I’m a member of a burger club. It’s just a few friends (8 of us) that get together once a month to try find the best burgers in Cape Town. Well, I was told that was the goal, but the other seven members are married and I realised it’s just a chance for them to let off some steam. But that’s fine, I still get to try lots of burgers. Add this to my usual few burgers a month and I think I’m qualified to tell you which are the top 5 burger spots in Cape Town at the moment. I’ll update this each year as I’m sure there will be new contenders over time.
What are the criteria for a good burger? It seems that different people look for different things. There are 2 mains schools of thought, one is that the sauce and toppings provide the flavour and the patty remains similar across each burger. The other school of thought, and the one to which I subscribe, is that the patty needs to be tasty and the toppings and sauce should be complementary. Which is why I often just order the cheese burger so that I can taste the patty properly.
It’s not an official criteria but I like chips with my burger, I guess it’s just what I am used to. Some places don’t have chips or don’t have good chips. I think no chips is better than bad chips. I like places that can offer a good salad as a replacement for the fries, but few get it right (shout-out to Hudson’s for getting this right. But their coleslaw is not nice, avoid it). I also like good beer with my burger. A selection of local craft beers really adds to the experience. That’s a perfect meal, a delicious burger with good fries and a cold, craft beer.
Criteria for us included the meat to bread ratio, it needs to be a good balance. Too much or too little meat is unpleasant. The bun needs to be fresh and interesting (maybe lightly toasted too), not just a big white hamburger roll from the shop. The patty must be flavourful and not over or under cooked. A selection of burgers with interesting toppings is fun, but sometimes a place just makes one burger and they make it well (a couple on the top 5 do this). We like a decent sized burger, not too small please. Having said that, we like to be able to eat the burger by hand, so it mustn’t be too messy. Also, we do like juicy but we don’t want a plate of burger soup at the end.
Value is also an important criteria. Burgers seem to have broken through that R100 barrier and it’s very hard to find a burger that’s worth as much as R100. Other aspects like the service, venue, etc, all have an impact on the overall experience.
Unfortunately I don’t have good pics of all the burgers as I was not carrying my camera most of the time. The top 5 burger spots are not in a particular order. These are just my 5 favourites. And I shouldn’t have to say this, but just because a place is not in my top 5, it doesn’t mean their burgers are not good, great even. I try not to judge a place on a single experience as consistency is important.
So, that’s enough preamble. Let’s reveal the top 5 burger spots in Cape Town:
1. Jerry’s Burger Bar (www.jerrysburgerbar.co.za)
This was an unexpected find. I heard whispers of a place in Observatory that was making great burgers, so we went and tried it out. Turns out they do make great burgers. Delicious brioche bun with a perfect density, excellent ratio of patty to bun, interesting and tasty toppings, plus great fries on the side. It didn’t hurt that the place is funky and it has an excellent selection of craft beers. You’ll be pleased to hear (I know I am) that another Jerry’s Burger Bar has opened on Park Road in town.
They have a section of the menu for burgers which have ingredients inside the patty. Nice idea, but I would recommend sticking to the normal burgers.
2. Love Thy Neighbour (Facebook.com/lovethyneighbourct)
This is the old &Union and it’s a bit of an over achiever because it’s not only in my list of top 5 burgers but also top 5 terrible names for restaurants and top 5 worst websites ever. But, the burger is amazing. It doesn’t come with any sides, and the cheapest beer is R45 and you have to sit at a bench which is fixed uncomfortably far away from the table. Ordering and delivery is a debacle, so you’re lucky if it’s still hot when it gets to you. Despite those negatives, it’s in the top 5, that’s how good it is.
Incredible patty, fantastic bun and filled with delicious toppings. It’s a delight. Sometimes a little too juicy but never disappointing. Also, it’s one of the best value burgers at about R65. Although, the price of the beer cancels that out.
You’ll find it on the menu as the Bree St Burger.
3. Clarke’s (www.clarkesdining.co.za)
Seeing as we are on Bree Street, we might as well do Clarke’s now. This is a serious burger. If you don’t like rich food, this might not be the burger for you. There is no playful lettuce, tomato, or onion to distract you from the seriousness of this burger. A tasty patty, with a generous covering of Underberger cheese (funny name for that cheese, they should put it under the burger just to confuse people). It comes on what they refer to as a ‘butter bun’. I’m not sure what exactly it is but the name gives you a clue, it’s very rich. Reminds me a little of a toasted croissant or fried brioche. Light and healthy this burger is not, but damn tasty it is. The meat to bun ratio is off, but the bun is so rich it seems to balance out.
I’d say order the side salad instead of the fries to lighten it up. But we both know you arent’ going to do that. So I should warn you the fries stick to the theme, they are oily and the portion is big.
Interesting thing about Clarke’s is that you can order quarts of beer (obviously only the SAB beers). So hipster.
4. Devil’s Peak Taproom (www.devilspeakbrewing.co.za)
Located in the Devil’s Peak Brewery space in Salt River, the Taproom is a very cool space. And it has a very cool menu featuring a top 5 burger. The lamb burger and the veggie burger are great (actually I haven’t tasted the veggie burger, just making an assumption) but the cheese burger is the business. Served with emmenthal cheese, this burger is a beauty. All the elements are there, right size, good patty to bun ratio, tasty patty, toasted bun, flavourful cheese. It’s a winner, especially as the fries are good too!
Also, it’s certainly not a disadvantage that this place is in a brewery. Devil’s Peak is one of our top selling craft beers for good reason. Check out the sides, it’s a very interesting selection of unusual dishes. Probably worth getting a few with the burgers.
5. Ragafellows (www.ragafellows.co.za)
Ok, I’m getting very hungry now, remembering all these great burgers is making my mouth water. Luckily we are getting to the end of the list. This one really caught me by surprise. It’s in Hout Bay and I had never even heard of it, until a Burger Club member organised for us to go there. The burger was fantastic. Flavourful, good ratio, tasty patty, the works. And the menu has a good selection of interesting burgers (with cool names like Mordecai and Baylock). They are served with smashed new potatoes, which were not bad. There is a good selection of beers to choose from and they bring delicious homemade vegetable pickle to the table which went nicely with the beer.
The venue is super funky. It’s steampunk themed, but not overboard. We sat in the garden area out back as it was a lovely summery day. They were able to serve us hamburgers even though they were being loadshed, which is a major plus these days. A great addition to Hout Bay’s culinary offering. I hope to get back here soon.
So there you have it, my top 5 for 2015. We’ll see if they manage to stay in the top 5 next year. But as a little bonus, here are 5 honourable mentions…
- Engruna (www.engruna.co.za)
- IYO (www.iyoburgers.co.za)
- Mondiall (www.mondiall.co.za)
- Hudson’s (www.theburgerjoint.co.za)
- Gibson’s (www.gibsonsburgers.co.za)
Which is your favourite burger spot? Let me know in the comments below.
EDIT (Jan 2017): Weinhaus & Biergarten is now called Love Thy Neighbour and the menu has changed completely, but due to the popularity of the burger they have kept it on the menu.