tomato and ‘bacon’. If that’s not for you, there’s also The Fungi Forever mushroom burger, while the Four Twenty uses a patty made from hemp and brown rice.
Here’s a few more places to get a good burger: Burger Bros at Belmont 16s, Belmont; Newy Burger Co, Newcastle West; Bistro Lowlands at Lowlands Bowling Club, Cooks Hill; The Falcon Restaurant, Newcastle East; The Lucky, Newcastle; The Family Hotel, Newcastle West; Cafe Inu, Carrington; Swell Kiosk, Bar Beach and Nobbys Beach; Cargo Espresso Bar, Redhead; Wu-Cha, Newcastle; Ribs & Burgers, Charlestown; The Grill at West Leagues Club, New Lambton.