When I were a lad, burgers were Wimpy, in every sense of the word. A recent article on TV news suggested that the British burger chain is hoping for a renaissance, but my memory of Wimpy burgers are that they were like the basic 99p McDonalds burger, with maybe some fried onions.
In the UK, the revolution, in burger terms, came in the summer of 1971 when the first Hard Rock Café opened in Piccadilly. I visited the café in 1971 as a callow teenager and have since visited more than thirty Hard Rock Café’s around the world.
The Hard Rock Café brought 6oz burgers that dwarfed the flaccid Wimpy patties and while perceived wisdom is that portion sizes have shrunk over the years, to this day I have never ordered a dessert for myself in a Hard Rock Café.
That was where burger cuisine languished. Wimpy fell by the wayside as McDonalds took over the high street, and the Hard Rock chain, along with its imitators became global brands. Okay, so you’d get variations, bacon and cheese on top, but that was about it.
In 2012 the next wave of the revolution came, with the arrival of Byron, Five Guys, and, in Manchester, ‘Almost Famous’, painfully hip and exuding braggadocio. Burgers were cool. Almost Famous used the burger as the basis for a culinary guilt trip that would often feature pulled pork, bacon mayonnaise, deep fried jalapenos, three different cheeses… the possibilities were endless. To the point where the burger itself struggled for recognition under a pile of exotic guilt.
While Almost Famous expanded their hip, trendy coolness to other branches (in Manchester and Liverpool), Byron quietly opened on Manchester’s Deansgate and quietly started to serve tender, juicy burgers to meat loving Mancunians, without any hysteria. I visited with some colleagues who declared Byron to be the best burger they’d ever tasted. Indeed I wrote much the same here last June.
The reason for this brief exploration of burger history is that this week I visited ‘Red’s True Barbecue’ in Manchester’s Albert Square and I now have a new candidate for ‘best burger ever’.
Red’s True Barbecue hails from Leeds and opened on Manchester earlier this year. This was my second attempt to visit, on the first I’d been told that there was a ninety minute wait. Nah.
I’d read about their ‘Pit Special’ and ‘DoNut Burger’ that boast over two and a half thousand calories apiece, but decided to try the – slightly less calorific – Bacon Double Cheese Burger.
This came piled high with the promised bacon and cheese, the burgers each a full half inch thick and slightly pink. Delicious, and still the main focus of the meal. The waitress asked if I’d like a starter and, when I asked about the chicken wings, she replied that a starter portion only comprised three wings. What she didn’t mention was that each wing is a full ten inches long, beautifully cooked and really tasty.
In all honesty most of the time they’re flipping burgers, the real alchemy takes place elsewhere with slow cooked beef steaks and ribs that just need to be crisped on the griddle.
If I were to complain about anything, the Chicken Wings were served at the same time as the burger, rather than as a starter. But that was probably an error in my ordering.
Oh, and having mentioned the ‘soundtrack’ to recent meals, while I was trying to wrestle the
albatross chicken wings, the music was ‘Let me Roll It’ – from ‘Wings Over America’ – which seemed appropriate.